Tri-Counties Genealogy & History by Joyce M. Tice
Directories of Chemung County, New York
Bradford County PA
Chemung County NY
Tioga County PA
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The Village of Elmira, (by its original name of Newtown or Newtown Point), was first laid out on a lot of land granted to Jeffrey Wisner, on Newtown Creek, where the first buildings were erected about the year 1790, on what is now known as Sullivan Street. The residence of Doctor Hinchman, Doctor Scott, Vincent Mathews, Peter Loop, and Christian Loop, were built on Sullivan Street. Shortly afterwards the Old Court House was built. It was a two story building of hewn logs, well clapboarded—the lower part used as a jail and as a dwelling for the Jailer—the second floor as a Court Room and a place of public worship, and the Attic as a Masonic Lodge. Before the erection of the Old Court House, a Court of Oyer and Terminer was held at the Public House of Dunn & Hornell, on Sullivan Street, (called the Stoner House, near Newtown Creek, and now torn down) in July 1794, by Judge Benson, of the Supreme Court, assisted by Justices Mersereau, Abraham Miller and John Miller. The precise time of the occupation of the Sullivan Street Court House does not appear, as the records of the Courts are not to be found, but it is supposed to have been in 1796. Within its unassuming walls have sat those judicial luminaries of the State, Benson, Hobart, Livingston, Spencer, Kent, Van Ness, Platt, Thompson, Yates, Woodworth, Tompkins and others, of that splendid corps of Jurists, who have placed New York so high on the roll of judicial excellence, and whose decisions have attained universal credence on the American continent. The writer has a vivid recollection of the ceremonies of escorting a "Supreme Judge," from Dunn’s Tavern, (on the corner of Lake and Water Streets), to the Old Court House. The Sheriff, wearing a cocked hat, of the old Continental stamp, a drawn sword in his hand, his corps of Constables, with long staves, preceded by martial music; the judges arm in arm, followed by the bar, carrying their green bags, for briefs and papers, witnesses, jurors and parties closing the procession, made a most imposing appearance. The veneration with which these judicial lights were looked upon by the people, and the implicit faith, which held their decisions to be the end of the law, is also well remembered.

Not a vestige of the old Court House, which stood on the Corner of Church and Sullivan Streets, as now arranged, remains; but its walls have reverberated with the eloquent appeals and sound legal lore of Mathews, Howell, Haight, Wisner, Dana, Johnson, Woodcock, Strong, Sedgwick, Avery, Sherwood, Spencer, Collier, Konkle, and many others, of the legal fraternity who attended our Courts. There are those among us who remember the old building and the many purposes to which it was devoted, who can recall many interesting incidents which occurred within its humble walls, which will remain among their cherished memories while they linger upon earth. Since the organization of Chemung the Courts have been held in the building which stood on the site of the present splendid structure, and which has been removed and fitted up as a Town Hall, by the Village Trustees, and which reflects so much credit upon their public spirit. The first judges who have presided in the County Courts, since the organization of Chemung, are Joseph L. Darling, James Dunn, John W. Wisner, A. S. Thurston, Theodore North, Aaron Konkle, H. Boardman Smith, and the present incumbent, Hon. E. P. Brooks. Grant B. Baldwin, a member of the bar and resident of Elmira, was the first Judge of Tioga. Among the District Attorneys of the County were, A. Konkle, Wm. Maxwell, A. K. Gregg, E. Quin, A. Robertson, H. Gray, D. C. Woodcock, Wm. North, E. P. Hart, E. P. Brooks, S. B. Tomlinson, and John Murdoch, Esquires.

In Dec. 1794, Guy Maxwell, then of Tioga Point, and Samuel Hepburn, of Milton, Pa., purchased of Thomas White, Lot. No. 1 of Great Lot No. 195, containing 100 acres, for the sum of five hundred pounds, or $12.50 per acre; and laid out a Town Plot on the river bank, the site of the present village. The plot was called DeWittsburg on the map and in the conveyances. At the same time Henry Wisner, Esq. of Warwick, Orange Co., who owned lot No. 196, west of DeWitt’s patent, laid out his town plot which was called Wisnerburgh. The dividing line between their patents was a little west of the street now called Baldwin street. These names, however, were not generally adopted, but the village continued to be called Newtown until the name of the town was changed by the Legislature to Elmira, in 1811. The village had been incorporated by the name of Newtown, in March 1815, and a subsequent act, April 21, 1828, changed it to Elmira.

