& Town of Elmira
THE CITY OF ELMIRA.
(Page 247) From the earliest annals the Valley of the Chemung seems to have been a thoroughfare for the red man, from the time they first occupied this portion of the country to the day the last form of an aborigine faded away from the western horizon. It was on this great through war-path, leading from Niagara Falls or Canada to the beautiful and matchless valley of Wyoming, and along the Susquehanna to the abodes of the powerful Delawares of the vast interior country bordering upon the present Southern States, the early traditions disclose the conquering Iroquois ascending along the Ohio, who had come into possession of Western New York; and as the all-conquering aboriginal hunter-race had extended their conquests, they were a terror to all weaker tribes. They had formed a compact with the Tuscaroras and the Six Nations, and attained the most advanced civilization known to red man.
The expedition of Sullivan found Indian lands which had been cultivated for years. The orchards showed ages of growth; the soil exhibited a high degree of cultivation; the variety of products illustrated that advanced agricultural knowledge which had been practiced in strangest contrast with the habits of the warrior-race. These signs of civilization, so at war with reputed Indian thriftlessness, were unlooked for, - possibly they had become acquainted with the customs of the earliest white settlers of America. Their system of cultivation was rude, but superior to any known among the other Indian occupants of the country.
Of the Six Nations, the Senecas laid especial claim to the country of the Chemung Valley. From their council house near Havana the renowned Canadesoga issued his edicts, which were as rigidly obeyed as those of the most powerful monarch of earth. After the union of the tribes, and at the time of Sullivan’s expedition, the country between the Chemung River and Seneca Lake was occupied by remnants of the Senecas, Cayugas, and Tuscaroras; and Canadesaga, by the natural disintegration of power which was extending over these tribes, was shorn of much of his former prestige and sway.
A treaty was held with the Senecas at Newtown in June, 1790, before Timothy Pickering as commissioner on the part of the United States, at which the Senecas appeared in numbers of 1000 or more, their great orator, Red Jacket, and warrior, Cornplanter, heading the delegation. A treaty had been held in the December previous at Tioga (Athens) before Colonel Pickering, at which the celebrated Mohican chief, Hendrick Apaumet, a collegiate of Princeton, N.J., and a captain of a band of Stockbridge Indians, Red Jacket (Arroy-yo-ya-walathan), Farmer’s Brother (Honayawus), and Fish Carrier (Oojangenta), a noted Cayuga warrior, were present. The council was called to settle land disputes, and also to soothe the agitation caused by the murder of two Senecas at Pine Creek. The Indians came to the council greatly excited, and the wily orator, Red Jacket, still further inflamed them. It was about this time that this chief began to acquire his great distinction as an orator. He was opposed to all innovation on the customs of his people, and violently opposed the sale of their lands, and rejected with the loftiest disdain the proposition of the government for the Indians to turn their attention to agriculture. Red Jacket was opposed to all attempts at civilization, and so ably did he exert his power at this council that the proposition above referred to was rejected by every band except Cornplanter’s.
At this council Red Jacket artfully introduced the purchase of Phelps and Gorham, made in 1788, bitterly denouncing those gentlemen and charging them with corruption, and it required all the finesse and ability of Colonel Pickering, based on the most intimate knowledge of the Indian character, to avert serious consequences resulting from this council. As it was, however, the difficulties were arranged and bridged over for a time and a new council was called, to be held at Painted Post, June 17, 1791, but which, owing to the low stage of water in the Chemung, was held at Newtown, the goods being with great difficulty transported to that point.
The Newtown treaty was long remembered by the pioneers who were present on the memorable occasion. Colonel Pickering was again the United States commissioner, and Red Jacket and Cornplanter were again the prominent actors on the part of the Senecas, with whom the treaty was held. Again the eloquence of the forest-born Demosthenes, Red Jacket, pictured to his followers their former power, the treatment of the Senecas by the whites, and again he raised their turbulent passions to that pitch that nothing short of the great and persuasive influence of Pickering procured a satisfactory result of the council. Red Jacket was thenceforward an actor prominent and influential at all treaties with the New York Indians, and became the all-powerful leader of his nation.
