HISTORY OF THE VILLAGE OF PENN YAN, THE SEAT OF JUSTICE OF YATES COUNTY.
This is in two parts, link to part 2.
In the northern portion of township No. 7, of the first range, better and more commonly known as the town of
Milo, at a point near and about the foot of Ogoyago, or Crooked Lake, where the waters find an outlet through a
narrow channel, and eventually discharge into Seneca Lake, nature provided a splendid site upon which civilized
man might build up a thriving, prosperous village. That consummation has been reached, in fact was attained nearly
three quarters of a century ago, but each succeeding year has witnessed some material improvement, some development
of new resources, until by slow stages it has grown to contain a population of more than 4,000 souls, and is provided
with all the enterprises, the industries and commercial advantages that can be found in any interior village in
the Empire State.
Little did that worthy old pioneer, that steady going, honest plodder, follower of the " Friend," David
Wagener, think or dream that on the tract of land bought by him in 1796, would ever be built up a municipality,
and become the seat of justice of a county. But could David Wagener have lived a half score of years longer, and
observed the march of improvement and settlement on his ancient estate, it is extremely doubtful if he would ever
have consented to the adoption of that singularly odd and unique appellation of Penn Yan, for the little burgh.
And it would have been an equally astonishing thing had that good and earnest pioneer been able to then look into
the far off future and see standing where he built the primitive grist mill, on the south side of the outlet, a
large four storied, modern structure, capable of manufacturing an hundred barrels of flour daily, when his own
little mill could at best produce not more than one or two barrels in the same time. These, and a thousand and
more of other changes might be recalled, to show the advancement in almost every branch of trade that has been
worked in the last three quarters of a century. These comparisons are interesting to old and young alike; to the
aged, for they show that the grand march of improvement and progress in this locality has kept even step with the
onward movement elsewhere, and interesting to the younger generations, for it brings to them an understanding of
how their forefathers lived, and against what obstacles they had to contend to establish themselves securely in
life and leave a goodly inheritance to their children.
The founding of a village where Penn Yan now stands was the outgrowth of necessity, and not of design. It was a
natural consequence. and not the result of speculative schemes. David Wagener bought the lands because they were
desirable, and not that he is believed to have contemplated the building up of a village. But Mr. Wagener did not
live to enjoy the substantial fruits of his purchase in this immediate locality. He died in 1799, and his estate
in lands, on which the village stands, was inherited by his sons, Abraham and Melchior Wagener. In area the estate
embraced 276 acres, lying both north and south of the outlet; that part north of the stream fell to Abraham, while
his brother became the owner of the lands on the south side. Eventually, however, Abraham succeeded to the ownership
of the whole tract.
To Abraham Wagener, therefore, attaches all credit for taking the initial steps that resulted in a substantial
village corporation. In 1801 he took active measures in having surveyed and constructed a highway leading from
Canandaigua to Newtown (now Elmira). This road soon became an established mail route, and a postoffice was located
soon afterward at Abraham Wagener's house. He was the first postmaster, and the name of the office was Jerusalem,
being, as this locality then was, within the district called Jerusalem.
On the first of January, 1800, Mr. Wagener moved into "town," and occupied a dwelling built the year
before for his use. This was the first frame building erected on the village site, and stood where later was the
Miles Benham tavern, the old structure forming a part of the hotel as afterward established. The building was burned
in 1841. When Mr. Wagener came here to reside there were three log cabins within his tract, all standing on the
stream called Jacob's Brook, and occupied by Indians and their families. These primitive inhabitants were tenants
by the sufferance of Mr. Wagener, they having no title nor claim to the land they occupied. They are said to have
remained for a time, but the constant arrival of white settlers caused them to retire from the neighborhood.
The stream heretofore mentioned as "Jacob's Brook," a name by which it has ever since been known, has
its source or head waters in the town of Benton, whence it flows into the village and passes through the business
center, a few rods east of Main street, and discharges into the outlet in rear of the Russell & Birketi grist
and feed mill. Concerning the derivation of its name, Jacob's Brook, there has for many years been a difference
of opinion, some authorities contending that the name was applied in allusion to an old Indian who lived near the
stream, and whose name was Jacob, while others assert that the name was given in reference to Jacob Wagener. The
latter is probably correct.
