Pioneer Life in Greenwood - by Dennis McGraw - Canisteo Times series (Jul - Sept 1888)

Pioneer Life in Greenwood
“The Canisteo Times” - Canisteo, Steuben Co., NY
July 26, 1888 - Sept. 13, 1888
As related by Dennis McGraw, of Purdy Creek
Missing text and name index provided by Sharon Stephens Kiser
updated: 3/14/2000

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Note - The articles related by Dennis McGraw were put to print from the News articles - Sharon Stephens Kiser has provided the Forward and the editor's notes from the book, these are denoted as (1), (2), (3), etc. - links take you directly to the editor's note, use "back" on your browser to go back up to where you left off before you hit the footnote link.

  We are greatful for the time that it took Sharon to type this information out for us.  Thanks Sharon!


The gathering of historical facts and compiling a logical chain of events in the life span of small country community such as ours, is a tedious and usually fruitless job, and then again, there are the good times.

James Hope, Steuben County historian, while looking through a book of old newspaper clippings in the Village Library of Bath, N.Y. discovered an article about Greenwood. He made copies of the article and mailed them to me. The article had been written by a man named Dennis McGraw, for the Canisteo Times and was reprinted by the Steuben Advocate in 1888.

The "Pioneer Life in Greenwood", was a large missing part of Greenwood history.

It needed to be enjoyed by everyone.
It needed to be preserved for the future.
It needed to be printed!!!

So, thanks to a Town Board that provides good equipment and a Historical Society that cares.-- We present, in his original words, in his spelling, with his punctuation and with his feelings, "PIONEER LIFE in GREENWOOD", by Dennis McGraw—1888 - Ed Mullen, Town Historian

First Printing - March 1983 - Greenwood, N.Y. (100 copies)
Second Printing - December 1983 - Greenwood, N.Y. (100 copies)

Issue date: July 26, 1888 (1)

     It may seem strange to some that I now take up my pen to write, this late day, of pioneer life in Greenwood, as I think there are some incidents that happened in those early days that will be of interest to the rising generation as well as to the few surviving friends, to have them published so they can contrast the present state of things with what transpired when this country was a wilderness. I hope the reader of these sketches will make some allowances and not expect too much from an old man seventy-four years old, and as you may say, "brought up in the woods, " where he could not enjoy the blessings of the free schools of to-day, that you all enjoy. So if my reminiscences is not couched in the prosy and grammatical language of the historian, you need not be disappointed. Things will be told just as they happened and in my own way. Some things have happened that I have always thought should be made known and published to the world at large, in order to give honor to whom honor is due, and had it not been for this I should not have undertaken this task. I shall also touch upon the habits and customs of sixty years ago. With this explanation I will proceed with my narrative.
     Sixty-two years ago my father, William McGraw, moved from the town of Dryden, Tompkins County, to Greenwood, with a family of eight children. We left Dryden in May, for what we then thought the far West. My father was poor and we moved with an ox tea, and drove one cow; our load was heavy and our progress slow, but we were so delighted with the thought that we should soon reach the "Promised land," that we did mind going slow if we only got there, and in time we arrived in the County of Steuben. We came by way of Painted Post, and there saw the redman pictured out on a post, and I shall never forget what an impression the sight made on my young mind. We came along up by what was then called the Chimney Narrows, where the Mayburry gang of robbers used to waylay peddlers and appropriate the booty to their own use. The gang had been broken up and Duglass (Douglas -JAC) hung for the murder of Ives, still we were on the lookout. We finally arrived at William Bennett's. Mr. Bennett had just moved into his new brick tavern, and I can tell you there was a mighty contrast between his castle and the buildings that were to be seen all through this country. We staid with Bennett over night and the next morning started up Bennett's Creek. It being 14 miles to our destination, we proceeded slowly along, as our team was legweary and the road horrible. The road led through a dense pine forest where a part of the way the track was just wide enough to let the wagon through and in some places it would sink in the mud up to the hub of the wheels. We had not traveled more than a mile or two when we were forced to hire another yoke of oxen and "double up," making tow teams, and then we had all we could do to get along. We finally made seven miles up the creek that day and put up for the night with a gentleman named Bachelder, and in the morning continued our journey, arriving at Levi Davis'. Mr. Davis came from Tompkins county a year or two before and was keeping tavern and store in a small log house, one story and a half high, and the space he occupied with his goods was about six by ten feet, doing a thriving business. Mr. Davis was a energetic man, made things move about him and accumulated a good property before he died.
     All the pioneers were hardy, industrious and healthy, and were always glad to see and welcome new neighbors.
     We had now about four miles to travel before our journey ended, and in the evening arrived at Richard Krusen's who then kept tavern and was land agent. We stopped with him over night and the next morning we arrived at my uncle's, Joshua R. Goldsmith, who came out the fall before. Uncle and father had taken up 160 acres of land and divided it between them, each having 80 acres. My uncle had chopped one acre for us so it was ready to burn, log and clean off. We moved in with uncle to live until we could build a cabin for our own use. We blocked it up with logs, and the roof was made of bark peeled from trees, and for flooring we split out slabs. The floor was built 18 inches from the ground, and was just long enough to hold the bed and set the table on, and the edge made a capital seat for the children, and in front was a space of about six feet were the ground formed the floor. The end of the cabin was left open were we built our fire to cook our meals on.
     Now I want the reader to take a walk with me back to Canisteo, to Bennett's, Col. Bill Stephens, Capt. Elias Stephens, Jacob Doty and Benjamin Stephens'. It is here we had to come to get corn, and all our supplies. This was our Egypt. Every man had to hawl (haul - sic-JAC) all his living up this dismal road let it cost what it would. Those who had no teams had to shoulder a bushel or more of corn on his own back and carry it up this awful road to feed his little darlings at home, living in a shanty without windows or doors, and oh, how sweet it would be when it came on the table. You can see how we had it then and how you have it now.
     In speaking of things that happened along this road, it brings to mind the first time we passed over it when we met an old hunter whose name was Ezra Stephens, who showed us the place where they found Joshua Stephens, who was shot by the Indians. He told us all the particulars, as it happened just before we came to this section of the country and was the all absorbing topic of conversation at that time.  I will now take the reader back to our cabin that we had got in to


