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

Former Business Firms. - The following list of former business firms are, given from memory. There may be a few errors, and possibly some omissions, but the list is nearly accurate. The firms are given in the order of their existence as near as can be ascertained, and date down to a few years. Jonathan Botsford, John Starkey, Starkey & Simmons, Honey & Simmons, Doolittle & Simmons, Calvin Honey (failed 1830), Simmons & Huson (Alonzo), Burgess Truesdell, Myron Hamlin, Samuel Huson, Newell F. Murdock, 1832, William and J. H. Kinnan, 1834, Ira Fisher (peddler), Huson & Lewis, Samuel Kress, Huson & Simmons (G. W.), Caleb Westcott, Lewis & Kress, W. B. Hamlin, 1835, E. W. Lewis & Co., 1837, Miller & Huson, Cyrus Miller, A. C. Harpending, 1835, Smith & Silsbee, James Holden, J. D. Morgan & Co. (hardware), S. Huson, 1839, George W. Simmons, E. W. Lewis & Co. (G. W. S.), Huson & Maltby, R. H. Murdock & Co., A. Maltby & Co. (Raplee), Maltby & Bradley, Benham & Horn, S. S. Benham, Stafford, Martin & Co., 1846, (first time for Martin 1847), Eaton, Spicer & Co., Spicer & Church (failed), Hollister & Parks (failed), Morgan & Caton, Caton & Wickoff, James Watson, Edmund H. Pierce, H. B. Newcomb (failed), Valentine Oldfield, J. T. Raplee, William B. Hamlin & Co., 1849, (C. H. Martin), John Caton (hardware), F. Holden, Clapp & Crittenden, W. H. Sawyer & Bro. (E. L.), Eaton, Spicer & Co., A. Maltby & Co. (Huson), David E. Bedell, Horace Kidder, John Spicer, Rothchild (clothing), George P. Rose (jewelry), two or three other clothing stores a short time, A. Wolf (clothing), L. C. Murdock (drugs), Hamlin & Martin, Maltby & McLean, Hiram Murdock, Smith & Benedict, Beam & Noble, W. Benedict, William Sawyer (clothing), Jacob Koons, Smith & Kingsley, John Backman, Horn & Benedict, C. R. Tenant, Smith & Headley, Morris Grant (fire bug), Ira D. Fowler, Martin Vosburgh & Co., 1866, Green, Rhode & Knapp, C. E. Smith, Woodward Bros., James Headley, Luther Brown, Rhode & Knapp, A. Maltby & Son, A. Hollister, C. P. McLean & Co., George Z. Noble, M. E. Bennett & Bro., George Harrington, Harpending & Bro., Boardman & Tate, Martin & Vosburgh, R. Vosburgh & Son.

Present Business Firms. - In the dry goods trade the firm of C. P. McLean & Co. is the oldest. Mr. McLean commenced business about thirty years ago in partnership with Augustus Maltby. The present firm commenced business in 1872. The firm are doing a large and apparently a profitable business. They keep a general stock, including all articles sold in a country store. Wall & Murdock are in the same trade. They are young men, very ambitious, and are selling a large amount of goods. Mr. Wall came from Grand Rapids, and was a clerk for Martin & Vosburgh several years. At the present time there are four grocery stores, Floyd Ludlow, John C. Koons, James Headly, and Charles Wixon, all reliable and prospering. The clothing business is represented by L. D. West and Samuel Levi; both carry large stocks and have a custom deportment. A. T. Gay is doing a tailoring business at his dwelling. The boot and shoe business is represented by John H. Knapp and George Kingsley. The thy goods and clothing houses have shoe departments and are doing a good business in that line. The two millinery and fancy goods stores are conducted by George H. Harrington and Mrs. Clary Finch, where attractive assortments of goods can be found at all times, and at reasonable prices. Charles Tenant and Levi Sproul represent the jewelry business of the village. The two drug stores of W. T. Millard and S. A. Price, with their extensive assortments would compare favorably with those of our largest cities. L. C. Davis has a variety store.