For fourteen years after his appointment Abraham Wagener held the office of postmaster at his little village; but
he was otherwise honored in public affairs. In 1808, he was appointed justice of the peace for the town of Snell,
which then included all that afterward became Benton and Milo. This office Mr. Wagener held for about twenty five
years, and from his long continued incumbency thereof became generally known as "Squire" Wagener, by
which name he was called as long as he lived.
Abraham Wagerer, the founder in fact of the village, was in all respects the honorable, straightforward, public
spirited citizen; a man of large means and much influence in the town. The land on which the court house was built
was his voluntary gift, while also the main thoroughfare through the village was donated and laid out by him. Of
course these things greatly enhanced the value of his property in the locality, but at the same time they forwarded
the interests of other persons who, perhaps, were less able or less inclined to give than was he. Squire Wagener
continued to reside in Penn Yan, as the village afterward was named, until 1833, in which year he moved to Bluff
Point, where he occupied an elegant stone mansion which he had erected during that year. However, before his removal
to Bluff Point, Squire Wagener built a second residence in the village, which stood on the land now in part occupied
by the Knapp House, about where the dining room of that hostelry is situated. This dwelling is believed to have
been erected in 1816, and to it was given the name of Mansion House. This name was preserved in after years, when
the building was changed in character and occupancy and put to hotel use. In rear of the house stood the old famous
Wagener apple tree, so called from its owner, the one who planted the seed, nourished and cultivated the sprout,
and distributed its seed in return throughout the vicinity, the yield of which has always been known as the Wagener
apple. Now the old Mansion House has become a part of the more modern Knapp House; the apple tree has been cut
down that the land may be used for other purposes, and the founder of the village, its pioneer and most influential
and useful citizen, lies buried in the old cemetery which his father gave to the people for the interment of their
The Wagener lands proper extended from the outlet northward to the immediate vicinity of what is now called Court
street, while still farther north was another tract which passed through the same descent of title and ownership,
and eventually found its way to divers owners. It was upon the latter tract that the first village was established,
at the point where Head street crosses Main street. The highway first mentioned formed the dividing line between
the towns of Benton and Milo, as afterward established, but the village was built up without reference to town
lines. Therefore, the little hamlet lay in parts of two towns, but for some years, and until Milo was set off,
all the people voted and acted in the same manner as if but one town held their village. When Milo was separated
from Benton the residents south of the east and west road voted for their own town candidates, while those north
of the road were subjects of Benton and voted for nominees therein. And even to the present day, notwithstanding
the fact that the village has become incorporated as a city of the lesser class, the residents north of Head street
are yet Benton people and vote as residents of that town for town officers, while those south of the street are
citizens of Milo and vote for officers therein. In addition to this the residents within the corporate limits of
the village of Penn Yan choose their own officers for local government, and in the corporation elections the people
of the town do not participate.
While Abraham Wagener was undoubtedly the most prominent and influential man in the village during the days of
its infancy, there were others who contributed in no small degree, building up and improving the locality during
the same period. Morris F. Sheppard was one of the persons worthy of mention in this special connection. Like 'Squire
Wagener, Mr. Sheppard was a native of Pennsylvania. He also was a pioneer in this locality, one of the early settlers
in the little hamlet, and one who became identified with its business interests when the settlement was founded.
He started a tannery and also a fulling or cloth mill on his own lands, on Sucker Brook. These he conducted for
several years, until the cutting away of the forest trees along the brook deprived him of a sufficient water supply,
and thus compelled him to relinquish his manufacturing enterprises.
Mr. Sheppard was also the friend of and fellow worker with 'Squire Wagener, and it was through their joint efforts
that the village became an important point at so early a day. These men were the leaders of what has been conveniently
termed the Pennsylvania element of local population, while the opposition, the Yankee contingent, were under the
guidance of Mr. Stewart. After the senior Sheppard retired from active participation in business he was succeeded
by his son, Charles C. Sheppard, who appears to have inherited his father's business qualities, and who also was
a man of worth and capacity, not only during the early days of village life, but in after years, even down to a
time within the memory of now middle aged men.