Pioneer Life in Greenwood - As related by Dennis McGraw, of Purdy Creek [continued]

Issue date: Aug. 2, 1888 (2)

     I will now take the reader back to our cabin that we got into. The next thing was to clear off the acre of land chopped. We burned off the brush and logs, and planted it to corn, potatoes, cucumbers, squashes, and a little of most everything, and got through the eleventh day of June. We had an excellent crop of everything we put in the ground that late day, and we felt proud that we had got in such a good country.
     I will now tell you how we stood financially! After counting the cost of moving and all other expenses, we had just sixteen dollars left to feed a family of ten until we could get a living off of our own land. At this time we had an ox team and one cow, and there being no pasture in town were we could turn them out, we had to turn them into the woods to live, and put a big bell on them that we could hear a mile, if the wind was right. As good luck would have it, the cow had a calf; we kept that in a pen while the old cow went off to feed, and when she had filled herself she was sure to come home to her calf.
     There was trouble in our shanty when the cow came home the first night; we could smell her breath, and that was not all, when we came to eat the mild we found out what was the matter; she had been eating leeks. There were acres of them and the cattle loved them. We soon learned that we too must eat leeks, and then we could eat the milk and butter. Every inhabitant that time had to let their cattle run in the woods and every head had a big bell on. Sometimes they would wander off in the woods and could not be found in two or three days. You had better believe there was trouble when we did not get the cows at night as it cut off the supply of mild and butter. It also dried off the cows, they not being milked regularly. Sometimes they would go four or five miles to find grass. They frequently went down to Andover as there the timber had been cleared off and burned for the ashes, which were used to boil "black salts, " which was at that time quite extensively used. (1) Sometimes there would be several droves of cattle together and the cow boys would drive them all home and you had ought to have seen the sight and heard the different chimes of the bells.
     Young folks are naturally timid in the woods and they may want to know if there are any wild animals at that time. Yes, the woods were full of them. I have counted twenty-eight deer in one drove, and there were bears, wolves, panthers, and wild cats. It was a great blessing to the old inhabitants that there was game in the woods and fish in the streams. We could not have lived without them. To illustrate and give you some idea, I will tell you what an old settler in the town adjoining told me. He went to do a day's work at sunrise -- that was the custom then -- and worked about one hour when he began to feel that it was most breakfast time, when his employer says: "Peter, we have no meat for breakfast; you will have to kill a deer." So Peter started, and says: "Boys, when you hear me shoot, come and help me in with it." He had not been out of sight long before they heard the report of his gun, and sure enough he had shot a fine deer and they had the meat in good season. The custom was then, when any one killed a deer to divide it was with his neighbors. Every one had a piece. The streams were full of speckled trout until they built sawmills.
     Speaking of our meat supply, we used to watch deer licks. These were places where the water was brackish, where they would come and suck the water, and we used to go and watch for them nights. We would build a scaffold in a tree near by, twenty or thirty feet high, and have some dry torch wood burning that would not blaze, then have a bunch of shavings tied up ready, and sulfur matches. When we heard a deer come in the lick we would apply the match to the burning torchwood and then we could see to shoot. The light on them in the night makes them look white. They were hunted in various ways. Sometimes we would find them with the cows, they having got used to the cowbell. Sometimes we would make a lick by boring a hole in a log and fill it with salt, and watch when they got at work at it and kill them.
    When we first came to Greenwood, before there had been any fire in the woods to make it sprout, it was the nicest woods I ever saw; they were open and one could ride on horseback most anywhere. On the up-land the timber was mostly beech and maple. The maple was a great help to the people as from them we got our sugar and molasses. The beech used to furnish feed to fat our pork and to call in pigeons to nest which supplied us with young "squabs." They used to nest here in an early day, every bearing year. Once when at work in the sugar camp on the head of Bennett's Creek, about five o'clock in the evening, we discovered pigeons in clouds; there were so many of them they fairly darkened the sky, and they kept coming until dark when the tree tops was black with them. After night fall we thought we would get a large quantity of them by falling trees one against another, but in that we were disappointed, for as soon as we struck a tree with an ax they would flutter off. We never got one pigeon that night, but we got what was better. They nested that year in the big marsh and we got any quantity of "squabs," as fat as butter. People came a great distance with wagons and barrels, and fell acres of timber to get them It was a sight to see and one that we never shall see in this country again.(2)


Pioneer Life in Greenwood - As related by Dennis McGraw, of Purdy Creek [continued]

Issue date: Aug. 9, 1888 (3)