At this treaty the Indians were encamped along the western part of Newtown, from the present site of the Rathbun House, towards the upper portion of the city of Elmira. Among the early pioneers of the Chemung Valley who were present at this treaty were Colonel John Hendy, (page 248) Mathias Hollenback, Elisha Lee, Eleazer Lindley, and William Jenkins. The treaty was negotiated beneath a tree, which was afterwards known as the "Old Council Tree." It was situated near the junction of Newtown Creek with the Chemung. At this treaty the charges of fraud in the Phelps and Gorham purchase, made by Red Jacket and Cornplanter at Tioga, were examined and inquired into and refuted. Among the papers preserved in reference to the treaty was a copy of a release from the Six Nations to Phelps and Gorham, presented to Colonel Pickering, and a certificate signed by him, dated at Newtown Point, in the State of New York, July 26, 1791. It states that the day before, "the principal sachems of the Senecas now attending the treaty held by me with the Six Nations at this place," assured him they were satisfied with the treaty at Buffalo Creek (1788), and that Red Jacket and Cornplanter understood as they didn’t at that time, and that the statements by them at Tioga, in November, 1790, were unfounded and mischievously intended.
This council was the last great gathering of the Indians in the Valley
of the Chemung, and after this time their visits became less and less frequent,
until they ceased altogether, except as wanderers from the reservations.
According to tradition, "Red Jacket," the sagacious orator, sent couriers to the Five Nations, and in the fall of 1730 convened a council at "Pine Plains," a well-known place of assembly, near where the court-house now stands, at which one of the chiefs was tried for a crime and beheaded. His head was placed on a pole, which was planted where he died, and in derision the place was called Ka-na-we-o-la or "head on a pole." The Indians, out of superstition, avoided this place ever after. Subsequently, when the pale-face settled this locality, it was called by the Indians She-ne-do-wa, meaning, "at the great plains."
The first name given to the settlement by the whites was New-town,
or New-town-point, otherwise designated as "Pine Plains," which
latter term was understood as embracing what is now Elmira, Big Flats,
and Horseheads. The nucleus Newtown, since grown into such beauty
and commercial importance, deservedly styled the "Queen City" of the Chemung
Valley, was situated at the confluence of Newtown Creek with the Chemung
River, and was incorporated by this name in 1815.
WHITE MAN’S LEGEND
In the early days, when new settlements had to be named, the white man, in imitation of his aboriginal forerunner, gave a name to his settlement that was associated either with tradition, or, as in this case, with his ideal of loveliness. According to Hon. Hiram Gray, Matthew Carpenter, then a member of the Legislature and a man of influence, having seen this beautiful valley, resolved that Newtown should be the principal city, and that it should bear the name of a lady friend for whom he entertained a high opinion, and accordingly, in 1828, the name was changed to Elmira.
Lebbeus Tubbs was probably the first (according to the statement of Hon. Hiram Gray) white man who came to this section of the country. He settled on this south side of the river about 1786. There was "Leb." Tubbs and "Leb., Jr.," and a grandson and "Hamp Tubbs."
Colonel John Hendy, born in Wyoming, Pa., Sept. 3, 1757, was an only child. But little is known of his early life. He came here in the spring of 1788 and purchased a tract of land of Indian agents, removing with his family to Newtown in the fall of the same year. Although he continued to cultivate the soil until near the close of his life, he was always awake to the public interests of his community and the State. He took a very active part in building the Chemung Canal. He threw the first shovel-full of dirt at the commencement of the work, which was just back of the depot. He was also active in raising several companies for the war in Canada in 1812. He had been appointed captain of a militia company by Governor George Clinton, Feb. 22, 1789, in the town of Chemung, then in Montgomery County, and commissioned second major of a regiment in Tioga County, the 22d of March, 1797, by Governor Jay, and lieutenant-colonel, in 1803, by Governor George Clinton. He was buried in the old cemetery, next to the First Baptist church, the Elmira Guards, commanded by Colonel Judson, doing the military honors. The time of the funeral was in March, and during snow and sleet, yet there was a large concourse in attendance. He was allowed to rest there until the time for dedicating Woodlawn Cemetery, which was Saturday, Oct. 9, 1858, when his remains were transferred to that place, in honor of the public-spirited pioneer, and a suitable monument has been erected to commemorate his worth. The funeral ceremonies were very imposing. The invocation was by Rev. R. J. Wilson, the reading of Scripture by Rev. D. Goodin, and the consecration by Rev. Dr. Cowles. The dedicatory ceremonies of Woodlawn will be recited in connection with the account of the cemetery.
