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


OF the nine separate townships which comprise the county of Yates, that called Torrey is the youngest in point of organization, but at the same time the town enjoys the distinction of having been the site of the first white civilized settlement west of Seneca Lake. In fact, as early as the year 1776, emissaries of the Society of Friends visited the lake country of New York State for the purpose of selecting a home and location for their society, and after casting about in various localities, finally and by mere accident pitched upon this as the most suitable of all the places they had examined. The result was, though not until a further examination had been made, that in the year 1788 about twenty five persons, among them Abel Botsford, Peleg and John Briggs, George Sisson, Isaac Nichols, Stephen Card, John Reynolds, James Parker, with others, members of the families named, came to the locality and made the first permanent settlement in all this vast Genesee country.

The pioneers of 1788 built for their accommodation during the coming winter a single log house, and here dwelt until the next spring all that remained in the locality, a number having returned to their homes in the east. In 1789 many other Friends came to the New Jerusalem, as the locality was called, and more log houses were erected for their accommodation. A road had been opened from the settlement to Norris Landing, so called, and along this highway the houses were built, and farms cleared and improved. In 1790 the Friend's frame house was bet and made ready for occupancy by the distinguished leader of the society.

Thomas Hathaway, one of the leaders of the society, lived in a log house about half a mile, perhaps less, east of the Friend's house. The aristocratic Potter family, headed by Judge William Potter, lived south of Hathaway's place. Benjamin Brown, sr., lived nearer the Friend's home, and only about a quarter of a mile therefrom. Abel Botsford dwelt northwest of the leader, and Elnathan and Jonathan Botsford directly west of City Hill. Within a circuit of two or three miles dwelt all the familiar names of the remarkable community.

In the year 1790 the Friend herself, the distinguished leader of the devoted following, left her former residence in Pennsylvania and made the journey to the New Jerusalem, joining her faithful adherents early in the spring. This same year the log meeting house was built on the road leading from Norris Landing to the Friend's mill. The Friend's frame house was also built this year, the means therefor being mainly contributed by Anna Wagener. This also stood on the old road frequently mentioned, between the mill and the landing; and it still stands, though but a wreck of its former greatness.

These original settlers of the Genesee country came singly and in family groups, commencing with the year 1788, and continuing for several years after the arrival of the Friend. Upon the organization of Ontario County in 1789, it was provided that the territory thereof should be formed into districts as the country should become settled, or as the government of the shire should seem to warrant and require. In accordance with this provision the district of Jerusalem was created, but it was not until the year 1792 that any government was attempted to be established therein. In that year Thomas Lee was chosen supervisor, and he made the first tax roll of the district, which roll was signed by the supervisors of Ontario County. A copy of the names contained in this roll will show to the reader who were the taxable inhabitants of the district at that time. But the reader must understand that the district of Jerusalem embraced all the territory now included by the towns of Benton, Jerusalem, Milo, Potter and Torrey. However, although settlement had in a measure progressed in other towns, the greater portion of the then population was within the present limits of Torrey township. The roll, less the amount assessed against name, was as follows: Peleg Briggs, Peleg Briggs, jr., John Briggs, Isaac Nichols, John Supplee, William Davis, William Robinson, Micajah Brown, Elijah Brown, Beloved Luther, Thomas Sherman, James Hathaway, Lewis Birdsall, Daniel Brown, jr., John Lawrence, Abraham Dayton, Richard Smith, Adam Hunt, Silas Hunt, Silas Spink, Thomas Prentiss, James Parker, David Wagener, Jesse Drains, Castle Drains, Eleazer Ingraham, Amos Gurnsey, Reuben Luther, George Sisson, Sheffield Luther, Ezekiel Shearman, Noah Richards, Hezekiah Townsend, Joseph Landers, Enoch and Elijah Malin, Stephen Card, Benedict Robinson, Sarah Richards, Elnathan Botsford, Mercy Aldrich (widow), Susannah and Temperance Brown, Jonathan Drains, Ashael Stone, Jonathan Botsford, Jacob Wagener, Jedediah Holmes, Thomas Hathaway, Abel Botsford, Benajah Mallory, Benjamin Brown, John Blake, Anna Wagener, Elijah Botsford, Barnabas Brown, Levi Benton, Samuel Taylor, Capt. David Brown, James Spencer, Martin Spencer, Richard Hathaway, Philemon Baldwin, James Scofield, George Wheeler, John Pond, Perley Dean, Robert Chissom, Truman Spencer, Abraham Toak, Edward Walworth.