     Mr. Editor, I beg pardon, you must indulge in me and publish this in addition to pioneer life in Greenwood: I feel that I have omitted to do Levi Davis and his family justice. I want to say right here that Davis's was always headquarters in Greenwood, and is to this day. Much of the development of the town was due to Mr. Davis and his family. I mean to give honor to whom honor is due. There are some now living in that town that he helped into business when they were poor, that are well-to-do to-day, that were witnesses to what I now write. He had an interesting family, smart, intelligent, and all made useful citizens in town. Mr. Davis once represented this Assembly district in our state legislature, and filled many places of trustwith credit, before he passed away, and uncle Levi and mother was looked up to for council in those days, and were missed more than any two inhabitants in town. I will now speak of Redmond Davis, he having recently passed away. I must confess that I never knew his parents. He once represented in the Assembly of this state with honor. He was a help to the town, full of alms deeds, and left the world the better for having been in it.
     John Davis, of whom I will now speak was a liberal man. He was the baby when we came to town. I was intimately acquainted with him, am glad of this opportunity to speak of his good qualities. He too done much for his town, represented it in town, count and state. After all his good deeds he was much abused on account of the part he took in the contemplated Pine Creek railroad. He was an interesting man, and saw that if the road when through it would help the town, and it was no fault of his that it did not. If he erred, it was in judgment, and we are all liable to make mistakes. Much trouble came from that transaction, and cost to the town, by tow or three individuals, needlessly made, that were enemies to him, Davis, and I think an impartial republic will bare me out in saying John was right and they wee wrong. You know in every town there are men that are ready to make mischief and trouble.
     Once more we return to where we left off.
     We used to turn our hogs in the woods to fat on beech nuts. It made for oily port but good eating for a hungry man who was glad to get even that.
     Of the sugar -- maple -- much could be said. A good sugar camp was to us then wheat the dairy is to farmers now. We used to take sugar to Monroe and Livingston counties to sell and trade for pork and grain. I have done so several times and my neighbor used to do it. We used to make sugar making a specialty. It was a great help to the old setters. We used to select maple timber to burn and make ashes to make "black salts." It used to sell for three dollars per hundred. In the winter season we used to work at burning timber for ashes also, and once bought a barrel of buckwheat flour and paid $14 for it, with salts at three dollars per hundred, made in the dead of winter. Think of this when you peruse these sketches and compare how we used to fare then and now. We done all this with a will and never said I can't.
     Of pine and white ash timber much might be said, and I may speak of it hereafter.
     We had no roads, no schoolhouses, no mills, no meeting houses, and were about on a footing with the red man, but we had a will, and where there is a will there is a way. We went to work laying out and making roads, so new comers could get in. The next thing was to build a school house were we could send the children to school. We built what then went by the name the Crusen school house, of logs, with fireplace and chimney in one end, and furnished it with rude benches. The next thing was to build a grist and sawmill. A man came from Courtland (Cortland) county by the name of Aaron Burrows, who was a millwright, but too poor to build mills. We finally told him if he would undertake it we would put in and help him, and we soon had a grist and saw mill, although rude things, they answered for the present, and that was all we wanted as we did not put on much style those days.
     I will now take the reader back to our log cabin. As our money was short, myself and my oldest brother, William had to go out to work, and father took a tramp to find work for us and finally succeeded. He hired me out to Captain Elias Stephens, then keeping tavern the next house below William Thomas', and my brother William he hired out to Jacob Manning, then living on Bennett's Creek. Father and the rest of the little boys done what they could to improve our humble home. They chopped a little fallow to get in some wheat that fall. This being the first time of my going out to work, you must imagine my feelings. I was very lonesome. I missed somebody very much. Who do you suppose it was? It was my dear mother. I did not know how much I loved her until I found myself among strangers and away from our dear little cabin. Not that I was not used well as they treated me splendidly. I found Mr. and Mrs. Stephens to be very generous, but to use the language of the poet, "The sun may rise in other skies, but not half so bright as at Greenwood." This will give the readers some idea of how the young boys fared in the woods.


Pioneer Life in Greenwood - As related by Dennis McGraw, of Purdy Creek [continued]

Issue date: Aug. 16, 1888 (4)