In April, 1788, Colonel Hendy had planted the first field of corn ever planted by a white man in the valley. The summer was spent in surveying the country for a favorable location for a fixed settlement; and several times he passed up and down the river between his lodge and Tioga Point, bringing up two canoe-loads of boards, which were used in the fall in putting up the first shanty in "Hendytown." After securing his corn-crop for the winter, he and Daniel Hill went back to Tioga Point, the residence of his family, and on the 25th of October, 1788, came back with them to Hendytown, where he had arranged his future home. His family consisted of one son, Samuel, two daughters, Rebecca and Sallie; after their settlement here, there were born to them Thomas, Anna, Jane, Hannah, Mary, and Betsey.
|1906 Postcard of the cabin of Col. Hendy and his unnamed wife, built
"Hendytown" was located on the present Joseph Hoffman place. Here a shanty was erected, as comfortable as possible, with bark and boughs to make it secure again autumn’s frost. It is said that the first night passed here was greatly disturbed by the presence of wolves, who made night hideous with their howling, the family being greatly terrified and fatigued. The odor of the fresh meat which they cooked for supper no doubt attracted these ferocious denizens. Mrs. Hendy and the children retired to their couches of hemlock-boughs, while Colonel Hendy and Dan Hill, with an old musket and a rousing fire built out of (page 249) doors, successfully defended themselves and the family against the wolves. This was the only time they were ever troubled by such visitors.
The first log cabin in this valley was built on the present farm of Joseph Hoffman, near the bank of the river. Rebecca, the eldest daughter, had been the first white child to plant her feet on the bank of the Chemung; jumping out of the boat as soon as it touched the shore, she ran up the bank to see where the house was, expecting to see one like that she had left at Tioga Point. At the time of this settlement Indians, chiefly Senecas, roamed over this country. They made Hendy’s house a general stopping-place, and not unfrequently the floor was covered night after night with their sleeping forms. For the most part they were friendly with the new settlers. Colonel Hendy received the title of Shinawane, or "Great Warrior," among them, for his great height, being six feet and seven inches, straight and spare. He never was aware that he gained the hostility of more than one of the dusky warriors, and his name was Yawback. He and his squaw came one evening to stay for the night. When Colonel Hendy came in from his work he saw that Yawback had lit his pipe, smoked, and then laid it away. Thinking there was something wrong, he told the Indian to get his pipe and light it, so they could smoke together the pipe of peace. He did so, giving it to Colonel Hendy, who, after a few puffs, returned it to the Indian to smoke the pipe of peace; but he scraped the handle off before he placed it in his mouth. The same scene was repeated three times, which was interpreted, according to the Indian custom, to indicate some ill-will on the part of the Indian. After the finishing of the hulling of corn, the squaw and papoose wrapped themselves up and laid down on the floor. Mrs. Hendy was directed to lie down with the children; but the Indian, morose, still sat up. After sitting a while in silence by the fire, he suddenly sprang up and seized Colonel Hendy, who remonstrated with the savage, and succeeded in getting him to lie down. All was quiet for a while, when he made another attack on the colonel, who was still prepared for him, and this time dealt with him deservedly. His tall, athletic form overtopped the savage, and, setting him down several times, finally grasping his head by the ears, beat him almost to insensibility on the floor. He then told him to go and lie down on the floor, which order he sullenly complied with. He was not further disturbed that night, and when the family awaked in the morning, the Indian and squaw had disappeared.
Upon a summer evening two years afterwards, Colonel Hendy was out in
the underbrush looking for his cows, with gun in hand, as was his custom,
and, peering through the forest, he saw several Indians standing a little
distance off, one of them pointing a gun at him. He took in the emergency,
and, rushing up to the group, threw aside the gun and exclaimed, "Will
you shoot, brother? The hatchet is buried!" The Indian dropped his gun,
and after reluctantly shaking hands, at the demand of the colonel, slunk
off. Upon inquiring of the other Indians (five in number) why he sought
to kill him, they replied only, "Because he was a bad Indian, and would
shoot him some time." He saw nothing more of him for six years, when, on
a town-meeting day, he was startled by some one slapping him on the shoulder,
and at the next moment collared him and seized hold of his throat. Colonel
Hendy turned, and at once, by main strength, flung him to the ground, and
gave him as sound a drubbing about the head and face as ever Indian had
before. He sneaked away, and that was the last ever seen or heard of Yawbuck.
In the second year, in August, the first and only famine occurred, occasioned
by the severest frost ever known in the valley cutting off all their summer
products, upon which they depended before the ripening of the autumn harvests.
The previous year supplies had been short; when, therefore, they had almost
reached the harvesting, the famine came upon them, every article of provision
was exhausted. Three or four families in the valley – those of Colonel
Hendy, Miller, Thomas Hendy (a cousin), and Mineyer (now called Minier)
– had not money with which to purchase provisions at the settlement down
the river. For a while they subsisted on green pumpkins, then about half-grown,
and dug up Indian beans, which were boiled and used in the ordinary way.
