Mr. SUFFERN was a native of the County of Antrim, north of Ireland, and came to the United States in his 70th year; and consequently, now that he has departed in his 86th, has been a citizen of this Republic 70 years.
He belonged to that hardy race who came from Scotland--fleeing from the persecution which followed the Reformation of JOHN KNOX--and was like all the Scotch Irish, warmly attached to Presbyterian Protestantism.
Having been brought up to farming in his youth, he looked forward to being a farmer in this his adopted country; and so left the city of New York, where he was prospecting, and gaining property, that he might cultivate the soil here; then as far away from the centre of civilization as Kansas is at the present time.
As early as 1804, Mr. SUFFERN made his first visit to this region. His account of that journey is one of the sketches from real life, not often given, but by the first settlers, now fast passing away from us. On horseback from New York City, along with a single companion, our friend came hither, through woods and wilds; meeting wild Indians, wild beasts, and wilder white men. At Chenango Forks, where BRAINARD had established a mission among the Indians, they found some signs of civilization, in a small tavern kept by a widow woman, where they met travelers going to the east--a Mr. PUMPELLY, from Owego--and it may give the young men of the present day some notion of the state of feeling in residents at that time, when it is stated that Mr. SUFFERN and these strangers exchanged letters to their several friends, telling them that all was well with them. Like sailors on the broad sea, they hailed each other as they passed; bearing messages which might reach their destination in a month afterward. Our friend lived to see something that seemed like magic or miracle, in the road now passing through that whole way, once so difficult to travel.
Arriving in Elmira--then Newtown--our travelers put up at the small tavern kept by JOHN DAVIS, at the Ferry crossing, now the corner of Lake and Water Street, where were a few scattered houses, running toward the Mill. Taking a winding direction, through a forest of scrubby pines, they struck Newtown Creek, following it till they came opposite Serpent Lake, and after a tedious journey reached this spot, on which he lived 53 years--50 of these with the wife of his youth. One of the same stock, bearing the same name--a name well known in Rockland County for firmness, integrity and wealth.
Mr. SUFFERN of Chemung County, had some points of character, which ought to be noticed and imitated by all men, in whatever station of society they move. Perhaps the most prominent was a decided independence of mind that carried him through all opposition. He feared not the face of clay. He never hesitated at meeting any difficulty he thought it possible to overcome. This led him to cross the Atlantic alone, in his 70th year, and earn his living among strangers, in a strange city. And the same principle sent him out here to live, amid rude nature, where he has labored till he has made the wilderness and the solitary place glad for him, and the desert to rejoice and blossom like the rose.
This independence was not the result of great prosperity and success; for as he must have been removed from all obsequious flattery in youth, so was he the most tender hearted of men in his mature life. Ever obliging to his neighbors; an equal among his equals; unconscious of any superiority in himself, or in others, he lent his aid to the weak, and was faithful to the strong; kind to the poor; a friend to the helpless--he endeared himself to all who knew him. A strong man bodily, up to his old age, and successful in his business beyond many; yet his main strength lay in a vigorous mind, and in sound principles of honesty, integrity and piety; which shone out in his life continually, without ostentatious display. It was impossible for him to be otherwise than he seemed; the stranger saw at a glance what he was; a man of dignity, whose hoary hair was a crown of glory, and whose manners were that of a gentleman, whom the rudeness of backwoods life had not vulgarized, so as to render him unfit for the intercourse of city life, where he has ever honored by those of his relations, who had risen high in station and in wealth. His friendships were ardent, and lasting; his enmities never led him to take unfair advantage; his charity covered a multitude of sins; and his piety led him to forgive and to forget the injuries that were aimed at him.
As one of the Ancients of Chemung County, he is deserving of double honor, passed as he has done into the ranks of our departed worthies. He has caused many blades of grass to grow where none grew before his day; he has reared a large and respected family; sustained the institutions of the State and of the Church, and left us an example more to be prized than a mine of gold. He has taught us how to live, and what is of more account, taught us how to die. As his day declined, his nature became more mellowed, and ripe as the grain growing on his own field, ready for the reaper. Not a cloud veiled his sky. Like the ancient Patriarch, he gathered his sons around his bed, and with the same decision and tenderness which characterized his strongest day--for he was one that, like ABRAHAM, commanded his children and his household--he gave forth directions, as calmly as if upon the harvest field, and then fell himself into the earth, like a "shock of corn fully ripe."
Jacob Lowman, Sr.
