The history of Edmeston, New York: 1780 through 1789
In the 1780's the "Otsego Country" was the Far West and an eagerly sought goal. The great land patents, most of whose acres had stood as idle land since the acquisition fifteen, twenty or more years before, were now cut in farm-sized lots and soon rented or sold.
There was demonstrated an astounding rate of increase, and this was to be duplicated in many localities as the Western movement rolled on. Otsego was the first New York County to experience it, also the first to feel the effects of its restless onward flow. The 1830 total was Otsego's highest population. The reasons are many and clear, but the one pertinent to this article is that Americans have always been on the move. In the northern United States until 1790 they were dammed up at the Line of Property along which lies Otsego's western boundary and the region became actually over-populated for an agricultural area. With that obstacle removed, local families joined in the general western hegira. As Otsego men moved out, their places were often taken by more New Englanders, but the outflow exceeded the intake. — Roy Butterfield
Carr finally returned to Mount Edmeston in 1783, and according to tradition, found one of his horses still grazing in the woods. Colonel Edmeston had returned to British service and was stationed at w:Gibraltar, but he directed the rebuilding of the settlement with energy and interest. In 1788 Captain Robert Edmeston came to America and promptly quarreled with Carr. The faithful agent was discharged and spent his old age in poverty.
But while Carr and the Edmestons were on the ins, Parcifor wrote his bosses a series of letters, today treasured in the archives of the New York State Historical Association, Cooperstown. These form a fascinating revelation not only of the personalities of William and Parcifor Carr, but of the ways of settling a new land.
Edmeston was a man evidently schooled in the Roman and Greek classics that were the stock training for a gentleman of his day. His knowledge of agricultural practices seems to have been gleaned largely from Virgil and other noblest Romans. Carr often had a hard time persuading his distant boss to modify those practices in the Otsego County Hills.
Occasionally, though, Edmeston showed the shrewdness that had enabled him to rise in the world and to get hold of the land originally. One time when he sent out a batch of new settlers, he instructed Carr to allot them farms in scattered spots with Edmeston land in between, that the new settlers might be the ones to build the roads, not the Edmestons.
They were a shrewd and sturdy breed, these men who tackled the wilderness and made it blossom. — Mary E. Cunningham
Upon Colonel Edmeston's death, the estate fell to the heirs residing in England, Since no title could be established from them for many years, the settlement of this part of the town [the Edmeston patent] was, for a time retarded. — Susan Hickling
How did anyone find this remote section of New York State?
After the terrible Cherry Valley Massacre in 1778, General Washington organized a great campaign against the Indian villages of the hostile tribes in New York State. This march made Central New York and its beautiful country better known. "The soldiers gave such glowing descriptions of the country that as soon as the war closed, throngs of settlers began pouring in to the new western country." Edmeston Centre was a promising place to choose land because the township consisted of hills and valleys; the soil varied — most being moist and excellent grassland. The timber was deciduous, as maple, beech, ash, basswood, elm etc., with groves of pine. The Wharton Creek and Mill Creek join near the center of the village [hamlet, it was and still is unincorporated]; The Unadilla River edges the township. There was a valuable quarry of building stone in Edmeston's southeast corner. — Sandra Lohnas Haggerty
The first settlers of numerous Otsego Towns preferred to locate on the hills instead of establishing their homes on the alluvial bottomlands. One reason was less danger to crops from frost on these higher grounds; and again, the hills being covered with hardwood timber, like beech, maple, and ash, were easily cleared and the wood more quickly and effectually burned up, and gotten out of the way of the first crop, than was possible with the base growth of the hemlock and pines encumbering the low ground.