The pumpkins were boiled and eaten with milk. Milk and butter were plentiful,
but nothing in the line of breadstuff. Such food was insufficient for men,
- women and children could barely exist upon it. Colonel Hendy came near
starving to death, longing for bread, of which they were totally deprived.
One Sunday a field of rye belonging to Judge Miller was pronounced fit
to eat; the neighbors were summoned and each one allowed to cut a portion.
This was taken to the barn, thrashed, and the grain divided among the starving
families. This imperfectly-matured grain was dried in pans and pounded
in the samp-block, then sifted, and made into mush and cakes. Mrs. Hendy
prepared some rye mush, which was eagerly eaten by the children with milk.
A little was offered to Colonel Hendy, who was lying on the bed, but his
stomach revolted, and he resigned himself to death by starvation. His wife
bethought herself that she might bake a cake of rye. She did so, and of
this he was able to partake a few morsels at a time, and gradually reclaimed
the stomach to endure a little meat, and in a few days he was himself again.
The settlers never suffered again from this cause.
In 1797, Newtown was visited by no less a distinguished personage than Louis Philippe, of France. He put up at the Kline House, and remained ten days. His career had been a checkered one at that early period of his life. He had passed some time in Switzerland as a teacher, and afterwards served in the French army as an aid-de camp to a French general, under the assumed name of Corby, until 1794. Suspicion was aroused as to his true character, and he left the army and country, and for some time kept up a retirement in Denmark. His father had perished on the scaffold, and his mother had been immured in a Paris dungeon, and his two brothers – the Duc de Montpensier and the Count de Beaugardois – had been confined in the Castle of St. Jean, at Marseilles. In 1796, communication was opened between their mother and the French Directory, (page 250) and it was agreed that if she would persuade her son to visit the United States the order of sequestration issued against their property should be removed, and her younger sons released and permitted to join theirs with their brother’s fortunes in America. In carrying out the terms of settlement, Louis Philippe embarked for America from Hamburg by the ship "America," Captain Ewing, of Philadelphia, on the 24th of September, 1796, and in twenty-seven days was landed in Philadelphia. The other brothers only reached the same destination after a tedious and dangerous voyage of ninety-three days.
After the reunion of the brothers they spent the winter in Philadelphia, invited and toasted by the best society. They paid their respects to Washington at Mount Vernon, and made quite a traveling tour through Virginia, Kentucky, and parts of Ohio, and at an early date in June reached Buffalo. On their way from Buffalo to Canandaigua, then in the wilderness, they met Alexander Baring, afterwards Lord Ashburton, whom the future king had met in Philadelphia, and who had married a daughter of William Bingham, a distinguished gentleman of that city. They engaged in a few minutes’ conversation, after which each proceeded on his respective journey, Mr. Baring remarking to the king, according to General Cass, that he had left an almost impassable road behind him, and the king answering by the comfortable assurance that Mr. Baring would find "no better one before him." The brothers reached Canandaigua, where they passed several weeks beneath the hospitable roof of Thomas Morris, who then resided there. They continued their journey to Geneva, and here procuring a boat, embarked and made the voyage of Seneca Lake to its head. They rested here a few days with Mr. George Wells, and then, shouldering their packs, trudged on foot to Elmira, bringing letters to Henry Tower and other residents, from Thomas Morris.
That one who entered this little village in the wilds of America on foot, and bearing his pack on his back, should soon after reach the French throne, was a most improbable event, not to be entertained by the oldest romancer; yet such was the case, to the no little astonishment as well as gratification of the king. They passed their days of sojourn here in fishing and hunting. When ready for their departure Mr. Tower furnished them a Durham boat, well fitted up, and in this they descended the Chemung and Susquehanna to Wilkesbarre, from whence they journeyed across the country overland to Philadelphia. Here, in a letter directed to his sister, the Princess Adelaide, of Orleans, the Duc de Montpensier described their journey, saying, "It took us four months; we traveled during that time a thousand leagues, and always upon the same horses, except the last one hundred leagues, which was performed partly by water and partly on foot, partly on hired horses, and partly in the stage or public conveyance. We have seen many Indians, and remained several days in their country. To give you an idea of the agreeable manner in which they travel in this country, I will tell you that we passed fourteen nights in the woods, devoured by all manner of insects, after being wet to the skin, without being able to dry ourselves, and eating pork and sometimes a little salt beef and corn bread."
General Cass’ "History of France and its Kings and People" gives many interesting reminiscences of the views of the king. His history after this event is known as a monarch of France, - the "citizen king," as he was called for his mild and temperate reign.