The buying and shipping of grain and fruit, which before the building of the Syracuse, Geneva & Corning Railroad, was merely nothing, has become the largest business of the village. Three large elevators were erected near the depot. They are owned by C. Swarts, W. S. Earnest, and Charles Watson respectively, giving the natural grain and fruit market fine facilties for the purchase and shipping of cereals. Each of them are doing a lively business. The Goble brothers, Charles, George and Harry, erected on the completion of the railroad, near the depot, a large planing mill. This is one of the most important manufacturing enterprises of the village. Charles Rowland occupies the old location of the Dundee Manufacturing Company, and makes a specialty of the manufacture of the Dundee chilled plow. All other work in the foundry line receives attention.

Harrison Howell, successor to Strader Howell (his father) is proprietor of the barrel factory on Union street. The demand for fruit barrels the present season has been so great that he has had orders for barrels a month ahead, and it was not unusual to see a line of a dozen teams waiting their turn. He also has a large basket factory, giving employment to a large number of girls and boys.

Timothy Lynch, William Hamilton, William Paige and J. Ruddick compose the quartette of blacksmiths, all in a huddle on Union street.

Two wagon shops, Jesse C. Knapp and J. Baker, in the same neighborhood, with Rowlands foundry complete the manufacturing and mechanical interests of Union street.

Up to the month of November, 1843, the town had been without a newspaper. In that month the want was supplied by Gifford J. Booth who issued the first number of the Dundee Record. Some time in the first years of its publication William Butman became a partner and the firm of Booth & Butman continued the publication until 1847. At that time Edward Hoogiand became owner and editor. Mr. Hoogland was an old newspaper reporter and had worked on the New York Herald. The Record under Mr Hoogland's management was a spicy and readable paper, and his retirement from the editorship of the paper was regretted by all his patrons. Mr. Hoogland removed to Kansas where he remained until his death which occurred many years ago.

J. J. Diefendorf became editor and owner of the Record in 1853 and held the position until 1857 or 1858, when it was sold and David Bruner became editor and owner. In 1860 the entire plant of the Record was destroyed by the fire of November 30, and Henry Bruner became a partner in January, 1861. The Bruners sold out to George D. A. Bridgman in the fall of 1862. Bridgman made a Democratic paper of it and supported Horatio Seymour for governor. The change was not popular and he sold at the first opportunity to "Elder" J. M. Westcott. Under the management of Mr. Westcott it did not thrive, and at his death it came into the possession of his grandsons, who sold it to Dr. Noble, and after having a half dozen or less owners it was merged in the Home Advocate, and the Dundee Record was a thing of the past. The next paper was the Dundee Herald, published by Dennison & Hobson. It was short lived and was finally sold to ___ Robinson. In 1869 Mr. Robinson traded the Dundee Expositor with George D. A. Bridgman for the Penn Yang Express. Bridgman conducted the paper for one year, and in March, 187o, he stopped its publication and moved the material to Penn Yang. He then repurchased the Penn Yan Express of Robinson, and in the deal Robinson took the material of the Expositor and moved it to Charleston or Savannah.

Early Merchants. - In the year 1808 or 1809 Benjamin Potter built a double log house on the west side of Main street just across Big Stream. The building was occupied as dwelling and tavern, and was the first public house in what is now the village of Dundee. Twelve feet north of the house he located his blacksmith shop. The twelve feet between the buildings was enclosed and occupied by Jonathan Botsford, known sobriquet of Ducklegs," or "Ducklegs Johnny." This was the first store in what is now Dundee. The place had no name then (it was before the Harpending's Corners era) and was sometimes called Stark's Mills. Of Johnny's antecedants it is known that he was the son of Jonathan Botsford, who came in with the Universal Friend and was one of her adherents. It is safe to assume that his business was not a success, for after his store had remained closed for two days the door was forced and Botsford was found hanging by the neck stark and dead.

Potash in those early days was the main reliance of the merchant. It was about the only article that commanded cash, and was marketed with difficulty. The time of which I am now writing was long before the building of the Erie Canal, and the only water communication was by the way of the Seneca and Oswego Rivers to Lake Ontario, and the market was Montreal.