In the same connection there may be mentioned the name of Asa Cole, whose place of abode and lands lay within the
town of Benton. Asa was a pioneer farmer, and in connection with that occupation opened and for years maintained
a hotel or tavern at the head of the street. The establishing of the public house was an important event in the
early history of the village, as its vicinity at once became a center of trade. Here the stage drivers were wont
to stop for rest and refreshment, and here the weary traveler found a comfortable lodging. In those days the hotel
was a popular resort for all classes of people, where the news from abroad was always to be learned, while the
landlord himself was generally regarded as somewhat above the average of mankind.
But at last the worthies who constituted the influential portion of the little settlement found themselves involved
in a serious dispute, all because they could not agree upon a proper and fitting name for their village. Numerous
conferences were held, but public sentiment was so divided that no result could be reached. In the meantime various
names were given the village, but most of them were applied in a spirit of derision. A number of the residents
called the place Unionville, while to outsiders, who viewed the controversy from a distance, it became known as
Pandemonium. The Pennsylvanians of the locality wished a name that would recall some locality of their native State,
while the Yankees, the settlers who came from New England, possessed an equally strong desire that a name be given
that would suggest a locality from whence they emigrated. However, this difficult problem was at length solved
by the good offices of Philemon Baldwin, upon the occasion of a "barn raising." After the last rafter
had been made fast in place Mr. Baldwin climbed up the frame to the plate and there addressed the assembled people.
He referred to the dispute concerning the name, and then remarked that as part of the inhabitants were Pennsylvanians
and part Yankees a compromise was fair to both factions, and suggested the name Penn Yan as sufficient for both
parties. This proposition was agreed to and the christening was completed. The naming was soon afterward ratified
in the change of the post station from Jerusalem to Penn Yan.
The "head of the street" remained for many years the center of business and residence, but as years passed
away dwelling houses became more frequent along both sides of the highway leading to Wagener's mill. In fact it
was not many years afterward that this locality began to assume the character of a hamlet. The vicinity of the
outlet and the foot of the lake formed a highly desirable site for a village, for boat communication with points
up the lake opened a thoroughfare of trade and travel in that direction. In i800 a road was surveyed from the foot
of the lake about two thirds of a mile eastward, Joseph Jones, Ezra Cole, and John Plympton being the commissioners
to do the work. Another road led from the Lee place to Wagener's mills constructed in 1806, and three years later
commissioners Morris F. Sheppard and Charles Roberts laid out still another highway leading from Plympton's Bridge
to the mills.
The opening of these roads was made necessary to accommodate the Milo people in getting to and from the mills on
the outlet. But about the time the work was commenced, possibly earlier, another little settlement had sprung up
near the foot of the lake. This locality at once became a rival to the hamlet at the head of the street. The tract
was laid out in village lots and many improvements were made there. The name of Elizabethtown was given the place,
and it boasted of a hotel, store, and several dwellings. The tavern was built by Wallace Finch, who was succeeded
by Peter Heltibidal, and the latter in turn by George and Robert Shearman. Afterward it became known as the Kimball
Hotel, but was torn down many years ago. Another hotel stood where Charles D. Welle's dwelling is erected, but
that hostelry eventually was put to other uses, and now forms part of the houses of Mr. Wells and Calvin Carpenter.
The name of this locality was changed in the course of a few years from Elizabethtown to Summer Site, and as such
continued until it finally merged into and was absorbed by its more successful rival Penn Yan.
The little rural villages, one at the head of the street and the other at the foot of the lake, each trying for
mastery in the matter of importance, could produce but one result, and that the gradual growing together and final
dissolution of the name of the lesser burgh. The Wagener mills occupied a site about midway between them, and the
natural tendency of travel and trade was in their direction. Abraham Wagener's dwelling' stood near the corner
not far from the mills, and he of course drew improvements toward his own home. On the corner just north of his
house was a store, but by whom built and by whom first conducted the writer knoweth not.