John Konkle, with his family, came to Newtown Point from New Jersey, about the year 1788. He was a public-spirited man, and easily obtained the indorsement of the people for the place of postmaster, which he was the first to fill, as will be seen by the "History of the Post-Office Department," in another part of this work. The position was filled by the people in those days, and confirmed by the government.
Thomas M. Perry came to Newtown Point, about 1793, from Wilkesbarre, Pa., when in his seventeenth year. He had been indentured to Matthias Hollenback, of Wilkesbarre, Pa., and was sent up the Susquehanna River to this place with a stock of goods in what was called a "Durham boat," which was pushed up with poles, and it took many days to make the trip. Mr. Perry was so energetic and trustworthy that the charge of the goods and the expedition was intrusted to him. This was the first important stock of goods sent to this place, although Mr. Hollenback had had a trading-post here for bartering with the Indians. The old building in which this stock was kept was on the east side of High Street, near the Chemung River. Mr. Perry married the daughter of John Konkle. His sons, John K. and Thomas, are still living, and are respected by all who know them.
Guy Maxwell, a native of Ireland (born July 15, 1770), came to Elmira in August, 1796; he began the mercantile business. He was soon after appointed sheriff of Tioga County by Governor George Clinton, which office he held for a number of years, and was given a number of other positions of honor and trust. He died Feb. 14, 1814, less than forty-four years of age. Associated with Stephen Tuttle, he put up the first flouring-mill, near the junction of Newtown Creek and the river, - on the present site of the Arnot Mills. About that time he laid out his village-plat called Dewittsburg. Henry Wisner, who owned lot 196 of Dewitt’s Patent, laid out another plat, which took the name of Wisnerburg. The dividing line of the two plats was a little west of Baldwin Street. These names were not much recognized, all the settlements going under the name of Newtown. His descendants have also played important parts, as will be seen elsewhere.
One of the early pioneers of Newtown was Major John Gregg. He was a native of Ireland, born in Enniskillen, June 6, 1768. His father, Andrew Gregg, with his wife, Esther Kerr, a native of Scotland, came to America in 1776. The eldest of his sons, William Gregg, was a soldier in the Revolutionary army, and about the year 1795 removed to French Creek, on the Allegheny River, Pennsylvania, and was there massacred in his harvest field by the Indians.
After landing in this country, Andrew Gregg, with his family, resided in Montgomery County until about the year 1780, when he removed to Northumberland Co., Pa.
John Gregg first came to Newtown Point in 1794, as a boatman upon the Susquehanna. In 1796, with his wife, Mary Hannah, of Dauphin Co., Pa., and two children, he (page 251) took up his permanent residence here, at what is known as the old Gregg homestead, in the now Fourth Ward of the city of Elmira. Here his father and mother joined him in the year 1800, and continued to reside with him until their decease, in 1807. For twenty years, and until the office was made elective, John Gregg was a justice of the peace, holding a commission as such under the Council of Appointment. In the discharge of his magisterial duties he was remarkable for integrity and firmness, and commanded the confidence and respect of all whose controversies came before him. As a military officer, he held commissions under Governors George Clinton, Morgan Lewis, and Daniel D. Tompkins. His last commission, as Major of the Seventy-Ninth Regiment, New York State Militia, was issued March 9, 1814. Of this regiment the late General Matthew Carpenter was lieutenant-colonel. Full of years, and respected by all classes of his fellow-citizens, John Gregg died, Aug. 5, 1843. His remains, with those of his wife and his father and mother, have been removed, and now repose in Woodlawn Cemetery, in this city.
Andrew Kerr Gregg, son of John Gregg, was born in Elmira in 1799. In early life he entered the law-office of Matthews & Edwards, and completed his legal studies in the office of Judge Gray. He meanwhile was admitted to the bar of the Common Pleas, and about six years later, in 1830, was admitted as an attorney of the Supreme Court of the State of New York; in 1835 as a solicitor and counselor of the Court of Chancery; in 1842 as an attorney, proctor, solicitor, counselor, and advocate of the District Court of the United States for the Northern District of New York; in 1862 as an attorney and counselor of the same court for the district of Wisconsin. He was also appointed district attorney of old Tioga County, holding the office for two terms, from 1835 to 1841. For more than thirty years he was in constant practice of the law, giving it up only a few days prior to his death, which occurred at Chippewa Falls, Wis., April 5, 1868.
Henry Wisner, the proprietor of the west end of the village, was a man of marked character, a member of the Continental Congress, and voted for the Declaration of Independence, July 2, 1776. But on the next day he was summoned home to command a regiment in the field, and left before the declaration was engrossed, and consequently his name is not attached to that imperishable document. He was liberal in his public gifts, and that of a public square will live as an imperishable monument in the midst of future generations.
