1925 Centennial History of Sandy Creek, NY  
The Town of Sandy Creek-Early History 

Source:  Centennial Souvenir History 1825 - 1925 of the Town of Sandy Creek, Oswego County, New York, Commemorating the One Hundredth Anniversary of the Founding of the Town July 2-3-4-5, 1925.  Compiled by T. T. Davies, Historian. 

Part I

     Out of monuments, dames, words, proverbs, traditions, private records and evidences, fragments of stories, passages of books, and the like, we do save and recover somewhat from the deluge of time. It is well to consider the days of old, and meditate upon the past, in order to appreciate what preceding generations have accomplished, the sacrifices they have made, and the sufferings they have endured to advance civilization in the world. With this in view we purpose to  save from oblivion some of the incidents, which transpired in the town of Sandy Creek in the long ago. It was on the 24th day of March, 1825, that the town was formed with its present boundaries, 
by an act of the legislature. Originally, it was included in the 
extensive Boylston tract and formed a part of the survey township of "Rhadamant" or No. 10., and at the time of its first settlement, was the property of the heirs of William Constable, of whom H. B. Pierre- pont was the principal. The town is bounded on the north by Ellis- burg, in Jefferson county, on the east by Boylston and Orwell, on the south by Richland and on the west by Lake Ontario. 

     On the first of May, 1825, the newly formed town held its first town meeting at the residence of Nathan Salisbury when the following officers were elected.: 

Supervisor, Senior Meacham; 
Town Clerk, Edwin C. Hart; 
Assessors, Anson Maltby, Thomas S. Meacham and Amasa Carpenter; 
Commissioners of Highways, Barnabas Munroe, Amasa Carpenter, Ellery Crandall and Simon Hadley; 
Overseers of the Poor, George Read and Truman Hawley;
Collector, John Pierce; 
Constables, John Pierce, Peter Hinman and Nathan Salisbury; 
Commissioners of Schools, Asa Carpenter, Alden Crandall and Charles Alton; 
Inspectors of Schools, John G. Ayer, Oliver Ayer, Sr., and Joseph M. Hooker; 
Fence-Viewers, Cornelius Hadley, Ammi Case, and Andrew Place; 
Pound-Master, Luther Howe. 
At the same meeting it was voted to raise double the money received from the State for school purposes, to pay commissioners fifty cents per day for their services, to levy two hundred and fifty dollars for roads and bridges, to allow cattle to roam at will from Spring to the first of November, and that all legal fences should be five feet high. Thus the first town meeting, somewhat inauspicious, was prophetic of the part the town was destined to play in the political life of the County, State and Nation. 

The land of which the town of Sandy Creek is a part and all the territory stretching from the St. Lawrence along the south shore of Lake Ontario, to Niagara Falls and extending southward from said 
shore, practically the whole width of the State, was undisputably the property of the Iroqois Indians, called the Five Nations, composed of the Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas and Senecas. Oswego County belonged to the Oneidas as their hunting ground. In 1779 the Governor of the State of New York called a council of the representa- tives of the Indian nations to consider overtures to purchase by the State the titles of their lands, at which time, by mutual understanding, the Indians transferred their claim to all the lands in the State of New York, exceping a few reservations, here and there, for the exclusive abode of the Indians. This rich domain, with scenery unsurpassed and abounding in mineral and precious things, was bought for a nominal sum, not much better than the string of beads paid their ancestors for Manhattan Island, whose land today is fabulous in value. Upon acquiring a clear title to the land, the state took steps to dispose of it to speculators and homeseekers, at what appears now a paltry figure. 

     In 1791 George Scriba and Alexander McComb purchased of the State the whole of Oswego County, and a part of Jefferson, at eight cents per acre, but McComb, failing to pay his part of the sum stipu- lated in the agreement, the patent to his land passed into the hands of William Constable, known thereafter as Constable purchase, and to that title all lands sold in Sandy Creek in the early days revert. This tract of land, covered with luxuriant growth of hemlock, pine, maple and other species of trees, incident to this part of the State, upon the death of said Constable, became the property of the late Hezekiah B. Pierrepont and later his son William C. inherited the estate, who encouraged families from other parts of the country to settle on his forest land, and made it possible for people of limited means to secure land and homes for themselves and descendants. The cry of that day was not "Go West, young man," but go north, where the prospects of independ ence and competency were alluring. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, this section was a veritable El Dorado, sought by the adventurer, and coveted by the home lover, anxious to find a place he could call his own. 