The subject of this sketch was born in Middletown, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, in the year 1769. His ancestors came from Germany. The Star of Empire had already defined its course, and they followed its light to the New World. With good Dutch sense and discrimination they selected one of the choicest spots between the sea they had sailed across and the great Mississippi, to build a home. Nothing of the spirit of adventure and enterprise, nothing of accurate judgment and clear forecast, were lost in the descent from these original pioneers, to this representative of their blood. In the early part of the summer of the year 1788, when he was only 19 years old, he embarked in a trading enterprise up the Susquehanna and Tioga Rivers. He invested his entire fortune and a considerable part of his reputation as a business man in the venture. It must be remembered that this was only nine years after Gen. SULLIVAN had marched his army of Indian fighters through the deep and unbroken forests, up these Rivers, to chastise the Six Nations for their bloody massacres at Wyoming and Cherry Valley, and other settlements begun in this then remote wilderness. The Susquehanna was an untried channel of commercial interchange. Its shores were still shaded by vast and desolate forests, from Northumberland up to Tioga Point. There were, here and there, rifts in the woods where the hardy settlers had pushed back the trees and opened fields to the blessed warmth of the sun. Wider spaces, farther separated, and covered with primitive buildings, suggested to the prophetic, visions of the prosperous towns and populous and wealthy cities clustering along its margins. The "Genesee Country," comprising the Counties of Genesee, Ontario and Steuben, now so densely peopled, and rich in all the elements of a first class civilization, and unsettled and only reached by the bold explorer, by Indian trail, and blazed paths from Albany. It was four years later, after this sagacious merchant of the Susquehanna had opened the way and decided the practicability of the navigation of this stream with freighting boats, that this garden of the State began to receive its just share of attention, and its proper apportionment of the emigration settling in that direction.
Many of the brave and strong-armed soldiers who accompanied Gen. SULLIVAN in his expedition against the Indians, when they passed through the Valley of the Tioga, (now Chemung), pronounced it the promised land, and immediately after the close of the Revolution returned and occupied it. They were husbandmen and hunters; they hewed away the woods, and planted and harvested grain. They threaded the mazy forests with traps and guns, and the wild animals became their lawful spoil. It may well be imagined that the enthusiastic descriptions of this new country by these returned soldiers, found eager and excited listeners among their neighbors and acquaintances, and that their ranks were largely recruited when they returned to it. Here was a broad and glorious field for selection, and these first seekers exercised their privilege without hindrance. At this period, "the neighborhood" was geographically bounded east by Tioga Point and west by Newtown. The pioneer’s signal is the smoke from the cabin curling through the tree-tops. These neighbors could scarcely know by this sign that each other lived. Houses had clustered into nearer company at Tioga Point, Chemung, and Newtown. Between, the brave-hearted subduer of the wilderness plied his solitary tasks. The civilized man, though never so excellent a pioneer, cannot supply all his needs from the fields and woods. These men could draw, ad libitum, upon the forests for meat to eat, and wood to cook it with. Already they garnered from their fertile fields more of the fruits of the earth than their wants demanded. It may be presumed that this young trader, wide awake and eager to find his place, somehow heard of this want of a merchant. Though it is quite safe to decide that he had not heard that JOHN FITCH had launched his first steamboat the year before, in the Delaware; that it was propelled by oars driven by steam, and that it made several miles an hour against the current; or that he was impressed with the importance to him, entering as he was with all his young hopes, in the jeopardy upon the navigation of the almost unknown waters of the Susquehanna, of the organization of the Rymseyan Society, with Dr. FRANKLIN at its head, this same year, for the promotion of the enterprise of applying steam to the propulsion of vessels and boats, the practicability of which Mr. RUMSEY had already demonstrated by running a boat, half loaded, on the Potomac, against the current, at the rate of four miles per hour, the motive being steam. If he heard of these things, he did not appreciate their bearing upon his chosen business, for he did not delay the loading and the running of his "keel bottom" for the results of the tests of the philosophers.
With eight stout poles, and as many pairs of strong arms to use them, he weighed anchor, and with his precious freight, pushed boldly for the wilds of the Tioga. The capacity of these boats was about 20 tons, and it was an immense labor to propel them 350 miles, against the heavy current of this great and uncertain River. Nearly two weeks were consumed in making this first trip to Tioga Point. It was, however, safely made, and the stores landed at this place without damage. Business was immediately commenced. Tobaccos, groceries, cloths, guns, ammunition, chains, axes, and other hardware; in fine, everything that settlers needed and could not otherwise get, this young trader brought to their doors, and took in exchange for it what they had to give--which was not money. Grain, flax, hemp and peltries--these constituted the resources of the pioneers. The exchanges were mutually satisfactory, and the stores brought were soon exhausted. The boat was re-loaded with the commodities received for the goods, and started on its return trip. At Nanticoke the boat was capsized and the entire cargo lost. This was an unfortunate beginning for this young adventurer, because it was all he had, and some more than he had paid for. But, nothing daunted by this mishap, he pushed down his empty boat. He had satisfied himself of the great opportunity this trade afforded for money making. This gave confidence, and he found friends to help him.
He again went into the market, bought goods and loaded his boat, and made another successful trip to his trading place at Tioga Point, readily exchanging all his goods, as before. This time he returned in safety with his rich cargo, gathered from the fields and the forests of the Tioga. His gains were large, and made him more than whole again. Three times during the first two years of his trading, he sunk, or overturned his boat on his return trips, and lost the entire cargoes. He pursued this traffic four years, and notwithstanding his serious disasters, was eminently successful. After the first year, he moved his trading place up the Tioga to a point above the lower Narrows, near the present residence of ROBERT WILSON.