Another reason influencing the settlers in their preference for elevated ground was the local asheries paying prices which materially increased current revenue for the first few years; and again, there was less danger from w:malaria than was the case on the low lands adjacent to the larger water courses. So for quite a number of years following the coming of the first settlers after the Revolution, according to an assertion once made by Elder Stephen Taylor, the hill lands on the Edmeston Patents brought materially the higher prices in all sales made in that section. — Huntington Papers
Crogan's 100,000 acre [400 km²] tract, later Cooper's comprised all of what was subsequently the town of New Lisbon, an eastern part of Edmeston, most of Burlington, an eastern part of Exeter, and much of Otsego Township [town]. — Gazetteer of New York and — Huntington Papers
Often times Indians would be seen going along the trails that later became town highways on their way to Moss Hook, now West Burlington, to get supplies. The story is told that the old Indian was returning with a jug one day from Moss Hook. He was in a rather intoxicated condition. When he attempted to climb a fence, the jug fell over the cork came out and the contents gurgled out upon the ground. The old Indian tried to get to it, but in vain. He leaned against the fence and said in despair, "I know you say 'good, good, good' but I can't get to you!" — Janet Dockstader
The northeast part of Edmeston was settled very early. Elder Stephen Taylor came in 1783 and settled on what is called Taylor Hill. Joseph Talbot, Elisha Johnson, Richmond Talbot, Timothy Taylor, Daniel Greene, and others come soon afterwards, and settled in the neighborhood of what is called Wright's Corners. There was a strip through on the east side next to Burlington, settled early by families from Rhode Island, Vermont, Connecticut and Massachusetts. [This "strip" would be that portion of the Town East of the patent to the West line of Burlington.] Joseph Rudd was a very prominent man in town. Benjamin Milks, Zenos Ashley, David Angell, Benjamin Hoag, Chad Burges, the Wilcoxes, Robert Rosher, Henry Randall, all from Rhode Island. Thomas Slocum settled on the farm called the Beamos farm, just north of the fair ground, built a pot ash and pearling oven and made potash and pearlash for a number of years. He had 12 leaches 30 bushels each, His oven would pearl 150m pounds at a batch. he built his potash plant on the bank of a brook, so that he might get rid of the leached ashes, not knowing they were worth anything. After being leached he had to carry it along to Albany, overland. So we did everything we had to sell. Sometimes in the early settlement they went to Fort Plain. I have heard them say that they had carried rye and corn to Fort Plain and sold it for 44 cents per basket, and traded one half out at the store. — James Slocum
- We the subscribed inhabitants of the Butternuts in the district of Old England and County of Montgomery Beg leave to represent to the Honorable — the Council of appointment that we experience much inconvenience for the want of a justice of the peace among us and therefore pray that you will be pleased to appoint Mr. Jacob Morris to that office he being a fit person in the opinion of the people to fill that commission. — 23rd feby 1788
- Signed by: L. DeVillers, John Tunnicliff, John Johnson, Robert Garret, Joseph Tunnicliff, John Russel, Andre Renouard, Nathaniel Storrs, and Robert Edmeston.
Scarcity was repeatedly felt by all during the first years of settlement, more especially by the families of the farmers, living beyond the village; and it is well known that the poor missionary family suffered severely in this way, on more than one occasion. There were those at hand however, always ready to offer relief, where privation was known. The most severe trial of this kind occurred during the season still remembered as "the starving time," in the traditions of the country, and which fell upon the whole region, for many miles beyond the lake shores. It was at an early day when the green fields were yet very few, when there were no roads through the forest, and no mills to grind the little corn among the stores of the colonists. The hamlet [Cooperstown] was then literally in the heart of a wilderness, and the number of newly arrived emigrants increasing beyond the amount of food within reach, something approaching to actual w:famine was felt in many a cabin. Families accustomed to abundance, in the homes they had left farther eastward, were now pining for the want of daily bread, the poor hungry children feeding on the scrapings of the iron pots in which their w:sapaen had been prepared. In this emergency, the leader of the little colony [Judge Cooper] exerted himself to the utmost; grain was purchased at a distance, brought up the Mohawk in boats, thence on pack horses through the forest, from Canajoharie and Fort Plain, out dealt and liberally to the people. Most happily shoals of w:herring came up the Susquehanna, from the Chesapeake, at the same moment, filling the lake so abundantly, that they were actually dipped out of the water, by the bucketful. Salt was sent for in great quantities, and the fish were cured, and carried into the cabins of the people, scattered through the neighboring woods. The pigeons also came in large flocks, and after a period of great distress for some weeks, plenty was once more restored to the half famished people. — James Fenimore Cooper: Introduction to The Pioneers, 1823