     According to authentic records, the first white men to set foot in the town of Sandy Creek were William Skinner and Stephen Lindsey, who with their families came through the forest from Redfield, wading streams and wending their way through a trackless wilderness in the Spring of 1803. Skinner, who was considered affluent for those days, bought four hundred acres of land a little east of the now thrifty village of Lacona, on the banks of the stream now known as Sandy Creek. The appellation "Sandy" to this stream is a misnomer as stones. boulders and ledges constitute the bed formation over which its waters flow. "Rocky" Creek would better describe the nature of the stream, unless we conclude with the Bard of Avon, that there is nothing in a name, "that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." For men of the Nimrod and Walton type, no better a location could have been selected, as the forest was rich in game, and the stream alive with speckled trout, a veritable Paradise for the pioneers. In the early days, a dam was built across the stream midway between the present two villages of Lacona and Sandy Creek, to provide a swimming pool for the settlers, a necessity in the absence of other means of bathing. William Skinner, after remaining here about four years, disposed of his property to Peter Whiteside, and settled on land in Ellisburg, where his remaining days were spent. The purchaser of his land was a man that towered above his fellow men, socially and mentally, if epitaphs tell the truth. Upon the slab that marks his resting place in the old part of Woodlawn Cemetery are the following lines: 

"Here lies the body of Mr. Peter Whiteside, who departed this life in 1825.  Mr. Whiteside was an active and energentic man, cherishing a love for the fine arts and soaring sublimely above superstition and ridicule, but he ceases to delight us with his counsels, and his afflicted consort erects this monument to the memory of the man she loved."
     Steven Lindsey, not finding a suitable place to locate in this town went through Ellisburg, but returned in a few years, and bought land on the flat in the extreme northwest corner of the town, about half a mile from Wigwam Cove, better known today as Ontario Bay, which has in recent years become one of the attractive and popular summer resorts of the State, whose shores are lined with commodious and beautiful summer homes. Thus our town had a small and insignificant beginning, with the hurculean task of subduing the forest, and making a habitable place in the wilderness begun by a few heroic men, and yet all great enterprises and world-wide movements have had beginnings of a similar sort. The greatest movement of the ages was begun by one lone prophet on the banks of the Jordan, nineteen centuries ago. 

     Lindsey and Skinner were joined in the following year by Joseph Hurd and Elias Howe, natives of Angusta, Oneida County, who settled on land adjoining that of Skinner, and erected the first saw mill in town. In 1805 Mr. Hurd rejoiced in the advent of a baby girl, whom he named Laura, having the distinction of being the first white native born child in Sandy Creek, and the first death in the new settlement occurred in 1804, when Eunice, Mr. Lindsey's little daughter, passed away. The year 1805 saw an influx of several families into the settlement. George Harding, father of Mrs. Pamelia Robbins, then a girl in her teens, and grandfather of the late Gilbert N. Harding, took up land in the same neighborhood as Hurd and Howe. Little by little the pioneers grew in numbers, and as the timber was cut, and new homes dotted the landscape, the settlement commenced to wear an aspect of comfort and prosperity. The Meachams, John and Simon, and their companion, Ephraim Brewster, settled on land near the Richland line, then covered with giant pine trees, and contemporaneous" with them James Hinman bought land, which thereafter became a part of the village of Sandy Creek. He erected the first gristmill in town, and conducted a tavern when whisky was a common beverage and "personal liberty" untampered with! 

Pitt M. NewtonThe late Mr. P. M. Newton in a series of interesting articles published in The News some years ago, refers to the custom that was prevalent of "making bees." Everything was done after that fashion. A neighborly feeling existed and the spirit of helpfulness was in the air. The erection of a new barn brought together the whole community to give a helping hand; trees were cut and logs hauled to the mill after the same manner, but no "bee" was, however, complete without a good supply of intoxicants that loosened the tongue, and that too often aroused to action, men of a pugnacious nature. At Hinman's Tavern, the questions of the day were discussed, and problems, great and small, were solved. Contemporaneous with the early settlers, were Captain Nathan Noyes, father of Ira Noyes, and a Mr. Robinson and a Mr. Knickerbocker, the latter's wife dying in 1806, and the sermon preached at her funeral by an itinerant preacher was the first sermon preached in town. From the earliest days the settlement enjoyed the ministra tion of circuit riders, such as Elder Bishop and Elder Osgood and others, who through much toil and suffering visited at intervals the settlement, and held religious services in the homes of the pioneers. Church buildings were few and far between, and in many of the early settlements there were no ministers to solemnize the marriage vow, nor to read the burial service of the dead. When the mother of Abraham Lincoln passed away in the wilderness of Indiana, little Abe and his father had to wait many months before a preacher could be found to preach her funeral sermon.