     At the time I worked for Mr. Stephens I was lonesome and frequently went over to what we then called her the widow Rhoda Stephens, and heard her tell the tale of woe of the Indians shooting her husband. I got some acquainted with her children, Bessie, Abby, Clinton and George. We use to go after the cows together. Most all of these I speak of have passed away, but I still cherish them in my memory. People those days were more friendly to strangers when they are at the present time. There was at that time a man by the name of Davis living with Mr. Stephens, he was what we then called "on the town." We having no poor or county house, the poor were sold to the lowest bidder, those that would keep them the cheapest and they lived with the family and were happy and I think that is the way the poor should be cared for. Now it costs more to build county houses and keep our superintendents than it does to keep the poor. The worst man I worked for was Amos Lewis, he lived up the creek, the first house below Levi Davis's he was a hunter. Did no labor much, but made a living principally by hunting. The first day I commenced to work for him he told me in the morning what to do as he was going hunting. He told me to do this and that, that it would have taken me a week to do. I was going in with all my might, for I thought if all was not done when he came home he would be mad and then turn me off, but fortunately for me there came a man that lived up at the head of the creek by the name of William Burger and, I told him my trouble. He soon cheered me up, and said he had worked for Lewis and that was his way of doing business. You do what you can and it will be all right when he comes home, which proved to be the case. People kept moving in and I was getting acquainted with the new comers when they arrived. Every one would be interested and would be ready to lend a hand. At that time there was several log houses and barns going up, loging (logging - sic.-JAC), spinning and quilting bees, and O how we used to enjoy it. I was full of life then, though and quick, and hard to handle for a boy of my age.
     Most all the old settlers had large families of boys and girls and the young folks soon got acquainted and Sundays you would see them out in droves, going sometimes four or five miles to meeting or to a quilting or spinning bee. They always went on foot for there was no carriages or horses, and if there had been the roads there such that they could not use them. These time will always be fresh in my memory.
     The people were healthy. We lived in town seven years before there was a death of an adult and that was a young man by the name of Oliver Bess, who was learning the hatters trade and was taken with the old typhoid fever. Several took it from him and died. At that time it looked upon in a different light to what it is now. The population is so great now and death so often that people get hardened to it, but then it made a deep impression on the new colony. There was no public burying place. They generally buried the dead on their own land or at some school house where they held meetings.
     Take a walk back with me to our cabin, the center of attraction to me, for I loved the humble home, for mother was there. The ensuing fall we got in about one acre of winter wheat and built a log house with a good shingle roof, plastered with mud. In October we went down to Canisteo to get corn. I husked first for William Bennett. He then husked his corn on the hill. Each hand would have a basket and take two rows at a time. The stalks were large and tall, ten feet high, and the corn splendid. We had a good time. Bennett was an old hunter and fisher. He would go out most every time and fetch a string of fish or deer so as to have a change for his work hands. To tell the truth and make a long story short, the Canisteo people generally were a noble, generous, big hearted people, and when we came down out of the woods they seemed to be on a strife to see which could do the most for us. I can never forget their kindness. If any body enjoyed life it was the old pioneers of Canisteo. Peace to their ashes. We got our corn paid for, then father took the oxen and went down the awful road and got it home. Winter set in and we had not got one spear of grass to feed our ox team and one cow and calf. We finally started out with the oxen and a rude wood shod sled and went into the town of Independence (Allegany Co., NY-JAC) and found a man by the name of Stilmon (Stillman-JKC) that took us in and let us thrash, paying us in rye straw. We took home a small load of this, and that is all the fodder we had to keep four head of cattle that winter. We were chopping fallow all winter and killed the brush, and when we started out in the morning with the ax on our shoulder, the cattle knew what it meant and would follow, as they got each a chunk of corn bread that was baked in the ashes and each a handful of the straw we got at Stilmon's (Stillman's-JAC). In the spring you might put your hand on their ribs and find their skin loose and they looked fine.


Pioneer Life in Greenwood - As related by Dennis McGraw, of Purdy Creek [continued]

Issue date: Aug. 23, 1888 (5)

     The children had to go to school by a foot path and marked trees. The school district was large. My oldest brother and myself could not go to school much, for we had to work out to get our clothes. The first fine coat we got we went in the winter to Canisteo and cut logs for Daniel Jamison, at five dollars a hundred, that averaged 18 inches top end we used to cut fifty logs a day on an average. The first fur hat I ever had I made shingles and bought. The first fine shoe I ever had I bought myself. You see by this time I considered myself a man, though young, I could do a man's work, and when I went out Sundays or to some doings, I wanted to be as respectably dressed as the rest of the young men. But at this time we had not much leisure time. Every one, male, and female had something to do. The men clearing the land and the women folks spinning flax and wool and weaving to make our own linen and fulled cloth for every day wear. The girls worked as well as boys all had their work and the motto was then they that do not work neither shall they eat. It was no disgrace for the girls to have their sleeves rolled up to the elbow and help mother wash dishes, and if a young man happened in scud and hide because they were caught at kitchen work. But I give you notice when the work was all done and they did fix up it was an imposing sight to see their healthy red cheeks, the very picture of health, go five miles to meeting on foot.
     We had as smart and good looking set of girls as I ever saw in all my travels and I have been around a good deal. The boys were a full match for the girls, tough and hardy as bucks. Work did not make them miserable then as it seems to now days, and one boy then would do more in one day than two can do now. To give you some idea: I have cut seven acres of grain, wheat, in one day and, my brother offered to bet fifty dollars that I could cut eight and no one dare take him up. This was in Avon, Livingston county. There were men in Greenwood that could chop six cord of four foot weed in one day. We did not have none of your lightning saws then, when we wanted wood cut. It was just so with the girls I know one girl that cooked and waited on a lot of us that were haying and helped mild a dozen cows and churn and spin forty knots of yarn, all this in one day. Her name was Mary Davis and I call on Levi Rogers to prove it, who lives at Andover (Allegany Co., NY-JAC).
     The first celebration of the Forth of July in town, was to Cameron Corners. We were quite patriotic at that time. The old Revolution soldiers were not all dead then and they used to be out in force on such occasions and set at the head of the table and have a free dinner. I think Captain John Rogers was a marshal of the day and Benjamin Brundage, orator. We had plenty of martial music, fifes and drums and they knew how to use them for we had to train two or three times a year. Every boy that was 18 years old had to do military duty. We got a nice pole and had it in readiness. We were at a loss what to do, we had no cannon. Finally there was a man by the name of Isaac Pickle, a blacksmith, took a wide piece of iron and doubled it together and brazed it and fastened in a birch pin, made a prime hole, then we took a large piece or block of wood, counter sunk it in the log and loaded it to the muzzle, then we up with our pole and let the stars and stripes float to the breeze. Mr. Brundage gave a toast: Gentlemen we have raised a liberty pole for the sake of the little fun we will make it manifest by firing Pickles gun. We had a good time, all enjoyed it, old and young and at night the young folks had a ball. We danced up stairs, and the roof was low, we had to keep in the center of the building to keep our heads from hitting the rafters, but you had better believe there was decorum there. A good many had moved in from the distant States and some were there for the first time. Each tired to excel in shaking the pigeon wing and keeping scotch time. We had not go to cotillions much then. French four, the eight hand reel and three hands and a half round were our favorites. You ought to have been there and see for yourself. We all felt that we were on trial for good behavior. This was our first Independence ball in town, and young men and women eyed each other close, for at that day if a young man did not pay his bill or got drunk or was caught in some mean trick he was out with the girls, they had to carry themselves straight. Fine clothes and jewelry were of no account then, but the character and public sentiment was strong enough to frown on misconduct.
     Now we will harvest the little field of wheat we had put in on our new farm it ripened very uneven and we were almost out of Johnny cake and wanted some wheat bread very much, so we cut some of the ripest spots and left it out in the sun a day or two and then thrashed it out with flails. Having no barn then, we laid down a couple of logs and laid sleepers on them, then laid planks or boards on them and put up side boards then we were ready for business. Having no fanning mill we would scoop up a shovelful when the wind blew, to clean the chaff out, then we would spread sheets on the old shanty roof and let it dry in the sun a couple of days, then William and I took it on our backs down to John Stephen’s to mill one morning before breakfast. That made the sweetest bread I ever ate in my life. During the dry time when we could not get our grinding done here we had to go to Belmont, Allegany Co. At that time where Wellsville now is was a dense pine forest and only one log cabin. There was but one wagon track and some places the wagon wheels would go in up to the hub. Being out of bread Francis Krusen and I started each with a load of grain to Belmont, then called Phillipsburg. Arriving there we found the mill damn had just given out, and we could get no grinding until repaired. So they told us if we would help repair the dam they would board us and keep our teams Saturday we got our grist, having left home Monday morning . Saturday night we arrived home. We had each taken a small grist for our neighbors and we staid so long that some of them had to live on boiled millet, that we used to raise those days. To illustrate there came a woman to our house that lived in a back settlement with two small children and told mother she had eaten nothing in two weeks but nettle greens and nursed two children. One child weaned but she let it nurse with the baby to keep it from starving. Think of this you that have every thing that heart could wish and be thankful that these old pioneers felled the trees, made the roads, built the school houses and made the rough ways smooth and drove the Redmen out, conquered the wild beast and made things ready for you.


