Harry Saxton

The Saxton Family of Kennedy

Submitted by Bonnie Covedill, 2003.

Incidents of Pioneer Life.
An Early Settler and a Notable Family
---Foreborn Came From England
----Life in a Log House----Celebration at Opening of a Highway.
   H. C. Saxton, familiarly known as Harry Saxton, who died at Kennedy, N.Y. on the 23rd of June 1900, at the age of 81 years, had lived in the county since 1823, seventy-seven years, and his recollections and family history are deservedly a part of the history of the county. The Saxtons trace their ancestry to immigrants from England who came over in 1641 (hard to read date) and settled in Connecticut and Massachusetts. George Saxton was born in England and died in Westfield, Mass. in 1690, where some of his descendants live at the present day. His wife was Catherine. They had seven sons, from whom are descended nearly all the Saxtons of New England and other states who trace their descent from a Puritan ancestry. Among the descendants are some notable people, including ex-Governor Lucius Robison, ex-State Senator Charles T. Saxton of Wayne county, and Mrs. McKinley, wife of President McKinley. Among other descendants of the Saxtons it may be of interest to mention Dan Whitford, a prominent lawyer of Brooklyn, whose mother lived and died in Fredonia, and Hiram Clark, for some years a prominent Citizen of Jamestown, whose mother was a Saxton and whose father was a member of congress from Rochester. James Saxton, one of the seven sons of the George and Catherine mentioned, married Anna Bancroft, an aunt of one of the early colonial governors of Massachusetts. Noble Saxton, father of Seymour Saxton, enlisted twice from Massachusetts in the American army during the war of the Revolution, serving two terms of nine months each.
   Seymour Saxton, the father of Harry Saxton, was born at Muncton?, VT., and was married in 1818 to Faithy Cone of Wells, VT. The newly married couple moved with an ox team from Wells, VT., to Perry, Wyoming county, N.Y. In 1822 finding his land title defective he came on to Chautauqua county and in September of that year bought of the Holland Land company a part of lot 18 in the town of Ellington on which he built a log house. He put up the walls of the house and let the contract to put on a roof and put in a door, windows and floor, then went back to Perry for his family. In March, 1823, when Harry was four years of age, Seymour Saxton with his family, and the families of Hosea Saxton, David Gates and Elisha Cook, who had found the same trouble with defective land titles, moved with ox teams from Perry, Wyoming county, to the Holland land purchase. Hosea Saxton and David Gates settled in Ellington. At Ellicottville Elisha Cook separated from the party to settle somewhere in Cattaraugus county  not expecting to see the others again. Four years afterwards at a barn raising for Dr. Foote at Waterboro, Cook and Saxton met and found they were living only about five miles apart.
   When Saxton reached Ellington he found the snow two feet deep and staid over night with a Mr. Billings of Conewango. The next day he moved on through the woods to his new home where he arrived late in the afternoon and found his new log home just as he left it without roof or floor and covered with two feet of snow. There was no shelter that could be reached that night he cut down a large dry tree against which he built a fire and the family camped beside? it. The next day he took his family back Billings' then drove to Kennedys Mills for lumber to complete his house. It took two days to haul his load of lumber from Kennedys Mills by way of Clear Creek to his place in Ellington. Some days afterward he learned that by following down the valley of the small stream that flowed through his land he was only about two or three miles from the mills.
   After getting his family settled in his log house he proceeded to clear his land and got in wheat and other crops, and to cut and burn timber for ashes from which to manufacture black salts, at that time the only means of obtaining money. After harvesting his first crop of wheat he took a grist on horseback to Dexterville where there was a gristmill and the nearest post office. He found a letter in the office for him on which was due 18 cents postage. He had no money but fortunately found a man who had come to the mill with wheat from Busti, who had a little money and to him Saxton sold three pecks of his wheat for the necessary 18 cents to pay the postage on the letter.
   One day a year or so later, Saxton with some of his neighbors proceeded to cut a more direct road through the woods to Levant. They were well equipped with axes, ox teams and sleds and did rapid work reaching Levant about an hour before sundown. Here they decided to go on to Dexterville for their mail. At Dexterville they bought a barrel of whisky, loaded it on one of their sleds, tapped it, drove a nail into the barrel on which they hung a tin cup that the dealer gave them, then with lighted torches made from pitch pine which they had picked up on their way through the woods and which they fastened to their sled stakes they proceeded homeward. This unique and hilarious torchlight procession made a fitting celebration of the opening of the new road.
   Seymour Saxton served for some time in the army in the war of 1812, for which he drew a pension. He died some years since at an advanced age at his home in the town of Randolph where he had resided for some years with his son, Perry Saxton.
   July 5, 1849, Harry Saxton married Nancy Maria Cook, daughter of Elisha Cook. For many years they lived on the old farm in Ellington then moved to Kennedy where he built a substantial residence. A son, Melvin D., now lives on the old farm. Another son, Horace F., has for several years occupied a responsible position as keeper at the Auburn prison. A daughter Lydia Dell, lives at home. A niece, Miss Nora Lake, who has resided in the family since she was a small child, now holds a responsible position in E B. Crissey's bank at Cherry Creek.
   Harry Saxton's recollections of the early settlers at Kennedy and the early industries make a valuable contribution to the history of Kennedy which was the earliest place in this part of the county, and in the early days promised to be a thrifty manufacturing town, having two tanneries besides a large sawmill and gristmill.
Poland Center, Nov. 26, 1900
                              Newel Cheney.