The town of Newton was erected April 10, 1702, it having previously been within the limits of the Town of Chemung. Catharine was taken from Elmira in 1798; Big Flats and Southport in 1822, and Horseheads in 1854. The village is handsomely situated on the north bank of the Chemung, now divided into the First and Second Wards; and recently a Third Ward on the South side of the river, in the town of Southport, has been included within its corporate bounds. Upon a high hill west of the village, called Fort Hill, is the remains of an ancient fortification, protected on the northerly side by the river at the base of the hill, and on the southerly side by a deep ravine, through which passes a stream falling into the river. An embankment two hundred feet long and fourteen feet wide and three and a half feet high still extends along the rear of the fortification on the west, and upon it grew large trees when the whites first occupied the country. Col. Hendry, one of the earliest settlers, frequently stated that he had enquired of the older Indians, then in the neighborhood, as to the object of this embankment, and by whom erected; but they could give no information on the subject nor did they have any tradition in reference to it.

The earliest merchant who had a trading establishment here was Col. Matthias Hollenback, of Wilkesbarre, whose establishment was first located at the junction of the creek with the river, and was under the charge of Capt. Daniel McDowell, who was succeeded by John Morris. Afterwards Col. Hollenback removed his establishment farther up the river, where for many years it was under charge of Archibald Campbell, George, Denison, John Cherry and Matthew McReynolds and Bela B. Hyde. Mr. Hollenback had a trading establishment at Tioga Point, (now Athens, Pa.) which was in charge of Guy Maxwell from 1788 to 1796, when he removed to Elmira, and was succeeded by John Alexander, who about the year 1800, was succeed by the late Stephen Tuttle, who in connection with Mr. Robert Covell, commenced business in Elmira in 1807, and for many years, carried on a profitable business, having the entire confidence and respect of their customers. Mr.Tuttle came to Elmira in 1818. Howes Goldsborough was among the old merchants; Guy Maxwell, Thomas M. Perry, James Irwin, Michael Pfautz, Ephraim Heller, Lyman Covell, Miles Covell, Isaac Baldwin, John Cherry, John Hollenback, Thomas Maxwell, Samuel H. Maxwell, Isaac Reynolds and others. John Arnot, now Pres. of the Chemung Canal Bank, commenced business here as a merchant in the Winter or Spring of 1819. He has amassed a princely fortune by strict attention to business and careful and prudent management. His reputation as a correct business man and accommodating merchant is not surpassed by any of the old merchants. Maj. Horatio Ross kept a mercantile establishment for a number of years, and was universally appreciated as a man of probity and honor, and no place in the Southern Tier can boast of more honest, upright merchants than Elmira. (The more recent mercantile establishment will be noticed hereafter.)

Among the old Lawyers who have resided in Elmira, not already mentioned, were Peter Loop, David Jones, Samuel S. Haight, Wm. Lowe, George C. Edwards, Peter Masterton, William Wisner, James Robinson, Aaron Konkle, Theodore and Wm. North, Theodore North, Jr., A. S. Diven, John W. Wisner, A. S. Thurston, Thos. Maxwell, and among those more recent and yet in practice, Archibald Robertson, N. P. Fassett, E. P. Hart, Edw’d Quinn, John Murdoch, E. H. Benn, Simeon Rood, G. M. Diven, S. B. Tomlinson, R. H. Ransom, D. B. Smith, S. C. Reynolds, U. S. Lowe, D. W. Gillet, Rufus King, G. L. Davis, G. A. Brush, J. R. Ward, James DeWitt, J. H. Hardy.

Among the Physicians who were among the most prominent in the village, were Joseph Hinchman, Amos Park, Christian Schott, J. Chamberlain, John Ross, James Ross, A. G. White, Dr. Aspinwall, R. Bancroft, J. Purdy, Theseus Brooks, and those of more recent date will be found elsewhere.

As the first settlers were very many of them in Sullivan’s Expedition against the Six Nations of Indians in 1779, and hence became acquainted with the rich valleys of Chemung and Susquehanna, some notice of his expedition would seem to be necessary.