Pioneer Life in Greenwood - As related by Dennis McGraw, of Purdy Creek [continued]

Issue date: Aug. 30, 1888 (6)

     Pleasure sleighs and carriages was out of the question in the woods. Sometimes we had to build and use small logs for planks, and where there was swampy places we used small logs, laid down close together so an ox or horse could not get their foot in the holes. I have seen such bridges thirty rods long. Horses were not much used, they could not live on browse and run in the woods, so ox teams was the order of the day. Some of the inhabitants who had oxen had no wagons and would lay a bag of grain on the ox yoke and some would make what we call a dray, falling a small crotched sapling and cut it long enough above the crotch for a tongue, leave the prongs about five feet long, fixing a platform on the crotch, put some auger holes in, then stakes, then side boards, forming a box, then they were ready for business. There were but few wagons and when any one had to go to Canisteo for supplies, those that had wagons had plenty of opportunities to lend. Most all the wagons in the place were old so they soon gave out. Sleighs were not used much until the country was cleared up. Our sleds then everyone, almost we made ourselves. We had to make all of our farm implements. Our harrows we made of crotched trees. Select one the right size, cut the right length, bore holes for the teeth, drive them in, put on the clevises and all was ready. We made our own brooms, axe helves, forks, hoe handles and some made their own bedsteads and used bark for cords. Until we raised flax we used to use deer skin and woodchuck skin, tanned, and moose wood bark to make flail strings and mittens and bag strings. Some wore buck skin breeches, and some times we had a deep fall of snow some wore snow shoes made something like a long ox bow with cross pieces to strap to the foot and travel on the snow. Sometimes children that had no shoes would go out bare footed in the snow to play and when their feet got cold hold up one foot to get it warm, then the other foot, and when they could stand it no longer spring in the house. (3)
     I was once going out to Avon, Livingston Co., in the winter, with horses and sleigh. At that time there was a piece of woods I would say a mile long. I there met a girl twelve or fourteen years old, bare foot, going through the woods, and her feet looked as red as geese feet. It used to be the custom for boys and girls to go bare foot in the summer and we use to bruise our feet and have what we called stone bruises on our feet. It was a common thing to sometimes knock off a toe nail. sometimes we would step on something sharp and cut a hole in the foot. After we got the land cleared up the fires run in the woods, the berry brush began to come up and soon berries were abundant. It was said by some that Greenwood was great for blackberries and babies, and they were right, for I never saw so many berries and babies as I have seen in Greenwood. It was a thriving place for most ever thing but money, that was not there. We had to go out of town to get money. We use to go out north harvesting every year, great droves of us. We got good wages those winters. We use to lumber and raft and go down the river rafting. Every thing those days to get money. We had to have a little to pay taxes and it was handy to have a spare shilling in our pocket. While the reader has been reminding of babies I want to say right here that I think the old stock that sailed on the Mayflower will soon be extinct on this continent and this blessed and free country filled up with foreign born. You are wise, think of these things and ponder them well for they will soon stare you in the face. Some of our best blood was shed in the Rebellion while aliens were exempt from going still they claimed our protection, and I shall always think that our rulers erred in judgment and did wrong in not having this class of our population help to put down the Rebellion. (4)
     Our mode of building was to cut logs roll them up on long skids until they were high enough for beams, then they were pun on then we generally went about four feet higher, the plaits and rafters were put on, and then we cobbed up at the ends with logs and tow foot up at the ends with logs and two foot shingle, and then bore two inch auger holes and put pins in, lay on a pole for the butt of the shingle to rest against, then a block to each end, then another pole, and so on up, using no nails. Our chimney was built in this way: Take stone and build the back up about four feet then we would get a couple of crooked poles resembling sled crooks and lay one end on the chimney back and the other on the beam of the chamber floor, then go up with the chimney with mud and ticks, put in a long lug pole with a long iron with iron hooks to hang pots and kettles on with a large stone hearth, then the house wife was rigged for cooking. They first started out with a large baking kettles with a large cover, put in the loaf, set the kettle on coals then put on the led and put coals of fire on that to bake the bread. Pretty soon the tin oven was introduced then they baked that way, but had no way yet to bake pan cakes, so the crane was used; they could swing that out and tend the griddle then nicely. We used to burn four foot wood. Have a large back log, lay down a couple of short chunks then the fore stick then start the fire with a little wood and chips and you would have a fire that would warm a hunter that had been out on the chase on a cold winter's day. To make short cake and pie crust they use to burn cobs and take the ashes for baking powder, the next they used pearlash and then salaratus and I need not tell you what they use now. Griddle pan cakes use to be the order of the day every winter while I lived there. Our principal crops while the country was new was buckwheat, oats, rye, potatoes. Winter wheat generally rusted and shrunk. Spring wheat done a little better, but buckwheat, oats and potatoes could not be beat and while we was clearing land was plenty. We have sold oats for fifteen cents a bushel and potatoes for ten cents, and take it out of the store at that. We have bought cows for $10 and sold for that in the fall of the year. Common labor was fifty cents from sunrise to sunset. Carpenters work $1. Butter 8 cents a pound, fat sheep from $1.50 to $2. Our sports at that early day was playing ball and wrestling, running foot races, shooting at a mark, and that was generally done after some bee or raising some building for we did not have much leisure those days, but when we did get together we made things move right along.