He permanently settled in the Valley in the year 1792, at this place; married HULDAH BOSWORTH the same year. The family of the latter came from Connecticut; they were among the earliest settlers of the Valley. He continued to live at this place until 1800. He still pursued trade, and added to it the distillery business. It was all done from that stand-point. He no longer made a business of running boats on the River, regularly. His gains were large, and he invested them in land, of which he became, in time, a large owner.
His two oldest children, LAURINDA and GEORGE, were born while he lived at this place. The former married the Hon. J. G. McDOWELL, and has been some years dead. The latter is still alive, and occupies the farm where his parents finally settled and lived. This was purchased in 1800, of GUY MAXWELL, and was immediately occupied by the family. It is located on the River, 10 miles above their first stopping place, and at the mouth of Baldwin Creek. Here he raised the balance of the family of children--ESTHER, CYNTHIA and JACOB. The first married Rev. DANIEL E. BROWN, who died many years ago. CYNTHIA married Dr. HOVEY EVERITT; her husband died a few years ago; she still lives on the farm which was the generous patrimony of her always provident and generous father, and is passing smoothly, quietly and pleasantly, down the declivity of life, surrounded by many of its earliest associations. It is well, perhaps, to remark that her husband, Dr. HOVEY EVERITT was eminently successful in his profession, and that he added largely to the property of the family. JACOB LOWMAN, Jr., occupies the farm adjoining the first, already mentioned as purchased of Mr. MAXWELL, and which was bought some years subsequently, of Col. JOHN SPAULDING. The house he lived in was built by his father, and was his residence the last years of his life.
HULDAH, the wife of the subject of this sketch, died in August, 1839. She was a quiet, amiable, affectionate, and thoroughly domestic woman--a most admirable example of the complete, good, old-fashioned housewife and help-meet. In all her relations of wife, mother, and member of society, she fully discharged her duty, and bequeathed to her many friends who lived after her, a most pleasant memory of her gentle and excellent life. JACOB, the husband borne down with his heavy grief, went to seek his life-long mate, in that undiscovered country, only a few months later. He died the 5th of the following February, 1840. He was a strong-minded, honest-hearted and clear-visioned man. He was a man in all the larger definitions of that substantive. Confidence, independence, point--these are the offspring of conscious strength. All these he possessed, and almost every other element needed to fill up and make a full, well rounded individuality. His name does not appear in the records of the literary great men, the political great men, the military great men, nor of the miscellaneous great men of the times. He shunned prominence; refused, with vehement indignation, every proposal to advertise his name in any of these roles. He entertained strong and well-defined political convictions, and would have added weight and momentum to his party, had he entered the field for position. But he constantly spurned all proffers of candidacy. It is difficult for us, who live to-day, to adequately measure such a man, from what we know he did in his. To his clear forecast, indomitable courage and energy, his enterprise and exhaustless resource, his cotemporaries, who were interested in the early and rapid settlement of the "Genesee Country," and this and its adjacent country, are just as much indebted, as are we of this generation, to men who pioneer railways into new and rich regions, and open them up to the influences of business and civilization.
The year he worked his first boat load of merchandise up the Susquehanna River, PHELPS and GORHAM, who were the original purchasers of the Genesee tract, abandoned the idea of opening their country to settlement. The difficulty of reaching it from Albany, through an unbroken wilderness, was so great that they could not induce any settlers to undertake it. The opening of trade, with the large "keel bottom" boats on the Susquehanna, with the settlements in Tioga Valley, changed the whole aspect of the case. It was soon after found that boats of 10 tons burthen could be pushed up the Canisteo, a main branch of the Tioga, (or Chemung, as it is now called), to a point only 10 miles distant from the Canaseraga, a tributary of the Genesee River, and which was navigable from that point down, with boats of an equivalent carrying capacity--thus opening this magnificent country, drained by the Genesee and its tributaries, comprising 2,000,000 acres of the richest land in the State, to a practicable commercial interchange--its continuousness only interrupted by a portage of 10 miles--with the great marts along the Susquehanna, including Baltimore, on the Chesapeake, and Philadelphia, on the Delaware. This determined the question.
The emigrants for the Genesee country began to pour along the Susquehanna, and up the Tioga and its main tributary, the Canisteo. In 1790 there were nearly 1,000 people occupying its territory, and building houses of plenty on its bounteous soil. The increase of its population up to 1800, is almost incredible, when we consider the period. All the while, the main channel of ingress and egress for its comers and goers, and its importations and exportations, was the one, the feasibility of which the young trader of Middletown first thoroughly demonstrated. It is an easy, holiday business for us, in these days, to go pioneering. We can load a car with goods, and carry them without breaking bulk into the wilderness, ride to our place of business among the settlers and savages, in a palace, labor none, and live like a prince on the way. Then we hold instantaneous intercourse, by lightning, with our friends and business correspondents. We make or lose money--that is all there is to it. It was altogether a different thing in the days we have been writing about. We should revere the great, strong, courageous and self-helping men, who opened up the waste places then, and let in the tide of life and business, and the light of a Christian civilization; and we should build monuments of brass to perpetuate their memory.