Soon after Botsford's suicide we find John Walton occupying the same premises. He afterward built a store and dwelling combined, south of Big Stream near the apple trees on the old fairground. The building remained until a few years since, when it was taken down. Mr. Walton was a native of Nova Scotia. His business, though small, was a paying one, at least he paid. It was managed with the most rigid economy. The only public conveyance of the times was the four horse "tally-ho" stage coach, and the fare was six cents per mile. To avoid this expense Mr. Walton traveled the distance to and from New York or Albany on foot to make his purchases, saving about $40 each trip. He became involved in law suits and was compelled to close his business and leave the town. He returned to Nova Scotia, where he remained until his death, which occurred many years ago. After Mr. Walton closed his business the hamlet was for some time without a store. Eddytown monopolized the business and was the most important place between Geneva and Elmira (then Newtown.)

The next merchant in order was John Starkey. Mr. Starkey was a native of Maryland, but came here from Seneca County. He built a store on the west side of Main street, on the brow of the hill where Nathan Sayre's dwelling now stands. This building was afterward moved on to the Presbyterian church lot, and after being occupied for mechanics shops, gambling rooms, and dwelling, was purchased by the Presbyterian Society, a "lean to" was attached to it and it was used as a meeting house. The old building was destroyed by fire in 1860. Mr. Starkey was an able, enterprising and successful merchant. The late Nehemiah Raplee made his debut in this place as clerk for Mr. Starkey. In company with his brother in law, Clayton Semans, Mr. Starkey built the old red grist mill, the second grist mill in the town, near the Big Stream bridge on Main street. The mill was burned a few years since. Soon after it was completed Semans sold his interest in the mill to his partner, and about the same time another brother in law, Samuel Kress, became a member of the firm. On April 6, 1824, the town of Starkey was organized. It was taken from the town of Reading. In honor of Mr. Starkey it was given his name, and hem was the first supervisor elected. After remaining in business a few years the firm of Starkey & Kress was dissolved. The mills and other real estate were sold to Nehemiah Raplee; consideration, $9,000. Mr. Starkey removed to Starkey's Corners, which was considered the more eligible business place, there built a store, and for a time left the hamlet again destitute of a mercantile establishment. After residing in Starkey's Corners some years Mr. Starkey removed to the village of Lodi where he remained until his death.

Honey & Simmons. - In the year 1824 Samuel Harpending erected on the southwest corner of Main and Union streets, in what at the time was a pasture lot, a one and a half story frame store for the firm of Honey & Simmons. The inevitable ashery belonging to the store was on Union street. The' firm remained in business about three years, when it was dissolved. Honey built a new store on the corner of Main and Spring streets ("Potash lane"), and carried. on the business alone, Simmons continuing the business at the old stand with ____ Doolittle, first, and later, Samuel Huson as partner.

Calvin Honey occupied a very prominent place in the early history of the village. His failure, the first that occurred in the village, gave undue prominence to a very ordinary man. Mr. Honey came from Troy, N. Y. He had formerly been engaged in the Hudson River trade, running a sloop, of which he was the' owner, between Troy and New York. It is supposed that he had at some time had some experience as clerk in some mercantile establishment in Troy. He had accumulated a capital of $1,300, which he invested in the business of the firm of Honey & Simmons. Thirteen hundred dollars was no mean sum in those times. The firm of Honey & Simmons was successful, and Mr. Honey had probably added to his capital before commencing business on his own account. After the dissolution of the firm of Honey & Simmons, Honey built a store on the corner of Main and Spring streets, was not successful in business, and in 1830 made an assignment for the benefit of his creditors to Samuel Kress. Honey was a dull, heavy man, and his personal appearance was not prepossessing. He was short, square built, stoop shouldered, dull eyed, of a tallow colored complexion, and had a downcast look. His appearance was that of a common laborer. It used to be said that "he would sell a bill of goods on credit, place a dunning letter in the package and sue the purchaser before he reached home." After his failure he removed to Mount Morris, where he remained several years, and after serving a term in Auburn prison for grand larceny he returned to Dundee, where he remained until his death. The last years of his life he supported himself and family by working as a common laborer.