The terrible Indian massacre at Wyoming, in 1778, (July 3d), and other offences committed against the defenseless inhabitants of the various frontiers, seemed to demand this terrible retribution—as terrible it was. Many philanthropists have considered this punishment as too great for ignorant savages; but the affair was planned and approved by Washington himself. No border settler whose relative had been victims to the terrible scalping-knife felt any compunction in reference to the destruction of the crops and fruit trees, in this expedition of Sullivan’s and few of their descendants at this day can be found to call the punishment of the Indians cruel and vindictive. Nor do any of the Indians of the present age, nor did those of the past, permit this expedition to lessen in any degree their veneration for Washington. Indeed, the new system of religion adopted among the Seneca’s has a most beautiful exemplification of their veneration for the father of his country, whose cognomen after 1779 was universal among the various tribes, to-wit; Hanodagarears, or Town-destroyer. One of the tenets engrafted upon the ancient Indian faith relates to Washington—according to their beliefs no white man ever reached the Indian Heaven except Washington—whose justice and benevolence stands pre-eminent among them. It represents him as located at the entrance of the happy hunting grounds, within a spacious building constructed like a fort, surrounded by every object which could gratify a cultivated taste. The faithful Indian who enters Heaven passes this enclosure. He sees and recognizes the illustrious inmate, who is walking in quiet meditation in the shady groves in full uniform. No one ever speaks to him, but all pass in respectful silence.

Such is the monument which Indian gratitude has erected to Washington, who came to their aid when, by the treaty of peace with England, in 1783, no provision was made by the British for their Indian allies, but left them to the mercy of the American Government. Washington was their fast friend during this presidency, and the Indians appreciate his kindly efforts in their behalf, and have thus shown their veneration for his memory.

On the first of May 1779, the Second and Fourth New York Regiments left their camp near the Hudson and passing through Warwarsing arrived upon the Delaware on the ninth. They crossed the Delaware and passed down the west side to Easton, at which place their stores were collected. From thence they marched toward Wyoming, where they arrived on the 17th June. The delay was occasioned by the great labor required to open a road through woods and over an almost impassible swamp extending many miles. General Sullivan arrived with the main army on the 24th. On the 31st July, the army left Wyoming for the Indian settlements. The stores and artillery were conveyed up the Susquehanna in 150 boats. "The boats formed a beautiful appearance as they moved in order from their moorings, and as they passed the fort received a grand salute, which was returned by the loud cheers of the boatmen. The whole scene formed a military display surpassing any which had ever been exhibited at Wyoming; and was well calculated to form a powerful impression upon the minds of those lurking parties of savages which still continued to roam upon the mountains, from which all their movements were visible for many miles."

On the 11th of August they arrived at Tioga, now Athens. and encamped on the forks of the river. On the 12th a detachment was sent forward to Chemung, twelve miles distant, where they were attacked by a body of Indians, and lost seven men killed and wounded. The next day, having burned the town, (this was on McDowell’s flats), they returned to Tioga.

About a mile and a quarter above the junction of the Tioga (or Chemung) and Susquehanna, these rivers approach within a stone’s throw. Here a fort was built called Fort Sullivan, while the army lay on what might almost be called an island below.

In this situation Gen. Sullivan awaited the arrival of Gen. Clinton. This officer, with the 1st and 3d New York Regiments, passed up the Mohawk to Canajoharie, where he arrived early in the Spring.

An expedition was sent from here by Gen. Clinton against the Onondaga Indians. General Clinton commenced opening a road from Canajoharie to the head of Otsego lake, distant about twenty miles, and one of the principal sources of the eastern branch of the Susquehanna. This was effected with great labor. His boats were carried across in wagons. It was mid-summer before General Clinton found himself with his army and baggage at the head of the lake, upon which he launched his boats.

This is a beautiful lake about nine miles long, and varies in width from one to three miles. Its elevation is 1193 feet, and it is almost surrounded by high land. The water is deep and clear, which is said to be the meaning of its Indian name Otsego. Its outlet is narrow.