MARTIN LOWMAN was born in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, February 21st, 1794, and died January 13th, 1862, and was at the time of his decease, nearly 68 years of age. "Uncle MARTIN," so well and familiarly known throughout Western New York, and in the great butter markets of the metropolis, was a member of that staunch, highly respectable family of the LOWMANS in Pennsylvania and New York, and was early apprenticed to the blacksmith’s trade in his native town, where he graduated as a journeyman at the age of nineteen. This was daring the period of the late war with Great Britain in 1812, when the invaders burned Havre de Grace and attacked Baltimore, that MARTIN LOWMAN, then overflowing with patriotic ardor, shouldered his musket and went forth to the defense of his country, which he continued to serve with unflinching bravery till peace was declared and victory achieved.
In 1814 he immigrated to the Valley of Chemung, and settled near the residence of his brother, JACOB LOWMAN, Sr. Here he opened his shop, being at that time in arrears $250, but this incubus did not hang over him long. The sledge hammer and anvil were earnestly brought into requisition for the few succeeding years, when a farm was paid for and occupied. Industry, honesty and frugality, rewarded him with increasing wealth and prosperity, and as each succeeding year dawned, more fields were added, until the almost princely estate of MARTIN LOWMAN reached with extended space over a great area of the town of Chemung. Among the list of noble old pioneers in Chemung Valley, none were more eminently deserving than MARTIN LOWMAN. He possessed a strong mind, a determined will, a kind heart, generous impulses, and was loved by his family, and highly esteemed by the public. Frankness, candor and honor, were marked characteristics.
His home, too, was a resort for all the old pioneers, where the most happy unions used to take place. The writer of this memoir remembers well how those old veterans were wont to meet; indeed, it was interesting to see them, like warriors of grape and shell, "fighting their battles o’er again." The poor, afflicted and unfortunate, were ever sent from his door full-handed and rejoicing.
In his last days of affliction, he was patient and appreciative of the tender assiduity of his relatives and friends, trusting in Him, the great giver of all good. His transition from this earth was peaceful, in the hope and faith of a better world, and his example in life was worthy of emulation, and that of a good man; in death, Chemung mourned one of her most valued citizens.
Some reminiscences of the life of WILLIAM HOFFMAN, who so recently was gathered to an honored rest, cannot but prove of interest to the people of this Valley, of which he was one of the earliest settlers. Moreover, it is but simple justice to the memory of one, who, as much as any man ever living here, contributed to our country’s development and growth--who, for more than half a century, took a leading part in its affairs--whose life was a career of action, vicissitude and success--now that he is gone, that some record more than a mere passing notice, should be given of one so deserving. It is due the deceased, and cannot but furnish a useful lesson to the living.
WILLIAM HOFFMAN was born in the town of Northumberland, County of the same name, in the State of Pennsylvania, about the year 1777--as to the exact time there is some doubt, as that portion of the family Bible in which was recorded his birth, was destroyed. Of German ancestry, he inherited from them much of that industry, self-perseverance and energy which led him in early life to strife out for himself, afterwards leading him upwards to success and position, where first was naught but danger, trial and discouragement. When not more than 19, young HOFFMAN left the pleasant shelter of the old roof tree--the kindly protection of his Northumberland home--to do for himself. Placing his scanty effects in a boat, he struck up the beautiful Susquehanna into the quieter waters of the Chemung--not then as now, their banks free and open with cultured fields, and busy villages teeming into varied life scattered along, stately country residences or sunny farm houses gracing the scene--but, rather, the little boat with the young man’s all, cut its almost unfrequented way, propelled by the strong arm of hopeful youth; amidst comparatively untried scenes, into the very primeval solitude of the wilderness itself. It was about the year 1796 that he made the journey, stopping eventually in this vicinity, which was afterwards the scene of earnest and perilous struggles of maintenance and fortune. Very few, comparatively, had preceded him. True, some six years before, a settlement had been effected, by JEFFREY WISNER, on Newtown Creek, (1790), on whose grant of land the first buildings were erected, on what is now known as Sullivan Street. In the year 1798, Newtown, chosen by young HOFFMAN as the scene of his future struggle, number 24 homes, the total cash valuation of which was about $6,000. How great the contrast now, when our wealth is valued at millions and our population at thousands. But it seems that at first he did not make up his mind to permanently locate here, for a few years after coming he went elsewhere, finally, however, returning, as if guided by a will wiser than his own. Mr. HOFFMAN at first carried on the business of hatter here. His first little shop, in years long gone by, was just where HUBBELL’s Furniture Store now is. Think not, you may read this little history, that the young hatter’s place of toil and sale was large and well filled with handsome, fashionable styles, as now-a-days. A little case contained all his stock in trade--a half dozen hats and as many caps, may be, made for rough service, for what else would the sturdy pioneers wear? That same little hat case, which, perhaps, was the foundation of his after success, is treasured by revering descendants among the precious heir-looms that he lately left behind--sacred mementoes of his earliest struggles, and eloquent of his worth.