The little settlement on the lake, practically within the limits of the present town of Torrey, was composed almost exclusively of members of the Society of Friends and their families. A And throughout the district of Jerusalem, although there were many pioneers who had nothing in common with the Friends, particularly in religious opinion, the greater part of the population was either directly or indirectly affiliated with the society.

In making their first settlement on and near the shores of Seneca Lake, the society believed themselves to be located upon State lands, to which they might readily acquire title through the governor. For this purpose early application was made to the proper authorities, and the agents of the society were requested to attend the public land sales at Albany. This was done, with result in the purchase of a vast area of 14,040 acres of land by James Parker, William Potter and Thomas Hathaway. This tract afterward became known as the Potter Location. North of it lay Read and Ryckman's Tract; west of it was Lansing's Location and other grants. The deed to the grantees above named was dated October 10, 1792. But the Friends were in a measure mistaken in the belief that they were locating on State territory, but the fault lay not with them. As the old or first preemption line was run or surveyed, their location was appropriate, but, as in the course of a few years became apparent, there had been perpetrated a gross fraud in making the original 'east boundary of the Phelps and Gorham purchase; and in running the true line, some four years later, it was found that a considerable portion of the Friend's settlement and improved lands lay west of the line, and therefore were then the property of the association represented by Charles' Williamson, the latter the grantee of Robert Morris, and he the successor to Phelps and Gorham.

This unfortunate discovery worked to the disadvantage of the society, and was the occasion of a petition by twenty three prominent members thereof to Mr. Williamson, requesting that they be quieted in their possession of the lands through permission to purchase from him. This request was granted, and none of the settlers lost his lands through the fault of the first surveyors of the pre emption line on the east. The State, however, was obliged to make proper restitution to Mr. Williamson and others who suffered on account of the fraudulent survey. But the one thing above all others that contributed to the decline in the society, and of its strength and influence in this locality, was the withdrawal in membership and support of James Parker and William Potter. In fact, the disturbance and complications growing out of this withdrawal worked a partial disintegration of the society, and was a controlling cause in influencing the Friend to depart from the settlement and take up her final abode in the town of Jerusalem, which town her faithful followers had purchased for this purpose. But although it may be an essential subject of Torrey's early history to thus treat at length of the events herein narrated, the same has also been done in one of the general chapters of the present volume. Therefore the attention of the reader is directed to the chapter devoted to the Society of Friends for more particular narrative concerning the early history of Torrey.

Running through several chapters of township history in this work, particularly in those relating to Benton, Jerusalem and Milo, the reader will find a record of many of the early families who were originally dwellers in Torrey, as afterward constituted, and who changed their places of abode at such an early day as to make them pioneers of the towns to which they moved. Still, there are yet resident in the locality now called Torrey many descendants of pioneer heads of families, who are worthy of at least some brief mention in this connection; and in another department of this work will be found still further mention of the prominent men of the town within the last half century, and since the town was brought into existence.

The family of Benedict Robinson was one prominently conspicuous and important in the Friend's settlement on Seneca Lake. The head of this family was not only a pioneer, but is said to have been one of the commissioners sent to locate a tract for the society's home, although the name of Mr. Robinson has not been previously mentioned in that connection. Mr. Robinson was also one of the leading men who became alienated from the society, and from that time forth was in bitter enmity with the Friend's doctrine. Benedict Robinson died in 1832, and his wife in 1837. The family home was on the "gore," as it has been commonly known. The children in this family were Phebe, Daniel A., James C., and Abigail.

