Organization -Reduction of Area – Physical Characteristics – Streams – Timber Growth – Early Settlers – Pioneer Industries – Schools and Justices – Churches and Cemeteries – Societies – Villages and Postoffices
Chatham township was organized in February, 1828, and was taken from Deerfield township. In May, 1831, a strip two miles wide from east to west was taken from Middlebury township and added to it on the east. In 1878, a strip averaging about two miles in width, was taken from it on the north and added to the southern part of Deerfield township. As at present constituted it is about six and one-fourth miles from north to south, six and a half miles from east to west, and contains about forty square miles. It is bounded by Deerfield township on the north, Farmington and Middlebury townships on the east, Delmar and Shippen townships on the south, and Clymer and Westfield townships on the west. The township is watered by numerous runs, brooks and creeks. The principal of these is Crooked Creek, which, with its tributaries, Mead’s brook and Norris brook, drains the central and eastern portions of the township. Other small unnamed streams drain different sections of the township. The northern boundary of the township is practically the watershed between the tributaries of the Cowanesque River, which flow north, and those of Crooked Creek, which flow sound and southeast. The drainage of the township, with the exception of the northwest quarter, is in these last-named directions. One of the curious physical features of the township is a little marsh, from which the village of Little Marsh takes its name. It is situated north of Crooked Creek, a short distance west of Beach’s Mills, and is a marshy area between the surrounding hills. Its head is a narrow ravine, which branches off, about a mile north of the Boardman school house, from another ravine, the natural drainage of which is toward the northwest, while that of the Little Marsh ravine is toward the east and southeast. Until artificially obstructed, the water, in case of heavy rains, has sometimes turned aside, either in whole or in part, into the Little Marsh ravine, thus presenting the curious spectacle of a stream dividing and one portion flowing east and southeast into Crooked Creek and the other northwest into Jemison creek. A natural watershed thus formed by the junction of two ravines, is a thing rarely seen, and must be regarded as one of the physical curiosities of the county.
The township is of uneven and, in places, rugged surface, yet the greater part of its area is rolling and gently undulating, the uncultivable portion being very limited. When first settled its hills and valleys were covered with a heavy growth of white pine and hemlock, which, in the course of years, gave way to cultivated fields and highly improved and productive farms. Its lands are adapted to the cereal grains, to grass, tobacco and orchard fruits, and its annual products show that it is one of the best agricultural townships of the county. Not having any railroads within its borders, the greater part of their trading is done in Westfield, Knoxville, Osceola, Elkland, Sabinsville and Middlebury Center. Chatham is strictly an agricultural township and its people devote their energies to the care and cultivation of their farms.
The first white settler in Chatham township, as at present constituted, was John Short, who located near the outlet of the "Little Marsh", in 1818. Two years later, he removed to what is now known as Shortsville. He was soon followed by his brothers, Asa and Benoni, the latter making but a brief stay. Reuben Cloos, a son of Newbury Cloos, a pioneer settler of Deerfield township, commenced improvements on his land in the "Cloos Settlement" in 1818. He built a log house, raised two crops of grain and, in 1821, moved his wife to her new home. The first season, during their absence, the house burned with everything in it, including $60 in silver money. William Wass, a native of Sussex County, New Jersey, and a soldier of the War of 1812, located in Deerfield township in 1917. His son, David Wass, now a resident of Knoxville, says that in 1818 he removed to Chatham township and settled about two miles west of East Chatham. Jesse Rowley also settled in the township in 1818. Abel Cloos, a brother of Reuben, settled in the Cloos neighborhood in the winter of 1822-23, and Abel Cloos, an uncle of Reuben, and Armon Cloos, a brother, a year or two later. Charles Avery, a native of Madison County, New York, came in 1826, and located on the tract of land on which the East Chatham post office is situated. This he sold in 1827 to Sylvester Treat, and located on the farm now owned by Edward Carl. Here he passed the remainder of his life.
A number of early settlers who selected lands in this township were either pioneers or sons of pioneers in Deerfield township. Some purchased lands and did not settle, while others moved into the township and became permanent residents and citizens of it. The first assessment made in 1829, by Allen Frazer, Jr., shows that the following named persons, residents and non-residents, were taxable in the township; Cyrus Ames, Aaron Alba, James Allen, Francis Burrell, Alexander Burrell, Beersheba Bates, Asa Bates, Silas Billings, Daniel Baker, Stephen Colvin, Joel Crandall, Samuel Carpenter, Allen Frazer, Jr., Eddy Howland, Jr., Joseph Howland, John Knox, William Knox, David Lesure, John Macumber, Joseph Matson, David Seamans, Lovel Short, Samuel Strawn, John P. Tracey, Elijah Thompson, Samuel Taylor, Mrs. Tracey, widow of A. W. Tracey, William Wass, and Joseph Yarnall. Of these about twenty were actual settlers, among whom were Joel Crandall, a son of Stennett Crandall, who settled in Osceola township in 1823; Stephen Colvin, who settled in the northern part of the township; Samuel Carpenter, a son of Charles Carpenter, a pioneer of Osceola township; Allen Frazer, Jr., who made the first assessment of the township; David Lesure, who settled on Crooked Creek; John Macumber, who settled northeast of Little Marsh, in the Cloos district; Lovell Short, who was living on Crooked Creek, at Shortsville, and Samuel Strawn, who settled on the place now owned by his son, Samuel M. Strawn.
