History of Cortlandville from Smith's History

Chapter XX


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McGrawville is a thriving village in the town of Cortlandville , about five miles to the eastward of Cortland village , and contains a population of about 900. It has two hotels , three churches the second largest corset manufactory in the United States , a number of smaller factories , shops , etc., and is the center of considerable mercantile and other business. The village received its name in honor of Samuel McGraw , who migrated from New Haven , Conn. , to Cortlandville in 1803 and located on lot 87 , where he purchased about 200 acres. Mr. McGraw was a native of Plymouth , Vermont , where he was born in 1772. He was married to Miss Betsey Whitcomb in 1794 in Bennington , Vt. , by which marriage he had eleven children , three of whom are still living , and the first four of whom , namely , William , Henry , Betsey , and Hiram , were born before their parents removed westward. Samuel , a younger son , is now a resident of Homer village. The children all became prominent in the early history of this village. Mr. McGraw died Feb. 6th , 1835.

When Samuel McGraw came to this place he built a log cabin , in which he lived until 1815 , when he there erected a frame house. During this same period Simon Phelps moved in from the same place and located just east of the site of the village. During the same year Uncle Asher Graves moved in ; also Jonathan Taylor and others came to the vicinity of McGrawville. Elisha Coburn , a native of Springfield , Mass., came in from Oxford and located on lot No. 79 , in 1811 , one-half mile south of McGrawville , where he cut timber and built an ashery and for many years manufactured "black salts" ; his son Elisha , now lives in the village.

The year 1811 is the first date we have of Deacon Park Morgan , who was the successful tanner and currier of pioneer ties. Of the old settlers still living , Daniel A. Thompson , a native of Columbia county , now 87 years old , came to the place in 1817 when a young man of twenty years. He has been in he blacksmithing business since that time in the village. Lucius Babcock , Reuben Doud , Wm. Shearer (the last named located where Reuben Shearer now lives) , were all early setters of McGrawville or its vicinity. William Pike , David Corey , Dr. Hiram Brockway , Revs. Peleg R. Kinney , Joseph R. Johnson , E.B. Fancher , and Rensselaer Merrill , an associate of Harry McGraw , are all prominent names in the history of this section of the town , but came upon the field somewhat later than those before mentioned.

Samuel McGraw built the first log house in what is now the village of McGrawville , on the site of the premises now owned and occupied by Mason Kinney , and resided there until the year 1811 , when he built a frame structure across the road ; this building is not now standing. Henry McGraw , his son , became the first merchant in the village, He purchased the first goods ever brought to McGrawville of Roswell and Wm. Randall , in Cortland village , and after carting them to his place , opened up in is father's old log cabin (1818). After trading here for a season only he built the second store in the place , a part of which is now occupied as the post-office. This was in the year 1822. About 1835 he sold out to Marcus McGraw and A.V.P. Wilcox. From 1841 to 1843 he rented the building to Greenman & Thompson ; then H. McGraw & Sons P.H. McGraw) , Deloss McGraw and Lucius Babcock , and business was continued from 1849 to 1854 under the firm name of P.H. McGraw & Co.. who had the third largest store in the county. Upon the dissolution of the last named firm , P.H. & D. McGraw began in the produce business and have continued it from that date to the present time , trading also extensively in wool , cattle and general merchandise.

In the McGrawville Express , Sept. 28th , 1848 , we notice the firm of Kinney & McGraw advertising common leghorn hats for sale in their store. McGraw & Green wanted 2,000 pounds of honey ; they kept staple and fancy dry goods. James Sanderson , manufacturer of cabinet furniture , continued his business at the old stand on the Freetown road. Geo. Pennoyer , at the old stand of L. Graves , manufactured carriages. M.M. Webster offered the highest price in boots and shoes or leather for 2,000 cords of hemlock bark to be delivered at his tannery in McGrawville. Kinney & Thompson were also heavy advertisers.

The first special line of groceries was carried by John B. Lamont , who came to the place in 1851 , and has continued in the business ever since. This store is the original horse shed owned by Henry McGraw. A Mr. Torrey traded in it a short time before Lamont took it. Col. D.S. Lamont , the well known private secretary of Governor Cleveland , is the son of J.B. Lamont.