Among the early tradesmen were Homer Goldsborough, James Irwin, Michale Pfautz, Ephraim Heller, Robert Covell, Isaac Baldwin, John Cheny, John Hollenbach, Thomas Maxwell, Samuel H. Maxwell, and Isaac Reynolds. John Arnet came here and commenced business as a merchant in the winter and spring of 1819. Major Horatio Ross was another merchant marked for uprightness in dealing. He 1807, Lyman Covell, one of the oldest landmarks living, came to Elmira from Wilkesbarre. He rode up on horseback in company with the post-boy, who brought the mail once a week. There were settlements or taverns at Tunkhannock, Wyalusing, Wysox, and Tioga Point. There were two taverns in Elmira, one kept by John Davis, and the other by _______ Kline. The growth of the settlements had been very rapid; nine years had transformed the wilderness into quite a busy mart; the settlement extended between what is now known as Lake and Sullivan Streets, along Water Street. The trade was mostly in wheat, pork, potash, and lumber. The lumber business became so extensive as to cause the building of the Chemung Canal and feeder. The river was narrower and deeper in its ordinary channel; boats, scows, and arks of heavier tonnage could then navigate where now they would ground. In 1807, also, there had settled here many families whose descendants are still among us, - the Millers, Loups, Baldwins, Seeleys, Slys, James Robinson, Wisners, Matthews, Dr. Bancroft, Dr. Satterlee, Hammonds, Jenkins, and Squire Konkle, Dr. Hinchman, Dr. Scott, William Dunn, and Nathaniel W. Howell. Besides the mill built at Newtown Point, soon after the settlement had got under way, another was erected on the creek, just above Hon. A. S. Diven’s place, by Tuthill, Maxwell & Perry, a few years later. About the same time a third was erected on Seeley Creek. The first and most extensive distillery built was that of James and Ebenezer Sayer, at Horseheads. The Sayers, Colonel Hendy, the Millers, and the Slys set out fruit-trees in the vicinity of Elmira, and their orchards were noted for their productions.
James Robinson ("Squire Robinson") came to the Southern Tier in 1809, and entered upon the practice of law. He was a fine scholar, warm and ardent in his attachments, and always the best friend of his client or comrade, in whom he never recognized faults; he was seasoned with real Attic salt, and was never happier than in a toast or repartee. He was public-spirited, and his newspaper articles remarkable for ability, and contributed to the success of every measure he advocated. A large share of his time was devoted to matters of public concern. He was a stirring politician in the Harrison campaign; he had formerly been a consistent Democrat, but the "log-cabin" excitement seduced him from his life-long adherency, and made him a zealous supporter of General Harrison. His opening speech at the dedication of the first log cabin in Elmira will not soon be forgotten.
For his patriotic exertions his memory well deserves to be cherished; but he will be remembered much longer for the wit, humor, and eccentricity by which his career was distinguished. A friend who watched with him the night before his death relates that, on going to his residence for that purpose, he found him, as never before, apparently low-spirited. On inquiring the cause, he remarked, "I have been looking over my account for another world." On being asked what he found to disquiet him, he replied that the review reminded him of Garrick’s remark on the result of an unproductive benefit, "that it was a beggarly account of empty boxes." On being more particularly questioned, he said that the log-cabin excitement of 1840 lay heavy upon his mind; that he had always been a Democrat, "dyed in the wool," but that his love for hard cider and military glory had led him astray; that his attendance at log cabins, singing puerile songs, was degrading to one of his years, and at that moment was a subject of peculiar annoyance and vexation.
(Page 252) For his many services to the public, to show the appreciation by the citizens, when the Chemung Canal – to the building of which he had devoted himself so zealously – was completed, their gratitude was expressed by donating to him a house and lot. This was situated in the north part of the village, near the banks of the canal. He continued to reside there until he died.
There are many individuals whose names should appear in a full history of the first settlement of our country, and there are few more intimately associated with the pioneer settlement of the valley of the Chemung than John G. McDowell. He was born in Chemung, Feb. 7, 1794, and at the time of his decease, Jan. 1, 1866, was nearly seventy-two. In early life he was a merchant, but his agricultural tastes led him to the farm which he continued to cultivate during the greater portion of his days. During the latter years of his life he lived in comparative seclusion, but formerly he was a man of influence and distinction in this section of the State, and was considered among the principal citizens of the old western jury district. Under the old constitution he was the cotemporary in political life with Martin Van Buren, Silas Wright, Governor Marcy, and General John A. Dix, with all of whom he held intimate personal relations.