Alonzo Simmons was born in Washington County in the village of Whitehall. In his obituary notice we read that his "parents were only in Moderate circumstances, consequently his only heritage was an iron will, and industry and perseverance that knew no bounds." Mr. Simmons was a clear headed business man and a very successful merchant. He served in the War of 1812 with honor. After pursuing various avocations until 1824, he came into what is now Dundee, and in company with Calvin Honey occupied the store at the corner of Main and Union streets, built for them by Samuel Harpending. After a few years the firm of Honey & Simmons was dissolved, and Mr. Simmons continued the business at the old stand, first with ____ Doolittle as partner, and afterward with Samuel Huson. After closing his business here he moved to Avoca, Steuben County, and continued in the same business with his brother George as partner. From there he removed to Rock Stream, continuing in business until 1843, when, having accumulated a large and constantly increasing fortune, he retied from active business and purchased a farm at Reading Center, where he resided until his death.

____ Doolittle came from Seneca County. Of his business qualifications little is known. He was a large man of fine presence. He would now be called a "dude," but "dandy" was the term then applied to him. He is said to have been a man of violent temper, and was not popular with his customers. A story used to be told of his carrying an elegant silk umbrella. One day while passing from his store to his boarding house, during a violent storm, a sudden gust of wind wrenched it from his hand and deposited it in a mud puddle. This so enraged him that hem jumped upon the offending article, stamped it in the mud and left it a perfect wreck. Mr. Doolittle did not remain long. He returned to his former residence, when he was lost sight of.

Burgess Truesdell's former residence was Columbia County, N. Y., his occupation school teaching. His advent in this place dates from 1826. He bought on the southeast corner of Main and Seneca street a building formerly occupied as a "tavern." The corner room, former barroom, dimensions about 15 x 20 feet, he fitted up for a store. The room was small but ample for the amount of business.

In 1832 or 1833 he sold the premises to Col. J. J. Smith for hotel purposes, and built a small store on the corner of Main and Spring streets, Spring street was a private alley leading to an ashery owned by Mr. Truesdell. In 1835, or about that time, he sold his store and business to Cyrus Miller, and was for a short time in business with his brother Alvin, at Starkey. He then bought the farm now owned by Mr. Brundage, in Starkey, where he remained until he removed to Elgin, Ill., where he was one of the pioneers. There he resided until his death, a man of few faults and many virtues. By a fortunate purchase of land in the early settlement of Elgin he became one of the magnates of that city. It has been and still is a puzzle to the later merchants, who have sold ten times the amount of goods sold by these fathers in the trade and hardly make ends meet, to know how it was done, how so small a business could be made to pay. Small expenses and large profits solves that problem. The business of those times was mostly conducted by the owner and a boy or low priced young man as clerk. Ten to fifteen dollars per month was the maximum price; the minimum price was about nothing at all. The profits were enormous, often 75 to 100 per cent.; $3,000 to $6,000 was a good yearly business.

Myron Hamlin came to Harpending's Corners (now Dundee) in 1830, and was originally from Salisbury, Conn. Previous to his locating hare he had been in business at some point on Lake Champlain. He was surprised to find in his business competitor his old school teacher, Burgess Truesdell. He bought the store on the southwest corner of Main and Union streets (the McLean corner), formerly occupied by Honey & Simmons. He brought with him not much experience as a merchant, but plenty of the proverbial push and shrewdness of the Connecticut Yankee. His business was well managed and prosperous from the outset, and it was here that he laid the foundation of his future success. About this time great questions began to agitate the public mind. The commencement of the temperance movement dates from about 1830, and the anti slavery movement came to the front at the same time. To Myron Hamlin belongs the honor of conducting the first temperance store in Dundee. It was the custom of those times for country stores to sell liquors, and this custom continued many years later. In 1839 there were nine stores in Dundee, and eight of the nine sold intoxicants. Whisky paid better than any other merchandise.

For a few months Mr. Hamlin followed the prevailing custom and sold all kinds of liquors; but becoming convinced of the evil and misery caused by the traffic, he not only banished alcoholic stimulants from his store, but waged a fierce and brave war against the evil. Upon his counters could be seen stacks of temperance tracts and periodicals, and every package that left his store contained one or more of these missives. The passage from temperance to anti slavery was natural and easy. In the early days of the anti slavery movement it cost something to be an abolitionist. It cost a merchant in the loss of custom. It often cost a minister the loss of his pulpit and living. More than half a century has passed, and the younger generations have but small appreciation of the rancor and hatred bestowed on those who believed in and advocated the right of a man to the ownership of himself, his wife and children. Anti slavery meetings were broken up, the speakers insulted and hustled, and often pelted with ancient and unsavory eggs. The press thundered and the pulpit hurled its anathemas against the "cut throats and incendiaries." "Cursed be Canaan" was the theme of many a sermon, and the late Dr. Van Dyke preached in Brooklyn that slavery was a Divine institution.

