The history of Edmeston, New York: 1790 through 1799
There is something about a new country that beckons one to come. True it is, hunger and exposure are often stern and unpleasant companions, but there, and there only, may be found the work of the creator, untarnished by the relentless hand of man.
To such a land came Stephen Taylor in the year 1790 from Rhode Island, accompanied only by the faithful horse that bore him, to the then far distant western wilderness of Otsego County, to select the sight of a new home. Tradition records that the first act upon arriving was to kneel in the forest and pray that the new home might be dedicated to the uplift of God’s Kingdom. — Newell Talbot.
These first settlers came into Edmeston via horseback, oxen or foot; the road they used was an Indian footpath. — Sandra Lohnas Haggerty
Col. Gardner and Alexander Parker returned as civilians to purchase land near Otsego Lake. In Cooperstown, at the foot of Otsego Lake, they found the Judge. He had been put in charge of land that later became most of Otsego County. He was to sell plots to those who wished to buy land and settle on it. He did sell to our relatives that day, but an interesting story has been told about how that transaction transpired.
The young men introduced themselves and told the judge they wished to buy land to settle on. The Judge looked them over and thought "I wonder if they should be close to our settlement by the lake?" He asked them, "What is your religion?" Alexander is supposed to have replied, "What business is it of yours?" You see he was still a "free thinker". He did not wish to have any relations with the old Calvinism of Rhode Island and much of New England. Judge Cooper was a Presbyterian and had already built a Presbyterian Church in Cooperstown. He thought, "Well, lets get rid of them", so he sold them land on the western edge of his holdings as far west as Burlington extended. [At that time Burlington extended to the Unadilla River.]
Judge William Cooper who had sold Alexander and Sam Gardner their plots of land, had great wealth for his day. He was a generous person. He had a good heart and only demanded payment each year on as much money as the settlers could afford and not starve.
Alexander and the Col. came in the spring of 1790. They supposedly paid for the land mostly with their mustering out pay. The capital required to start farming was small indeed. A man with his neighbors could put up a log house 20 feet square, living room below and sleeping room above, almost without cost. Alexander is supposed to have put up a lean-to, then returned the next spring with his wife and built the log house with a good fireplace. — Winifred Wilcox Parker
Cooper was not a landlord as some who owned land and leased it, nor was he a speculator who acquired land for profit. Cooper was a colonizer. Wild lands were a challenge to him. He was eager to see them cut into farms, sold and occupied.
When he opened land sales here in the spring of 1786 his policies were firmly developed. He was born in Philadelphia and kept store in Burlington, N.J. At both places he lived with wealthy men who had interests in New York and Pennsylvania undeveloped lands. There was evidence that he served in some capacity in their enterprises. He always preferred to distribute land by deed on fee simple and would accept small down payments to attain this end, but money at the time was everywhere scarce and the prospective settlers were mainly poor. Cooper willingly altered his policy to fit the realities and often sold on land contracts. When "articles of agreement" were first contrived is uncertain but Cooper used them in ways of his own. He contrived "perpetual" leases whereby the tenant rented the land (for cash or produce) and at such time they were able to purchase the land they did so at the low pioneer prices originally quoted. — Roy L. Butterfield
In 1790 Ebeneezer Bennett moved from Conn. to Otsego County, which at that time was a long journey, and far west. He bought 160 acres of land of the Government, lying on the banks of the Unadilla River. He built a log house (near the Bank's homestead) close to the river and planted an orchard of apple trees. Your grandfather [Philo Bennet] was then six or seven years old and remembered some of the hard times of that pioneer life, and used to tell how the snow sifted through the roof, and the wolves howled about the door. There were five sons in the family: Eben, Lemuel, Philo, Elijah and David. — Matilda C. Bennett
When a girl, twelve and thirteen years of age, I used often to stay with my step-grandmother, while her daughter went away for a visit of a week or more. She was a heavy old lady and like the woman in the Bible, was "Bound of Satan" into a bent double position and walked about the house with a staff. a frame building had been added to the log house in which she lived; from the windows of the living room we looked straight down into the river, and at the south door was an immense wild cherry tree, black cherries, in which we children delighted. In the old days part of the house was one large room with a large fireplace and two bedrooms, in one of which was a shelf with books on it, while on the floor below was an old chest curiously carved, and bound with brass. To climb the chest, get a book or two, go into the orchard and hide myself among the branches of a crooked apple tree and read, was my special delight. One of these books was the "Sorrows of Neither" by Goethe. The others were loved stories abounding ghosts, and hobgoblins, and all were yellow with age. — Matilda C. Bennett
Lemuel Bennett who lived near us, was older than our father; his wife was a beautiful woman and lovely character. He had four daughters. Uncle Lemuel and our father had homes on the land their father gave them, not on the river, but on the main road that ran parallel with it and a half mile or so from it; between was meadow and pasture with a brook running though from the hills which bounded the farm on the east, to the river, the hills were covered with a growth of pine and hemlock, elm and chestnut trees. The home was a brown story and half house built on a smooth low hill, across the road was the large barn, through whose spacious doors came the great loads of shining wheat and fragrant hay, until the "bins" and the "mows" were full, and later on, the corn and pumpkins lay in great heaps. I can still recall the rhythmic sound of the flails as the wheat was thrashed on the large smooth floor, and just how father looked as he hatcheted the flax, as well as the sound of the wheel as our mother spun it. — Matilda C. Bennett
First U.S. Census: this area a part of Montgomery County, Town of Otsego, which covered what is now the County of Otsego. The Town of Otsego had 304 families, total population 1702. Local names included: Percifer Carr, James Canada (Kennedy), Chapin, Colegrove, Monroe, and Lull. — Myrta Kelsey
During the development of Edmeston as a town, Indians still lived around about on the hills. An interesting incident is told of the farmers experience with these Indians. It seems that this man had a rooster that always crowed at the same time in the early morning and therefore, served as an alarm clock to awaken the family. One morning, however, the rooster failed to crow. Upon making an investigation at the Indian camp, the farmer found his rooster already picked and being cooked. He frightened the Indians so they agreed to make baskets for him in payment for the rooster. — Janet Dockstader & Myrta Kelsey
A well-known pioneer was Rev. Steven Taylor, tradition says he made his first trip from Rhode Island to this town in 1790 alone on horse-back. He returned for his parents who moved in ox carts in 1792. The next year meetings began to be held and 30 years later Elder Taylor gave the land on which the Church was built in 1822. — Myrta Kelsey
Referring to Percifer Carr, Israel Colegrove informed me that the Indians were afraid of this man, looking upon him as a being of super-natural powers and allied, in some way, with the Great Spirit; this more particularly being their feeling after the Revolution. Carr was a large, strong, rough, resolute and dauntless individual, with "a voice like a lion's." He had served in the old French war, and nothing could frighten him. He had a pleasant side to his nature, and was kind to the first settlers, making them take along additional sustenance from his own limited supplies when departing from his house. — Huntington Papers
The Indians once stole a lot of Carr's personal property during his temporary absence from home and crossed back to the opposite or Chenango side of the Unadilla with their plunder. Upon returning and being informed of the larceny, the old frontiersman seized his hatchet and, crossing the river on a rude bridge to the other shore, strode angrily into their camp, exclaiming as he did so that he would kill them if they did not instantly carry back everything they had taken from him. Much impressed by his formidable personality, the Indians, it is said, quickly complied with his demands. — Huntington Papers
For a limited time, in early days white ash was principally used in building fences in the Burlington-Edmeston region. Log fences were made first; then rail fences; while later on, came stonewalls. — Huntington Papers
In the latter part of the eighteenth century, settlements were also made in the northeastern part of the present Town of Edmeston. Since the early settlers in this locality included Benjamin, Timothy, Thomas, William and Stephen Taylor, this section was appropriately called Taylor Hill. Other pioneers were; Major and Stephen Colegrove from Rhode Island, Jacob and Richmond Talbot from Connecticut, and Charles Burlingham. An idea of the hardships that these, endured is illustrated by the following incident: the first home that was built by Jacob Talbot was a long house that had a bed quilt hung up before the entrance for a door. Fire brands taken from the fireplace at night served as defense against wolves that prowled about the cabin. — Susan Hickling
Stephen Colegrove once stated that when he first settled in the Taylor Hill section it was the custom to tap maple trees about November first and to manufacture sugar following every frost, until well along in the Spring. For several years, the early settlers had little else to live upon besides maple sugar and corn pounded in a mortar. After 1790, the number of new settlers coming into Burlington rapidly increased. — Huntington Papers
I was talking to Dr. Phelps about the history of Edmeston. He said, "Donald Parker's great, great, great grandfather was the first occupant of Edmeston. He brought his first wife here and settled on what is now the Dorr Parker farm. Shortly after he and his family moved here his wife died. He put her body in an old hollow log and buried her in the swamp where the Indians couldn't find her. He went back to Massachusetts with their one child and married again. He moved here with his second wife and they started the original Parker Family." — Janet Dockstader
Otsego County was erected Feb. 16, 1791. In its first form it was much larger than it is now , including a very large part of Delaware and almost the Western half of Schoharie. Changes in its borders were made as late as 1854. The original Otsego town has been carved into sixteen Towns, and the Original Cherry Valley into eight, resulting in the 24 Towns now existing. — Roy L. Butterfield
Solomon Kelsey and wife, Anna Brown, with one child came from Easton, Washington County, N.Y. near Vermont before 1792, to the Kelsey home-stead (1500 acres) in the southeastern part of Edmeston [town]. All of their possessions were in an ox cart and they also brought a cow with them. It is impossible for us today to picture the privations and hardships endured in those times. A slight glimpse of conditions then is shown in the following tales handed down in the family. In order to get grain ground Solomon Kelsey took bags on horseback to the nearest mill, which was so far away that he must be gone over night. [John Tunnicliff's?] That night about dusk, Great Grandmother Kelsey milked to cow, set the pail of milk under a tree close by, and went to put the cow in the pasture. When she returned a panther was lapping milk from the pail. She called to the little children in the house and they pushed back the blanket which served as a door. It so happened that this allowed the light from the fireplace to shine directly upon the milk pail. The panther screamed and jumped into the tree over head, but she dare not pick up the pail and went into the house without any milk that night. — Myrta Kelsey
In April 1792, the Township of Burlington was organized and Jedediah Peck, a farmer and millwright who lived on the eastern edge, was elected supervisor. Peck, short, ugly, one-eyed, a war hero, a poor speaker, and a political operator of genius, began as a Federalist and later switched to the w:Democratic Republican Party. — David Shillieto
Elder Stephen Taylor came from Rhode Island at the age of 20. According to and taken from the notes of a Mr. Pierson's letter:
- On June 9, 1792, William Cooper, as attorney for Calwaller Colden conveyed 525 acres of land to Stephen Taylor, for 300 pounds, it being lot No. 13 in the Colden tract. On the same day Stephen Taylor gave a Mortgage for 300 pounds to Josiah Ogden Hoffman of New York City, covering the same premises — doubtless a purchase money mortgage — this mortgage being discharged of record June 28, 1800. This discharge was given by William Cooper as agent and assignee. — Hazel L. Jones
About 1792, Percifer Carr was in the habit of going to Tunnicliff's inn for his rum. Upon one occasion, having just returned home from the latter's, an Indian, living temporarily on the opposite bank of the Unadilla from Carr's house, came across the stream and asked the white brother for some of his liquor, claiming that he was suffering a great pain. His appeal, however, had no desired effect, Carr promptly replying; "You cannot have it" and then, a moment later, and as an afterthought, adding "God, Almighty, send the pain near the cursed villain’s heart!" — Huntington Papers
Not far from this time, Elder Stephen Taylor was employed on Carr's farm. From a point near his house on Taylor Hill, the dwelling being a little north of "Carr's road". Elder Taylor was in the habit of following that primitive thoroughfare through an unbroken forest in going to and from the scene of his daily labor in the fields of our old Tory acquaintance; the latter paying him in corn for his services. Elder Taylor repeated the anecdote just given of Carr and the Indian to Israel Colegrove, who, when a very old man, gave it to the writer. — Huntington Papers
There was no other method of travel except horseback, at that early date. There was a rude road, which had been an Indian trail, over the Catskill Mountains from the Hudson River at Catskill, to the Susquehanna Valley at Wattles Ferry, which was at the site of the present village of Unadilla. In 1802 an important trail was constructed over this trail by the Catskill and Susquehanna Turnpike Co. I think the eastern part of this route is the present beautiful Rip Van Winkle State Highway. All the earliest settlers of this western part of the county and the southern part probably came over this route There was another road to Cherry Valley from Albany and the Mohawk Valley. — Myrta Kelsey
One of the first settlers was Adin Deming, who came in 1792. He was born in Pittsfield, Mass. As his father claimed the use of his time until he was 21 years of age, young Adin did not strike out until he was 20. Then he bought the remainder of his time for $20 and hired out for four years at $60 a year. He married Martha Phelps and in 1792 removed to Edmeston performing the journey with an ox team. — Huntington Papers & Myrta Kelsey
Aside from his oxen, Adin Deming's worldly goods consisted of two beds, a few cooking and farming utensils, 200 pounds of pork and $18 in money. With these small beginnings and with the pluck and perseverance of himself and his wife he gradually accumulated a large fortune. Before he died he owned nearly 2000 acres of land on the south side of the Wharton Creek and in Pittsfield, and his estate was valued at over $75,000 his home was where Hayes Welch now lives. Before his death in 1847 he gave away nearly all his property. He and another settler, Mr. Goodrich, gave the larger part of the cost of the erection of the Universalist Church on South Street. He left in his will a sum of money for public school aid with the careful provision that the money was to be perpetually loaned out only on safe first mortgages. Each of his children received a home and a large portion of land. He gave land for the Deming cemetery adjoining his home.— Myrta Kelsey
My great grandfather and wife, Anna Brown, with one child came from Easton Washington County, New York, near Vermont before 1792 to the Kelsey homestead in the southeastern part of the town of Edmeston [at that time still a part of Burlington]. All their possessions were in an ox cart and they also brought a cow with them. We have the original deed which was given by Abraham VanVechten of Albany to Solomon Kelsey, yeoman. No neighbors mentioned in the deed but states "A certain tract of land situated in the County of Otsego, being part of a tract containing 1500 acres, formerly the property of William Jackson, being known and distinguished by the name of Lot No. 3 — beginning at a hemlock stake etc. etc." This land stayed in the family for 140 years. — Myrta Kelsey
It is impossible for us today to picture the privations and hardships endured in those times. A slight glimpse of conditions then is shown in the following tales handed down in the family. In order to get grain ground Solomon Kelsey took bags on horseback to the nearest mill, which was so far away that he must be gone over night. (I have wondered if it were not the mill built by Tunnicliff near Schuyler’s Lake). That night about dusk, Great Grandmother Kelsey milked the cow, set the pail of milk under a tree close by and went to put the cow in the pasture. When she returned a panther was lapping milk from the pail. She called to the little children in the house and they pushed back the blanket which served for a door. It so happened that this allowed the light from the fireplace to shine directly upon the milk pail. the panther screamed and jumped into the tree overhead, but she dare not pick up the pail and went into the house with out any milk that night. — Myrta Kelsey
Mistress Percifer Carr used to make cheese there as early as the period of 1792-'93. In this connection is recalled the following incident. It seems that upon a certain occasion, a woman living in the neighborhood bought some of Mrs. Carr's product, and, after tasting it, declared to several of her intimates that it positively stank. Although Carr and wife were both religiously inclined, his good lady, upon hearing of the foul calumny through friendly gossip, solemnly averred that she would kill the slanderer if the latter ever put foot in her house again. — Huntington Papers
Upon the death of Col. Edmeston, the estate fell to the heirs and minor children residing in England from whom no secure title could be obtained for many years, which greatly retarded the settlement of the Town. [patent] Except for Carr, all the pioneers in the Patent came after 1793. — Myrta Kelsey
The second settlement of the patent was one in the northeastern part of Edmeston [not part of the Edmeston patent]. Elder Stephen Taylor came from Rhode Island at the age of 20. According to and taken from the notes of a Mr. Pierson’s letter: on June 9, 1792, William Cooper
- "Judge Cooper, the novelist’s father, as attorney for Calwaller [Cadwallader] Colden conveyed 525 acres of land to Stephen Taylor, for 300 pounds, it being lot NO. 13 in the Colden Patent. On the same day Stephen Taylor gave a mortgage for 300 pounds to Josiah Ogden Hoffman of New York City, covering the same premises—doubtless a purchase money mortgage being discharged of record June 28, 1800. This discharge was given by William Cooper as agent and assignee."
This settlement became known as Taylor Hill. A school was erected here about the same time.
The first internment in the Taylor Hill burying ground was that of the remains of one, Henry Hadley in about 1793. He had been working in the woods of Elder Taylor at the time of his death, which was caused by a falling tree. The chopper associated with him at the moment, it appears, had given him sufficient warning of the impending danger, but Hadley seemed oblivious to the peril menacing him and, instead of shifting his position to a place of safety, remained motionless and dazed as it were, until a small limb had struck him and crushed his skull.
Jacob Talbot, Elisha Johnson, Richmond Talbot, Timothy Taylor, Daniel Greene and others came soon afterwards and settled in the neighborhood of what is called Wrights corners (North Edmeston). Taylor gave land for a church which was erected about 1822. — Hazel L. Jones
Another very early pioneer was Jacob Talbot, born 1761 died 1814, He was the ancestor of the very numerous Talbot family in this community. He came to Taylor Hill from Connecticut in 1793 with his wife, Phoebe Chase, and three children, Isaac, aged 6, Jacob 5 and Joseph. They came in an ox cart and brought among a few other things, a bag of wool which served as a bed for the children on the journey, and later carded, spun and woven into cloth for family use. It has been said that he had to cut his was through the trackless forest, which doubtless was the case in this town at least. The nearest neighbors were the Carr family on the Unadilla and the Tunnicliff family near Schuyler Lake. One of the earliest roads in this region led from the Carr farm, over Taylor Hill (I think) to the Tunnicliff's, I have been told. — Myrta Kelsey
The First Baptist church of Edmeston, located on what is known as Taylor Hill, was organized March 8, 1794, by Rev. Stephen Taylor, who came from Rhode Island and settled in the town in 1790. He donated the land on which to erect the church, and assisted in the construction of the edifice. He died in 1841, aged seventy-one years.