Amasa Clark was born in Providence, Rhode Island, in 1801, and came to Deerfield township, in 1817, with Eleazer Clark, a relative. Soon after arriving at manhood’s estate, he became an early settler in Chatham township, locating on the farm now occupied by his son, Alanson Clark. Isaac Cole, the oldest living resident of the township, came as early as 1831-32. William Spaulding, a native of Hebron, New York, removed from Vermont to Potter County, Pennsylvania, in 1835, and in 1836 came to Chatham township , settling on the farm below Chatham Valley, now occupied by his son-in-law, D, H. Curtis. Robert Hill and Rensselaer Toles settled on the site of the village of Little Marsh in the early thirties, the former locating above and the latter below the creek bridge in the village. In 1836, Matthew Boom settled in the northwestern part of the township, near the "Swing Gate" school house. In 1837, Nehemiah Beach removed from Knoxville, located at Little Marsh, and engaged in lumbering. In 1847 he removed one mile west to the property now owned by his son, S. P. Beach. Harvey Leach, for many years a prominent physician with a large practice, came into the township in 1837, from Steuben County, New York, and cleared a small farm, on which he resided till his death. Ronaldo Hawley, a native of Columbia County, New York, settled in 1840 on the farm now owned by Curry Beach. In 1841 Jeremiah Garner settled in the western part of the township, southwest of the Boardman school house. In 1842, Philo Churchill settled on the farm in the eastern part of the township now occupied by his son, Randolph Churchill. Jason Cooper, a soldier of the War of 1812, settled in 1844 in the northwestern corner of the township. In the same year, also, Daniel H. Curtis, a native of Cayuga County, New York, settled below Shortsville, on Crooked Creek. In 1846 Philip Erway came into the township from Delmar township, and settled on the farm in the "Swing Gate" district which he still occupies. About this time, Thomas Owlett, a native of England, settled in the northeastern part of the township. Alvin H. Rice, a native of Delaware County, New York, came in 1847, and settled at Little Marsh, and became the first merchant in the place.
Among other early settlers were Benson Hill, Z. Burdick, Frank Spencer, Aurora Spencer, Calvin Davis, Moses Wilhelm, Joseph Whitney and Calvin Wheeler, Alexander Holmes, Azariah Slocum, Samuel Main, Artemus Crippen and Charles Fuller, who settled in the southern part of the township; Miletus Brown, Peter Houghtaling and Lemuel Jackson, who settled on the Shortsville Road; Samuel Mosher, Nathan Taylor and Daniel Hill, on the Mosher Road; John Bates and Samuel Strong, on the Bates Road; Burdick Hill, Dyer Clark and Josiah Hall, on the road leading from Beach’s Mills to Academy Corners, and Daniel Shore, Harlow Boyce, Asher Manning, Nehemiah Smith, Ezra Allen, M. Brownell and Samuel King, in the northwestern part of the township.
Chatham, at the time of its settlement, being a forest-covered township, lumbering preceded agriculture as its most important industry. The leading purpose of the settlers was, however, to, as quickly as was possible, transform these tracts into cultivated farms. Their main dependence for the accomplishment of this work was a keen-edged ax and their own strong arms. Unwilling to wait until better roads and a denser population should create a demand for the pine and hemlock that then encumbered the ground, many of them called fire to their aid in the clearing of their fields, and this accelerated the work of forest destruction. The early mills were devoted to supplying lumber for home consumption, the first being built by Henry Eaton at Shortsville. It was not, however, until after the building of the plank road from Tioga to Wellsboro, about 1850, that lumbering became an industry of magnitude and importance. Mills were erected along Crooked Creek and its branches, and hundreds of teams were employed in hauling the lumber down the Crooked Creek valley to Tioga, when it was either rafted down the river or shipped by railroad. It is estimated that, at one time nearly 1,000,000 feet of lumber a week was shipped out of Chatham and Middlebury townships in this way. In time the pine disappeared, since which the cutting of hemlock for lumber and bark has been carried on, until it, also, is nearly exhausted.
