History of The Butternut Valley

The Butternut Valley
In Early Years
A History
By Minnie B Rockwell

The following history received the first prize
offered by the Morris Chronicle to the pupils of
the Morris Union School, academic department.
Published in the Chronicle March 26, 1895.

This beautiful and picturesque valley is in the state of New York, the county of Otsego, and extends through the towns of Burlington, New Lisbon, Morris and Butternuts.

Its beauty is much increased by the clear sparkling waters of the Butternut creek, which, having its source among the wooden rills in the northern part of the town of Burlington, courses its way in a southwesterly direction through the above named towns, and discharges its waters in the Unadilla river, which forms the western boundary of the town of Butternuts.

This placid stream was first known as the Tienuderrah river, and is supposed to have received its present name from the butternut trees, which, in the early history of this valley were so numerous.

Gen. Jacob Morris has the honor of being the first white man that ever attempted the navigation of the Butternut creek.

The narrow tract of fertile land on either side of this stream, consists of rolling hills, some of which reach an elevation of from five hundred to six hundred feet above the surrounding country.

The climate is very healthful, and the people may consider themselves fortunate and happy, who have taken up their abode in such a pleasant valley.

To further describe the attractiveness of the Butternut Valley we will quote the words of a former citizen who said, "This valley is the most beautiful and fertile valley in the state of New York."

We will now give a brief history of that part of each town included in the valley, beginning with Burlington, which is the most northern, and proceeding in order to the most southern.

The present town of Burlington was formed from Otsego in 1792, but has since been diminished in area, by a part being set off as Pittsfield in 1797, and by the organization of Edmeston in 1808.

This part of the valley remained uninhabited during that period, in which the first settlements were being made in the lower Butternut creek valley, but settlements being made as early as 1790, the little colony soon became prosperous.

Burlington Green, which may be considered as the first village at the head of this valley, has not seemed as progressive in latter years as in former ones. The Baptist and United Presbyterian churches remain as memorials of its former prosperity. In 1793 the Baptist denomination formed the first religious organization in the town of Burlington. This church has had two houses of worship, the first being erected in 1804, and the present one in 1839. The United Presbyterian church was organized in 1835.

The Butternut Valley Cemetery Association was incorporated in 1872. This cemetery, which is located in the town of Burlington, is considered as one of the most finely situated of our small country cemeteries.

The territory embraced in the present town of New Lisbon was at first a part of the town of Otsego. It afterwards comprised a portion of the town of Burlington, still later it was set off from Burlington as Pittsfield, and in 1806 formed the town of Lisbon. This name was retained until 1808, when it received its present prefix.

The first settlements were made in 1773, and are closely connected with those of Morris. Garrattsville, a small but pleasantly situated settlement, located in the north-western part of this town, derives its name from John Garratt, who was the first settler in this vicinity. It contains two religious organizations - the Methodist Episcopal and the United Presbyterian. The former was organized in 1889 and a house of worship erected in 1841, and the church edifice of the latter was built in 1870, the organization not occurring until 1879.

In the southwestern part of the town of New Lisbon we find the little hamlet of Stetsonville, which derived its name from a prominent citizen known as John Stetson. [He is still living at an advanced age in Farmington, Ill.]

Still farther to the southwest, but on the opposite or eastern side of the creek, is located the quiet village of Noblesville, having received its name in honor of Elnathan Noble, one of its early pioneers. In 1805 the first Congregational church in this town was organized in this village, and a church edifice erected at an early date.

About a mile and a half east of Louisville, (now Morris) and comprised in the town of Morris, is the little hamlet of Elm Grove. The Elm Grove factory, for the manufacture of woolen goods, broadcloth and satinets, was built by Robert L. Bowne & Co. , in 1815, and being burned in 1819, was rebuilt, but was afterward but little used. The stone factory below Morris village was built in 1825, and business began in it in 1826.