Blackmer & Bingham followed in the grocery trade , and after them Albert Atkins , who bought in with M.C. Bingham in 1872 , and since 1875 has been trading alone.

In the general trade of dry goods , etc., Chas. L. Kinney is the oldest merchant in the place. He began in 1844 and has regularly followed the mercantile business. M.C. Bingham began in 1868. He succeeded E.N. Blackmer and W.H. Tarble.

The drug trade was probably represented in the stock first kept by Hiram McGraw. This was transferred in time to C.B. Warren who . in 1866 , formed a partnership with C.A. Jones under the name of Warren & Jones , and who then purchased the small stock of J.C. Phelps and continued until 1874 , when Jones bought Warren out and has continued until the present time. In 1866 C.A. Jones also established himself in the drug trade , and still continues it.

Eli Smith established a hardware business in McGrawville in 1843 , dealing in cooper , tin and sheet iron. Later he put in stoves and has of late years made a specialty of that branch of business. A.J Sweet carries a large assortment of hardware and has traded successfully in this line for over ten years.

The furniture business was carried on in McGrawville from 1848 to 1852 , by James Sanderson. He was succeeded by A.R. Kelsey to 1855 Co. Alfred Green , now of Cortland , and then R.B. Fletcher took it up and since 1864 R.H. Graves has carried it on. During the last few years Mr. Graves has confined his attention solely to the undertaking business , and there is at this writing no furniture store in the place.

For a village which is isolated from railroad connections , McGrawville is as enterprising center for business as can be found in this portion of the State. The stores are kept busy supplying a demand incident to the wants of a thriving community and for the hundreds of hands employed in the large factory.

The McGrawville Sentinel was started in June , 1878 , by Wm. A. Huntington , who conducted it for five years , when it was transferred to the Sentinel Publishing Company , composed of E.P. & J.R. Fancher , who now conduct the establishment. They have greatly improved the paper , increased its circulation and now make one of the best of interior journals. Further reference to this establishment will be found in the chapter devoted to the press of the county.

The first mill in the vicinity of McGrawville was built by Samuel McGraw in 1815 just west of the village , and which he owned until he died. He sold it to Reuben G. Doud , and the premises are now owned by Benjamin Welch. The mill was kept in the possession of the McGraw family (Mr. Doud married Betsey McGraw) until the spring of 1881 , when a freshet destroyed the dam , since which time it has been abandoned.

The only saw-mill now in the place is that owned by C.D. Greenman , who built it some five years ago and added his feed mill in 1883.

William McGraw , the oldest son of Samuel McGraw , married Sally Barnum , daughter of an early pioneer , who owned a saw-mill. It was afterward owned and operate by Mr. McGraw , as stated ; it is on the road to Freetown and is now owned by Wm. Yager. In an early day Reuben Persons also owned a saw-mill two miles north of McGrawville , on his land along Trout brook , and there were other mills also more or less important , but none of them were operated for very many years.

About the year 1812 Lester Graves came to the place and a few years latter built a grist-mill on premises now occupied by the residence of R.H. Graves. It was prior to the day of meeting-houses and the assembling worshippers gathered within its walls to hear the gospel. The building , however , was burned in three years from the time of its erection and was never rebuilt.

The present mill owned by Willis Holmes , was purchased by him of the widow of Seth Pope. We have not the exact date of its erection , but it was built before 1840 , by Reuben G. Doud.

The old mill on the hill in McGrawville , was built by Rensselaer Merrill about 1840. He operated it for many years. After him Hiram McGraw and Mr. Graves owned it for a time ; then Hiram Fassett and next Pike & Morey ran it. David Morey has owned it for ten yeas or more.

McGrawville has always been the center of considerable manufacturing. Daniel A. Thompson , the pioneer blacksmith , came to the village in 1817 , when he was twenty years od , and established a shop on the street leading towards Freetown , the same now occupied by F.C. Topping. He continued the business up to 1880 , a period of sixty-three years. The blacksmith shop now used by Lucius McGraw was built by Daniel H. Thompson about 1820 , and sold to Stillman Eaton , the second blacksmith in the place. Lucius McGraw has now blown a bellows for thirty-six years. His son , D. McGraw , and Lewis Warren also each have blacksmith shops , but they are of latter origin. Lucius McGraw , a son of William , is the father of Dell McGraw , the latter being great grandson of Samuel McGraw , and now owning the original homestead.