Gen. Clinton having passed his boats through, caused a dam to be thrown across the outlet. The lake was raised several feet. A party was sent forward to clear the river of drift-wood. When ready to move, the dam was broken up and the boats glided swiftly down the current. The few scattered inhabitants along the river below fled in dismay, being unable to account for the sudden rise of the river when no rains had fallen. At Tioga, the water flowed back up the western branch.

On the 22d of August, this division arrived at Tioga and joined the main army. The whole force now under Gen. Sullivan consisted of the brigades of Generals hand, Maxwell, Clinton and Poor, Proctor’s Artillery and a corps of Riflemen, in all between four and five thousand men. On the 26th, this army, formidable indeed, if the numbers of the enemy be considered, moved from Tioga, up the river of that name, (now called Chemung) in excellent order. Their progress was necessarily slow, and every precaution was taken to guard against surprise. Large flanking parties were kept out on each side, and a corps of light troops was thrown forward. On the 28th they destroyed the settlements and grain at Chemung, and on the morning of the 29th August, about ten o’clock fell in with the enemy near Newtown, and a short distance from the mouth of Butler’s creek, (now called Baldwin’s creek).

They were under the Butlers and Brant, and were in number about 600 Indians and 200 Tories. After some reconnoitering and skirmishing, the enemy retreated behind their breastwork and made a spirited resistance. They were soon driven from their position by the artillery. In the meantime the brigades of Clinton and Poor filed off to the right, and Gen. Hand’s light troops to the left, to gain the rear of the enemy where the land was high. Had this been effected the enemy could not have escaped; but the movement is said to have been discovered by Brant, who ordered an immediate retreat. Nine Indians were left dead on the field; their wounded and many of their dead were carried off. The Americans lost in killed, three; thirty-four were wounded, among whom were Maj. Titcomb, Capt. Clayes, Lietut. McCally (who died of his wounds), and Ensign Thomas Baldwin. Two prisoners were taken who gave information of the force of the enemy. This was the only stand made by the Indians. When it was first announced that an army was marching into their country, the Indians laughed at their supposed folly, believing it impossible for a regular army to traverse the wilderness such a distance, and to drive them from their fastnesses. The manuscript journal of Col. Gansevoort, of Clinton’s brigade, has the following remarks:

"1779, August 29.—This night encamped on the field of battle. 30th—Remained on the ground; large detachments sent off this morning to destroy the corn, beans, &, about this place, which was not half done. This evening sent off our wounded, heavy artillery and wagons down the river to Tioga; these boats brought forward such stores as could not be laded on pack-horses. This day put on half allowance.

31st Aug., decamped at 8 o’clock—marched over mountainous ground until we arrived at the forks of Newtown,--(this was where the Newtown Creek, as now called, falls into the river below Elmira Village), there entered on a low bottom crossed the Kayuga branch (now Newtown Creek), and encamped on a pine plain,--much good land about Newtown. Here we left the Tioga branch to our left.

Sept. 1st, decamped early in the morning; marched about three miles and entered a swamp eight or nine miles across,--roads very bad and no pasture here. The army made a forced march and arrived that night at dark in Catharine’s Town."

The journal continues to detail the daily events of the expedition until it arrives at Genesee River, near Rochester; from whence, after destroying the corn, &, on the Genesee Flats, they returned toward the Tioga or Chemung River. These details are omitted, though highly interesting. The journal continues—

"Sept. 24, passed the swamp (Catherine Swamp) so much dreaded from its badness, without any difficulty, and arrived at the forks of Newtown, where Capt. Reid with a detachment of two hundred men had thrown up a breast work to guard some stores and cattle brought forward from Tioga for the army in case of necessity. Saluted by thirteen rounds of cannon from the breastwork on our arrival, which number we returned from our artillery.

25th Sept. This morning the small arms of the whole army were discharged. At 5 o’clock they were drawn up in one line, with a field-piece on the right of each brigade to a fire feu de joie. lst, thirteen rounds of cannon. 2d, a running fire of musketry from right to left, which was repeated twice. Five oxen were killed on this joyous occasion—one delivered to each brigade, and one to the artillery and staff. This was done in consequence of the Declaration of War by Spain against Great Britain, the news of which reached the army here.

They remained here waiting the return of the detachments which had been sent to destroy the villages, grain and fruit trees on either side of the Cayuga Lake, and to destroy the crops on the river about Elmira and Big Flats.

