Chapter III - Hist. Steuben Co - McMasters [1853] - Steuben Co., NY GenWeb

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Hist. Steuben by McMasters Table of Contents

History of the Settlement of Steuben County, New York

by: Guy McMasters [1853]


The Settlement Made Under The Purchase by Phelps and Gorham--Painted Post--The First Settler--The Settlement of The Upper Valley of The Canisteo--The Canisteo Flats--Life in The Valley--A Wrestling Match--Captain John--Old Enemies--Major Van Campen and Mohawk --A Discomfited Savage--Capture of A Saw-Mill--The Lower Canisteo Valley--Col. Lindley --A Deer-Slayer Immortalized.


In the summer of 1779, a numerous party of Tories and Indians, under the command of a Loyalist named McDonald and Hiakatoo, a renowned Seneca war-chief, returned to the north by way of Pine Creek, the Tioga, and the Conhocton, from an incursion among the settlements on the west branch of the Susquehanna. They had suffered a severe loss in a conflict with the borderers, and brought with them many wounded. Their march was also encumbered by many prisoners, men, women and children, taken at Freeling’s Fort. A party of rangers followed them a few days, journeying into the wilderness, and found at their abandoned encampment abundant proof of the manfulness with which the knives and rifles of the frontier had been used in repelling its foes, in the heaps of bark and roots which had been pounded or steeped in preparing draughts and dressing for the wounded warriors. Under the elms of the confluence of the Tioga and Conhocton, Captain Montour, a half-breed, a fine young chief, a gallant warrior and a favorite with his tribe, died of his wounds. He was a son of the famous Queen Catharine. His comrades buried him by the river side, and planted about his grave a post on which was painted various symbols and rude devices. This monument was known throughout the Genesee Forest as the Painted Post. It was a landmark well known all the Six Nations, and was often visited by their braves and chieftains.

At the Painted Post, the first habitation of civilized man erected in Steuben county, was built by William Harris, an Indian Trader. Harris was a Pennsylvanian, and not long after the close of the Revolutionary war pushed up the Chemung with a cargo of Indian goods, to open a traffic with the hunting parties of the Six Nations, which resorted at certain seasons to the north-western of the Susquehanna. A canoe or a pack-horse sufficed at that time to transport the yearly merchandise of the citizens of our county. Sixty-five years afterwards, an armada of canal boats and a caravan of cars hardly performed this labor. The precise date of Harris’s arrival is unknown. Judge Baker, late of Pleasant Valley, found the trader established at his post in the spring of 1787. On Christmas night following, he went down to the Painted Post, and finding the cabin burned and the trader missing, he inferred that the latter had perhaps been killed by his customers--a disaster by no means unlikely to befall a merchant in a region where the position of debtor was much more pleasant and independent than that of creditor, especially if the creditor had the misfortune to be white and civilized. On the contrary, his intercourse with the Indians was of a very friendly and confidential character. They rendered him much valuable assistance in setting up business, not of course by endorsing his paper, or advancing funds on personal security; but by helping him to erect his warehouse, and patronizing him in the handsomest manner afterwards. They even carried the logs out of which the cabin was built, on their shoulders, to the proposed site of the edifice which was after all, to speak with strict etymology, a species of endorsement.

The savages manifested much zeal in promoting the establishment of a trading post at the head of the Chemung, and indeed it was a matter of as much consequence at that time as the building of a Railroad Depot is in modern days. Before that, the citizens of the county were obliged to go to Tioga Point, nearly fifty miles below, to buy their gunpowder, liquors, knives, bells, brads, and jews-harps; and the proposal of Harris to erect a bazaar at the Painted Post, for the sale of these articles, was of as vital concern to the interests of the county as at the present day an offer of the government to establish a university in Tyrone or an observatory in Troupsburg would be. It was a great day for the county when the trader’s was finished, and his wares unpacked. Then the sachem might buy scalping knives and hatchets on the back of his own river; the ladies of the wilderness could go shopping without paddling their canoes to the Susquehanna, and the terrible warriors of the Six Nations, as they sat of an evening under their own elm trees, smoking pipes bought at the “People’s Store,” had by, forgot their cunning; when some renowned Captain Shiverscull, a grim and truculent giant, steeped to his elbows in the blood of farmers, and scarred with bullets and tomahawks like a target, set upon log, soothing his savage breast with the melodies of a jews-harp, or winding around that bloody finger, which had so often been twisted in the flaxen scalp-locks of Pennsylvanian children, a string of beads, bought for his own ugly little cub, that lay a sleep in the wigwam of Genesee.