During the first twenty or thirty years of its existence the village of Penn Yan was rapidly increased both
in population and industries. The people who located there represented all trades and professions incident to their
period, but to mention each of them would' be a thing next to impossible. Some were prominent in local affairs,
while others were conservative in both thought and action, and did not therefore appear conspicuously in the settlement.
By 1817 or 1818 the place had acquired a population sufficient to warrant the starting of a newspaper - the Penn
Herald - through Herald, through which channel the business portion of the community could proclaim themselves
and their wares to the inhabitants of the region. But the one great event which gave to the old village its greatest
upward start and brought to it a considerable population, was the erection of Yates County, and the designation
of Penn Yan as the county seat. This occurred in 1823, and from that time dated the certainty of future growth
and prosperity. With the establishment of the county seat attorneys came to practice at the courts; to get the
quiet people into trouble and then kindly help them out again.
A writer of village history of Penn Yan, covering the period from about the beginning of the present century down
to about 1832, informs us as to the principal interests represented at the head of the street, and from his reminiscences
we are able to furnish the present reader with a fairly accurate list of the businesses conducted, together with
the owners thereof.
Lawyers. - Cornelius Masten, George H. Green, William Shattuck, John Willey, Abraham P. Vosburgh, Thomas J. Nevens,
Levi Lyman, David B. Prosser, Henry Welles, Welles & Treat, Everett Van Buren, Prosser & Winants, Prosser
& Eno, B. W. Franklin, Henry M. Stewart, William Cornwell.
Merchants. - William Babcock, Hezekiah Roberts, Henry Bradley, Bradley & Bissell, Ira Gould & Co., Eli
Shelden & Co., L. G. Budlong & Co., E. Mount, John Sloan, John H. Bostwick & Co., James W. Norris,
William and John Brooks, B. Tyler & Co., Tyler & Fowled, Augustus Stewart, Milliken & Bradley, Wheeler
& Sawyer, William T. Scott & Co., Moore & Coffin, Seabury Kissam, H. J. Lee.
Physicians. - John Hatmaker, Walter Wolcott, Uri Judd, Roscius Morse, A. Woodworth, Francis M. Potter, William
Cornwell, William D. Cook.
Watchmakers and Silversmiths. - Frederick A. Seymour, Charles Scott, A. A. Terrill, C. H. Guiger.
Carriage Makers. - Melzer Tuel, Amaza Tuel, James Cooley, Timothy Brighten, Heman Squires.
Carriage Painters. - George Stimson, Charles Meeks, Edward Bowers, James I. Broom.
Carriage Trimmers. - John D. Applegate, Lewis Ingalls, Albert Little. Cabinet and
Furniture Makers. - Samuel F. Curtis, Amasa Holden, N. P. Hawks, William Morris.
House Painters. - Stephen Williams, Jacob Woodruff, Alexander Edson.
Mason. - Isaac Youmans.
Dentist - Joseph Elmendorf.
Saddle and Harness Makers. - James Sears, L. Himrod & Co., Charles P. Babcock, John C. Babcock, Charles Risden,
William D. McAllister.
Carpenters. - Jacob Hovey, Hubbel Gregory, Abraham Prosser, Elipha Peckins, Rogers, John Horn, D. Reed.
Hatters. - Ebenezer Jenkins, Sutton Birdsall.
Grocers. - Higley & Haskill, Benjamin Remer, John Norcott, Henry A. Tyler, George W. Mason.
Baker. - John D. Applegate.
Tailors. - Lewis Vanderlip, J. Seymour, George Cooley, Luther Lee, Samuel Fullager, Henry M. Locke, Morris Earle,
Milton P. Burch.
Shoemakers. - Hitchcock & Scofield, John Scofield, Joseph Elrnendorf.
Blacksmiths. - John Powell, Powell & Elliott, Powell & Simonds, Aaron Wood, Abraham Stetler, Reuben Stetson,
James S. Powell.
Cooper. - Gideon Maynard.
Stoves, Iron, and Tinware. - P. Carson & Co.
Gunsmiths. - Gilbert & Bales.
Wool Carding and Cloth Dressing. - Morris F. Sheppard, Higley & Haskill.
