The Town of Exeter


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

Page 29. EXETER. Area 11,895 Acres. Population 1,087.

Exeter was formed from Richfield in 1799. The surface is generally
hilly, some of the elevations being 300 feet above the valleys. It is
drained by Herkimer and Sutherland creeks which flow into Candarago lake
and by Butternuts and Wharton creeks which flow into the Unadilla river.

The earliest landed proprietors in this township were Major John
Tunnicliff and William Angell. Major Tunnicliff was a gentleman of
intelligence, culture, and wealth, who came from Derby, England, in the
year 1756, and purchased 12,000 acres of land belonging to the patent
that had been recently granted to David Schuyler and others, his
purchase lying to the west of Fly Creek and being mainly within the
present township of Exeter but extending somewhat into Richfield. Here
he built a cabin at a place called "The Oaks," and commenced a
settlement, but danger from the Indians soon caused him to abandon it
until the close of the French war, when he returned with his family and
made here his permanent home.

William Angell was from Rhode Island and located on what has since been
known as Angell's Hill, in school district No. 3. His family consisted
of six sons and several daughters. His son William G. Angell was an
influential man, and represented his district in congress.

Other early settlers were Jonathan Angell, Seth Tubbs, Jacob Goble,
Caleb Clark, Bethel Martin, Amos and Hull Thomas, Joshua Gorton, Uriel
Stone, Ashel Williams and Augustus Curtiss. John and Aaron Phllips of
Cambridge, Mass., came to Exeter in 1790. They established a
circulating library, and in 1822 a Congregational church. Among the
early settlers was Hon. Levi Beardsley, an eminent lawyer and author of
"Beardsley's Reminiscensces and Anecdotes." He came to Exeter in his
infancy with his parents in 1790. The family settled on "The Herkimer
Farm," but afterwards removed to Richfield.

A PIONEER HOME IN THE FOREST. To give an idea of the trials endured by the settlers in those days we quote from the entertaining book of

"We left our eastern home with a cart, one or two wagons, one or two
yoke of oxen, three or four horses, and a few cattle, sheep, and hogs.
The roads were excessively bad, and we took but little household goods
with us. My mother was left behind with a sick child. My sister,about
two years younger than myself, was with me, stowed in a cart or wagon
among the chairs and furniture, and put under the care of a girl brought
up by my grandfather.

'Some distance this side of Canajoharie they abandoned their vehicles,
in consequence of the bad roads, and proceeded on their journey. Some
of the party drove the live stock, and went on the best way they could.
My father put a saddle on one of the horses, and on another packed a bed
and bedding, on which the girl was to ride. I was placed on the horse
behind him, on a pillow tied to the saddle, with a strap under my arms
buckled to his waist to prevent me from falling off, and carrying my
sister before him we pursued our journey, the girl Sukey, riding the
other horse on top of the bed and bedding, and a yearling colt tagging
after. This constituted the cavalcade, so far as my father and his
family were concerned."

Their destination was finally reached,and soon after Mr. Beardsley's
father returned to the east and brought his wife and sick child to the
new country. He says:

"She rode the horse on a man's saddle, and carried the child, my father
in a patriarchal manner walking by her side; and thus the family were at
last re-united in the woods at the foot of the beautiful lake, and by
the side of the fine little stream known as Herkimer creek, then full of
fish, particularly the speckled trout.'

"This house that we moved into was a small log cabin, the body laid up,
and part, though not the whole, of the roof covered with black ash and
el bark, which had been peeled from the trees at the season when bark is
taken off easily. When opened out and put on the roof and pressed down
with poles or small timbers, the rough side exposed to the weather, it
makes a good roof that will last several years and shed the rain quite
well. The house was only partially covered, and when it rained we had
to put our effects and ourselves under that part which was sheltered.'

"The floor was of basswood logs, split and hewed partly on one side, and
then splice down making a substantial floor, but only about half was
laid. We had no fire place or chimney, and till this was built the
cooking must all be done out of doors.'

"A mud-and-stack chimney and fireplace were afterwards added as the
weather became cold, and to get earth or clay to make mortar to daub the
house and make the chimney, a hold was dug under the floor which was our
only cellar, in which, in winter, we put a few bushels of potatoes and
turnips, and too up one of the flattened logs from the floor whenever we
wanted something from below. I have said there was no door when we
moved in. My father on reaching the house with my mother and family,
suspended a blanket at the doorway to keep out part of the night air."

THE FIRST WEDDING. Mr. Beardsley gives a further insight into the
customs of those days in his description of the first wedding. He says:

"Let me describe the first wedding, which was the marriage of a sister
of my mother, who was married to Ebenezer Russell: the marriage was at
my father's in the log house. I do not remember how the parties were
dressed, but no doubt in their best gear. Judge Cooper, of Cooperstown,
was sent for, being the nearest magistrate, and came eighteen miles
principally through the woods, to perform the ceremony. The neighbors
were invited, the old pine table was in the middle of the room, on which
I recollect was placed large wooden bowl filled with fried cakes (nut
cakes or donughts, as the country people call them). There might have
been something else to constitute the marriage feast but I do not
recollect anything except a black junk bottle filled with rum; some
maple sugar and water. The judg was in his long riding boots, covered
with mud up to his knees, his horse was fed, that he might be off when
the ceremony was over. The parties presented themselves, and were soon
made man and wife as his "Honor" officially announced. He then gave the
bride a good hearty kiss, or rather smack, remarking that he always
claimed that as his fee; took a drink of rum, drank health, prosperity
and long life to those married, ate a cake or two, declined even staying
to supper, said that he must be on his way home, and should go to the
foot of the lake that night, refused any other fee for his services,
mounted his horse and was off; and thus was the first marriage

VILLAGES: There are three villages in this township, viz.: Schuyler
Lake (population 406), West Exeter (population 167), and Exeter
(population 60).

SCHOOLS: Number of districts 8. Number of teachers 11. Children of
school age 158. The Union Free School at Schuyler Lake employs four
teachers and is well organized for efficient work.

CHURCHES: There are five churches in this township' viz.: at Exeter,
Methodist; at West Exeter, Methodist; at Schuyler Lake, Baptist,
Methodist, and Universalist.

Transcribed by Karen Flanders Eddy. 

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