In every relation of life Judge McDowell possessed the faculty of creating strong personal friendships, and his greatest pride and pleasure was to meet and give generous hospitality to the old pioneers. Those to whom he was best known were always his most warmly attached friends. He had a good intellect, good business capacity, a genial and jovial heart; was a man of strong convictions, fervent impulses, high-minded, generous, and truthful. Those who might hesitate to adopt his views could not but admire his honest devotion to his principles, and the earnest inflexibility with which he maintained them.
Mention of many other pioneers will be found in another portion of the work.
Opposite the present residence of Miss Catherine Sly, on Ann Street, stood the first log house built in the Fifth Ward. It was erected in 1788 by her father, John Sly, who occupied it with his young wife (a Miss Polly Hammond, then only fifteen years of age), for a number of years. He was married some distance up the river, and his "bridal trip" was accomplished on horseback. Upon his arrival he immediately built the humble cottage in the wilderness; and it was a humble cottage; not even a floor graced this primitive dwelling for some time. After living here a few years he cut the timber and built "the old homestead." Mr. Sly came here from Delaware, Pike Co., Pa., when only twenty-four years of age. He witnessed the gradual transformation of the wilderness into the thriving village, and reared his numerous family to manhood and active life.
About 1830 the present brick structure just southeast of the tannery (Fifth Ward) was erected, designed for a hotel. The inscription over the door has always been a poser to classical students, Auster portus diversorum. The inscription was furnished by Ransom Birdsall, then editor of the old Republican newspaper. The explanation was that a mistake had been made in the termination of the last word, which ought to be in inm, and hence the interpretation, "South Port Hotel," but it is inelegant at best.
On Water Street, above Lake Street, was a long two-story wooden building
occupied as stores. In one of them, at the east end, was located Frederick
I. Burritt, and irresistible wag. This was a great rallying place for kindred
spirits, and many were the jokes played on the unsuspecting. Countrymen
especially were frequently sent there to go through what was called "Niagaraing."
The sell was always conducted by Burritt himself, who by a series of questioning
would make capital for the risibilities of his companions. The facial expression
of Mr. Burritt was a study for the physiognomist or the painter. He was
the originator and foster parent of the "Bush Seine" Company, a title the
very essence of ludicrousness whenever mentioned. It was a long time a
great institution for Elmira. He died years ago, and is buried in the ld
AN OLD-TIME WEDDING
The old Mansion House stood nearly opposite David H. Luthill’s store. The Mansion House was a rambling, disjointed structure, used for a hotel, with a Masonic lodge-room in the upper story, rather a forbidding place. In 1827 the landlord was Judge Bundy. He was succeeded by his brother, named Smith. The great social and festive event in the history of the building was the wedding of "Tom Tallada," – all right. The popularity of this individual was such that there was but little distinction shown in inviting guests, and the attendance was consequently very large, and not exclusively fashionable. They assembled at an early hour. The event was so notable that prominent citizens took the ceremonies in charge. The knot-tying, as stipulated, was to take place at twelve o’clock precisely, by John W. Wisner, Justice of the Peace, for which job Tom agreed to cut for him a cord of wood. The groom was habited in a long-tailed blue coat, with brass buttons. The coat, though much too small, was worn because it was loaned to him by his friend, George Kingsbury, and was bound together by a red sash tied round the waist. The village barber, duly sworn, tenderly shaved one-half of his face, under his instruction from the master of ceremonies, and a benevolent individual unearthed a three-cornered chapeau, which Tom was instructed was imperative for him to wear during the actual performance of the ceremony. As early as six o’clock the guests began to arrive, and long before the time appointed about all the men and boys of the town had congregated in front of the building. The whisky bottle was circulated freely, and Tom was plied with plenteous libations. By some mysterious accident his loving sweetheart spirited away. Tom was put on track, with a proper escort for a successful pursuit and recapture. Finally at the precise hour and minute she was brought back, and the ceremony performed, and they were, with all judicial gravity, pronounced "man and woman!" These words were the signal for the bride-kissing, which was done with the heartiest and most resonant smacks. So ardent were the salutations that a grand rush was made, and the fair bride nearly smothered with congratulations.
The first shoemaker was John Wheeler Pedrick, who came to Elmira in 1797. His grandson, Nathan Pedrick, (page 253) a surveyor in Southport, to which place his grandfather removed in 1802, has often heard his grandfather say that he had made the first pair of shoes ever made in Elmira.
Adney S. Atkins was the first tailor. He came to Elmira in 1815, according to John C. Roe, who came in 1817, who is now living, and in a good state of preservation. He contends that tailoring is a healthy business.