Tanners. - Morris F. Sheppard, Henry Hubbard, Hubbard & Warner.
Butchers. - Nathan E. Lacey, Lyman H. Newton.
In 1824 and the years following, the newspapers, or at least one of them, published at the village, was called
the Yates Republican. Its editor and proprietor was Edward J. Fowle. At the time or during the period first mentioned,
a number of hotels were in operation at the head of the street, prominent among which was the "Penn Yan Hotel,
Stage House and Livery," Major Asa Cole, proprietor. On the opposite side of the highway and on the corner
was Luman Phelps's Inn." Mr. Phelps died in the business and was succeeded by David H. Buell, and still later
by Dr. Jeremiah B. Andrews. Another public house in the same locality was that known as "Smith Cole's Inn."
Among the men who were prominent in public and local affairs, and dwellers within the village proper at an early
day, were William Babcock and Elijah Spencer, who were members of Congress; Aaron Remer and Morris F. Sheppard,
members of Assembly; Cornelius Masten, county judge; Abraham P. Vosburgli and Edward J. Fowle, surrogates; William
Babcock and Henry Bradley, county treasurers; Abner Woodworth, Edward Genung, Robert Buell, and Luther Winants,
justices of the peace.
Of course the readers will not be led into the belief that the persons and firms above mentioned were in business
at the head of the street at the same time, for such was by no means the case. They were in business during the
first thirty or thirty five years of the present century, constantly coming and going as is the custom at the present
The year 1832 or thereabout found the village containing a population of about 1,500 persons, and although the
head of the street continued thereafter for some time as the chief center of trade, along down Main street, particularly
on the west side, was a number of residences the places of abode of the three prominent citizens as it is now.
There were two churches, the Presbyterian and Methodist; the former well up the street, while the latter stood
west of the site now occupied by the church of that denomination.
The court house stood about on the same ground as does the present building, and was built in fairly close resemblance
to that now in use, though not quite so large. Where is now the residence of John S. Sheppard stood a hotel building
built originally it is said by a retired English sea captain, and which was called "Washington House,"
but afterward remodeled and put to use as a boarding and select school, and then called "Yates County Academy
and Female Seminary." At this time the postoffice occupied a small one story building standing about where
is now the residence of George C. Snow. The incumbent of the office was Ebenezer Brown.
The lower part of the village acquired an advantage over the upper part through the location and survey of the
Crooked Lake Canal. The purpose of this waterway was to furnish boat passage from Crooked Lake to Seneca Lake,
a distance of eight miles. The act authorizing its construction was passed by the legislature of 1828, and the
canal was ordered built by an act of the following year. The work of construction was commenced in 183o, and fully
completed in 1833. This consummation brought business to the lower end of the village, and correspondingly depressed
trade up at the corners. The coming of the freight and packet boats became as common a thing as was the stage and
mail coach, but the arrival of the former meant more than the latter. A hotel was soon afterward built for the
accommodation of the boatmen. It rejoiced in the odd name of "Owl's Nest," and stood on Seneca street
just west of Jacob's Brook.
One of the more prominent men at the lower end of the street, during the period of which we write, was George Shearman.
He came to the village in or about 18o8 or 'o9, and from that time forth was closely identified with its business
interests. He had a store, standing very near the corner of Main and Jacob streets, and was in trade something
like twenty five years. On the land know occupied by Hon. George R. Cornwell's block Mr. Shearman built a hotel,
the American, which will be remembered by many of the present residents of mature years. Mr. Shearman also was
proprietor of a potash works and a distillery; likewise a mill on the outlet. In fact he built and established
two mills and two distilleries. He contributed toward the building up of his part of the town as much as any man
during that period.
But, however gratifying it might be to the reader to refer to each and every of the old buildings and enterprises
of Penn Yan during the first half century of its history, the space already used in that connection warns us that
we must pass to another branch of the subject and give some attention to things that were and are, as well as to
those of which it can only be said that they have been. The old buildings are nearly all gone, some by the ravages
of fire and other elements, while many have been torn down, having become unsightly and not well adapted to the
uses of later occupants. The first buildings were mainly frame structures, built in rows, having room enough in
many cases for a half dozen or more tenants on the ground floor, while the upper floors were occupied by lawyers
and doctors, tailors and other light tradesmen. And after the destruction and removal of the first and possibly
the second series of buildings of frame, the owners along the businees streets commenced to build with brick.