The "old red shop" in the village was built by Lester Graves a few years after the erection of the mill , and was used by him as a wagon shop for a long time. It passed finally into the hands of James Delavan ; then to Newton Blackmer , by whom it was transformed into a pump factory but in 1874 J.R. Holmes purchased the property and it is now used for the purposes for which it was originally erected.

Dell McGraw and Lewis Warren each have wagon factories in connection with their blacksmithing business.

Wm. Pike and sons have been in the place a long time and are well known in the vicinity as successful mechanics.

The first tannery in the village was built by Deacon Morgan in 1809. It was a small affair and stood opposite of what is now the Central House and on ground occupied by the residence of Deloss McGraw. It did not have many years' existence. In 1848 M. & W. Webster carried on the business , and in 1849 David Corey came to the village from Homer where he had successfully engaged in the same occupation at Little York , for twenty-eight years , and continued it here until 1856. He died at Homer , Aug. 16th , 1874. H.D. Corey , his son , began in the tanning business with his father in 1854 , under the firm name of D. Corey & Company ; the firm was composed of David Corey , H.D. Corey ad Thomas Boland. This firm continued until 1860 when H.D. Cory took it alone and has successfully carried it on since.

Carding-mills and cloth-dressing , as a business , was extensively carried on in this place in early days ; but we have obtained no definite dates regarding it , other than that Kinney & Lewis were engaged in it as early as 1820. Perry Sanders bought out Eben Wilcox and John Peak in 1834 and continued the business for ten years thereafter. Others followed in the industry , but it has been abandoned now for many years.

The leading industry of McGrawville and this part of the State was established in 1874 in a very small way by the Warner Brothers. Owing to the peculiar beginning of the manufacture of corsets here and the marvelous results that have been attained , this manufacture deserves more than a passing notice ; insomuch , also , as these brothers have now the largest factory of the kind in the world , located at Bridgeport , Conn., have amassed great wealth , and one of them but recently gave his alma mater (Oberlin College) $50,000 , their part in the establishment of this great business becomes of interest and importance.

Dr.L.C. Warren located himself some years ago in the village , to practice his profession. He was not more than moderately successful and finally abandoned it to enter the lecture field , where he made an especial feature of demonstrating the injury to women through the use of corsets. After a period of this work he decided that women's vanity was more powerful than his lectures upon sanitary rules and he resolved to attack the evil from another direction. Guided by his medical knowledge and after the dissection of nearly all of the different corsets then in use , he designed one which would do the least possible injury , while it would answer the requisite purpose of giving symmetrical shape to the form of the wearer. About the year 1873 he began experimenting in the manufacture of the new corset. Moss G. Smith was then a tailor in the village , and also postmaster , working at his trade when his official duties did not require his attention. To him Dr. Warner took one yard of cloth , with the patterns he had designed , and had him make a corset. It was tested on his wife and found to be a perfect success.

The doctor accordingly took two yards of cloth , which was made up into corsets : these were quickly disposed of and more called for. He then bought five more yards of cloth , next ten yards , and the demand for the new corset was such that he soon purchased two whole pieces containing forty-five yards of cloth each , and employed Mr. Smith on a salary of $900 a year. To accept this position he resigned his postmastership , an act never before performed in that place and one not often done in any place. "Sweet Hall" was soon afterward leased and subsequently bought , and here the brothers , L.C. & I. Warner , began their business. In the year 1876 Mr. Smith made out the pay rolls for the firm and the list of men employed showed 115. In that year the factory was removed to Bridgeport , Conn., where they now employ about 900 hands.

The business was taken up by two men in McGrawville , who partially failed in it and were bought out by P.H. & A.P. McGraw (his son) in 1877. At that time thirty-two sewing machines were operated in the business. This number has since been increased to 220 , and over 400 hands are employed. The machines are run by steam-power , and large and convenient buildings have been erected for the accommodation of the work. In addition to the hands employed in the factory , piece work is given out to women living in the village and vicinity. Those in the factory earn from $1.00 to $1.20 per day , while the amount paid to outside help aggregates an enormous. The production is over half a million corsets annually , which include sixteen different styles , at prices ranging from 50 cents to $10.