At the time of Judge Baker’s visit, Harris was only temporarily absent. He afterwards returned to Painted Post with his son,, and lived there a few years, when he again removed to Pennsylvania. One or two others are sometimes pointed out as the first settlers of the county; but evidence, which must be regarded as reliable and decisive, proves that the first civilized resident was William Harris. It is possible, indeed, that before his advent some straggling adventurer may have wandered hither, built him a lodge, perhaps planted corn on the open flats, and afterwards strayed to parts unknown, leaving no trace of his existence. There have always been, on the frontiers, eccentric geniuses, to whom such a line of conduct was no strange thing. There have always been, on the frontiers, a few vagabonds, who should have been born wolves, who forsake civilized homes and join the Indians, and are only hindered from living with the bears in their hollow trees, by the refusal of these sensible monsters to fraternize with such loafers. Hermits, hunters and vagabonds find their way into strange places, and it is by no means impossible that some pleasant island or open flat may have harbored one of these outlaws before any other wanderer, laying claim to civilization, smote our forests with the all conquering axe. No such Robinson Crusoe, however, presents himself as a candidate for historical honors, and it is, upon the whole, improbable that any such preceded the trader, or if he did, that he enjoyed his solitude a great while unmolested. The “Man Friday” he would have been likely to catch here would most probably have caught him, and whisked his scalp off without winking.

Harris was a trader and did not cultivate the soil. Frederick Calkins, a Vermonter, was the first farmer of Steuben. He made his settlement near the head of the Chimney Narrows, in 1788. After living there alone for a time, he returned to the east for his family. During this absence, Phelps and Gorham’s surveyors made head-quarters at Painted Post, which accounts for the omission of his name in Judge Porter’s narrative, quoted in the last chapter, George Goodhue followed Mr. Calkins in a year or two.

Township number two in the second range, was purchased of Phelps and Gorham, in 1790, by six proprietors, Frederick Calkins, Justus Wolcott, of Eastern New York, Ephraim Patterson, of Connecticut, Silas Wood, Caleb Gardener and Peleg Gorton. The price paid for the township was eight cents per acre.

The old town of Painted Post comprised the present towns of Hornby, Campbell, Erwin, Painted Post, Caton and Lindley. The earliest settlers along the Chemung and Conhocton were the six proprietors (except Silas Wood), Eli and Eldad Mead, (1790,) David and Jonathan Cook, of New Jersey, (1790,) Judge Knox, of Eastern New York, (1793,) Benjamin Eaton, Elias Williams, Henry McCormick, Hezekiah Thurber, Bradford Eggleston, Samuel Colegrove, John Berry and others. John Winters, famous hunter, settled there at an early day, and families named Rowan, Waters, Van Wye, Turner, McCullick, etc.

Mr. Eli Mead was the first Supervisor of the town, and went on foot to Canandaigua, to attend the meeting of the Board of Supervisors of Ontario county.

Gen. McClure, speaking of the early settlers of the neighborhood, mentions “a man by the name of Fuller, who kept the old Painted Post Hotel. That ancient house of entertainment, or tavern (as such were then called) was composed of round logs, one story high, and if I mistake not was divided into two apartments. This house was well patronized by its neighbors as by travelers from afar. All necessarily stopped here for refreshment, as well for themselves as for their horses. Fuller, the landlord, was a good natured, slow and easy kind of man, but his better half, Nettie, was a thorough-going, smart, good-looking woman, and was much admired by gentlemen generally. To the wearied traveler, nothing can be more agreeable than a pleasant, obliging landlady. There were other respectable families settled at Painted Post, not many years after, (1794,) Thomas McBurney, Esq., Capt. Samuel Erwin, Frank and Arthur, his brothers, Capt. Howell Bull, John E. Evans, an Englishman and others.”

A mill was built on the Post Creek, near the Narrows, by Mr. Payne and Col. Henderson, as early as 1793 or 1794. This mill is described by the few who remember it, as having been mainly built of logs “so that you could drive a pig through it.”