In 1869 Dr. John Hatmaker, at the expense of much time and labor, made and reported to the Yates County Historical Society a complete list of the first settlers in the town of Torrey, together with the names of persons who in 1869 were the occupants of the lands on which the pioneers located. The report was as follows: "The south part of what is now the town of Torrey, on the south side of the stream, was all a part of John Lansing, jr.'s location, where small improvements were made by different individuals, viz.: Elisha Botsford, Sheffield, Elisha and Beloved Luthur; and afterwards Benedict Robinson and William Potter became owners or agents of the location, and it was sold to those who made improvements."

The first settlers, with occupants at the time of making the report, 1869, were as follows: Jeptha Randolph,' Daniel Randolph; Jonathan Lamb, Moses Rapalee; Jonathan Sisson, George Y. Drains; Isaiah Youngs, Benjamin Youngs; James Meek, Perry Denniston; Richard Hayes, Henry Brown; Wright Brown, Wright Brown, jr.; Esther Briggs (or Plant), Mr. Gelder and Mrs. J. Perry; Silas Hunt, Dr. E. S. Smith; Elsie Hazard, Russell Buckley and D. W. Dox. Above the road: Silas Hunt, Uriah Bennett; Jesse Damns, N. Rapalee; George Sisson, -; George and Abner Gardner, George G. Gardner; Sheffield Luther, Rufus E. Townsend and Mr. Deniston; David King, Daniel King, J. Bell and J. Beard; The Friend's place, owned by C. J. Townsend; Abel Botsford, A. Leach and James Clark; Adam and John Canner, Charles J. Townsend; William and Arnold Potter, Adam Clark; John Bruce, G. Turner; Hezekiak Townsend, Allen Owens; Elijah Malin, Samuel Embree; Gilbert Hathaway, Richard H. Hathaway; Thomas Hathaway, Manchester Townsend; John Remer, J. J. and G. B. Hazard; B. W. Hazard, Andrew Oliver; Benedict Robinson, William Benedict, P. J. Seeley and David Hatwaker; Latimore and. Birkett, A. V. Remer.

One of the most historic and sadly interesting situations in the town of Torrey is that commonly called the City Hill Cemetery. It is well known that the Friends intended to not only found a colony and spread their possessions over a considerable area of country, but it was also their purpose and design to found and establish a village or city, where should be the chief center of trade for their community of people. They did establish a village, and named it Hopeton. As a necessary adjunct also to this village, and as well of their entire settlement, they laid out and founded a cemetery for the burial of their dead. The Friend herself here on many an occasion officiated at a funeral, and laid peacefully away some of the most devout and worthy members of her flock.

The cemetery itself was laid out on the elevated land that took the name of. City Hill, from whence the burial place was likewise named. It was and is a beautiful situation, about one mile west from the lake. The first person here buried was the wife of pioneer Jedediah Holmes, one of the first corners of the Friend's society, and one of her most faithful adherents. To make a coffin or burial casket, a log was hollowed out after splitting a slab from one side; and being afterward replaced, the slab served as a cover.