This firm is in possession of the wedding corset of Miriam Budd , who married in church at Rye , Westchester county , N.Y., in 1730. This corset had been buried seven years at the time of the Revolutionary war. As a relic and as showing the contrast between the corsets of that period and those made by this firm , they consider it almost invaluable. It contains 225 whale-bones , while those made by McGraw & Son contain no bones , but are stiffened by coraline , a substitute that does not break ; this with the elastic covering over the hips , makes a corset that yields to every movement of the body.

This village is supplied with two good hotels , which offer excellent accommodations to travelers , who can reach the place by stage from Cortland three times a day , and once a day to and from Cincinnatus. The Central House is the older of the two , and was built by Samuel McGraw as early as 1828 , and the present building as early as 1837-38. Mr. McGraw kept the hotel himself for a number of years. Elisha Coburn , who had built his dwelling house in 1830 , kept the tavern in 1832-33 , and Samuel McGraw , jr., now of Homer , took the house in 1854 and kept it a number of years. M.W. Conger , the present proprietor , came into the hotel in 1884.

The Empire House was built by Daniel A.Thompson as a place of business in 1835. It was used as a store until purchased by Samuel Hammond in the spring of 1876 , and refitted for a public house. It was bought at that time of Morris B. Coffee and C.F. Beers and immediately enlarged.

The first postmaster of McGrawville was the Hon. Henry McGraw. He was appointed in 1827 and held the office to the time of his death in 1849. He was a prominent man in the county and was sent to the Legislature in 1843. He died at the age of fifty-two years.

The present postmaster is Charles A. Jones , who succeeded Moses G. Smith in the month of October , 1874.

The first physician in the village was Dr. Hiram Brockway. He came here in 1832 , but remained for only one or two years. Drs. Charles Kingman , Webster , Potter , Wiggins , Hill and Scranton practiced here later. Dr. Henry C. Mendrick is the oldest physician now in the place. He came from Willet to McGrawville in 1857. He practices in the old school and is now in partnership with Dr._____Smith , who came here some five years ago.

This village was incorporated in may , 1869. Pierce Warren was the first president ; W.H. Tarble , clerk. On the 19th of January , 1869 , the first meeting was held preparatory to incorporation. It was held in the office of Pierce Warren , and C. A. Jones was made clerk , pro tem ; Thomas B. Chafee was appointed trustee to fill vacancy ; Ranson Warren , street commissioner ; Hiram D. Corey , clerk ; Noah H. Osborne , pound master. The board voted $300 to repair streets and also gave names to the streets , the principal one being called Main street. The fire department was organized at the same time , with R.H. Graves as chiel engineer ; he was instructed to raise a company of not less than thirty nor more than fifty men. Frank Wheelock is the present chief engineer. The company use a hand engine.

The present officers of the village are :--
J.W. Cudworth , president.
W.J. Van Auken , clerk
A.P. McGraw , R.H. Graves , Lewis Warren , Chas. S. Kinney , trustees.

Churches.---The Presbyterian Church of McGrawville was organized March 1st , 1833. The meeting was held at the house of Lester Graves , under direction of the Rev. M.E. Johnson , and Rev. Mr. Fields. O.W. Brewster , P. Cravath , Aaron Smith , Jonathan Taylor were elected and ordained elders. There were present at the meeting , Jonathan and Phoebe Taylor , Aaron Smith and his wife Sarah , Dr. Hiram S. Brockway , Fidelia Brockway , Lester Graves and Olive Graves , Austin Graves , Marcus McGraw , Zenas A Bryant , Polly Graves , Chloe Tracy , Calista Coburn , Mary J. Hicks , Minerva McGraw , Caroline H. Allen , Caroline Smith , Arminda Russell , James Morey , Lewis Day. The Rev. E.B. Fancher , the first pastor after the organization of the society , remained in charge 27 years ; he died in 1865 , and was the father of the present editor of the McGrawville Sentinel. Mr. Fancher was succeeded by Rev. W. H. Bates , two years ; Rev. Geo. Bayless , ten years ; Rev. Chas. S. Coon , ten months ; Rev. J. G. Blue , the present pastor , came in July , 1882. Before the pastorate of Mr. Bates the form of the church government was changed from Presbyterian to Congregational , but during his pastorate was again changed to its former government. The first house of warship was erected in 1833 , and at intervals of twenty-five years has since been extensively repaired and improved. The ruling elders are now J. Ralston Holmes , Deloss McGraw , E.P. Fancher , H.C. Hendrick , H.D. Corey , Wm. Carr , The deacons are John Tanner , Harvey D. Waters. The trustees are P.H. McGraw , Noah Osborne , H.D. Corey ,C.L. Kinney , G.L. Baker and Wm. Carr.