     There were seasons of weeping in the life of the pioneer, but these were interspersed with seasons of rejoicing. There were love affairs that re-enacted the story of Eden, and many were the messages of affection whispered in the solitude of the forest. The story of John Alden and Priscilla was often repeated in this locality, in those primitive days. As early as 1806 a young man, by the name of Henry Patterson, courted and won a Miss Lucy Meacham, and made her his wife, and the event was long remembered by the settlers, as it was the first wedding ceremony performed in town. The bride's father was a man of influence and a leading factor in developing the material resources and social welfare of the community. The Meachams were prominent in the affairs of the town, one of whom, Colonel Thomas Meacham, distinguished himself by making a huge cheese, weighing fourteen hundred pounds, and sent it to Washington as a present to President Jackson. The Colonel's farm, on the Salt Road, about a mile from the Richland line, attracted attention, and was the subject of the neighbors' gossip, while the enormous cheese was put in form. Milk from a dairy of one hundred and fifty cows, for five successive days, was piled into a press constructed for the purpose. As this occurred ninety years ago, there are no eye witnesses left to tell the present age the story of Meacham's colossal cheese. The wagon in which the cbeese was conveyed was drawn by forty-eight gray horses, and people from farm and hamlet joined the procession the day it started on its eventful journey. Amidst the cheer and clamor of the people, the procession reached Port Ontario by way of Pulaski, when on the 15th of November, 1835, it was shipped for its destination. As the boat left the wharf cannons were fired, flags unfurled, and the wildest demonstration was in evidence. Colonel Meacham and his big cheese were the center of attraction. It was conveyed to Washington by way of Oswego., Syracuse, Albany and New York, and the enthus- iasm in its projector did not wane, nor the interest flag all along the route. In due time it reached the Capital, and was formally presented to the President of the United States in the name of the "Governor and people of the State of New York." The big cheese was left intact until February 22, 1836, when the President issued an invitation to all 
people in the capital to eat cheese. The Mark Twain of that day summoned to his aid humor and wit, to describe the occasion. "This is Washington's birthday. The President, the department, the Senate and we, the people, have celebrated it by eating a big cheese. The President's house was thrown open. The multitude swarmed it. The Senate of the United States adjourned, all for the purpose of eating cheese.  Mr. Van Buren was there to eat cheese. Mr. Webster was there to eat cheese. The court, the fashion, the beauty of Washington, were all eating cheese. It was cheese, cheese, cheese. Streams of cheese were going up in the avenue in everybody's fist. Balls of cheese were in a hundred pockets. Every handkerchief smelt of cheese. The whole atmosphere for half a mile around was infested with cheese."  Meachams were famous for things other than the making of huge cheese, as the history of the town amply shows. Simon Meacham was the first store keeper in town, and the first tavern was operated by him. As early as 1807 a log school house was erected in Lacona and even prior to that date the rudiments of education were taught in George Harding's House, his daughter, Mamrie, acting as teacher. 