According to the best recollection of older citizens of the village the first brick yard was situated out west
of the village proper, near and just beyond the present sand bank, while another of about the same period was near
the foot of the lake. But about the year 1820, as near as can now be determined, a brick yard was started on the
south bank of the outlet near the site of the present planing mill. Dr. Rayment, Erastus and Albert Page are said
to have been among the early proprietors at this point. The clay supply, however, soon became exhausted and the
owners moved to a more abundant field across the highway Lake street, as now laid out. A yard was in operation
here for more than thirty years, and the brick there made were used in building many of the older residences and
blocks now in the village. It was discontinued about twenty five years ago. The imported bricks and "bats"
were afterward used in filling depressed places, and were covered over with earth. Lake street, along where the
yard was in operation, was in this way built up to grade level.
Speaking of these depressions recalls the most noticeable one in the village, that at the foot of Main street,
starting near the north end of the Knapp House block and extending south across the outlet. In front of the block
the foot passenger descended several steps, like stairs, and thence was a gradual decline down as far as the mills
and the canal, while on the opposite side of the outlet was a sharp ascent before level ground was reached. The
present mills stand at least fifteen feet higher than did the Wagener mills, and the bridge has likewise been raised
to grade. All the space between the Knapp House and the laundry is "made land."
Incorporation of the Village. - After the lapse of about thirty years from the time of the first improvement within
the limits proper of Penn Yan the village was found to contain a sufficient population to justify its people in
assuming municipal character. In fact such course became necessary in order that certain established interests
might be protected; that there might be regulated its internal police; that a fire department might be established
and controlled, and that necessary improvements might be made without first obtaining the sanction and consent
of the town of Milo, the people of which town were not willing that their moneys should be appropriated to uses
of improvements from which they derived no substantial benefit. To accomplish this end the citizens of the village
caused to be presented to the State legislature a bill which was enacted into a law on the 29th of April, 1833.
The enacting clause was as follows:
"All that district of country hereinafter described shall be known and distinguished by the name of the '
Village of Penn Yan,' that is to say, all that part of the town of Milo, and all that part of the town of Benton,
in the county of Yates, bounded as follows; Beginning at the northeast corner of lot No. 37, township No. 7, first
range, thence south 213 degrees east, eo chains, 50 links, to the northwest side of the highway leading by Samuel
Gillett and Robert Shearman's to the Crooked Lake; thence along the northwest side of the highway, south 16 1/2
degrees west, 15 chains; thence 38 degrees west, 2 chains to the north side of Gillett street; thence on the north
side of the highway, south 59 degrees west, 27 chains, 42 links; north 213 degrees west, 26 chains to the south
side of lot No. 37; thence along said line north, 88 degrees west, 37 chains and 62 links to the southwest corner
of said lot; thence along the west line of said lot, north three degrees, 27 minutes east, 64 chains to the town
line between Benton and Milo aforesaid; thence along said town line south 80 degrees east, I chain, 25 links, to
the southwest corner of lot No. 64, in township No. 8, first range.; thence along the west line of said lot, north
3 degrees, east 24 chains and 25 links; thence south 87 degrees east, 49 chains; thence south 3 degrees west, 24
chains, so links, to the place of beginning."
The second section of the act declared that "the inhabitants of said village shall be a body corporate by
the name of Trustees of the Village of Penn Yan.'"
The first annual meeting was provided to be held on the first Monday of June next (1833), at the court house,
at which time the voting population were authorized to elect five trustees, one clerk, one treasurer, three assessors,
one collector, one police constable, and five fire wardens. The seventeenth section of the act divided the village
into three fire districts, viz.: District No. 1, to include all that part of the village lying north of Court street;
No. 2, to include all the village lying south of Court streets, and its east and west continuation, and north of
the outlet; No. 3, to include all that part of the village lying south of the outlet. But the village of Penn Yan
at the present time includes a much larger area of territory than was embraced within its original limits. This
extension was made necessary by increasing population and business interests, while many who were originally outside
the village sought to be admitted therein that they might have the benefit of its excellent school system, as well
as other advantages not accorded them as residents of the township.