Among the prominent Friends and others buried in the City Hill Cemetery, we furnish the names of a number, with the age of the person at the time of death. They were all, or nearly all, members of the society, and it will be observed that the simple and frugal manner of living observed by nearly all of them was especially conducive to longevity. Stephen Card died and was buried in 1836, aged seventy five years; Hannah, wife of Stephen Card, died in 1851, aged ninety four; Mary, wife of George Gardner, died in 1848, aged ninety four; Abner Gardner, 1860, aged seventy nine; Rowland Champlin in 1848, aged seventy four; Jonathan J. Hazard in 1812, aged eighty four; Patience, wife of J. J. Hazard, in 181o, at seventy six; Mary, wife of Griffin B. Hazard, in 1845, at seventy nine; Mary Norris, daughter of Thomas Hathaway, in 1847, at seventy six; Hezekiah Townsend in 1812, at sixty; Daniel Castner in 1811, at eighty five; Andrew Castner in 1847, at eighty one; Adam Castner in 1858, at eighty five; John D. Castner in 1852, at seventy eight; John Remer in 1820, at seventy five; Sarah, wife of John Remer, in 1817, at sixty three; Aaron Remer in 1841, at sixty; George I. Remer in 1845, at seventy; Isaiah Youngs in 1829, at eighty; Mary, wife of Isaiah Youngs, at seventy three; George Sisson, of the first company of Friends, in 1831, at seventy eight; James Pitney in 1845, at eighty three; Rebecca, his wife, in 1853, at eighty; Sheffield Luther in 1845, at eighty four; and Mary, his wife, in 1849, at ninety two; James Meek in 1836, at seventy three, and Mary Ann, his wife, in 1855, at eighty nine; Wright Brown in 1837, at eighty seven, and Bethany, his wife, in 1828, at sixty nine; Thomas Hathaway, Br. in 1853, at eighty four, and Mary, his wife; in 1866, at ninety five; Abel Botsford in 1817, at seventy, and Mary, his wife, in 1830, at eighty eight; Jonathan Botsford in 1833, at ninety two; Robert Buckley in 1849, at seventy six; Peleg Briggs in 1807, at seventy eight, and Margaret Briggs in 1800, at sixty six; Rowland Embree in 1837, at seventy seven, and Allah, his wife, in 1852, at seventy seven; Samuel Hadley in 1847, at eighty three, and Elizabeth, his wife, in 1846, at seventy.

In the year 1851 a number of the enterprising citizens residing in the northeast part of Milo and the southeast part of Benton, conceived the idea of organizing a new township in Yates County. It is just possible that the projectors of this scheme had this erection in mind at an earlier date than that mentioned, but the matter did not assume any tangible form prior to that time. In the result sought to be accomplished the chief actors had a double purpose to actuate their movement. They desired on the one hand to have organized in the county a truly Democratic town, while the other moving consideration had its object in the building up of the little borough of Dresden, and the making thereof the chief center of trade and business for the town to be erected. The second object was certainly commendable, while the first named was not to be condemned.

The proposition to create a new town out of the lands of Benton and Milo came before the county legislative body, the Board of Supervisors, at its annual session in 1851. Of course the taking of the most desirable section of these two old towns, and therefore depriving them of long established and thoroughly developed resources, met with serious opposition on the part of their people and representatives, and the result was that the scheme was defeated by the supervisors' vote. At that time Henry Torrey, of Rushville, in the town of Potter, was a member of the board, and its chairman. After the proposition had been defeated, Chairman Torrey said if the town was to be named after his surname he would move a reconsideration of the former vote, and again put the proposition upon its passage. This was agreeable to the friends of the new town; the vote was reconsidered and the town formed by a majority of the board on the 14th of November, 1851.

In 1852 the first town meeting was held, and a complete set of officers was elected. From that time to the present the supervisors of the town of Torrey have been as follows: 1852, Charles J. Townsend; 1853, Heman Chapman; 1854, Luther Sisson; 1855, Luther Sisson; 1856-57, Levi Speelman; 1858, George W. Gardner; 1859, Charles J. Townsend; 1860, Harvey W. Norman; 1861, Jacob Tan Deventer; 1862, Darius Baker; 1863, Dudley W. Dox (resigned), George W. Gardner (appointed); 1864, George W. Gardner; 1865, Harvey W. Norman; 1866, George W. Gardner.; 1867-68, Jacob Van Deventer; 1869-70, Stephen D. Graves; 1871, Eben S. Smith; 1872, James M. Clark; 1873, Lewis B. Dunning; 1874, James M. Clark; 1875, Stephen D. Graves; 1876, Charles M. Speelman; 1877, Horatio N. Hazen; 1878, Charles M. Speelman; 1879, Charles J. Townsend; 1880, Eben S. Smith; 1881, Charles M. Speelman; 1882, Stephen D. Graves; 1883, Amos A. Norman; 1884, Charles H. Gardner; 1885-87, John W. Smith; 1888-89, Johnson J. Denniston; 1890-9, John W. Smith 2d.