Pioneer Life in Greenwood - As related by Dennis McGraw, of Purdy Creek [continued]

Issue date: Sept. 6, 1888 (7)

     I would say that Greenwood has always held her own in every enterprise with her sister towns. She has burnished her full quota of public men, lawyers, bankers, teachers, members of our State Legislature, members of Congress, preachers of the gospel and in all the walks of life has never lagged behind. There is many things I might say of that moral town, for it was there that I arrived at man's estate. It is there I formed acquaintances that I shall always cherish until my dying day. There are many things that cluster around my memory I can never forget. It was there I found my Sarah. It was there our children was born unto us and it was there I was born from above, of which I shall speak hereafter. We used to take solid comfort. Neighbor used to take solid comfort. Neighbor strangers seemed to love each other better than own relation do now. The customs were different. No body was trying to be rich, but to enjoy the fruit of their labors. I forgot to mention the doctors that Greenwood presented to the world, and numerous other things I might mention. Our women in their sphere were as noble as the men and some of the best housekeepers I ever found lived in Greenwood.
     I will now tell you what qualification young men and women had to have to marry. They did not marry for money, they married love, and worked for the money. If a young many and woman was industrious and had no bad habits and had good common sense they were fits subjects to marry, and some did that had noting but their hands and good health. They had to begin housekeeping in a very humble way. I knew a young married man that went down to Canisteo to Stricklands’ store and bought his outfit of crockery and carried it home in a pocket handkerchief; and they got along in the world well. I have known some that started quite high that came to grief. Those that started poor done the best. When young men did marry they expected to support their wife and not have the women support them, as some have to do at this day in the circle of my acquaintance. Such a man as that would have been drummed out of the town of Greenwood or took up for a vagrant and sent to the house of correction. We use to go fifty miles sometimes to get work when we lived in the woods, but now if a man will work he will get it at home.
     I will now give you a little of my experience as a hunter: I was always handy with the gun and was a good shot at a mark but could not kill deer. I had what old hunters called the "buck fever." Finally there was an old hunter came to our house and wanted some tobacco. He said he could not see a deer until he had some tobacco. He knew my failing about shooting deer and told me to go out and when I saw the next deer to get already to shoot then turn my head and spit then take sight and be sure to see both sights then let go, and I found his advice done me good. I went out soon after and laid one out, and this is the way I did it: There was another fellow following some deer and I knew the runways where they would come, so I ran and got there in time and waited near the runways. In a short time up walked a large buck, big horns, and stopped. I thought of what the hunter told me and bang when the gun and away went the deer, but his flag tail was down. I went to where he stood and discovered hair and blood. Seeing he bled from both sides, I after him expecting to find him dead every minute. I never thought of reloading my gun but pursued on a keen jump and you had better believe I made good time, (probably a mile in five minutes,) paid no attention to where I was going, towards home or from home, I had blood in my eye. I shot him too far back through the belly. I shot at the biggest place. On we went, I did not know whether I was in the body or out. finally we came to a clearing and a shanty. I made a halt and went in the shanty. I knew the inmates and said to them you have moved. The man looked at his wife and smiled and said I guess you are lost. And so it was, I supposed I was in the town of Independence, but was in Greenwood. He volunteered and went we me and soon we got the deer. You had better believe there was s a proud chap about my size. I walked home that night to tell my folks and comrades all about it. After that I killed a good many deers but will tell of only one more exploit: One Sunday afternoon there were two deer came in our field and the temptation was great to shoot them, but I resolved not to break the Sabbath, and let them work. Monday morning bright and early I was after them. wounding one of them I went to reload my gun, and found I had no bullets with me and had to leave and go for bullets to the settlement. I went down to Mr. Lane's mill and run some bullets. They had a dog and William Lane and Lester Harding wanted to take their dogs and go with me. I told them to take a string and lead them for I thought I could get a shot before we let the dogs go. So when we got in the vicinity I told them to stop and I would go over the brow of the hill, and when they heard me shoot to let the dogs come. As I came to the top of the hill well deer jumped and ran some forty rods and stopped behind a large pine stump and stuck his head I put a bullet through his head and he turned a somersault and fell dead and the wounded one jumped up and I put a bullet through his head before the dogs arrived. It was all done in less time than I would have taken to tell this so I thought I was well rewarded for keeping the Sabbath. The largest deer I ever killed was down Bennett's Creek near Thomas'. They called him old goldin. He was very poor, but had a nick like a bull; I sold him to a man by the name of Temple, it being so far from home and he was crazy to have him. Small game I have killed of all kinds in large quantities but never killed a bear, panther or wolf. They were afraid of me and run.
     For fear I may weary the reader I will treat on another subject. I want to speak more of Levi Davis and his family after he got out of the woods and accumulated property. When the famine raged in Ireland he sent forty bushels of wheat to feed the hungry and Mrs. Davis was a model woman in many respects, and was a woman of good economy. I speak of her with pleasure she was a mother to the motherless and was unceasing in feeding the hungry and clothing the naked. To illustrate: Uncle Levi came in one day and said woman, where is such a cow I haven't seen her in a day or two: Mrs. Davis said she is up to Daniel Ward's. You know they have a family of little children that have got to have milk and I told Ward to drive the cow home and milk her for they got about all she gave daily and they are as able to milk her as I am and have not half so much to do. All this came under my observation. I might enumerate other instances, but this will give some idea of what they were and how we missed them when they passed away to reap their reward above. You know we read in the good book "I was in hunger and ye gave me meat, thirsty and ye gave me drink, a stranger and ye took me in, enter into the joys of they Lord."