     One of the familiar names in the long ago, was that of Hadley. Farms on both roads leading to Ontario Bay were cleared, owned and occupied by families of that name, who proved to be a real asset to their fellow pioneers. They possessed thrift and perseverance, so essential to meet environments in a new country. Some of the best farm houses in town were erected by members or the Hadley family. They built homes substantial and commodious, patterned for the most part after the New England style of architecture. The first of that name to locate here was Simon, grandfather of M. D. Herriman and Frank Hadley, who upon his arrival in the locality in 1806 was in the prime of life and unmarried. He cleared the farm now owned by M. J. Upton. Simon Hadley was accompanied here by Clark Wilder, and both became the progenitors of the numerous familes, who have left their impress upon the community. Amasa Carpenter and his brother, Asa, were residents here about 1809. The former cultivated his farm and taught school winters, and the latter became one of the religious leaders of the town, and filled the position of church clerk for a half century. His farm was located two miles southeast of Lacona, on the Orwell road, now owned by Soule. Deacon Asa Carpenter is remembered as a man of matured convictions, and of sterling moral worth. P. T. Titus with his family moved here in 1810, located on what was then known as the Pine Ridge, buying fifty acres of land of the Pierrepont agent, built a log house near the Henry Seeley farm. Mr. Titus was considered a man of influence, owing to his financial status, and his general bearing. His eldest daughter, who was ten years of age when the family migrated to this locality from Connecticut, was the mother of P. M. Newton, and the grandmother of many of our leading citizens. The horse team he brought with him, was a luxury, that only the well-to-do could afford in those days. During the war of 1812 his team was used in the government employ hauling supplies from Oswego to Sackets Harbor. Mr. Titus erected the first saw mill on Deer Creek near his house, and assisted in constructing the Ridge Road, which was early settled. The farms being small, the houses were near together and the community spirit was naturally fostered. There were living on this road to the south, Thomas Baker, Nathan W. Noyes, Conrad Lester, P. T. Titus, Lester, Carpenter, Rogers, Alton, Hibbard, Robbins, Hawley, Whiteside, Monroe and others. The Orwell road being laid out, the lands were bought and settled by the Hardings, Porters, Conways, Stevens and Carpenters. 

     The War of 1812 was an episode of anxiety and peril to the town of Sandy Creek, being on the immediate route between Oswego and 
Sackets Harbor, the strategic points of defence along the frontier and being within a few miles of Wigwam Cove, where troops and military equipment could be landed. They could see with naked eye the  English flag aloft English vessels, sweeping over the waters of Lake
Ontario, in search of American ships and they could see Old Glory
unfurled on their own ships, determined to sink the English fleet into
the lake's bottom, where it rightly belonged. It is said that the people of the town, one summer day, congregated at Hinman's home, to hear the gospel preached by an itinerant preacher, were greatly alarmed by being warned by another Paul Revere, who on horsback excitedly cried "The British have landed!" The meeting closed without the usual benediction, as the men rushed home to get their swords and muskets, aware that the danger was imminent. During those troublous days, which lasted two years and a half, there was not a man in town physically able and of sufficient age, that did not perform military duty, and proved to be one hundred per cent American. The people of the community measured up grandly to their responsibility by accepting as patriots, the challenge of the British. The farmers became soldiers. Lovers of peace trained themselves for war. A company was formed, with Smith Dunlap, Captain; Nicholas Gurley, Lieutenant; Samuel Dunlap, Ensign and Reuben Hadley Orderly Sergent. Col. Thomas S. Meacham trained the troops in this vicinity, and the men of Sandy Creek assisted in conveying on their shoulders the ponderous cable of the frigate Superior to Sackets Harbor. During the latter part of April, 1814, Oswego was bombarded, and captured by the British. Colonel Mitchell, accompanied by Captain Woolsey, retreated to the falls, filling the road with trees behind them, and took post there to defend their arms and munitions. Their next problem, was to transport the guns and supplies to the garrison at Sackets Harbor. This, however, was accomplished by means of nineteen large open boats, which carried guns and munitions, and twelve large cables, the main cable for the new ship Superior being one of them. This cable was of 14 ponderous dimension, weighing five tons, and 600 feet long. This strange flotilla left the harbor of Oswego at nightfall, May 28, arriving early the next day at the Mouth of Salmon river. Owing to the darkness of the night, intensified by heavy fog, one of the boats fell into the hands of the enemy, who extorted information as to the whereabouts of the other boats. The boats succeeded in entering Big Sandy Creek, and were run up the south branch, a distance of two miles from where the life saving station now is. They were soon followed by the British cruisers, which slowly advanced up the creek, and landed on the south side, but finding it difficult to proceed on account of the slippery marsh, they re-embarked, and proceeded to within a few rods of the woods. 