The town of Morris was originated from Butternuts April 6, 1849. The town of Butternuts, with which Morris was connected, derives its name from three butternut trees growing from one stump, which marked the corner of the three towns of Pittsfield, New Lisbon and Butternuts. This village was first called Louisville, in honor of Louis, brother of Paschal Franchot; but trouble having been produced by Louisville wishing to be separated from Butternuts, the dispute was finally settled by giving it the name of Morris, in honor of Gen. Jacob Morris. The first settlement was made in the 70s by a widow lady named Rosseau with her three sons, from the city of Paris, and Francis Cockerell and the village was incorporated Feb. 26, 1870, one century after. This village has been, and it is at the present time, the most populous and progressive settlement in the Butternut Valley. In 1824 there were 29 houses with 160 inhabitants, while thirty years before there was not a framed house in the town.

Among the first pioneers to find homes in this part of the valley were Paschal Franchot and brothers, emigrants from France, and the Morris, Lull and Van Rensselaer families. Ebenezer Knapp and Increase Thurston who came from eastern homes, sought to make a settlement in an unbroken wilderness in 1772. [These two men were probably the first settlers in the valley.]

But their quiet and prosperous homes were soon disturbed by the Oneida Indians, as were also the other early settlements made in this valley, and the colonists were driven away in 1778; but after an exile of five years, they returned, and gave new life to their first settlement. Many interesting incident are recorded, which tell of the difficulties which the first inhabitants encountered, and the true patriotic spirit with which they met them. Particularly do these accounts relate to those over-shadowed years, known in history as the Revolutionary period.

It was after the firing of the first gun of the Revolutionary War at Lexington, and also after the British soldiers had captured the husband and father of Mrs. Lull, that the Indians visited her lonely cottage; but after demolishing the buildings, and witnessing the bravery of this remarkable woman, the savages released her, and told her to go to her father's home, the place which she had in view when captured. She afterward succeeded in reaching Cherry Valley, where she joined her husband, and from this place they made their escape just before the terrible Cherry Valley massacre.

Although in the midst of great trouble, the early settlers of this valley did not forget their great Guide and Protector, and the Baptist church of the village of Morris, may be said to have had its origin in the devotional exercises of these pioneers; two of whom, coming to this town in 1772, were church members. The first Baptist church was erected in 1816, and was located about two miles northeast of the present house of worship. The second, which was dedicated in 1841, is now known as the Masonic Hall, and the present church edifice was built in 1869. "The Baptists have the honor to have been the evangelical pioneers in this valley;" and the first breathing words of prayer to ascend from this valley were offered "by a Baptist church member, no Christian being within sixteen miles of his closet."

The organization of Zion church dates back to the early history of this valley, and the Harmony church, which was erected in 1801, is said to have been the first Episcopal church built in Otsego county. In 1818 the present church edifice was built and called Zion church.

The Methodist Episcopal society of this village is supposed to have been formed in 1828, but the present house of worship, improvements having since been made, was not built until 1845.

The first Universalist sermon preached in Morris was in 1838, and in 1841 a church was erected.

The organization of the Friends church is also identified with the early history of this valley, a house of worship being erected in 1811. The present meeting house was built by Robert L. Bowne about 1817.

In 1818 the school of Morris, then called Louisville, was taught by Samuel Drew. The school building having obtained its present site the first teacher was Alvin McCollum, and in Oct. 1869, the Morris Union Academic School was organized. In the history of this town, education seems to have kept pace if not in advance of other interests, and today the Morris Union School has the enviable reputation of being among the first Union Schools in the county.

In 1846 the first local newspaper of this village, the County Courier, was edited by Mr. W. H. Winans, and existed eleven months.

The publication of the next paper, the Village Advertiser, was begun by A.S. Avery in about 1850, and continued for four or five years, issued as a quarterly.

In 1866 the Otsego Chronicle was started by William A. Smith, and in 1869 it passed into the hands of L.P. Carpenter, founder of the Oneonta Herald; and its name being changed to Morris Chronicle, is now successfully published by L.P. and E.E. Carpenter.