The village organization was made complete by the election of officers provided by the act of the legislature,
which officers, when qualified (the trustees), passed and adopted ordinances for the government of the village,
regulating the police and health departments, and providing for adequate protection against the loss and destruction
of property by fire. The officers chosen at the election above referred to were as fellows: Trustees, Abraham Wagener,
R. N. Morrison, Russell R. Fargo, Morris F. Sheppard, and John Brooks; assessors, Eben Smith, J. W. Squier, E.
J. Fowle; clerk, Henry Eno. The whole number of votes cast at the election was 252. Abraham Wagener was elected
president of the board of trustees.
In this connection it would be desirable to furnish a succession of the principal officers from the organization
of the village to the present time, but such a list is impossible from the fact that the old minute books have
been lost. In the office of the village clerk there are found two books of proceedings of the board, covering the
period from about 1852 to the present time, but the most persistent effort has failed to discover any earlier record.
Therefore rather than to furnish a partial list of village officers it is deemed preferable to give none at all.
The village of Penn Yan was incorporated in 1833, and by that proceding it was in part separated from the mother
town, Milo, yet not wholly so. The officers who govern the town have a certain control and jurisdiction over the
village, and both join together in the election of township officers. The village is subject to taxation for the
benefit of the whole town, and the township outside is in the same manner subject to taxation for certain village
improvements. In addition the village raises a. fund by tax on its own property, which is devoted to the maintenance
of its special institutions and for its own special benefit. The people of the village vote the tax which creates
this fund and the trustees expend the same according to their own judgment.
The early pages of the present chapter have been devoted mainly to the history of the village prior to its incorporation,
but the question naturally arises, what can be recorded, as its history subsequent to that time? It is absolutely
impossible to supply to the reader the name of every proprietor of a business, or to follow correctly the changes
that have taken place with each succeeding year since 1833, but the village and its people have certainly made
a history, and an important and interesting history it has been. It is written in the existence, past and present,
of every church society, each school building, and the multitude of scholars who have passed through its course;
written in every business block and manufacturing industry that has been built up during the last sixty years.
Therefore these must be the subjects of narration on subsequent pages.
[Penn Yan School History]
[Penn Yan Church History]
The Fire Department. - The present excellent fire department of the village had its origin in the little embryo
organization that came into spontaneous existence during the early years of Penn Yang history. No sooner did it
become an assured fact that this place was at some time to become a village, than the inhabitants began casting
about for some means of protection against fire. The first organization of any sort was the famous bucket brigade,
not a mythical, but a real, live company, whose duty it was, and enjoined upon it by ordinance, to repair at once
to the scene of conflagration, armed and equipped with at least one stout leathern bucket. At that time the local
laws also prescribed that every householder should keep a bucket in some convenient place within his domicile,
and in case of fire whatever male person should be present was expected to take his place in the line and "hand
With the rapid growth in population and its consequent increase in number of buildings, it soon became necessary
to provide other and more effectual means for extinguishing fires, and this led to the purchase of the old famous
engine called the "Cataract;" but the bucket brigade was by no means abandoned, as the Cataract had but
little greater power than a large "squirt gun." However it was the implement of the period and was the
first engine appliance of the village, and as such was in use for about a score or more of years.
In the fall of 1835, after the burning of the old court house, the village authorities, for Penn Yang had then
been incorporated, took measures looking to the organization of a fire department. A meeting was held and Thomas
H. Locke was chosen chief engineer of such a departwent as should be formed. He at once called for volunteers for
a company of fire fighters, and it was not long before the ranks were well filled. About this time the trustees
authorized the chief to proceed to Rochester and there purchase an engine suitable for the requirements of the
village. The old brake engine, called the "Neptune," was the result of Mr. Locke's mission, together
with a good supply of leather hose. The Neptune was first called into service on the occasion of the burning of
"Brimstone Row," so called, extending from Wheeler's corner north to Hanilin's store. Of course a hose
company was formed to operate in conjunction with the engine.