Mr. HOFFMAN laid the foundation of that substantial wealth which surrounded his declining years with every luxury and aid to enjoyment, by purchasing, soon after his return here, a large tract of land, originally extending, we believe, from what is now Main Street, far above the old family homestead on Water Street. He was poor when he took it, and it was not until after many years of the hardest labor and untiring industry, that he was enabled to pay for his land, which he originally bargained for at a higher figure than did many of his neighbors, but, with an honesty that characterized his entire life, he eventually fulfilled every requirement upon him. What the struggles necessary, the trials endured, the vicissitudes met, the perils to be faced, in his fierce, early warfare for a home and the future! How little do we, in this "age of luxury and refinement, appreciate the toils and sufferings of such hardy pioneers as he, or what they gave up in leaving the old settlements from which they emigrated, surrounded by every earthly comfort, where everything was abundant, and the church-going bell familiar to the ear, to face the privations to which they were subjected in forming a new settlement in a wilderness, inhabited by the wild beasts of the forest or the more terrible red man of the woods." Succeed, at last, they did, as naturally they must, but nevertheless are they entitled to all of praise, of honor and of blessing. As to WILLIAM HOFFMAN we are indebted, as much as any other man, for the first settlement of our Valley, so to him, perhaps more, than to any other, do we owe the earlier farming success of Chemung County. The greater portion of his life was devoted to agricultural pursuits. His extensive farm might be said at one time to have been a "model one," and was patterned after by others. He introduced in this County what became to be known as the "HOFFMAN corn," which was peculiarly profitable of culture hereabouts. No stock were so fine as his--no land so flourishing. Good old farmer; he has gone to his rest now--gathered, even as a golden sheaf, fully ripe, into the Heavenly garner-house.
We need not speak of his personal characteristics. He was ever honest, scrupulously so--always lenient to those indebted to him--in the days of his opulence kind to the poor, and always upheld the right. Kind friend, good citizen; in yon one of the strongest, bravest and truest of the old-fashioned stock of men passed away.
Mr. HOFFMAN was twice married. His first wife was a sister of the late Dr. URIAH SMITH. His last wife was Miss SALLY SMITH, (a cousin of his first wife). The latter preceded him to the grave but a short time. In the happiest relations, having both walked together the way of life for many years, her death, coming to him in his advanced age, seemed to weaken his hold on earth, and he, slowly and slowly, as if mourning the loss of her who had been such a loving, faithful help-meet to him, after many a day of dim unconsciousness, went to join her--WILLIAM HOFFMAN dying on the night of Independence Day, 1867, nearly 90 years of age.
Five sons survive him, each and all of whom, as if in imitation of their father’s example, occupy honorable positions in community. Not only they and many relatives, mourn the death of an ennobled sire and patriarch, but the people of this whole section of country added their song of lamentation, as one of the foremost of the noble Pioneers of the Chemung Valley passed away.
In 1855, in referring to the patriarchal settlers of Valley, Hon. THOMAS MAXWELL, who more than any other man that ever lived here, was capable of writing upon such a subject, closed a warm and glowing personal reference to Mr. HOFFMAN, with the following beautiful and fitting words:
In the natural course of events, the old pioneer settlers of the Valley of the Susquehanna and Chemung must soon pass away. They have endured the hardships, toils, privations and anxieties of many long and weary years, and we are now enjoying the hard-earned fruits of their wisdom and labor.
"All honor, then, to old and venerable PIONEER. May the remainder of his days be crowned with a sweet contentment and happiness, and when he sinks to rest amid scenes of his past vicissitudes, joys and sorrows, may he find an eternal and blissful home in the Land where the ’weary are at rest,’ and his name and memory long be cherished in the hearts of an affectionate and grateful people."
---As ’twas hoped, the old Pioneers days were indeed "crowned with sweet contentment and rest;" and now, he of whom these graceful words were said,
"Keeps that calm sleep
Whence none may wake."
His eyes are closed over the chequered but spotless pages of a long and honorable life, but the glowing record remains, to be read of all men, in the light of a triumphant career and a glorious example. Gone although he ’is, recollection tenderly enshrines his name and memory in garlands of perennial fragrance. The shattered casket that so long held his guileless and intrepid spirit, at last reposes beneath the flowers of "Woodlawn"--the commemorative shaft which surviving friendship shall rear over his ashes, rising far above the cultured scenes of beauty in the lovely valley below, every token of whose advancement is a nobler testimonial than emblazoned monument itself of the sterling worth and true service of him, whose struggles are now o’er, rests sweetly in the bosom of that mother earth he loved so well.
God rest him, in his last, low home,
With all his brave compeers;
How little of their toll is known,
Through many a weary year,
That we, their sons, in pleasant peace,
Might reap the golden need.
Twine, then, the ivy and the leaf,
In memory of the deed,
That gave to us this yale so fair--
This land we hold so dear!
THE PAST AND THE PRESENT.