The Baptist Church was organized in 1831 with sixteen members , whose names were as follows ; Russell Warren and wife , Deacon Pierce and wife , Deacon Forshee and wife , Israel Palmer and wife , Joshua Rogers and wife , Russell Dodge and wife , Mr. Greenwood and wife. Elder Dye was the first pastor ; he remained with the church until he lost his voice , a period of sixteen years. He was followed by Elders Savage , Day , Alfred Bennett , Stone , Westcott , Smith and Elder Grant , the present preacher , who came in June , 1883. The deacons are now Nicholas Starr and Chas. Kinney. The trustees are W.C. Shuler , Chas. Kinney , Arthur Chapin , Ransom Warren , John Kenfield and Cornelius Forshee. The first church edifice was erected in 1831 ; it has since been remodeled and improved , the last time in 1865. The membership is 150.

The original meetings held by the Methodists of McGrawville were in a school-house on lands then owned by Wm. Shearer , now owned by Reuben Shearer , his son , and on lot 59. John Lyon and wife , his sons William , James and Andrew and their wives , Alva Burnham and wife , Mrs. Haskill and one or two others , were the original members of this society. In 1834 the church building was erected in McGrawville and thereafter the society worshipped there. The church records reach back to the year 1843 , at which time L.E. Weaver was pastor and SD. Brooks , local preacher. The stewards have been Jehiel Rose , Rufus Roe , Stillman Holden , Linus Stillman , Wm. Hicks , Wm. Greenman and Ransford Palmer. The class leaders , Jehiel Rose , Luther Lyon , Alanson Houghton , Samuel Thompson , Ransford Palmer , Morgan Wolsey. The present pastor is W.D. Fox ; class leaders , J. Walker , Lucius Brooks , J.C. Alger. Trustees , David I. Brownell , jr., Albert Atkins , Peter Baljay , P.H. Henry , Helmer Jacobs. The church has now 151 members.


This is a small hamlet situated about two and a half miles southwest of Cortland village. There is but little business done here at the present time , although in early days the inhabitants in the vicinity entertained anticipations that it would be a thriving business center.

In the year 1822 Nathan W. Rowley came from Catskill and occupied a tract of some four hundred acres of land which he had purchased of speculators at his own home. He built a large two story house and kept a tavern in the place until his death in 1830. The house burned in 1858. He also was the first postmaster in the place , retaining the office until his death , when it passed into the charge of his son Philemon Rowley. His successors were Darius Sanders , Enos Smith , Darius Sanders and A.P. Rowley , the present incumbent , who took office in 1861.

In 1831 Philemon Rowley built the first store in the place. He was born in 1800 , on the Hudson river and was married when 24 years old , to Mary S. Curtis , a daughter of Gideon Curtis the pioneer merchant of Little York. Mr. Rowley came to South Cortland in 1826 and bought the place now owned by the heirs of Darius Sanders ; the latter was a brother of Charles Sanders the school book author. Mr. Rowley drew his goods from Albany for his store , which he conducted until the year 1833 , when he went to Michigan to live. The store was then sold to Gilbert Edgcomb , after whose management for a time it was abandoned. The building was long used as a weaver's shop by David Sanders. There is now no store at South Cortland. The second store was built by W. Sturtevant in 1832 , but it was used as such for only a short period.