Pioneer Life in Greenwood - As related by Dennis McGraw, of Purdy Creek [continued]

Issue date: Sept. 13, 1888 (8)

     There was a time in Greenwood after they had cleared up the land and began to plow that the land was not productive. They could not half till it for the stumps, roots and stone, and some got discouraged and sold their improvements and left town. At this time David Sherman from Herkimer county, came in town and having some means bout out some of the inhabitants, in what we called Youngs settlement, and commenced the dairy business. He was a man of no pretensions, plain, but a model of industry, and the best cheese maker in town, having a wife that was a pattern of neatness and piety they succeeded well in their vocation. When we wanted a piece of good cheese we knew where to get it ever time. He was a carpenter and joiner and by industry had made some money. He commenced to build suitable buildings for a large dairy farm and put up the largest barn then in the county. The best foundations under it and a cellar under the middle of it to store all kind of vegetables or his cows and family use. I feel it is my duty to give Sherman more than a passing notice, and while I try in my feeble way to speak of his alms deeds I cannot refrain from tears. When I saw the notice of his death little did I think that we should not have a more extended notice of David Sherman's worth. I suppose his children did not want to undertake the task and left it to strangers to speak of his worth and I have waited hoping some one would speak one word in his praise, therefore I shall see that his example is not lost to the world. (5)
   You know it is the custom now when men occupy high stations in life to extol their virtues to the skies and all of our editors are ready to do them honor. Here is a man of no pretensions that out strips every man I ever saw. While I am speaking of this strain I ask children that are beloved, for their father and mothers' sake, to come to Purdy Creek and see me and we will have a good time. Now reader I will give my reason for the judgment I have given: I built a school house in the district that Sherman belonged. He was trustee, or one of them, and employed me to build a new school house near the Catholic church on the four corners, and I built it. At the same time he made application to be set of fin a new district, but they would not set him off The State superintendent siding against him. Notwithstanding all this he moved right along, bought lumber, hauled it, hired a workman and built a good school house down towards Whitesville (Allegany Co., NY - JAC), where there was a new settlement that was deprived of school. Then he went to Almond (Allegany Co., NY-JAC) hired Miss Forbes, a good teacher and informed his poor neighbors that all was now ready, bidding them to send their children to school, paying all out of his own pocket, probably six hundred dollars. It happened that potatoes were worth $1 a bushel and there was a man by the name of Robinson keeping boarding house at Corning, he came to Mr. Sherman and offered him $1 a bushel for three or four hundred bushels and would pay the money down for them. Mr. Sherman said I dare not let you have them. The whole settlement of new comers over the marsh that are poor and I must keep my potatoes for them. What was the consequence? These poor people got them for work, and when they settled was taxed three or four shilling a bushel. Another instance was when hay was $20 per ton and the poor could get it of Sherman for $10.
      I will now speak of Pioneer life of the Methodist church in Greenwood and bring this narrative to a close for I fear I have been too lengthy already. the first presiding elder that came up to the Canisteo was Abner Chace (Chase-JAC), and the first preacher in charge was Olcott. There use to be two on a circuit them days. Their field of labor was to start at Canisteo and come up Purdy Creek, preach at Charles Hart's, thence to Andover, thence to Whitesville, thence to Greenwood, thence to Jasper, thence to Troupsburg, thence to Woodhull, thence to Troups Creek, thence to Billings' on Cowanesque river, preaching every day in the week in barns, schoolhouses, private houses and sometimes in the open air. they generally went on horseback, wore green leggings that came above their knees, and saddle bags behind. How they poured the canister and grape in the enemy's camp and all the weapons they carried then was the sword of the spirit, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. How they would cut the sinner down.
     Right here I want to say what a change has come to the Methodist church in sixty years. I think if John Wesley knew where his people had got in spirituality, he could not be still in his grave. It makes me feel sad to contrast the past with the present. I have seen them come from Canisteo with oxen and cart to quarterly meeting so interesting were the meetings. Our preachers had neither purse nor script, nor tow coats apiece. They did not preach for money. that did not enter their minds. They had no notes written only the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven. I have decided to bring pioneer life to a close hoping that I may have access to your columns again some future day.