Dresden Village. - With the building of the Crooked Lake Canal, in 1830-33, there was about the same time built up at its eastern termination a thriving, prosperous village to which was given the name of Dresden; but why so named there appears no present satisfactory explanation. The village of Dresden, as originally established, occupied that part of the then 'town of Milo that bordered upon Seneca Lake, and in close proximity to the canal line, but as the hamlet increased many fine houses and a number of public buildings were erected on the more elevated lands north of the village proper, and all were included within corporate boundaries in 1867.

As early as the erection of Yates County, Dresden village had an existence, and the good people of the locality presented to the commissioners selected to designate a site for county buildings their claims to the seat of Bustice of the county. The broad table lands overlooking the beautiful waters of Seneca Lake presented a most attractive situation, not only for the buildings themselves, but as well for the gradual building up of a municipality of considerable size and importance. But, unfortunately for Dresden and its people, the then owner of this tableland refused to part with any portion of his possessions for less consideration than $1,000 per acre; nor would he sell his entire tract for anything less than a fabulous sum. The result was that the county buildings were given to Penn Yang, and the possibilities of a future Dresden of some note were practically destroyed. However, during the early canal days Dresden, in a way, was an important place. On the outlet were saw and grist mills, a woolen factory and other industries, while a boat yard and dry dock on the canal added to the business of the locality. But when canal boating on and between the lakes began to decline, and yielded to the more rapid transportation by rail, there began also a decline in the importance of Dresden and her business interests. The old industries were changed in occupancy, and a number of them were destroyed by fire; and the only manufacturing concerns now within the village are the Russell & Birkett mills, and one other not in operation.

On the 16th of July, 1867, the village of Dresden was incorporated. To accomplish this a numerously signed petition was presented to the County Court, and five months later the application was granted. At that time the territory sought to be incorporated contained a population of slightly more than 300 persons, and the survey made by Lorimer Ogden included within the village limits a little more than 200 acres. The committee to superintend the survey and census taking comprised JacobVan Deventer, Charles W. Brown and George S. Downey. The first officers elected were: Trustees, Luther Harris, Edward M. Van Chief, Charles W. Brown, George W. Brundage and James Thomas; assessors, Aaron M. Davis, Charles F. Sisson and Albert G. Prosper; collector, George W. Hazard; treasurer, Francis Hood; clerk, Aaron R. McLean. The officers for 1891 are: President, Benjamin F. Paddock, and trustees, Christopher Halpin and Michael Kinney; treasurer, George C. Smith; collector, Charles C. Carr, and clerk, Seth Youngs.

The business interests of Dresden now comprise the general stores of Caleb Brundage and Denniston & Son; the post office and grocery of C. A. Davis; the drug store of Edward Castle; the Dresden Hotel of George R. Hazard; the American Hotel, kept by Albert Norman; the elevator of Denniston & Birkett, and the mills before mentioned. The public buildings of the village are the large brick school house, and the churches of the Methodist, Presbyterian and Episcopal societies. These, although located in the village, are institutions of the town, and as such will be treated.

Torrey Church History. - Religious services of various church societies have from time to time been conducted in the town of Torrey, but of the many denominations that have had a temporary existence in the town, but three have found here a permanent abiding place. With the possible exception of the First Presbyterian Church of Benton (from which town Torrey was in part formed), which had its organization during the early years of the century, the Methodists appear to have been the pioneers in making church history. But of course from this statement must also be excepted the Society of Friends, who built a log meeting house in 1791.