     Landing the second time, and forming for battle on the north bank, at a place where a store once stood. Upon landing, they were nonplused by the presence of the Americans who had made every preparation to meet the enemy. Lieutenant Woolsey was re-enforced by the neighboring militia, and by a squadron of dragoons, and a company of light artillery, who concealed his men behind bushes, and the tall grasses of the marsh. The enemy advancing within one hundred and fifty feet of the ambush, where on a signal the riflemen of Major Appling's command arose from their hiding place and fired. They aimed to kill, with results that many of the British breathed their last, their commander being among the slain. The suddenness of the attack demoralized the British ranks, and surrender became inevitable. Their loss was 19 killed, 50 wounded and 133 prisoners- not one escaped. Our loss was nominal. Some of the wounded were taken at the home of the father of the late Harley Otis, and the great grandfather of Mrs. Anna Bartlett. The victory at Big Sandy  Creek was one of the most signal victories for American arms during the war. The hauling of the cable from Big Sandy Creek to Sackets Harbor, a distance of twenty miles, reads like a chapter from the Arabian Nights. Its great length and weight seemed beyond human strength to convey it, but it proved in this case, like as in many others where there is a will, there is a way, and necessity is the mother of invention. The ox teams available had been chartered to convey the supplies and guns to the Harbor, but no provision made,  nor any prospects in sight to transport the cable, which was essential to equip the Superior for naval service. What could be done? Someone suggested that it might be borne on men's shoulders, and the suggestion was met with cheerful approval. Every man was willing and anxious to put his shoulder under the burden and in other ways assist. Marsh grass was plaited into mats for the shoulders of the men, and they were classified according to their stature. At a given signal, the load was lifted as by magic, and the line of march began. In three days the task was completed, and the cable brought to Sackets Harbor amidst the hurrahs and applause of the people. The Superior at last was equipped with her cable, and her appearance on Lake Ontario led the British commander to believe that "safety first" was a good maxim to follow. The British disappeared and offered little resistance thereafter. We have at length dwelt upon the battle of Big Sandy Creek, due to its proximity to our town, and the part played by the men of Sandy Creek in that decisive battle. 

     But to return to the years just preceding our second war with England. In 1812 Samuel Hadley father of the Simon Hadley, located northwest of the village, now known as Hadley street, then a wilderness, where the wild beast roamed at will. His son, Jesse F., was ten years old, when his father came here. Other settlers in the early days were John Snyder, John and Abel Bentley, John Darling, Samuel Goodrich, Amos Jackson, Seth Potter and a Mr. Broadway. As the years advanced, new things were achieved, more comforts were enjoyed, and brighter prospects appeared, old conditions gave way to better ones, and the general prosperity were harbingers of brighter days. 

     After peace was declared between England and the United States, a new impetus was given to immigration into this locality. In 1815 Reuben Scripture became a resident and his sons in later years were recognized for their leadership and influence in the affairs of the town. Other comers prior to 1820 were: Conrad Lester, Thomas Baker and the families of Roger, Alton, Hibbard, Hawley, Monroe, Robbins, Sage, Carpenter, Howlett and others. Julius Robbins came here with his parents in 1818 when a child two years old, the former family home being Palmyra, N. Y. He entered mercantile business, and filled positions of trust and responsibility in the community. His brother Benjamin, a little younger than he, was a man of force and initiative nature, who was prominent in all secular and religious enterprises that touched the lives of the people. The Salisburys, Reuben, Rufus, Nathan and Daniel, wended their way hither in 1820, and became leading factors in the financial, social, political and religious life of the community. They were natives of Vermont, and millers by trade. Reuben, born in 1799, erected a mill at Hadley's Glen, and Lacona. He became intensely interested in the slavery question. That was many years before John Brown agitated the freedom of the negroes. His sympathies with the slaves led him to settle on land near Petersburg, Va., where he hired siaves to do his work, allowing them to be present as he conducted family worship. His attitude excited suspicion, and upon searching his house for evidence against him, he was ordered to leave the country, which he did, forfeiting his farm property. His cousin, Mason Sillisbury second, had imbibed anti-slavery views and assisted in hiding slaves, running away from the South to Canada. He was a miller by trade, and represented his district at Albany. His father, Reuben Salisbury and the great grandfather of Colonel Lucius A. Salisbury, was a lieutenant in the War of 18 I 2, and his grandson, M. J., rallied to the colors in 1861, and bore in his body the scars of battle till the day of his death. Deacon Enos Salisbury deserves a place among the pioneers.  Most of his long and beneficient life was spent here, and his Christian fervor is well remembered.  Nathan Salisbury conducted a hostelry on the north side of the creek, opposite the Joyner and Hirschey building, and was succeeded by his son, Benjamin.  This landmark was destroyed by fire forty years ago.  Among the early storekeepers, was Smith Dunlap and among the enterprises was a carding machine and a fulling mill, erected by Anson Maltby.  This business was bought by J. M. Hooker, who for thirty years manufactured "full cloth" for the use of the people.

Part II

Back to Town of Sandy Creek

Back to Oswego County NYGenWeb

Copyright © June 2003Laura Perkins 
All Rights Reserved