The Cataract was kept in a small shanty on Head street, and the Neptune became the possession of the lower end
of the street, being kept in an engine house which stood just west of where the Shearman House is located. Subsequently
another brake engine somewhat similar to the Neptune was purchased, and then the department began to assume more
tangible shape and form. There were two engine companies, No. I and No. 2, and their cooperating hose companies.
These fire department equipments supplied the village for many years, and until the purchase of the steamer in
In 1864 a charter was granted the village, and in the act then passed provision was made for a regularly organized
and well appointed fire department and its commanding and governing officers. By the act the trustees were authorized
to appoint one chief engineer, two assistant engineers, and three fire wardens; also to procure fire engines and
other necessary and convenient apparatus, and to organize fire companies and provide for and maintain the same.
Under this regime the chief and his assistants were chosen by the village trustees, a system that was continued
in force until 1873, when another law was passed which provided that the engineers and secretary of the fire department
should be elected by electors of the village, a system that is in effect at the present time.
Keuka Engine Company was organized in October, 1871, with eighty three members. This body then petitioned the trustees
to be allowed to organize themselves into a fire company, provided they were given charge of engine house No. 2
and engine No. 1. The petition was headed by Morris F. Sheppard and followed by eighty two other strong men. The
result was the organization of the now celebrated "Ellsworth Hose Company," so named in honor of Gen.
S. S. Ellsworth, of Penn Yan. Originally this was an engine company, but partook of the character of a hose company
in 1872 by the regular detail of a number of its members to act as hosemen.
Ellsworth Hose Company now numbers full forty men. It is or has been provided with uniforms for both active duty
and parade occasions. The officers of Ellsworth Hose are as follows: President, John Underwood; secretary, John
Cramer; treasurer, George Brooks; fireman, Fred Swarts; first assistant, A. J. Obertin; second assistant, Ralph
Brown. The company meetings are held twice each month.
Hydrant Hose Company had its organization in 1866, under the original name of Hydraulic Hose Company, but afterward
changed to its present designation. The company now numbers forty members, but its duty appears somewhat abridged
in that it is not called into service except in case of fire on Main street, there being no hydrants on any other
village thoroughfare, the regular hose duty being performed by Ellsworth Hose Company, which operates with the
steamer throughout the fire district. The officers of Hydrant Hose are as follows: Foreman, Andrew McKay; first
assistant, Peter Curran; second assistant, Arthur Jessup; secretary, William Holloway; treasurer, George C. Snow.
Hunter Hook and Ladder Company, more commonly known as the "Truck" Company, was organized in its present
character in 188o, the same year in which the truck was purchased. Like the other companies the truck has forty
members, and is officered as follows: President, Richard Willoughby; secretary, E. A. Chapman; treasurer, J. O.
Smith; captain, George Wilkins; first assistant, F. Crane; second assistant, P. Carley. This company was named
in honor of Charles Hunter, of Penn Yang.
The present Penn Yang Fire Department comprises, as will be seen from what has been stated, two hose companies,
one hook and ladder company, both with necessary apparatus, and one second class Silsby steam engine, the latter
being in charge of an engineer and fireman. The department officers are as follows: Jay T. Parker, chief engineer;
Andrew C. Harwick, first assistant; Frank McAdams, second assistant; H. E. Bell, secretary and treasurer.
However desirable it might be to furnish a complete succession of chief engineers of the fire department since
Squire Locke's appointment, such a list cannot be given on account of the loss of records. But there can be recalled
the names of many persons who have served in that capacity during the last twenty five or thirty years. In 1863
Charles Elmendorf was chief, and was succeeded by Abraham Miller. From that until the present time there have served
as chiefs, among others, these persons: David G. Gray, Oliver C. Knapp (1871), R. F. Scofield, Charles Bell, Charles
Hunter, W. S. Bruen, Jay T. Parker.
[Penn Yan Bank History]
[Continue to part 2]