The Town of Butternuts


Image and text from Otsego county New York Geographical and Historical
by Edwin F Bacon, Ph B. 1902 Oneonta NY

Page 19. BUTTERNUTS. Area 26,008 Acres. Population 1,698.

Butternuts was formed from Unadilla in 1796. Its surface is a hilly
upland rising from the Unadilla river, which bounds it on the west, in a
series of steep bluffs to the height of 500 or 600 feet. Butternuts
Creek flows southwest through a deep valley near the center of the town. A large number of smaller streams flow through valleys among the hills, dividing the ridges and giving to the region a peculiarly broken

Gilbertsville, formerly called Butternuts, is the only village in the
township. The following graphic description of it is abridged from a
sketch published in the local paper, the Otsego Journal. "The village
is located in a beautiful valley. On the west a high hill rises abruptly. Downward through the hills extends a deep ravine into which a
little brook flows, in springtime rushing down with the violence of a
mountain torrent and in summer rippling gently over the stones on its
way through the heart of the village. Toward the east the valley
stretches away for some distance. Through this valley flows the
Butternuts Creek on its winding course. This stream is spanned in three
places at roads leading directly into the village by iron bridges. On
the hill just south of the village are situated the fine residences of
Thos. Swinyard and N.C. Chapman, who make Gilbertsville their summer home. The site of the village was included in the Patent of 35,000 acres of land granted by the state to Lewis and Richard Morris as indemnity for property destroyed during the Revolution. The name
Butternuts was derived from the descriptions in the Morris and Wharton
Patents, all beginning at "Three Butternut Trees" growing from one stump or root. The Messrs. Morris divided their Patent by lot. General Jacob Morris received from his father, Lewis Morris, a tract of 5,000 acres.

"Abijah Gilbert of Warwickshire, England, came to America in 1786,
spending the winter with relatives in New Jersey. It was here he met
Richard and Lewis Morris and purchased a tract of 1,000 acres for which he paid 51 pounds, 8s, 8d. before seeing the wilderness that was to become his home. The original tract included the portion where
Gilbertsville now stands, reaching away through the Butternuts valley
and back on the hills bounding the village. In 1787 Gen. Jacob Morris
made his first expedition into the region accompanied by Mr. Gilbert,
and the settlement of the village began in the same year.

"The second settler was Joseph Cox, also of Warwickshire, England. The third settler was a woman, Betsy Nichols, and the first wedding that
which celebrated her marriage with Joseph Cox. Mr. Cox introduced the
making of English cheese, still quite an industry in that section.
Dairyng is the principal occupation at the present time.

"In those early days the timber being so abundant was of comparatively
little value. The main object of work was to clear the land for crops.
The fourth immigrant was John Marsh, an energetic young pioneer from
Connecticut. He brought a yoke of oxen of great service in logging. In
1791 Mr. Gilbert returned to England and in the following spring brought
his family to the log cabin home in America.

"Two sons of Abijah Gilbert, John Y. and Joseph T., who had been
attending school at Schenectady, came to the settlement in 1799. About
the same time came also William Musson and Samuel Cotton, with whom Mr. Gilbert formed a business partnership under the name of Musson, Cotton and Gilbert. This firm established a store on the Musson farm in 1806. Religious services were held for some time in Mr. Gilbert's barn, and the first religious society was formed in 1797."

Edward Thorp was a pioneer north of the village. His son Henry was a
member of Assembly in 1873. Charles Root, the father of Mayor Charles P. Root, was an early settler in the eastern part of the township. The Shaw brothers, Deacon Samuel, Col. David and William came from
Massachusetts in 1796.

Other pioneers who are honorably remembered were Capt. John Bryant, and the brothers Levi and Thomas Halbert. Levi Halbert was the first
teacher in the town. The first supervisor was Lewis Franchot
(1796-'98), and the first town clerk Hezekiah Dayton (1796-1805).

SCHOOLS: Number of districts, 15. Number of teachers, 15. Children of school age, 320.

The Gilbertsville High School occupies the substantial stone building
formerly used by the Academy. It is under the control of the Regents of
the University of the State, and grants Regents' diplomas. It provides
a classical course of four years. It is well supplied with apparatus,
maps, and anatomical models. Pupils have access also to the excellent
village library. The faculty of the school consists of a principal and
four assistants.

CHURCHES: At Gilbertsville, Baptist, Episcopal, Methodist, and

NEWSPAPERS: The Otsego Journal, published at Gilbertsville.
Established 1876.

Transcribed by Karen Flanders Eddy. 

Return to previous page

Otsego County Home Page