The first banking house of this town was established by Ansel C. Moore in 1856, but Mr. Moore retiring, the business was continued by his son Albert G. Moore, and his son-in-law, Mr. Cooke, under the firm name of A.G. Moore and Co. , then by Jas. E. Cooke and Co. Until 1885. The first marriage in the settlement in the town of Morris, was that of Joseph Lull and Martha Knapp, in 1776.

But sorrow and affliction is found in the history of this, as in other settlements. Records seem to conflict as to the first death in the valley; but it is stated that the first white person known to die here was Censa, the infant daughter of Gen. Morris, who died July 2, 1791, and the stone which was erected over the little slumberer's grave is therefore thought to be the oldest in the valley. It is also recorded that the first death in the town of Morris was that of Elizabeth, wife of Benjamin Lull, and daughter of Ebenezer Knapp.

Hillington Cemetery was laid out in 1862; the first burial there was Mrs. Leonard.

Perhaps the saddest event in the history of this valley was the circumstances and death of Miss Hannah Cooper, sister of Fenimore Cooper, the great novelist. She was riding a sprightly horse near the home of her betrothed, [Morris Manor], when her horse becoming frightened, she was thrown to the ground and in an instant "the black camel of death kneeled at her door." The following is the inscription upon her monument:

"Sacred to the memory of Miss Hannah Cooper, daughter of the Honorable William Cooper and Elizabeth his wife. In the bloom of youth, in perfect health, and surrounded with her virtues, on the 10th day of September 1800, she was instantly translated from this world. Thrown from her horse on the spot on which this monument is erected. Sensible, gentle, amiable. In life beloved, in death lamented by all who knew her. Unconscious of her own perfections, she was a stranger to ambition but that of doing good. By her death the tender joys of an affectionate father, the fond expectations of a delighted mother, in an instant were blasted. Passenger Stop! And for a moment reflect that neither accomplishment of Person, nor great improvements of mind, nor yet greater goodness of heart can arrest the hand of Death. But she was prepared for that immortality in which she believed and of which she was worthy. To departed worth and excellence, this monument is erected, this tribute of affection is inscribed by a friend, this 1st day of January, 1801."

In 1849 the town clock was purchased by subscription. Before this a man was paid by subscription about $25 a year to ring the Episcopal church bell at sunrise, twelve M and nine P.M.

The exhibition of the first Fair and Cattle Show in this county was held at Butternuts now Morris, in 1835, and those since exhibited have continued to be a success.

The manners and costumes of the first inhabitants of Morris, as of other parts of the valley settled at that time, although they may seem peculiar to us, show by contrast the great progress of civilization. A few of their habits we will here relate.

The stage coach was considered as a curiosity, and according to law, when it came within eighty rods of the postoffice, the drive blew a horn. The writing paper, pens and lead pencils were all of the simplest material, and the only instrument used by a doctor was the lancet. There were no envelopes, but the sheet of paper being folded, was then sealed. The postage on a letter was as follows: To Garrattsville, 6 cents; to Cooperstown, 10 cents; to Albany, 12 cents; to New York 18 3/4 cents, and to Philadelphia, 25 cents. Cooking stoves being at that early date unknown, a fire-place was seen in every home. As there were no matches with which to ignite wood, the fire (or coals) was covered each night (without the ringing of the Curfew bells) so as to keep the fire until morning. But should it chance to go out, the nearest neighbor received a morning call from the unfortunate one, and from his lowly cottage were taken coals to start a fire in the distant home. Sometimes flint and steel were used to produce a flame, and persons having a gun often resorted to its use to produce those "glowing embers which teach light to counterfeit a gloom." The shoes for the household were made by a shoemaker (cobbler), who, going to the farmer's house where he was supplied with leather, soon made a sufficient number for the years supply of the whole family.

In this history of this valley, the town of Morris is very noticeable as having furnished many distinguished men, the following of whom are some of the most prominent:

We learn of Francis Rotch as being one of the leading agriculturists of the State, and he was respected as a man of great benevolence.

Pascal Franchot, one of the first settlers of this town, held several political offices. The first man to establish a select school, which in many ways approached an academy in the course of study, was Thomas A. Filer.