About this time William Lloyd Garrison was mobbed by the solid men of Boston; Lovejoy was murdered and his printing press was thrown in the Mississippi at Alton, Ill., and the office of the anti slavery paper edited by the Quaker poet Whittier was burned by a Philadelphia mob. Being an abolitionist was no joke in those days. But no personal considerations influenced those pioneers in the cause. They believed their cause to be right, and advocated it regardless of personal considerations. The party in the village at that time consisted of four members all told - M. Hamlin, the Rev. E. W. Martin, James Gifford, and Alonzo De Wolf The number was small but there was a wonderful amount of back bone in that quartette. They never fought on the defensive, particularly Mr. Hamlin, who was intensely aggressive. In the spring of 1835 Mr. Hamlin opened a branch store on the east side of Main street, occupying the building vacated by the Kin nans, with his brother, William B. Hamlin, manager. In 1836 he sold his whole business to his brother and removed to Buffalo, where he remained but a short time, finally settling in Penn Yan, where he remained until his death, having for fifty years been the leading merchant of the county.

The year 1831 was noted for a new impetus given to building and other interests of the village. The first church (Baptist) was built in 1832, and in the year 1833 the Methodist and Free Church (now Catholic) were erected. An old Eddytown merchant once told the writer that the decline in business in that place dates from the building of the churches in Dundee. In the spring of 1831 Samuel Huson erected on the northeast corner of Union and Water streets, on the site of the store now occupied by Wall & Murdock, and others in the Murdock block, a store and dwelling. The land up to that time had been used for farming purposes. Mr. Huson managed his business discreetly and it was a success. His ambition was not so much to do a large business as to do a paying one. He was very popular with his patrons and well liked by his employees. About two years after commencing business Edwin Lewis was admitted as partner, forming the firm of Huson & Lewis. This firm continued two years when Mr. Lewis retired and George W. Simmons was admitted as partner in the firm of Huson & Simmons. This firm did a thrifty business for several years, and closed out their goods to Cosad & Carmon, who removed them to Junius, Ontario County.

Newell F. Murdock's former residence was McLean, Cortland County; his business, tanner and shoe and harness manufacturer. Before coming to Dundee he had been engaged in the mercantile business about four years. He came to what was then Harpending's Corners, in the year 1832, and rented part of the corner store of Myron Hamlin (there were two stores in a building 28 x40). Hamlin occupying the other room. In the year 1833 he built a frame store on the east side of Main street, on the site now occupied by John H. Knapp. A peculiarity of his was that he never insured his buildings. Hhis policy worked well for many years, but in the end proved disastrous. In all of the large fires he suffered loss. The loss included three blocks of stores, his private dwelling and other buildings, all uninsured. He died in i861, after a mercantile experience of over thirty years, a man universally respected. His death removed one of the landmarks of the village.

Cyrus Miller was a wool carder and cloth dresser when most of the family clothing was made at home. He purchased of Burgess Truesdell his store and goods in the year 1834. Mr. Miller was a limited merchant. His stock was limited, and so were his sales; one-half pound of tea, and other articles in proportion, was the limit he would sell to one person. He "did not want to break his assortment." This was in the early days of his mercantile life. Later he was not so limited. Fire and water ruined him. A canal boat having on board his fall purchases sank, and soon after his store was burned. This finished him as a merchant. He, honest man that he was, he surrendered his property to his creditors and began life anew. The last heard from him he was practicing medicine in some western State.