The army finally decamped from Newtown Point on the 28th of September and arrived at Fort Sullivan on the 30th. On the 3d of October the fort was demolished, and the army returned by way of Wyoming and Easton, where it arrived on the 13th.

The whole distance from Easton to the Genesee Castle by the route of the army was 280 miles. The loss of men in this expedition was inconsiderable, considering the fatigue and exposure, not more than forty in the whole were killed or died from sickness. The breast work thrown up by Captain Reid referred to, was along the bank of the Newtown Creek, as far up as where the highway now crosses the bridge below Sullivan Mills, then running westwardly on the South side of the road some sixty or eighty rods thence to the river, and down the river to the mouth of the creek, enclosing an area of three or four acres, and enclosed all around by palisades. Traces of the embankment from the river northwardly to the highway are yet visible.

The name of the river is given in the journal of Col. Ganesvoort as the Tioga. It has since been called the Chemung—and it is said it was so called from a large horn having been found in the river near Bydelman’s, by the Indians—Chemung meaning great horn. The Muncies and Delawares called it Conongue, which in their language means horn in the water. A similar horn was found in the water at the lower end of the Upper Narrows, by some of the early settlers. Captain Daniel McDowell, a former resident of Chemung was captured at Shawanee on the 12th of September, 1782, by the Indians, and carried to Niagara, and thence to Quebec. While a captive among the Indians he saw (it is believed at Quebec), the identical horn which gave the name of Chemung to the river theretofore called Tioga. He stated to the writer in his life time that it was a counterpart of the one found at the Upper Narrows, about the year 1791. Captain McDowell had seen both, and was well calculated to give an opinion in the matter. The river is still called Tioga above its junction with the Cohocton, at Painted Post, and to its head, in the neighborhood of Blossburgh, Pennsylvania.

The portions of the Iroquois tribes, who occupied the Country between the Chemung River and the Seneca lake, were at the period of Sullivan’s expedition in 1779, principally Seneca’s, Cayuga’s and Tuscarora’s. After the battle of Newton, Aug. 1779, they seem to have made very little resistance to the army of Sullivan. The Indian King Canadesaga, who is said to have been a Seneca, was killed at that battle. It is said he was the husband of the celebrated Catharine Montour.

When the country was first settled between 1787 and 1790, there were many families of Indians between the river and the lake, which was common hunting ground, free to all the tribes of the Six Nations. There were then in Elmira, three villages of Indian cabins—one between Main street and the Baptist church of thirty or forty cabins; another on the flats near the Creek, now owned by Mrs. Arnot, called Kan-a-we-o-la; and the third on the east side of the Creek below the Water Cure. These families left the country about 1802, when the small pox made fearful ravages among them, and the survivors fled further west. Some of their descendants are still found near Batavia. They produced many distinguished men, some of whom were well known to the early settlers—none more distinguished than Sa-go-ye-wa-tha, the celebrated Red Jacket. He exhibited great powers of oratory at the treaty held with the tribes by Colonel Pickering, at Newtown point, in 1791.

The object of the Government was to induce them to become agriculturalists, (a favorite project of Gen. Washington), and on that occasion very liberal offers were made by Pickering. Red Jacket who had always opposed every attempt to civilize or Christianize them, exhibited on this occasion his greatest powers of mind, in opposition to the propositions of the Government. This effort was represented by Jasper Parrish, who attended the treaty as an interpreter, to have been the greatest he ever heard from the eloquent chief—and the result was that the proposals were rejected by all but Cornplanter’s tribe.

To one, who saw much of him in his later years, when he was evidently on the wane, and the "fire-water"—the bane of all the tribes—had left its traces, visibly, upon his mind and person, he stated in 1828, that when a child, he accompanied his relatives to a great Council of the Tribes, held on the Shenandoah, in Virginia, near Harper’s Ferry. That the various nations were represented by their most able men, but that the greatest among them all was Logan, a Cayugan, who had left his residence on the banks of the Cayuga, for Shamokin, on the Susquehanna. His father Shikellimo, was held in high estimation by the Pennsylvania authorities, and was much esteemed by James Logan the Secretary of State, for whom the chief was named. Red Jacket remarked that he was so highly delighted with the eloquence of Logan, that he resolved to devote himself to public speaking, and to follow Logan as his model. He stated that after his return to the banks of the Crooked Lake—the residence of his parents—he frequently incurred the reproofs of his mother for his long-continued absences from her cabin, without any ostensible cause; and when hard pressed for an answer, would reply that he had been "playing Logan". He said that he was in the habit of repairing to the woods, or where he could find a waterfall, where he exercised his voice amid the roaring waters, to acquire the necessary command and tone to address large assemblies, and that through life he had endeavored to acquire the manner and style of Logan.

