THE TOWN OF WORTH.
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In many respects worth is one of the peculiar towns of the county, and in connection
with its early settlement and civil history were events not common to the region. The town lies on the high, slaty
ahd shaly ridges in the extreme southeast part of the county; the surface averages from twelve hundred to sixteen
hundred feet above tide water, and is the most elevated land in the county, hence subject to early frosts and deep
snows. Where the surface is exposed to the action of running water, deep gulfs have been worn in the soft, yielding
rock. Several sulphur springs have been found, but their waters have never been utilized to any great extent. The
soil is chiefly derived from the disintegration of underlying rock, and is well adapted to grazing, while oats
and potatoes yield abundantly throughout the town. The principal water course is the south branch of Sandy creek,
which has numerous tributaries, the larger being Abijah and Chloe creeks. The north branch of Salmon river crosses
the southeast corner of the town.
In the early history of the Boylston and Black river tracts, the territory of what is now Worth was used as compensation
lands to make up the difference in area and value of other towns and tracts. In 1795, William Constable, agent
for John Johnson Phyn, sold to Nicholas Low, William Henderson, Richard Harrison and Josiah Ogden Hoff. man the
Black river tract, then supposed to contain 300,000 acres, but on measurement was found much less in area, whereupon
Constable, to make good the difference, conveyed township No. (now substantially Worth) to these proprietors, except
948 acres in the southwest corner, which he reserved to himself. The owners of the eleven towns divided the land
among themselves, by ballot, and to make equal any apparent differences in value, Worth was again utilized as “boot
money.” By this proceeding Harrison & Hoffman acquired 1,283 acres of land in Worth; Nicholas Low, 1,576 acres,
and William Henderson, 649 acres. The remainder of the township (22,004 acres, as then bounded) also fell to Harrison
& Hoffman, who caused it to be surveyed and laid out by Medad Mitchell in 1795. In December, 1797, these proprietors
made a partition of their lands in the town, Hoffman taking the north half. He then conveyed to Daniel McCormick
in trust to sell the land and hold the proceeds until certain debts were paid.
The township was again in part surveyed in 1801—2 by Joseph Crary, under the direction of Abel French, one of the
early and energetic land agents of the region, and under whose management the first settlement in the town was
in fact begun. In the course of his travels through the state French chanced to visit Litchfield, Herkimer county,
where he offered his lands for sale. His representations attracted attention and resulted in the organization of
a company of prospective purchasers, and Timothy Greenly, Joseph Wilcox and Elihu Gillet were appointed a committee
to visit and explore the tract with a view to purchase. The report was favorable, and on their recommendation,
on July 22, 1802, the company made a contract of purchase with French for the northwest quarter of township No.
2, then called Fenelon, later forming a part of Malta or Lorraine, but now Worth. The agreed price was $7,662.
Later on a deed was given the purchasers, in trust for themselves and their associates, and a purchase money mortgage
was given in return to the grantors. The land was divided into lots, and was drawn by ballot by the members of
the company, each of whom paid on his parcel according to his means, the committee holding the money until all
was paid and a good title secured to each purchaser.