The first establishment for the sale of goods, to civilized men, was kept by Benjamin Eaton. He went for his first stock to Wattles’ Ferry (now Unadilla village) by a canoe, with a man and a boy, (Mr. Samuel Cook, of Campbelltown.) At that place he purchased another canoe, loaded his fleet with goods and returned to Painted Post.

Col. Arthur Erwin, the ancestor of a large family bearing his name, emigrated from Ireland before the Revolution. During the war he served in the American army. He resided in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and became the proprietor of a large landed estate. He was shot dead through the window of a log house at Tioga Point, in 1792, by an ejected squatter who escaped.

Hon. William Steele, a well known and highly respected citizen of Painted Post, removed from New Jersey in 1819. He served in the war of the Revolution, and was severely wounded and made prisoner at sea in 1780. In 1785 he was appointed clerk in the old Board of Treasury, and in 1794, he commanded a troop of horse and aided in suppressing the insurrection near Pittsburgh. He died in 1851. (Obituary notice in Corning Journal.)


A party of boatmen attached to General Sullivan’s army in the invasion of the Genesee in 1779, while awaiting in the Chemung River the return of their commander and his column for the north, pushed up the river as far as the Painted Post, out of curiosity to know how the land lay on the northwestern branches of the Susquehanna. Among the soldiers of Sullivan was Uriah Stephens, Jr., a Pennsylvanian. He believing, from the report of the boatmen, that some fertile flat might lie among those northern hills where frontiersmen, not bountifully provided for in the lower valleys, might found settlements and thrive for a time on venison and hominy, determined after the war to seek such a place and to emigrate thither.

Mr. Stephens belonged to a numerous family of New England descent, which had settled at an early day in the Wyoming region; and they, with other families which afterwards joined them in the settlement of the Upper Canisteo, suffered in the attack of the Indians and Tories on that ill-fated district in 1778. One of the oldest surviving member of the family was carried in the arms of a neighbor (James Hadley, also a settler of Canisteo,) from the farm to the fort, and though almost an infant at the time retains distinctly the impression made by the night alarm, the terror, the flight and the confusion. The wife of Col. John Stephens, a late well-known citizen, was one captured by a party of savages, and in the skirmish and rescue which ensued upon the pursuit of her captors by the border-men (one account says at the battle of the Hog-back) was wounded by a rifle ball fired by one of her friends. The Stephens’, after several removals from Wysox, Queen’s Flats, and other localities, were living, in the fourth or fifth year after the close of the Revolutionary War, at Newtown.

Several families, relatives and acquaintance, were found willing to engage in the enterprise of further emigration. In 1788, Solomon Bennet, Capt. John Jameson, Uriah Stephens, and Richard Crosby, started upon an exploration. Passing up the Chemung to Painted Post, they found there a few cabins, a half dozen settlers, and Saxton and Porter, the surveyors of Phelps and Gorham. Penetrating further into the north by way of the Conhocton Valley, they found no lands which satisfied their expectations. On their return they struck across the hills from the upper waters of the Conhocton, and after toiling through the dense forests which crowded the shattered region to the westward of that river, they came suddenly upon the brink of a deep and fine valley through which the Canisteo rambled, in a crooked channel marked by the elms and willows which overhung it. The prospect was singularly beautiful. The huge barriers of the valley laden with that noble timber which raftsman for half a century have been floating through the cataracts of the Susquehanna, ran in precipitous parallels at a generous distance for several miles and then closing in, granted the river for its passage but a narrow gorge made dark by hemlocks. A heavy forest covered the floor of the valley. Groves of gigantic pine stood with their deep green tops in the midst of the maples, the white sycamores. So even was the surface of the vale, so abrupt and darkly-shaded the ranges that enclosed it, that the explorers, looking down upon the tree tops that covered the ground from hill to hill, seemed to be standing above a lake of timber. At the lower part of the valley there was an open flat, of several hundred acres, overgrown with wild grass so high that a horse and rider could pass through the meadow almost unseen. It was like a little prairie, beautiful indeed, but strangely out of place in the rugged region,--as if some great Indian prophet had stolen a choice fragment from the hunting grounds of the Missouri and hidden it in the midst of mountains bristling with gloomy hemlocks.