Gen. Jacob Morris was aid-de-camp of Major Gen Charles Lee, and afterward of Major Gen Greene, and was in the Revolutionary war during the battles of Monmouth, Trenton and Princeton.

Dr. William Yates was the first person in America to introduce vaccination for small pox, and was also one of Jenner's first converts.

On the 10th day of April, 1792, the town of Butternuts was formed from Otsego. But its original area was soon diminished by the setting off of Pittsfield in 1797, and in 1808 it was reduced by the organization of Edmeston, and again in 1849 by the organization of Morris. The first settlement in the town was made in 1787.

Among the first and much honored pioneers to seek homes in this western wild was Abijah Gilbert, in honor of whom Gilbertsville is supposed to have been named. Mr. Gilbert having emigrated from Warnickshire, England, in 1787, soon joined an expedition to this locality under Gen. Morris, who, having accepted the agency of the Morris patent, was to receive the first choice of 1,000 acres of land, and Mr. Gilbert who was to have the second choices, purchased 1,000 acres for $1,000.

In this village educational interests have been very progressive.

As early as 1817 it had an academy, which, being burned, was rebuilt, and in 1840 the Gilbertsville Academy and Collegiate Institute was erected.

The religious societies are Presbyterians, Baptist, Methodist and Episcopal.

On the 3rd of Sept. 1797 the first Congregational church of Butternuts was organized. In 1822 it became Presbyterian by uniting with the presbytery of Otsego, and in 1805 the first house of worship was erected.

The Baptist church was organized in 1806. The first church edifice was erected in 1832, and the present one in 1876.

In 1833 the Episcopal church was organized, and its house of worship was built in 1834. The Methodist Episcopal society was organized in 1831. The first church building was dedicated in 1832, and was rebuilt in 1862.

The Butternut valley, which, unnoticed, terminates in the southern part of this town, rises into hilly uplands, and steep bluffs, of the Unadilla river, and the quietly flowing Butternut creek passes from our sight, as it becomes a part of the rushing river.

[It has been thought proper to add a few words to the above admirable history, in regard to this valley and the Rebellion. At the first call for troops in 1861 many brave men from the towns of the Butternut valley responded, and again in 62 when the famous 121st and 152d regiments were formed, Co's I, F and K of the former and C, G and H of the latter were filled with our boys. The record shows that from this valley, 123 men went to war from Burlington, 89 from New Lisbon, 145 from Morris, and 193 from Butternuts. (About one-half of the latter were in the 2d N.Y. Artillery.) The total is 500, and among them were 58 officers of all grades from Colonel down to Corporal. To state that most of these men were in the 121st and 152d regiments for three or more years is all that is necessary to show where the brave sons of the Tienuderrah were during the Rebellion.

In brief note of prominent persons coming from this valley it may be of interest to know that the mother of Bishop Andrews of the M.E. church and Judge Andrews of the Court of Appeals of New York State, was Mrs. Polly Walker Andrews, who lived in Morris in her early years, Charles I. Walker, a judge in Michigan and for fifteen years a professor of law in the University of Michigan, was born in Morris, also his brother Edward, for fifteen years a Regent of the Michigan University. These three were from a family of thirteen children of Stephen Walker, who settled in Morris in 1811. Another noted man from this town was Nelson Dewey, Esq., recently died, twice elected Governor of Wisconsin. Hon. S.S. Bowne and Hon. Richard Franchot, both from Morris, were representative in the U.S. Congress. Rev. Reuben Nelson, the Methodist leader, worked in Hargrave factory in Morris when a small boy and here he lost his arm in a cotton picker. Joseph Bowne was one of the most noted and eloquent Quaker preachers in the state. Levi S. Chatfield was born in Morris. His parents were poor, but he rose to the honorable position of attorney general of his state. These prominent men have all gone to their reward. The list might be continued on down through the years to the present time, for numerous have been the calls for men of brains and honesty, and we have always been able to send them men who did their country good service and reflected honor to their native heath, and are still blessing their fellow men in all the different walks of life politically, officially, professionally, religiously and commercially. - Ed.

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