One of his favorite resorts for this purpose, was at the head of the magnificent waterfall at Havana, (as it was, before a portion of its waters were diverted for practical purposes). The name of the stream was She-qua-gah, or as he interpreted it, the place of the roaring waters". The waterfall seems to have been his peculiar inspiration. When called upon by Captain Eastman for his portrait to adorn the pages of Schoolcraft’s great work on Indian History, recently published by the Government, he declined, unless it were taken at Niagara with the Falls in the background. He is represented in the picture as seated upon a rock, on the American side, in full costume, with his war-pipe in his hand and his face to the setting sun, while on his right, the "tumbling waters are rushing over the precipice at his feet". In early life, the beautiful She-qua-gah, and in his mature years, the mighty Ne-au-ga-rah, (his own pronunciation of the word), were his favorite haunts. What better surroundings need be required to draw forth the mighty spirit of eloquence which characterized the man? Thus, unconsciously, was this celebrated forest orator an imitator of the eloquent Greek, who tuned his voice on the sea-beach, while he caught his inspiration from the altar of Nature.—From this revelation of the eloquent Chief, it is evident that his power of swaying the multitude, was acquired by long and laborious preparation in the depths of the forest. How near he approached Logan, (his celebrated model), in attitude, gesture and intonation, cannot now be told, as no one now lives who has heard them both. That he was a profound though unlettered student of oratory, is abundantly testified by those who heard him in his palmist days.

Of the "Speech of Logan", which has given him a world-wide reputation, and is familiar to every school-boy in the land, Mr. Jefferson says "I may challenge the whole Orations of Demosthenes and Cicero and of any more eminent orator, if Europe has furnished more eminent, to produce a single passage superior to the speech of Logan". The citizens of Auburn have, much to their credit, erected a monument to his memory on Fort Allegan, near their city, which bears this expression from his celebrated speech:--"Who is there to mourn for Logan? Not one!"

In Harpers’ N. Y. & Erie Rail Road Guide, a great many very singular mistakes occur. He states that Elmira was settled in1788 by Capt. John Hendy. Col. Hendy settled three miles above the village about that period. He says that Col. Hendy anglicized the Indian name to Newton. This is another error—Col. H. never gave the name to the place. It was called Newtown Point, in the first settlement of the country. There were two Indian towns destroyed by Sullivan—one on the Chemung Flats, near Buckville, which was called Old Chemung or Old Town, and the other on the Baldwin & Lowman Flats, near the line between the towns of Chemung and Elmira, which was called New Chemung or Newtown; and when Elmira began to be settled it was called Newtown Point, though five miles above the spot where the Indian village stood. From the neighborhood of this Indian village, Sullivan’s engagement with the Indians was called the battle of Newtown. The battle ground is a little north of Baldwin’s Creek, where the road passes, near Baldwin’s Mills, and was on land formerly owned by Col. Isaac Baldwin, and on a part of the farm now owned by Jesse Carpenter. The writer passed over the battle ground many years ago, when all the localities were pointed out by Col. Thomas Baldwin and Major Waterman Baldwin, both of whom were in the battle; the former was wounded. Col. Stone seems to have fallen into the same error. Soon after the publication of his Life of Brant, his attention was called to the error, and the writer proposed visiting the battle ground in company with him. He appointed the anniversary of the battle as the day of the visit, August 29th. He came as far as the head of Seneca Lake, where, being suddenly taken ill, he wrote to his correspondent postponing the visit to the same day in the next year, but he died at Saratoga the following summer, and he never visited the battle ground. Two persons were ready to meet him who were in the battle—John Fitz Simmons and Daniel Van Camp, and Esq. Jenkins, who was familiar with the ground, all of whom are now dead.