The explorers decided to purchase the two townships on the river, which included the open flats. Eight other men joined in the purchase: Col. Arthur Urwin, Joel Thomas, Uriah Stephens, (father of Uriah Stephens, Jr.,) John Stephens, his son, William Winecoop, James Hadley, Elisha Brown and Christian Kress.

In the summer of 1789, a company of men were sent to the flats, who cut and stacked a sufficient quantity of wild grass to winter the cattle that were to be driven on. In the autumn of the same year, Uriah Stephens, the elder, and Richard Crosby, with portions of their families, started from Newtown to begin the proposed settlement. The provisions, baggage and families were carried up in seven-ton boats, while four sons of Mr. Stephens, Elias, Elijah, Benjamin and William, drove along the shore the cattle belonging to the two families in the boats, and to four other families which were to join them in the spring. From the mouth of the Canisteo to the upper flats, the movement was tedious and toilsome. Frequent rifts were to be ascended, and the channel was often to be cleared of obstructions, the trunks of trees and dams of drift-wood. On one day, they made but six miles. However, as the destinies, after forty centuries of hesitation, had decided that the Upper Canisteo must be civilized, all obstacles were steadily surmounted. At the rifts, where the nose of the unwieldy boat, plowing under the water, at last wheeled about in spite of setting poles and swearing, and went down again to the foot of the rapids, every human thing that could pull, went on shore, took hold of a long rope, and hauled the barge up by main force. Thus for some three days the pioneers of Canisteo toiled up the hostile current, probably not without some little noise, as the shouting of boatman, or the bawling of the youths on shore at the straggling cattle, which sometimes got entangled in the willow thickets by the little river, sometimes scrambled up the hill sides, sometimes stopped, shaking their horns in affright, when the wolf or fox bounded across the trail, or came racing back in paroxysms of terror, making the gorge to resound with strange bellowing, when they suddenly met the ugly and growling bear, sitting like a foot-pad upon his haunches in the middle of the path, and so near to their unsuspecting nostrils, that he might cuff the face of the forward bullock with his paw, before the startled cattle became aware that they had ventured into the lurking-place of the shaggy brigand.

At length the persevering voyagers landed on the upper flats. The astonished cattle found themselves almost smothered in the herbage of the meadows. The first thing to be devised was, of course, a habitation. The bark hut of the savage was the only structure which the wilderness had yet beheld, and was undoubtedly a sufficient house for cannibals or philosophers; but the pioneers, who were neither the former not the latter, were straightway into the woods, cut down certain trees, and built a luxurious castle of logs, 26 feet long by 24 wide. There was but one room below. Four fire-places were excavated in the four corners, and they who know what caverns fire-places were in old times, can imagine the brilliant appearance of this Canisteo Castle at night, through the winter, when the blaze of burning logs in all the furnaces filled the cabin with light, and glimmering through the crevices, was seen by the Indian as he walked by on the crackling crust of the snow toward his lodge in the woods. In the following spring a family was encamped before each fire-places, and occupied each its own territory with as much good humour as if divided from the others by stone walls and gates of brass.

The two families passed here the first winter very comfortably. In the spring of 1790 they were joined by Solomon Bennet, Uriah Stephens, Jr., and Colonel John Stephens his brother, with their families. As soon as the weather permitted, they set about preparing the ground for seed. Although the flat were free from timber, this was no trifling task. The roots of the gigantic wild grass, braided and tangled together below the surface, protected the earth against the plow with a net so tight and stout, that ordinary means of breaking the soil failed entirely. Four yoke of oxen forced the coulter through this well-woven netting, and the snapping and tearing of the roots as they gave way before the strength of eight healthy beeves was heard a considerable distance, like the ripping of a mat. The settlers never learned the origin of these meadows. “Captain John the Indian” said that he knew nothing of their origin; they were cleared “before the time of his people.” After the frosts, when the herbage had become dry and crisp, the grass was set on fire, and a very pretty miniature of a prairie-on-fire it made. The flames flashed over the flats almost as over a floor strewn with gunpowder. A swift horse could not keep before them. The wild grass, by successive mowing and burning, became less rank and more nutritious. In time it gradually changed to “tame grass,” and at the present day there are meadows on the Canisteo which have never been broken by the plow.