The members of this somewhat historic company of purchasers and organizers were Greenly, Wilcox and Gillet, the
committee, and also Asaph Case, Leonard Bullock, W. Flower, Eli Gillet, Lodwick Edwards, John Griswold, Ezekiel
Chever, Phineas Case, Joel Caulkins, Abram Ford, Nathan Mattoon, Asa Sweet, John Pinear, Phineas Stevens, Elijah
and David Richmond, John and William Sagas and John Hough. tailing. All, however, did not become residents of the
town, nor did all of them complete the payments for the land, but suffered much of it to be sold for taxes and
thus passed into other hands. This unfortunate condition of affairs in the town’s history was not so much the fault
of the settlers as the unnatural obstacles against which they were obliged to contend. The company having bought
their lands in the northwest part of the town, it was there of course the settlement was begun. The lands were
partially but not fully surveyed, and when that work was completed many lot numbers were duplicated, resulting
in a confusion of locations and consequent trouble among settlers. At that time the whole region was covered with
a dense growth of forest trees, and the lands must be cleared before agriculture could become the occupation of
the settlers. They made potashes and carried them to Canada for sale, but the embargo laws deprived them almost
of the means of livelihood, and much suffering was the result. Then followed the war, which had the effect to frighten
many families frotn the town, and as by the peculiar terms of the agreement of purchase the members of the company
were severally bound, as well as individually, the burden of debt fell upon those who were disposed to remain and
face the other dangers of the period. This led still others to abandon their improvements and return to their former
homes or seek for more favorable localities. Then, too, the cold season of 1816 had a serious effect on all interests
in this part of the county, causing further discouragements and desertions from the little colony; and the final
result was that of the dozen or so families who had made settlements in Worth under the company’s purchase in 1802,
not more than half remained permanent residents. These misfortunes told seriously against the locality and delayed
its subsequent settlement for several years, for the belief had got abroad that this was an undesirable place of
abode, whereas in fact the lands after being cleared and developed were among the best in the county for general
agricultural pursuits. Indeed, after a proper system of surveys had been established and town and lot lines were
permanently fixed, many families came into the town from Ellisburgh, and other low, marshy localities, preferring
the high and dry lands of Worth to the then more unhealthful regions referred to. However, before proceeding further
with this branch of the town’s history, let us return to the pioneers of the northwest “quarter” and recall something
of tlìe lives of those who braved and overcame the difficulties of frontier life.
Abel French not only sold the lands to the pioneers, but was also instrumental in effecting their settlement. Through
his efforts in the fall of 1802 Leonard Bullock and Asaph Case came to the town and located on lots 7 and 8, and
made the first improvement. In pioneer Bullock’s family were twelve children, eleven of whom grew to matur. ity.
Ten of these children were born in Worth. This pioneer began the erection of a grist mill on Sandy Creek, in 1808,
but did not complete his work. He was accidentally killed by falling from a scaffold in his barn, in 1828. His
descendants still live in the town. Asaph Case, the companion of Bullock in making the settlement in 1802, was
also a worthy pioneer, and during his residence here devoted himself to clearing and improving the land. In his
barn in 1807 the widow Nobles opened the first school taught in the town. Later members of the Case family have
been prominent in local history and identified with the best interests of this part of the county.
Elihu Gillet and John Houghtailing also came in 1802 and settled on the company lands. In the Gillet family were
four sons and one daughter, who, with their descendants, were important factors in the later history of the town.
The sons were George, David, Alanson and Elihu. John Houghtailing located on the farm so many years afterward in
the possession of his descendants. He had several children, the surname being still well preserved in the town,
and stands for integrity and worth.
Joseph Wilcox came in 1803 and settled on the lot he had drawn in the northwest part of the town, where the pioneer
died in 1839. His sons were Samuel, Luman, Sterling and Daniel, and his daughters Chloe, Lucy and Clarissa. Chloe
creek was named for the daughter first mentioned. Joseph Wilcox, and his sons Daniel and Sterling, were in service
during the war of 1812—15, the father as captain of a company, while Sterling afterward gained the title of colonel
by reason of his military services. He died in the town in 1885.
Timothy Greenly, who was an Englishman by birth, also came during the year 1803, and afterward became the owner
of a large tract of land in the town. He was highly respected in this part of the county and his descendants were
active factors in the subsequent history of Worth. Nathan Mattoon came about the same time probably in the same
year, and settled in the west part of the town. He, too, was a worthy citizen and an earnest plodder along life’s
path to the time of his death, in
The pioneers who have mentioned in preceding paragraphs laid the foundation for the subsequent history of the town.
They had to contend against many hardships and privations, but they were men of firm determination and great physical
and moral courage, else in the face of all their trials they could not have accomplished what was done. During
the succeeding five or ten years a few more of the original purchasers also came to the region, and still others
who were drawn here by the ties of kinship with their predecessors, or in hope that their condition in life might
be bettered by settlement in a new country. In many cases this hope was realized, but others were discouraged by
the hardships daily confronting them, and when the foreclosures came upon the owners of lands purchased through
the company they left the town for other places. These things, with the dangers growing out of the war had a disheartening
effect on nearly the entire settlement, and for a period of about fifteen years Worth was partially an abandoned
town. However, we may briefly note some of the improvements accomplished by the early settlers in the northwest
quarter previous to the “abandoned period,” as it has been called.
About 1808, as has been mentioned, Leonard Bullock began the erection of a saw mill, but a foreclosure proceeding
compelled him to abandon the enterprise before it was finished. In 1810 Joshua Miles built a combined saw and grist
mill on Sandy creek, east of the corners, as the locality of Worthville was then known. Miles was something of
a genius and fashioned his millstones from stones found in the town, and so constructed them as to serve the purpose
very well. After five or six years he sold the mills to Timothy Greenly, and the latter to Abner Rising. This was
the only grist mill in the town for many years, and a great convenience to the settlers, who had before been obliged
to go to Adams or Whitesville with their “grist,” taking two days for the journey and work. About 1816 Joseph Wilcox
and Green Kellogg built a saw mill near the corners, on the site of the present grist mill.
The reader will understand that these settlements and improvements were made in the northwest part of the town,
on the tract purchased by the company in 1802, and no record gives us any reliable information as to when or under
what direction the other parts of the region were settled or developed. Indeed, from the variety of ownerships
in other localities, and the stony character of the lands, there seems not to have been any special effort in this
direction for several years. The whole town was divided into four surveyed tracts, the first of which was the northwest
quarter, comprising nine great lots of one square mile each, which was, of course, the company’s lands, and was
subdivided among the owners according to their interests. East of this was the northeast quarter, of like extent,
and surveyed into 24 lots and so sold to purchasers in later years, but not yet fully developed. The third tract
comprised the south half of the town, which was surveyed and divided into eighteen lots of one square mile each.
Added to this was the “mile strip,” which was set off to the town (then Lorraine) in 1813, having formerly been
a part of Lewis county. This, together with the south half, is yet in great part timber lands.
From about 1818 to 1830 this part of Lorraine, as then organized, made but little history and progress. True, several
of the settlers on the company lands remained and established themselves firmly in their possessions, and built
up excellent farms, but outside of the northwest quarter there was no attempt at settlement. The purchasing committee
chose wisely when they explored the region at the suggestion of Abel French, for the south and southeast portions
were then wholly undesirable for places of abode, being low and wet in some places and stony in others, though
heavily timbered. Indeed, the southeast quarter has not yet been cleared to any considerable extent, but where
the forests have been cut away some excellent grazing lands, and tracts desirable for general agricultural pursuits,
await the hand of the pioneer.
Notwithstanding the period of adversity which followed the war of 1812—15, and the subsequent unfortunate seasons
in the town’s history, an occasional settler found his way into the region. The year 1830 showed the male residents,
freeholders and householders, to be less than forty in number, who may be recalled by name substantially as follows:
Joseph Sterling and Daniel Wilcox, Asaph, Abel and John Case, John Russell, E. West, Chester Bushnell, John Wilson,
Andrew Craig, Paul Prior, Peter Wakefield, Joseph H. and Venus C. Rising, James Potter, Joseph Totten, Zadoc Hale,
Henry, Erastus and Richard Lyon, Leonard and Alanson Bullock, Joel Overton, Boomer K., Charles and Lyman Jenks,
William, Simeon and James Houghtailing, Eli, Elihu, David and George Gillet, Daniel and Joseph Caulkins, Leonard
Parker, Nathan Mattoon, and also Albert S. and Lorenzo P. Gillet, both of whom came to the town in the year mentioned.
Then began a new era in the history of the town, these later corners building up the foundation established by
their predecessors, the the pioneers of 1802 and 1803. Gradually settlements were advanced into the northeast and
southwest sections of the town, and as soon as necessary trading hamlets were established at Worth Center and Diamond,
the latter, however, quite recently. The southeastern portion is comparatively undeveloped, but lumbering is extensively
carried on at this time. The Snell lands include more than 3,000 acres; the Littlejohn tract is large and is being
cleared of its timber; the Denning tract of 1,500 acres is fast being stripped of its forest growth, while sheriff
Samuel P. Kellogg’s three hundred and more acres also has a steam saw mill In constant operation on the tract,
with a water-power mill at Worthville.
Organization.— On February 6,
1810, a special town meeting was held at the house of Benjamin Gates, in Lorraine, at which time the assembled
electors unanimously determined upon a division of the territory, and the creation of a new jurisdiction from the
western half of Lorraine. However, before any further action was had the war of 1812, with the other troubles of
the period, had such a disturbing effect on all local interests that the subject was dropped; and not until about
1847 was the matter again seriously discussed. On April 12, 1848, the legislature passed an act dividing Lorraine,
and creating a new town from its portion, called Worth; so named in honor of General William J. Worth, an officer
of the U. S. army, who was in command of the troops sent to the frontier during the period of the patriot war.
He was stationed at Sackets Harbor, and was active in quelling the disturbances of the period, holding at the time
a colonel’s commission.
The first town meeting was held at the school house at Wilcox’s Corners, May 2, 1848, at which time officers were
elected as follows: A. S. Gillet, supervisor; Daniel Wilcox, town clerk; A. S. Gillet, Riley W. Green and Jonathan
M. Ackley, justices of the peace; George W. Gillet and Albert Nichols, assessors; Leonard Bullock, Levi Smith and
William Bell, commissioners of highways; Boomer K. Jenks and Sterling Wilcox, overseers of the poor; Matthew Fox,
collector; Robert R. Bell, superintendent of common schools.
At the first town meeting 43 voters were present, and as the occasion was one of importance it may be assumed that
nearly all the voting population was in attendance. In 1850 the number of inhabitants in the town was 320, and
during the next ten years increased to 634. In 1870 it had still further Increased to 727, and in 1880 to 951,
that being the greatest number in the town’s history. In 1890 the population had decreased to 905, while the enumeration
of 1892 showed the number to be 933. It may be seen from this that Worth has been a progressive town, and has been
less affected by the causes which have worked against many of the interior towns of the county and state. The resources
are and ever have been general agricultural products and lumbering, the latter gradually increasing, while as rapidly
as the lands are cleared good farms are developed and placed under cultivation. The town abounds in excellent grazing
lands, and in all products of the soil it yields abundantly in response to proper effort, oats and potatoes leading,
and cheese and butter almost in like proportion. The town, however, has but one cheese factory, the majority of
farmers taking their milk to factories in the adjoining towns of Rodman and Lorraine.
Worth has an interesting political history, worthy perhaps of a pass. ing notice. Previous to 1869 the town was
strongly democratic, and the election of a single republican nominee was a thing almost unknown in local annals;
but a change was brought about, due in part to extreme party methods, aided by the efforts of several prominent
republicans. In the year mentioned Jabez West attempted to vote, and was refused that privilege by the officers
in charge at the polls, all of whom were uncompromising democrats. West brought suit against them, but finally
the matter was settled, the town board agreeing to pay all costs, amounting to about $80. The board, however, did
not pay the amount from their individual pockets, but each of the four added $10 to his account against the town,
and in the same manner charged the balance as a gross sum, thus having the entire cost paid out of town moneys.
About the same time there arose the well remembered Stowell case, in which the board again exercised an arbitrary
and extraordinary power. These things, with the acquisition of several strong republicans to the voting population,
in a measure changed the political complexion of the town, and in 1870 Solomon Kellogg was elected supervisor,
almost the first event of its kind in Worth. Previous to this, and in 1869, Samuel B. Kellogg had been elected
town clerk, which was the entering wedge of republicanism in the town; and he was thereafter continuously elected
for eight or nine years. In 1896 the same officer was nominated for the county office of sheriff, and one of his
chief arguments in the convention was that the town had never been properly recognized in the distribution of public
Worthville, to which frequent reference has been made in this chapter, is a small village in the northern part
of the town, containing about 100 inhabitants, and dates back in its history to almost the first settlement in
the town, when it was known as Wilcox’s Corners. It was at this point on south Sandy creek that Joseph Wilcox made
his improvement, hence the place took his name. However, nearly half a century passed before the corners became
a trading center, for not until 1819 did Lorenzo Gillet open his store and tavern, both under one roof. In 1858
A. S. Gillet succeeded to the business, and continued it to 1866, when the store was closed. The tavern was afterward
kept by Horace Streeter, Ormsby D. Moore, Alanson Pettengill and Levi Colvin, in succession. In 1858 another public
house was started by Orlin A. Chase, who was followed as landlord by Duane Earl and Leonard Parker. Another store
was opened about 1865 by Henry L. Potter, who was in business until 1871, when George D. Macomber succeeded. About
fifteen years later Flaherty & Grimshaw followed Potter, and the firm was succeeded by the present owner, C.
B. Grimshaw. A post-office was established at Worthville in 1848, but in September, 1897, the name was changed
In 1856 several prominent men of the town interested themselves in the erection of a suitable grist mill in the
village. Among those foremost in the enterprise were A. S. and L. P. Gillet, Abel Case, Sterling Wilcox, Leonard
Parker, Horace Chapin and Boomer K. Jenks, who bought a site of John Henderson, and offered it, with a generous
cash bonus, to Pealer & Fox, by whom the mill was built in 1861. It afterward passed into the hands of Solomon
Kellogg, who also kept a stock of merchandise in the building. He was succeeded by his son, Samuel Kellogg, who
soon dropped the store attachment hut has since owned the grist mill. He also owns a water power saw mill in the
village, and a steam saw mill on the “mile strip.” Numerous saw mills, and one or two other wood-working establishments,
have in the past been operated in the village or its near vicinity, but as the lands of the town are not yet fully
cleared, and these structures come and go as occasion demands it is not necessary to recall them all.
The present business interests of the village comprise the general stores of C. B. Grimshaw, C. G. Van Brocklin
(who is also postmaster) and E. C. Horth; the Worthyule hotel, kept by C. P. Ramsey; S. B. Kellogg’s saw and grist
mills; A. B. Gillet’s saw mill; Monroe Bullock’s cheese factory (managed by William Denny), and N. H. Hyde’s blacksmith
shop. The public buildings are the district school and the union church.
The Worthville union church was built in 1875, by a committee comprising Leonard Bullock, Levi Wilcox and L. D.
Monroe. It was intended for occupancy by whatever denomination sought its use, and while other societies have availed
themselves of the generosity of the builders, the Methodists are the only denomination having a regularly organized
body in the vicinity which holds regular meetings. The pulpit is supplied from Lorraine.
Worth Center is a small hamlet of about fifty inhabitants, situated near the center of the town, where Edward Cornell
settled about 1850. A saw mill built soon afterward, led to the hamlet, although not until 1874 did Mr. Cornell
open a store for the accommodation of residents of the locality. The store was afterward closed, and now the interests
of the place comprise three saw mills, owned, respectively by L. L. Cornell, Jasper Larrabee and William D. Snell.
The local postmistress is Mrs. Sidney Cornell. The Methodist Protestants are strong in this vicinity and hold meetings
in the school house. The society is now erecting a house of worship.
Diamond is a post office station in the southeast part of the town, in a locality where until quite recently several
saw mills were in operation. In 1892 the Methodist Protestants of this part of the town built a house of worship,
and have since held regular services. Their present pastor is Rev. Mr. Clark.
Frederick’s Corners is a name given to a locality in the west part of the town. Here is located St. Paul’s Episcopal
mission church, built in 1888. The communicants number 16, and are under charge of Rev. Anson J. Brockway, missionary.
Supervisors of Worth.—A. S. Gillet,
1849; Riley W. Green, 1850; Jonathan M. Ackley, 1851; Riley W. Green, 1852; Jonathan M. Ackley, 1853—54; David
Gillet, 1855, Lorenzo P. Gillet, 1856—57; Carlton C. Moore, 1858-62; Solomon B. Stears, 1863; C. C. Moore, 1864—69;
Solomon W. Kellogg, 1870; Henry V. Jenks, 1871—72; J. M. Ackley, 1873—74; H. V. Jenks, 1875—76; Samuel B. Kellogg,
1877—78; O. D. Moore, 1879—82; Oren Greenly, 1883—86; S. B. Kellogg, 1887—89; Philip H. Brenan, 1890; L. L. Cornell,
1891—92; A. D. Boyd, 1893—95; Charles W. Van Brocklin, 1896—99.