Here our task properly ends. It has been our endeavor to rescue from oblivion and put in tangible shape for preservation, the early history of the Chemung Valley, and our fair young City, "The Queen of the Southern Tier." From manifold resources, the foregoing facts have been gathered. Tradition, word of mouth, the recollections of those still living, old and recent records, reminiscences, published books, old manuscripts, have been levied on to do service in making up the complete, although imperfect, record. Still, it is the most authentic of any hitherto given to the public, and a large portion will be entirely new, as having never seen light in print, before. These fragments of the past should be delightful lessons for present conning. The first steps are therein discerned of the small beginning, and then the rapid growth of the present City of our adoption. Eighty years have elapsed since the first white settler landed from the River, and began the work of clearing the virgin forest and planting in its environs. Year after year came these hardy pioneers in increasing numbers. Agriculture, merchandise, trade and barter, and river commerce, were the first sources of industry and thrift. For the early inland town, the population gathered slowly. In 40 years the first settlement, it contained only 10,000 inhabitants. Yet these statistics were flattering for the growth of inland villages in these days, utterly shut out from direct communication with the great centres of influence and trade. But the stage coach at last broke the monotony, and in a few days bore the passenger from here to the seaboard. Travel increased. Adventurers and travelers of the sterling order became attracted by the goodly lands lying about, and the thrifty village trade secured a new stimulus, and soon demanded better, more commodious and more enduring avenues of traffic. The Chemung Canal was built, and opened in 1832. In 20 years the population of the town increased 8,000. This new outlet of commerce stimulated growth, until the Erie Railway was completed, the great thoroughfare supplementing with quick transit and increased facilities, the work the Chemung Canal had so well begun. But improvements did not stop with these great enterprises completed. The Williamsport Railroad next enabled us to strike hands with the great Shamokin coal fields of Pennsylvania, as well as opened a source of local trade between two enterprising inland cities, and now its extended arms put us in direct communication with two great cities of the Union--Baltimore and Philadelphia--and the capital of the nation. The next great enterprise, that will add more to our inland commerce than any other, was the building of the Junction Canal. This brings to our doors, and serves as a conduit to all Western New York, for the vast coal products of the Wyoming basin. In this direction, future years will show that the traffic will be limitless. Its increasing demands will yet imperatively call for and secure enlarged locks between here and the head of the Lake, so that the largest Lake boats, with the great cargoes of 250 tons, may navigate from Pittston to Buffalo without breaking bulk. The coal trade will yet cover our canals with fleets of boats, in unceasing movement, from the opening to the close of navigation. This vast commerce will become one of the most striking features of our prosperity--the fourth great stimulus to the next great decade of growth in industry and population for Elmira.
All these increased avenues of intercourse and traffic have brought with them their legitimate fruits. Manufactures, the guage of the real prosperity of any city, have sprung up on every hand. The wholesale business of manufacturing boots and shoes, first gave proof, by the unexpected success of the undertaking, that there was no limit to the demand in this direction, and so, year after year, the development of these magnificent enterprises has increased in a surprising measure, until now there are five or six immense establishments in the successful tide of operation, and still others are projected. Elmira bids fair to become a second Lynn.
The near presence of coal and iron have fostered the most extensive manufacture of iron for mercantile and railroad use. To meet a supposed demand in this direction, the Elmira Rolling Mills were projected and put into operation, and the result has surpassed the most sanguine expectations of the founders. Their working capacity cannot equal the demand for the rails required on adjacent railroads, and by the iron trade. Their reputation for making the very best iron, is unquestioned. For railroad use, it takes the premium for toughness and tenacity.
There is to be no more future limit to the iron than to the boot and shoe manufactures of this City. Furnaces and mechanical industries multiply on every hand, as the natural consequences. Agricultural implement making; ornamental work; the useful and handy in wire goods, which has become a prominent business in the City, immediately follow. The manufacture of sewer, water and drain pipe, is another business which is growing vast in its multiplications. And out of this has grown the Seamless Keg Company, which bids fair to take rank among our best industrial enterprise. The Elmira Woolen Mills, just re-organized, which have always done an extensive business, will exert a more important influence than ever on our industrial concerns. Flour milling is the last splendid enterprise projected in this direction. The magnificent Car Shops of the Northern Central Railway, and the extensive Repair Shops of the Erie, give employment to a swarm of the most intelligent mechanics.
These manufacturing and mechanical industries have become the foundation of the true growth of our City, which is probably increasing its inhabitants over a thousand each year. These, too, underlie the magnificent building operations, which now grace our principal streets, and the finest portions of our City, and everywhere on our outskirts erects comfortable, yea, beautiful homes, for our mechanics and laborers. Thrift and prosperity are everywhere written on the glowing face of the Queen of the Southern Tier, whose index is found through all these pages, which give detail the unquestioned statistics. Happy for situation, in a valley of magnificent distances, through which flows one of the most charming inland rivers; favored by a climate which stimulates the growth of the products of a genial soil; an industry and enterprise ever on the alert for great and successful undertakings; gifted with capital that may not only be useful, but adorns and beautifies; marked by an intelligent and educated population; supporting splendid educational institutions, and an unsurpassed system of free schools; Elmira has only to be true to herself, to grow in grace and in all good works, to equal the visions of prosperity which have been predicted for her, by most sanguine prophets. All these serve as the brilliant settings of the crown which is to encircle the future head of the "Queen of the Southern Tier."
ELMIRA AS A MILITARY DEPOT.