In 1818, Isaac Roe and William Williams came from Orange County, N.Y., and erected the tannery on the river bank, above the grist-mill erected by Isaac Baldwin, Mr. Williams clearing the brush off the lot for that purpose. In 1827 or 1828, Mr. Williams purchased the interest of Mr. Roe, and carried on the business until 1843. Mr. Roe lived in a log house, on the corner of Water and Columbia Streets, until about 1827.
The first theatrical exhibition given in Elmira was in the second story of the tavern kept by Hawks and William Dunn, which stood on the north side of Water Street, next the canal. This was about the year 1832. The proprietor and manager, star and stock actors and actresses, were made up for the most part of Gilbert and Trobridge and their wives. The playing was pronounced quite creditable, and the parties afterwards made their mark in the profession. Neafie was a young stage aspirant, and Powell made his debut, and died at Erie some years since; but used to visit Elmira with a company, occasionally, under the firm of Powell & Gore. The first play brought out was the "Lady of the Lake." The scenic display must have been of a remarkable order compared with our theatres. The stage did not exceed twenty feet square; but the acting was deemed superb.
Headquarters for staging. The route to New York for travelers was by stage, the lines running through "southern tier counties" to the Hudson River. The headquarters of all the staging done in this region was where the city market now stands. Communication east and west, north to Geneva, and south to Philadelphia and Washington via Williamsport, was kept up daily by four-horse post-coaches. The line to Ithaca was tri-weekly; the mails never exceeded a single mail-bag, and the coaches were seldom crowded to excess. The proprietors of these lines were Cooley & Maxwell. The driver was an artiste. His practiced hand could bring his long lash to just touch a leader’s ear with the weight of a feather, or with a single stroke on the flank send him like a flash forward to his work. The snap of the lash was like the snap of a firecracker, or the reverberation of a pistol, as he willed it. And when coming into town, his long-horn trumpet-blasts, and his whip-lash executions, as he brought the four-in-hand down to a round trot, you could hear his emphatic "G’lang!" which afforded daily excitement to the villagers.
One of the oldest stage proprietors in the Valley was General Whitney Gates, who came here in 1825. Cooley, Maxwell, and Magee & Co. established lines all over the adjoining county, west to Owego, and north to the head of the lake and Geneva. Gates’ first contract was to Williamsport. Subsequently he, with Lewis and Charles Manning, secured the line between here and Owego. The record of their transactions is traditionary, and many important events in the establishing of those early lines are lost. We get but glimpses here and there.
Manning, Gates, Fish, and Hamilton were the star actors of the stage
in those days, and flourished until the completion of the Erie Railway,
or nearly so, Sly and McGrath appearing only at the drop of the curtain.
The stages made connection with the old "Dick Stevens," a steamer that
roamed the high sea of Seneca Lake to Geneva.
THE PAST AND PRESENT
In compiling the history of Elmira, the endeavor has been to rescue from oblivion the history, partly written and partly oral, of the fair young city, - "The Queen of the Southern Tier," - and put it in tangible shape for preservation. Records, libraries, and the press have been made tributary, and persons of "high and low degree" have been interviewed, for the most part with success. From these varied sources the links of the chain have been gathered, and as the pages of near a hundred years of history unfold, doubtless it will appear that "truth is stranger than fiction." Not even the "oldest inhabitant" can recall the secret springs that gave a zest to the toils of "long ago," when Lebbeus Tubbs, Colonel Hendy, John Gregg, John G. McDowell, Guy Maxwell, and other nobles of that day laid the foundations of the liberty and social privileges we now enjoy. Many of the adventures and perhaps hairbreadth escapes have been lost, yet some striking peculiarities remain clinging, like the vine to the oak.
The past and present have so silently merged into each other, that there is no line of demarcation. The present is rather the maturity of the past, the ripening in the fullness of usefulness, the consummation of all that is desirable in schools, a near approach to this in the churches, secret and other societies, while the mercantile status leaves little to be desired, and the manufacturing and mechanical industries, which have become the foundation of the true growth of the city, increase year by year, until thrift and prosperity are manifest on every hand.
Situated in the beautiful valley of the Chemung, watered by the river of historic interest, and favored by a climate which is alike favorable to health and the products of the soil, it is not surprising that talent in industry, art, manufactures, and commerce should constantly flow hither; fostered, as these interests have ever been, by an intelligent and progressive newspaper power, second to no other, and that the great spring of all these, capital, finds an ample field for operating, and even lavishes itself in the adornment of homes and institutions, which are many and beautiful.