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Editor's notes to the above:

Section 2

EDITOR'S NOTE 1:  The McGraw family apparently settled the property that was, until recently owned by Mr. & Mrs. Walter Redmond. Joshua Goldsmith owned that property lying between the residences of Mrs. Hope Hulse and Mr and Mrs Chris Roser. The "black salt" that Mr McGraw referred to was apparently potash, which could be sold to Mr. Levi Davis, at a cash value. This was one of the few ways for the early settlers to obtain money.

Section 2

EDITORS NOTE 2:  The happening that Mr.McGraw is describing would have seemed no more than an unusual experience, at the time. He is very apparently describing a common occurrence which took place throughout the country in those days. It has been written that four million Passenger Pigeons were killed in Michigan during one nesting in 1828. The sad part is that the last Passenger Pigeon on earth, died in Cincinnati, Ohio zoo September 1, 1914.

Section 6

EDITORS NOTE 3:  The term "moose wood bark" that was mentioned by Mr. McGraw left me puzzled I have found in "A Reverence for Wood" by Eric Sloan that moose wood is "Striped Maple". Striped maple does not grow very large, possibly 15 to 25 feet. Some of it does still grow in the Greenwood area.

Section 6

EDITORS NOTE 4:  Having the privilege of hindsight I cannot always agree with the opinion of Mr. McGraw as my ancestors were probably digging potatoes in Ireland while George Washington and Paul Revere were doing their thing to the British. Be that as it may, I have nothing but admiration for anyone who will make a record of the happenings of their lifetime, that others may read and learn and enjoy.  In that spirit we print everything that Mr. McGraw wrote, – as he wrote it.

Section 8

EDITORS NOTE 5:  Having also tilled the soil of the favorite town of not only Mr. McGraw but also of myself, I can readily agree that we do have our fair share of stones and I can also agree that the stumps and roots did present a problem but he does not mention other factors that helped cause many of the early settlers to move elsewhere. One such factor was the anti-rent conflict, a confrontation with the Pulteney Estate over the interest charged on the original purchase price of their holdings which the settlers considered "rent" rather that legal interest. Another factor was the opening of the Erie Canal and the free land available in Michigan. In later years a taxpayers revolt over taxes levied to pay the cost of an ill-fated attempt to build a railroad in Greenwood, caused much unrest.

End of Section 8

EDITORS NOTE 6:  It appears that Dennis McGraw was a very Godly man and has probably ended up in a good place to look down and oversee our printing of his early writings. With this in mind I wonder if I could write a letter to him, and then if he wishes, he could answer in some way. There is someone up there that could probably make that possible.

Dear Dennis:

It has been a great pleasure to have had your work found and made available to us. And that somehow we now have the machines and money to do a decent job of publishing a book, makes me real happy. There are a few things I would like to discuss with you, such as, you seldom told us the names of the ladies you wrote of. Neither did you make it clear how you were related to the Davis's or the Goldsmith's or about the lives of your brothers and sisters. Then there was the time you told of cradling 7 acres of grain, now come on Dennis, you're talking to a fellow who has actually cut grain with one of those contraptions. That was hard, backbreaking, slow work. You were undoubtably a strong young man Dennis, but 7 acres? Or the time you ran through the woods, after a deer, carrying a heavy muzzle loader, and did a mile in five minutes. That's a little hard to swallow, Dennis.   Then again I thought you were a little rough on the good people of the Methodist Church. Those loose moraled, modern people that you spoke of are the grand old timers that we look back on and admire. Maybe it is just the angle that you look at them from, Dennis. But you angle must now be far better than mine, so you can now make your own decision. Your writings have given us an insight on many things of which we were unaware but now we have something which we can investigate further. And Dennis, if from up there you should know of anything else with which we can improve our knowledge of the past and help us save this heritage that we have, for those even another hundred years in the future, could you arrange it so we could run into it somehow? And if someone around here has any information that would be useful to us, could you arrange for someone to give them a nudge in the right direction. Well, Dennis, after all of this work with your writings, I feel as though I know you. I has been nice meeting you Dennis. I hope to see you sometime in the future.


Ed Mullen, Historian of Greenwood

(our favorite town)