Upon the banks of the Chemung River, near the present City of Elmira, was held the first public rejoicing or celebration in Western New York. The occasion was upon the return of Gen. SULLIVAN’s Army from the Genesee country, in 1779--during the Revolution--when they received intelligence "That Spain had declared war against Great Britain." This gave life to the veteran soldiers of the Expedition, many of whom had served in the dark hours of our country’s history. The event was appropriately celebrated by each of the five brigades composing SULLIVAN’s command. Since that time, the inhabitants of old Tioga--or more latterly, of patriotic little Chemung--have ever been alive to all that has appertained to the State or National interests.
During the war of 1812, several companies, one of industry, another of light horse, were formed at Newtown, for the purpose of proceeding to the frontier. But it was reserved until a later period that the convenience of access and other advantages possessed by Elmira. "The Pride of the Southern Tier," should have led to its designation, in 1861; as an important military station. As the various calls for troops were borne along the wires, quickly the quotas of Chemung and other Counties were filled. At Elmira assembled the brave volunteers from the beautiful valleys and hillsides of far-distant portions of the Empire State. As regiment after regiment arrived in quick succession, here they were delayed, waiting for equipments, uniforms, &c., or for means of transportation, improving the time in military drill before proceeding to the front. So rapid were the arrivals, and before the commodious Government Barracks were erected, churches, hotels, and other public buildings, were thrown open for purposes of military occupation. Whatever were the inconveniences, they were patiently borne by all concerned; but one impulse seemed to be in the ascendant, and that was found in every loyal heart throughout the land--the perpetuity of our government and its institutions. Guard mountings and dress parades, varied with infantry or artillery exercise, occupied the attention of the thousands here gathered. Mounted orderlies might be seen hurrying from the Post Headquarters, either to Lake Street Barracks of the more spacious ones up the River--Barracks No. 3.
For months during the war, the pavements resounded with the almost unceasing tramp of our citizen soldiery, while the strains of martial music were wafted across the broad River flats, and reverberated along the neighboring heights of Mount Zoar or the lofty hillsides which skirt the opposite side of the Valley. As fast as the regiments could be equipped and furnished with means of transportation, one by one they departed for the field of action. Many were the partings of the "boys in blue," either with the citizens of Elmira or the friends who came to bid them "Good bye" before they took their final departure on the trains of the Northern Central or the Erie. Of the many sad farewells that were spoken between volunteers and their families, husbands and wives, mothers and sons, or perhaps lovers and sweethearts, we leave the reader to imagine--we will not attempt to write. Many of those daring men returned. But alas, many of them we shall never meet again. The flowers of the valley now bloom o’er many silent graves
"Where sleep the brave who sink to rest,"
where many brave hearts are entombed.
At various times during the war, regiments of N. Y. S. V. were quartered at Elmira from the cities of Central and Western New York, as well as from interior Counties beside. This of course greatly increased the number of the population, and gave to the City a decided military appearance. Among the thousands of volunteers who so rapidly proceeded hither, enlisting in our nation’s defence, it is interesting to record the fact that the descendants of the Iroquois, the former owners of the soil, were represented. From the Reservations of the Empire State came the swarthy sons of the forest--the children of the Six Nations of New York Indians--especially of the Senecas, whose ancestors formerly held council fires in the vicinity of Newtown. Their dusky forms paraded the streets of the City, attracting no little attention as they tarried, on their way to Washington-- "The Great Council of the Thirteen Fires." One of the Senecas, a highly educated officer, has occupied a distinguished military position for several years, in the United States Army.
In 1864, a portion of Barracks No. 3 was fitted up for a Military Prison, which was occupied by about 12,000 prisoners, (mostly North Carolinians, although many other of the Southern States were largely represented). During the continuance of the war, visitors were not admitted unless by a special permit from the Secretary of War. A strong, high fence surrounded the enclosure, which was carefully guarded by the regiments detailed for this service. Although the prisoners were supplied with abundant rations, medical attendance, &c., owing to change of climate and diet, many of them fell victims of disease. No less than 2,950 were buried at Woodlawn Cemetery, where Government caused each grave to be marked by a simple headstone, giving the name of the State and regiment to which its occupant belonged.
During the months of their confinement, they employed many of the long hours in making all sorts of useful and ornamental articles or trinkets (which were disposed of for them by the guards, when off duty, outside), for the purchase of articles not included in their rations. Some of the results of their ingenuity, made with the tools at their command, generally pocket knives, were very unique in their appearance, and many of them are still preserved by their purchasers as mementoes of the Rebellion.
The following statistics, taken from the records of the Rebel Prison, will prove interesting:
Total number of Prisoners of War at Post, 11,916.
Number of deaths during imprisonment, 2,950--as follows:
The prison hospital was first in charge of Dr. W. C. WEY for some time, when he was succeeded by Dr. SANGER, after which Dr. A. F. STOCKER was appointed Surgeon. The Hospital was supplied with everything to make the sick comfortable; the cause of so many deaths among the prisoners was that the majority of them had recently been imprisoned at Point Lookout, where the water was sad--which caused sickness. The small pox broke out in the early part of 1865, and some 3 or 400 died of the disease. A large number of the remains of those died here were taken home and buried by their friends. There are remaining, buried at Woodlawn Cemetery, 126 bodies. The United States Government contemplate the erection of iron head blocks for each grave, to be distinctly marked with the name, the rank, regiment, company, date of death, &c., and also intend to erect a substantial iron fence around the burial spot.