One of the first mills in the township was erected on Nate Meads’s brook, by Nehemiah Beach, about 1838. In 1847, he moved about a mile west of Little Marsh, on Crooked Creek, and erected a saw-mill, having as a partner Maj. Seth Daggett. A grist-mill was also erected and the water power derived from a reservoir formed by damming the outlet to Little Marsh. Considerable malaria prevailed about this time and those living near attributed it to the dam. An order of court was secured compelling Mr. Beach to remove it. He claimed the decree was unjust and arbitrary and would cause him great financial loss, and refused to obey it. Malarial fever still prevailing, the people took the matter in hand and destroyed the dam, as well as the value of the mills. In 1873 steam power was put in, and in 1877 a store established in connection with the mills. These properties are now owned and operated by Mr. Beach’s son, Simeon P. Beach. The upper story of the store building is used as a lodge hall by the Knights of Honor and Grange. These mills are the only ones now in operation in the township.
SCHOOLS AND JUSTICES
The first school in the township was held in a log house, erected in 1821 for a dwelling by Reuben Cloos. This school was taught in 1831 by a man named Hovey. Other schools were established as the number of settlers increased. Soon after the enactment of the public school law in 1835, the township was divided into school districts. In 1878, when the northern part of the township was attached to Deerfield Township, it lost four out of sixteen school districts. The remaining districts conform in their configuration to the variations of the surface, and are so shaped as to obviate, as much as possible, excessive hill climbing on the part of the pupils. They generally run with the valleys of the streams. The school houses are good, substantial frame buildings, well supplied with modern furniture, and good teachers are employed during the summer and winter terms. Among the early teachers in the township were Stephen Wade, Stephen Martin, Miss Susie Gibson, Daniel VanDusen, Mary VanDusen, Polly Cloos, Esther Avery, James Leach and Augustus Andrews.
The following named persons have served as justices of the peace of this township: Allen Frazer, commissioned in 1830; Reuben Cloos, 1840; Burdick Hill, 1840; William Boardman, 1845; Ben. VanDusen, 1845; William A. Falkner, 1848; Samuel Strawn, 1850; Ben. VanDusen, 1850; Prince P. Howland, 1851; Abel Harris, 1853; F. W. Stark, 1860; A. A. DeGrote, 1864; N. K. Hastings, 1865; Austin D. Rice, 1869; re-elected 1891; Alexander Wass, 1894; John W. French 1895.
CHURCHES AND CEMETERIES
The Free Will Baptist Church of Chatham Valley was organized in 1846 with fifteen members. The names of the pastors who have served this church are Charles Fooles, A. D. Pope, W. S. Smith, A. G. Downey and N. J. Shirey. The church is without a regular pastor at present. In 1896 a neat church building, costing $1,200, was erected at Chatham Valley.
The First Methodist Episcopal Church of Chatham, at Little March, was organized about 1855. It is difficult to ascertain the exact year. It appears, however, that about this time a class was organized at the Boardman school house by Rev. Alfred G. Terry. In 1855, also, the existence of a church was recognized by the conference assigning Rev. James Duncan to Chatham. The accessible records, however, do not give a list of the pastors back of 1868, when Rev. O. P. Livingston took charge, remaining until 1871. His successors have been Revs. Elisha Hudson, 1871-1872,; Mr. Hinman, 1872-1873; A. D. Ensign, 1873-1875; O. P. Livingston, 1875-1877; Woodruff Post, 1877-1878; J. H. Perry, 1878-1879; W. Beach, 1879-1881; J. W. Miller, 1881-1884; J. C. Stevens, 1884-1886; W. S. Dubois, 18861887; A. P. Cole, 1887-1892; C. R. Morrow, 1892-1895; and H. R. Wagner, who came in November, 1895. The church was duly incorporated September 10, 1870. The trustees of incorporation were Sidney Beach, Leonard Clark, John Mead, Alexander Wass and Lockwood Smith, and also included, but not as incorporators, Abel Cloos, A. D. Rice, Robert Hill and A. H. Roberts. A church building was erected in the spring of 1872, at a cost of $3,500. The church now numbers 108 members.
The Second Methodist Episcopal Church, otherwise known as the "Owlett Church" is situated in the northeastern part of the township, near the Middlebury township line, and was established about thirty-five years ago. In 1882 a church building was erected at a cost of $1,200. The same pastors have served this church and the church at Little Marsh, and the list given in its history answers for both. The church now has a membership of about fifty. The Sunday school was regularly maintained until recently, when, owing to irregular attendance, it was temporarily discontinued. The society was incorporated April 3, 1882.
The First Chatham Cemetery Association was incorporated August 28, 1872, the incorporators being Reuben Morse, Reuben Cloos, Lon Avery, Amasa Clark, Jr., Philip T. Cloos and Alanson Clark. The cemetery controlled by this association is known as the Old Cloos Burying Ground, where a number of early pioneers lie buried.
The Lee Cemetery Association was incorporated December 22, 1886, the officers and incorporators being Daniel H. Lee, president; Sylvester Treat, secretary; John Owlett, treasurer. The cemetery, which was established about fifty years ago, is located in the northeastern part of the township, near East Chatham post office. The remains of the early settlers of the neighborhood are interred here.
The Robert Hill Cemetery Association was incorporated December 19, 1894, the incorporators being A. M. Roberts, A. Spencer, H. C. Warmsley, W. H. Thompson, Gurden Reed, G. D. Beach and C. E. Beach. This cemetery is situated between Little Marsh and Beach’s Mills and has been used as a place of burial for half a century.
The Boardman Cemetery, near the old Boardman school house, in the western part of the township, is an old burying ground. There is also a small cemetery near the Swing Gate school house and also on at Shortsville.
Chatham is fairly well supplied with societies, embracing the following organizations: Little Marsh Lodge, No. 2262, K. of H. was chartered August 17, 1880. It meets in a hall over the store of S. P. Beach, at Beach’s Mills, and embraces about twenty five members. Alfred Toles Post, No. 320, G. A. R., contains fifty members. It was organized April 21,1883, and has a hall at Little Marsh. Alfred Toles Corps, No. 28, W. R. C., meets at the same place. It was organized September 4, 1889, and has a membership of nearly forty. Both the post and corps are prosperous and help to keep alive a patriotic spirit in the township. Little Marsh Tent, No. 179, K. O. T. M., was organized May 31, 1893, and meets at the lodge room in Little Marsh. Excelsior Grange, No. 1136, P. of H., which meets at the hall over Beach’s store, was organized May 16, 1895. It has a membership of twenty-six.
VILLAGES AND POST OFFICES
Little Marsh, so named from a small marsh about two miles northwest, up the Crooked Creek valley, is situated north and east of the geographical center of the township. The first settlers upon its site were Rensselaer Toles and Robert Hill. Toles settled below and Hill above the creek bridge within the village. They both located in the early thirties. In 1837 Nehemiah Beach removed from Knoxville, and engaged in lumbering here, remaining until 1847. The first store was opened here about 1855 by T. P. W. Stark, on the site of the present hotel building. Alvin H. Rice was also an early merchant, as were also Kelly & Smith, Seymour Guild and Abner Humphrey. There are now two stores in the place; one is carried on by Cooper & Carpenter and the other by E. S. Davis & Sons. In the second story of the Cooper & Carpenter building is the lodge hall of the Grand Army of the Republic, the Woman’s Relief Corps and the Knights of the Maccabees. The first hotel in the village was built in 1878, by Erastus Rice – a son of Alvin H. Rice—who still keeps it. In 1889 Alexander Wass built a cheese factory, which he still operates. A wagon shop is carried on by C. W. Ordiway and a blacksmith shop by Charles Heath.
Dr. Harvey Leach, who settled in the township in 1837, was the first physician to practice here. His successors have beeen Dr. S. P. Kenyon, Dr. Simmons, Dr. Street, Dr. John Feltwell and Dr. B. J. Fulkerson, who remained about fifteen years. The profession is represented at present by Dr. Inman H. White, who came in the fall of 1895.
A post office was established in the township previous to 1840, at the residence of Redding Macumber, who was the first postmaster and held the office a number of years. Amasa Clark was the postmaster during the war and was succeeded by Edward Miller, who held the office one year. In the fall of 1868 the office was established at Little Marsh, with John Mowrey, postmaster, who held it until 1876. His successors have been E. W. Toles, A. D. Rice, A. M. Roberts and A. D. Rice, who was appointed a second time in the fall of 1893. The vo;;age cpmtaoms a gppd graded school. The population of the place numbers about 150, nearly all of whom are interested in agriculture.
Chatham Valley Postoffice or Shortsville, is in the Crooked Creek Valley, near the eastern boundary line of the township. A post office was established here about 1840. Henry Caton was the first postmaster. The office was located in his dwelling, a custom continued by his successors, among whom were William Spaulding, Samuel Cady, James Wiley, John W. French, E. W. Suffern, Redding Macumber and Russell Brigden. Mr. Brigden permitted the office to lapse. A new office was established in February 6, 1883, and David H. Curtis, who still fills the position , appointed postmaster. He has the office in his dwelling, in which it was located in1852, when his father-in-law, William Spaulding, was postmaster. There is one store, that of Hollister Leach, and two blacksmith shops, carried on by Joe Borden and David Short, in Chatham Valley.
East Chatham is the name of a post office established July 11,
1870, in the northeastern part of the township, at the residence of R.
G. Treat, who still holds the office of postmaster, and serves for the
accommodation of his neighborhood rather than for any honors or emoluments
attached to the place.