In the spring of 1832 Col. J. J. Smith bought of Burgess. Truesdell the lot on the southeast corner of Main and Seneca streets; on part of the purchase now occupied by W. H. Millard's drug store. He erected a frame store, which he rented to William H. and Joel H. Kinnan. The Kinnans came from North Hector, where their father resided, a wealthy farmer. Some of the family still reside in that locality. The firm appeared to sell a large amount of goods, but failed to make their business a paying one, and after a struggle of two or three years they were obliged to surrender. This was the second failure at Harpending's Corners. William returned to North Hector and engaged in farming, and Joel H. removed to Westfield, Chautauqua County, and engaged in his former business, with what success the writer is not informed. Both of the partners have been dead several years.

William B. Hamlin was born in the town of Salisbury, Conn., where he resided until he came to Dundee. His father owned a large tract of land on which William worked in the summer, and taught school in the winter, as was the custom with farmers in Yankeedom in those days. His first experience in mercantile affairs was as a clerk for his brother Myron. This was in 1835. The succeeding year he purchased his brother's business, and for more than thirty years conducted one of the largest business concerns in Yates County. The first years of his business life he pursued a very conservative policy. In the year 1842, six years from the time he commenced business, his sales were only seven thousand dollars, and he was in a small way making money. If he had continued this policy, the natural outgrowth of his Yankee training, increasing his business as his capital increased, his success would have been assured. The next year, 1843, his sales were more than doubled, amounting to $16,000. This sudden increase may not have been to his advantage. He became possessed with the idea Of selling a larger amount of goods than any other concern in Yates County. He had great energy and was very ambitious. His industry and powers of endurance were wonderful, and all his efforts were directed to this one object, large sales; profits were incidentals, although really his profits were larger than are now obtained by the merchants. Mr. Hamlin's business increased further than his capital and he was forced to raise money at ruinous rates of interest. This, with large running expenses, was the cause of his failure. His credit was always of a high order up to the day of his disaster. He had failed, but he had accomplished his purpose. His sales had increased every year until they amounted to over one hundred thousand dollars, the largest amount ever reported to the revenue assessor in Yates County. In conversation with the writer after his failure, Mr. Hamlin said in substance: "I have been thinking over the events of my past life, and I am pretty well satisfied I have had things pretty much my own way. I am much better pleased with my career than I would have been if it had been like Mr. ____ mentioning the name of a very successful man whose business had been much smaller with a handsome fortune as the result. C. H. Martin was connected with Mr. Hamlin in business from 1842 to 1864, ten years as cleric and twelve years as partner. The firm was Hamlin & Martin.

Anthony C. Harpending, one of the most successful merchants of Dundee, commenced business in 1835 under very favorable circumstances; he had the prestege of the family name and was backed by his own and his wife's family, both wealthy. He had abundance of capital, and unlike most of the older merchants, was never pinched for means to carry on his business. He soon gathered a valuable lot of customers, many of whom he retained through all the years of his mercantile career. He was systematic, looked closely to the details of his business, and kept all well in hand. His business was usually managed with great caution, but he sometimes took risks that resulted in loss. The question of Mr. Harpending's place as a merchant may be a mooted question by some. I know of no better test than success, and making success the standard would place him in the front rank of the older or younger merchants of Dundee. The result of his business made a better showing than that of any who preceded or followed him, that notwithstanding heavy losses by fire and otherwise. Mr. Harpending built a block of three brick stores on the west side of Main street; they were burned in the fire of November, 186o. He then built two frame stores on the same premises. In the same fire he lost almost his entire stock of goods, which resulted in heavy loss. His death, which occurred in 1880, removed one of the most prominent merchants of the county.


Return to [ NY History ] [ History at Rays Place ] [ Rays Place ]


NY Counties - Albany - Allegany - Broome - Cayuga - Chatauqua - Chenango - Clinton - Columbia - Cortland - Dutchess - Erie - Essex - Franklin - Fulton - Genesee - Herkimer - Jefferson - Lewis - Livingston - Madison - Montgomery - Niagara - Oneida - Onondaga - Ontario - Orange - Orleans - Oswego - Putnam - Queens - Rensselaer - Richmond - Rockland - St. Lawrence - Saratoga - Schenectady - Steuben - Suffolk - Tioga - Tompkins - Tryone - Ulster - Washington - Wayne - Yates


All pages copyright 2003-2012. All items on this site are copyrighted by their author(s). These pages may be linked to but not used on another web site. Anyone may copy and use the information provided here freely for personal use only. Privacy Policy