The estimated amount of flour to the Confederate soldiers during their imprisonment here, is 12,278 barrels. The amount of meat furnished--fresh and salt--from July 6th, 1864, to August, 1865, inclusive, is 2,396,165 pounds.
--In this brief sketch it may not be out of place to mention the kindness of the citizens of Elmira to the thousands of our "brave soldiers boys." The many warm receptions they received, with many other manifestations of kindness extended by the citizens generally, can not soon be forgotten. But of one other point we have not written--of the unvaried exertions of those who, with thousands of other congenial hearts throughout the land, labored so effectually to sustain the United States Sanitary Commission. Day after day their footsteps were directed to the various hospitals of the City, patiently ministering to the wants of the sick and wounded soldiers.
Later, in establishing "The Soldier’s Home," the same kind hands unceasingly were at work, guided by willing hearts, in devising means for the comfort of those who so greatly needed their attention. While everything was in a sort of military confusion, occasioned by the arrival and departure of the different regiments, quietly and unostentatiously, (not forgetting the wants of the boys in the field, to whom they sent many supplies), they pursued their labors of mercy. Although the Government Hospitals did all in their power to relieve the wants of their inmates, still there were many comforts which woman’s hand supplied to the parched brow of the suffering veteran. Whether in the Hospital or the "Home," at the Depot, or even upon the cars in transitu, the sick and wounded soldiers were relieved as far as within their power or knowledge, and from many a sleepless cot the prayer has doubtless ascended, "God bless the ladies of Elmira."
But those days are passed--the unhappy strife is ended. Peace now smiles o’er the land; may its blessings long be continued. No crowds of citizens and soldiers besiege the telegraph offices, anxiously awaiting news from some important battle upon a far-off Southern field. No Colonels of Regiments under marching orders, eagerly watch the approach of the expected dispatch. No Dress Parades at the hour of 6 pm, are held at the various Barracks. No mounted orderlies are seen galloping through the streets. No Heavy Artillery practice or infantry exercise disturbs the quiet of the City, and the heavy lumbering government wagons are seen no more. The Provost Marshal’s office is closed, while "running the guard" at Elmira Barracks, has perhaps been forgotten, save by some soldier boy who might have been cognizant of some undertaking of the kind among certain of his comrades. The Government Barracks upon the banks of the Chemung are deserted by their former occupants. Some of the buildings have been torn down or removed, others remodeled into comfortable dwellings.
Tragic Terminations of the Southern Tier Sanitary Fair.
Our readers well remember the fearful and tragic denouement of the Southern Tier Sanitary Fair, which was held in the First Presbyterian Church, corner of Baldwin and Church Streets. The dreadful catastrophe occurred on the evening of March 18th, 1864, at about half-past six o’clock--at a time when most of our citizens were at home. Had the fire happened ½ an hour later, the loss of life would have been terrible indeed. The building took fire as two young lads were lighting the gas, which, being turned on to a full head, it streamed upward, and caught one of the hanging festoons of evergreens. Persons who happened to be near at hand, seeing the critical condition of things, attempted to pull down the burning festoon, but every effort was useless, the evergreens having become so dry that the flames went leaping along from festoon to festoon, until within a few moments the forest of evergreens and decorations filling the whole interior of the building, was one mass of seething flames. A few salesman were scattered around the various stalls and booths, and the visitors, for the most part, were at supper in the Dining Hall. The detail of young misses acting as table waiters, about 30 in number, were consequently attending to their duties there. Several persons were also in the store room, preparing food for the table. There were quite a number of young children scattered through the various parts of the building; and a number of persons were in the New England Kitchen, which was a temporary board building at the west side of the Church. S. S. HAMLIN and M. M. CONVERSE, who rushed from the New England Kitchen at the first alarm, immediately ran through the lower part of the building, giving the alarm, and then proceeded to the galleries, to save all who might be in danger. But on their return, the flames and smoke had so filled the Church, that, endeavoring to get down the front stairway, Mr. CONVERSE, after getting a little girl out in safety, in the bewildering and suffocating smoke, fell over some impediment, and before he could crawl to a place of safety, his entire face and head, hands and forearms, were so burned that the skin peeled off. At his advanced age, nearly 70, his physical condition was not equal to the severe suffering he underwent, lingering only a short period after the sad affair--cheerfully resigning himself to the will of Heaven. FREDDIE HART, son of Mr. W. E. HART, the well known dry goods merchant, also met a dreadful death, being burned alive while trying to extricate himself from the burning building. A number of our prominent citizens were also severely injured in their efforts to save the lives of others.
At the time of the casualty, the Fair was in successful operation, and was visited, day and evening, by thousands of people at home and abroad. The display of articles was very large, amounting to several thousand dollars, among which were many things contributed by private families, whose value money could not replace.
This Society was first known as the "Baptist Church of Southport and
Elmira," and was constituted on the 16th day of May, 1829. Rev.
P. D. GILLETT was the first Pastor of the Church. During his ministry,
a house of worship was built at a cost of $3,500, and the membership increased
from 38 to 77. His pastorate continued till January, 1836. The Church has
since had the following pastors: