Early New York

By Martha Walton
The Waltons, (William and Jacob), merchant princes of New York city had obtained vast grants of land of the Indians in Delaware county and granted a patent of 20,000 acres in western New York upon which the Holland Land company was established. This company donated 100 acres of land to religious societies in every town designated as the Gospel Land. The establishment of the new settlement of the institutions of religion in the new settlements, is a prominent feature in the history. The settlers like the Pilgrim Fathers, planted churches at the earliest practicable period. T he Rev. John Spencer was employed as a missionary on the Holland Land purchase. Nearly all of the early churches were Congregationalist, later Presbyterian, Baptist and Methodist.

Mortgages to the land company hung like a funeral pall over western New York and money was scarce and subscriptions for building churches were taken in anything they could give, thus we see in one $75 in cash, $30 in pork, 10 bu. of corn, 10 bu. of rye, 300 lbs. of beef, cattle, chains, hay, labor. Notwithstanding their many privations they made early provisions for the education of their children. School houses were generally built by "bees" and furnished with well seasoned switches and a substantial ruler.

The pioneers of Western New York found an unbroken wilderness, but many evidences of there having been inhabited by a number of people. Earthworks, fortifications, mounds and pits, and later, as the forests gave way to cultivation the plow and spade made strange revelations, and tradition gives but a vague and unsatisfactory account of the people who occupied the whole of the American continent and left their monuments of various shapes as symbols of their tribes for the pioneer on his western journey found them all along the way as evidence that others had roamed there before them, and that for centuries those noble forests had been untouched by the woodman's hand.

An incident is told of one of those monarchs of the forest, a black walnut tree that stood near the old stage route. The tree measured nine feet in diameter and was 60 feet to the first limb. It blew down in 1822 and a section 14 feet in length was cut from the butt by Luther Heaton and Calvin Wood, w ho hollowed it out, leaving the shell about three inches thick, cut openings for doors and windows, furnished it with table and shelves and kept a grocery with cake and beer for sale.

Batavia, New York, is the second gathering place where many located for a time. Look in the Encyclopaedia and see Chicago as it was in 1830 and imagine you see the weary four horses and wagon and the still more weary tourists longing for a resting place to call home on up the western side of Lake Michigan until Milwaukee is reached, and there the courage required to live with her family of little ones, among the strange Indians until a home was provided, and in October of that year (1836) they followed the trail 20 miles farther west where their journey ended and Waukesha was the last scene in the drama of their lives for there in the beautiful Prairie Home cemetery, they found rest on their own farm.

Did these early settlers enjoy themselves, oh yes. Our streams and rivers and lakes teemed with fish of many varieties. Game was plentiful.

Here lived the wild turkey, the prairie hen, the partridge, the quail, and many others. The wild goose made her annual flight in season, wild ducks made their pilgrimages. The land into which our fathers came was a land of trees, beautiful trees. The oak in several varieties, the elm, the maple, the walnut, the hickory, the tamarack, and many others. Wild berries of many varieties were gathered in the autumn. Bees swarmed in trees and the bee tree hunt was an interesting pastime.

The inhabitants of the log homes were God fearing men and women. In these homes and on these hearths, and some cases on puncheon floors, prayers were offered each morning and evening. The family altar was an institution not to be neglected by the men and women who laid the foundation of our community.

Threshing was a social community event. Some times the threshing machine would stay at a single house for a week. Now two or three farmers are threshed out in a day, and then go to and from jobs in automobiles. Not so in the days of our forefathers, but we talk about the good old days. But they had their good times too. There were apple paring bees where the young people came together in parties to peel apples and string them for drying. And quilting bees where the older women assembled to make quilts. Any home that has such a quilt today is proud to possess it, for some of the finest quilts ever made are the work of our grandmothers. The candy pull also was great sport in later log house days.

It snowed in those days great drifts, over the fences covering everything. I told you by this time my father had a frame house in the middle of the prairie. The house, shorn of one of its wings, built in 1844, stands there yet. Some old friends of fathers had been spending the evening with them and started home, a few miles away, when after a while the sleigh  bells were heard again and they came back again, lost in the fields, all this while looking for some track. Three times that night they returned until finally Mr. Petibone said, "Come Mr. Walton get out a horse and start us home, or we will be following this circle all night."

I remember again when Father and Mother went to social gatherings there were no lights, dark as p itch. They landed on the fence. I remember having to start early before school to tell the neighbor their cows were in our corn, but now we call them down by talking straight at the wall. For light, after the calico rag in grease tied around a pine cone, the tallow candle and the lard lamps, but today we just press the button and there is light. Light everywhere, in barns as well as houses. Now we have electric lighted and electric banned barns and electrically bottled milk. The barns have vestibules and double screened windows, individual drinking cups and rest rooms.

As one reflects upon the theme merely suggested here he can see the life of our community move, see its developments move on to higher and ever higher achievements of community life.

Website: The History Box.com
Article Name: Early New York
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


 Waukesha Daily Freeman July 2, 1927
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