Among those who joined at date of organization were:
The church building was erected in 1822.
Among the first settlers who came to Otsego County in the last decade of the 18th century  were Reolff TenBroeck and his wife, Maria, called "Polly" and born a Vanderveer. They came from New Jersey.
We have no record of why they came. But being neighbors in far away New Jersey, and perhaps friends, of William Cooper who founded Cooperstown it is reasonable to suppose that some contact with him had influenced them to make the long journey north and found a new home in the incredibly rich lands to which William Cooper had recently acquired title.
Cooper came in the early autumn of 1785 from Burlington, New Jersey. In 1769 Col.Geo. Croghan of the English Army, Deputy Indian Commissioner and successor to the great Sir William Johnson had been granted title by the crown to 100,000 acres of the central New York wilderness. These acres had dwindled in various ways until but 40,000 remained and Croghan had gone back to England. William Cooper had acquired this tract of land and so in the early autumn of 1785 he came to look over these new holdings of his and determined their boundaries.
The land needed settlers in order to build the civilization in the wilderness which he visualized and Cooper set about the business of getting them. Within the year they began to arrive. They came mainly from New England over the marvelous new highway in this western empire!
In his will written sometime later, Cooper set down for his heirs instructions for caring for these infant settlements as follows:
- And as I have influenced many families to settle in those new places on my land where numerous difficulties do, and for several years to come must, prevent their paying with that punctuality that is reasonably expected form older settlements where all the conveniences of living are easily obtained, I therefore wish that my heirs will deal tenderly with them.
May we not assume that our TenBroeck family was one of those influenced by Cooper. It is very probable that Reolff came first with his brother, John, or other male members of the family to choose the site for the new home. We know that John TenBroeck was early a land holder in Otsego County. Records in Cooperstown show many deeds made at various times during that period to other members of both TenBroeck and Vanderveer families.
Reolff, born in 1763, was then a man in his late thirties, well established at that age in his own community we may suppose — and tradition has it that Polly's wedding dowry had been $20,000 in gold and two black servants. What better proof of the golden dower can we have than that the wooden cash box in which they carried their money exists today! Alas for tradition that it is of a size more likely to hold two hundred dollars in gold than any twenty thousand!
But the two black servants were real. Husband and wife they were, and they made the journey with their mistress and her several small children to make a home in the wilderness. A few years later the black woman died and "Joseph" the husband, so saddened by the death of his companion, left Dutch Valley and "went to Cooperstown to work for Judge Cooper". How this came about when he was a slave we do not know. Could he have been "Joseph Stewart" who lies buried in the cooper lot in Christ Church yard in Cooperstown and whose simple stone records the fact that he was "born a slave but for many years was a much loved servant of Judge Cooper." He returned on several occasions to visit his former mistress and once Polly, sick and thinking she was about to die, sent for him and he went afoot over the hills in response to her summons.
|Records show that William Cooper rented "negro boy Joseph" from Abraham C. Ten Broeck for $76 to $80 a year from 1799 to 1802. This may have been Joseph Stewart who was later freed but remained Cooper's butler, and was buried in the Cooper family plot, not buried separately with the slaves. — Alan Taylor|
The Dutch had been slave holders in the manors along the Hudson River from the earliest day. Personal relations with their negroes were most kindly. Frequently they were provided for by will, and daughters of well-to-do Dutch families numbered a slave or two in her wedding outfitting. Nor were they uncommon in central New York in those early days. A Gazateer of the State of New York written and published by Horatim Spafford in 1823 lists slaves in every community — In Otsego County were 235 free blacks and 16 slaves. — Aice H. Swinney
In 1797, from New Jersey, came Reolff TenBroeck and his wife, who built the relatively famous Dutch Valley Farm, just south of the village. Being Dutch immigrants, they brought new customs with them: he erected his buildings near the center of the farm, he raised and sold the best horses, he owned the first high blooded cattle in this section and he owned the first slaves in his area. — Sandra Lohnas Haggerty