In early years there was considerable business done here , and the citizens were apparently justified in their hopes of it being a thriving business center. A newspaper was published for a while--the South Cortland Luminary--and Mr. Rowley ran two four-horse stages between Cortland and Owego. Travel was heavy and the prospects were good for growth. But business was finally drawn to other sections and the hamlet has passed through the same experience of many others , sacrificing itself to aid in the growth of others more fortunately located. In 1842 a Mr. Foote built a structure where he lived and manufactured combs for six or eight years.

The grist-mill was built here in 1834 or 1835 , by Gilbert Edgcomb , who had also a saw-mill on Big brook. In 1865 A.P. Rowley bought the grist-mill , which he owned until the present year , when he sold the property to Daniel McNish. The mill has not been run since 1883 , and there is now none in the immediate vicinity.

In a newspaper of June , 1819 , we find an announcement that Samuel Eaton had "commenced burning marl line for the season at his pond 3 miles southwest of Cortland village," There are several of these ponds near South Cortland , which have already alluded to. They have been a source of considerable income to their different owners since the first settlement of this section.

The first religious society at South Cortland was organized in 1839 , when a subscription paper was circulated for the building of a house of worship for the "Christians , " or Disciples ; the subscriptions were as follows ; Zera Tanner , $100 ; Reuben Cadwell , $50 ; Reuben Cadwell , jr., $100 ; Alva Jarvis , $12.50 ; Richard Crandall , $3.50 ; Asa Wilcox , $5.00 ; James Swan , $15. The church was erected in 1840 and Elder David Wade was the first pastor ; he remained but two or three years and was followed by Elders Buzzell and Wm. J. Grimes , who was the last regular pastor and remained about twelve years , leaving in 1864. Since then the society has gradually declined and now has no organization.

The Methodists never had a society in the place , but some of that denomination formed a class and called to their aid ministerial aid at various times. Ezra Rood , his son Reuben , Asher Wilcox , Zina Ford and others were prominent in this work. They never had a church building here.

Among the earliest settlers in this portion of the town we may mention Wm. Hatfield , who came from Herkimer county and located on lot 62. He had for neighbors Chauncey Jones , who settled where Daniel Terry now lives. Timothy Allen , who located where Thomas Tillinghast lives. Christopher Bowman , who located where Silas Schermerhorn lives. Jabez Calkins and Hezekiah Howe. Abel Benedict also located at an early day on lot 61 , as did also Reuben ad Ezekiel Wordsworth. Zera Tanner came from Otsego county to South Cortland in 1832 ; he died in 1861.

South Cortland and vicinity forms one of the best farming districts in the county , the land being level or gently rolling , and the inhabitants are many of them well-to-do.


This is a station and hamlet on the D.L. & W. railroad , about two and a half miles southeast of Cortland village. The earliest settler in this was probably Leonard Tisdale , who came from Massachusetts in 1804 , and located on the site now occupied by Charles Sprague.

Ezra Corwin was an early settler , and also Samuel McGraw. We have already alluded to the fact in the general county history , that Nathan Blodgett and Jonathan Hubbard , the prominent pioneers , built a grist-mill at this point at an early day. Mr. Blodgett came here in 1805 and purchased lands where his grandson , Alonzo now lives. The mills at Blodgett's Mills was probably built within the following year ; at any rate , it was very soon after his arrival. The two pioneers first put up a saw-mill and the grist-mill was subsequently , and not long afterward , erected. This property was divided in 1834. The saw-mill is now owned by Byron Utley and the grist-mill by Philo Moses.

The first store at this place was built by James Burt about the year 1840 , and about the year 1852 James Tanner built a store on the east side of the river , where he did business a number of years. He also built the house , now used as a hotel by A. Skeel , in 1863 , in which he carried on a shoemaking business until 1879. Mr. Tanner's son , Edgar , owns the store property and carries on the business there now.

Teed & Wallace owned a carding-mill at this place many years ago , which they operated a long time , but the dates we have been unable to obtain. It was afterward owned by R.P. Tanner who ran it for eight years when it was burned.

The first store on the site now owned by John Hubbard was built by Nelson Owen. He was succeeded in business by James Freer ; the building was subsequently burned. R.P. Tanner then began business on the site and was followed by Mr. Hubbard , the present occupant.

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