In 1827 Dresden was made an appointment in the Crooked Lake Methodist Episcopal circuit, at which time Dennison Smith and Jacob Early were circuit preachers, and conducted semi monthly services in the school house. In 1831 the first class was organized, Alfred Lyman being its leader. In 1829 Herman H. and Isaac Bogart built at their own expense a free church, in which all denominations were permitted to worship. Services were held in this edifice on occasions by Methodists, Presbyterians, Dutch Reformed, Baptists and Universalists, just as they came along and made appointments. The Sunday school of the Methodist Episcopal Church was organized in May, 1833.

In 1839, March 21, the Methodist Episcopal society of Dresden was organized according to law. The trustees then chosen were Daniel Dean, Russell Brown, sr., Smith Beers, Lewis N. Beard, John R. McLean and H. H. Hazen. The society made an effort to purchase from Aaron Remer the church built by the Bogarts, which had passed to Remer by purchase, and for this purpose several hundred dollars were collected together; but Pastor Beers absconded with the money. Mr. Remer, however, gave permission to the society to use the church. This society continued with varying success and strength until 1841, when it became practically extinguished.

A Baptist society was organized in the, town about 1845, with Josiah C. Swarthout, Alpheus Veazie and Seymour Tracy as trustees. They bought the old Bogart church from the Remer estate. Rev. A. Valentine was the first pastor of the society. But the Baptist Church of Dresden and Torrey was also of short life.

The First Methodist Episcopal Church of Dresden was duly organized on the 21st of March, 1848, being in part a revival of the old West Dresden society above referredto. The new trustees were Henry Larzelere, Daniel Castner, Luther Harris, William E. Bellows, George W. Graves, Caleb J. Legg and A. H. Condit. The society first leased and occupied the Presbyterian Church, but in 1849 the trustees purchased the Baptist Church property at a cost of about $450. The next year the church building was completed at a further cost of $400. In 185 the edifice was dedicated. In 1854 the parsonage was purchased. In 1867 arrangements were made for repairing and reseating the church. The building committee for this work comprised Daniel Dean, W. Longwell, J. D. Jacobus, L. B. Dunning and C. W. Brown. Funds to the extent of $1,500 were raised for the work. All was accomplished and the church rededicated on May 20, 1868. The cost of the recent work was $3,800.

The Presbyterian Church of Dresden, or, as organized, the First Presbyterian Church of West Dresden, is the almost direct outgrowth of the mother church known as the First Presbyterian Church of Benton.

The latter was formed through the efforts of Stephen Whitaker during the latter part of the year 1809, and numbered in its membership many of the substantial residents of what is now Torrey. In January, 1823, the members voted for a division of the society, a part coming to the Penn Yan church, while about eight of its membership formed a Congregational society in Torrey in November, 183o. In 1834 the First Presbyterian Church of West Dresden supplanted and superseded the Congregational organization, and has since been one of the institutions of this town. The first house of worship was erected in 1834, and dedicated on November 24 of that year. In 1868 it was materially enlarged and improved, at an expense of about $3,000, and was rededicated December 24 of the same year. The office of pastor has been filled by these incumbents; Linus W. Billington, George T. Evert, J. Petrie, Stephen Porter, D.A. Abby, Robert McMath, Calvin Chase, C. H. Chester, Frederick Graves, Allen Traver, E. W. Brown, David A. Blose, John Cairns, H. H. Lipes and Samuel C. Garlick.

St. John's Church and parish were the outgrowth of the early mission services conducted first about 186o, by Rev. Timothy Wardwell, during his rectorship of the church at Penn Yan. The parish was organized and the church erected about 1869 or 1870. It is of brick, and has a seating capacity for 18o persons. In the parish are thirty two families, while the church has about forty one communicants. A parish building was erected in 1889, costing about $600. The rectors of St. John's Church have been Rev. Timothy Wardwell, Cameron Mann, William Atwell, H. S. Dennis, H. B. Gardner, Jeremiah Cooper and William H. Lord. Since 1883 the parish has been without a rector, services being held during the time from that until the present under the direction of the Convocation, either by a clergyman or lay reader.

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