After the sowing of Spring wheat and the planting of the corn, the settlers constructed a log fence on a scale as magnificent, considering their numbers, as that of the Chinese wall. This ponderous battlement enclosed nearly four hundred acres of land. The flats were divided among the proprietors. From the present site of Bennettsville down to the next township, a distance of about six miles, twelve lots were laid out from hill to hill across the valley, and assigned by lot to the several proprietors. The lot upon which the first house was built is known as the “Bennet” and Pumpelly farm.” That part of it upon which the house stood is upon the farm of Mr. Jacob Doty. In the course of the same spring (1790) Jedediah Stephens, John Redford, and Andrew Bennet, settled in the neighborhood. Jedediah Stephens, afterwards well known to the citizens of the county, was a faithful and respected preacher of the Baptist denomination. His house was for many years the resort of missionaries and religious travelers who passed through the valley, and indeed was said to be one of the few places where pilgrims of a serious disposition, and not inclined to join the boisterous company of the neighborhood, could find lodgings entirely to their satisfaction.

The harvest abundantly attested the fertility of the valley. Seventy or seventy five bushels of corn were yielded to the acre. Indeed, the timbered flats have been known to yield seventy-five bushels of corn, planted with the hoe after logging. They sent their grain in canoes to Shepherd’s Mill, on the Susquehanna, a short distance about Tioga Point, and nearly one hundred miles distant from Canisteo.

A few random notes of the settlement of this neighborhood may be added. Solomon Bennet was one of its leading spirits. He was a hunter of renown, and bequeathed his skill and good fortune to his sons, who became well known citizens of the county, and were famous for readiness with the knife and rifle, and for “perhaps some shallow spirit of judgment” (or better) touching traps. Mr. Bennet built, in 1793, the first grist mill on the Canisteo. It stood (and also a saw mill we are told) on Bennet’s creek, about half a mile from its mouth. It stood but a year or two when it was, unfortunately, burned to the ground. Early Settlers remember how the pioneer boys came over the hills, through the unbroken woods, with their ox-drays, and retain vividly the image of a distinguished settler who came over from Pine Plains with “his little brown mare and a sheepskin to ride upon” after a bag of corn-meal to keep off starvation. Flour was sometimes sent by canoes down the Canisteo and up the Conhocton. After the burning of the mill, the settlers were again compelled to send their grain in canoes to Shepherd’s Mill. Mr. Bennet went to New York to purchase machinery for a new mill, but became engaged in other business, and failed to minister to the urgent necessity of his neighbors. George Hornell (afterwards well known as Judge Hornell) settled in Canisteo in 1793. He was induced to build a mill on the site now occupied by the present Hornellsville Mills. So impatient were the settlers for the erection of the building, that they turned out and prepared the timber for it voluntarily.

The first goods were sold by Solomon Bennet. Judge Hornell and William Dunn visited the neighborhood at an early day for trade with the Indians. James McBurney, of Ireland, first came to Canisteo as a peddler. He brought Great Lot, No. 12, in the lower township of Bennet, and other lands; went to Ireland, and upon his return settled some of his countrymen on his lands.

Christopher Hulburt and Nathaniel Cary settled in 1795 at Arkport. The former ran, in 1800 or about that time, the first ark laden with wheat that descended the Canisteo, and about the same time John Morrison ran the first raft. The honor of piloting the first craft of the kind out of the Canisteo, however, is also claimed for Benjamin Patterson.

Dr. Nathan Hallett, Jeremiah Baker, Daniel Purdy, Oliver Harding, Thomas Butler, J. Russelman, the Upsons, the Stearns, and the Dykes also were among the earliest settlers on the upper Canisteo.

The first taverns were kept in the year 1800, or about that time, by Judge Hornell, at his mills, and by Jedediah Stephens below Bennet’s Creek. The first house in Hornellsville stood upon the site of Mr. Hugh Magee’s Hotel..

Under the old organization of the County of Ontario, the settlement of Canisteo was in the town of Williamson, which comprised a large part of what is now Western Steuben County, Allegany County, and how much more we know not. Jedediah Stephens was the first Supervisor of that town, and attended the meeting of the Board at Canandaigua. Town meeting was held at the home of Uriah Stephens, and seven votes were cast.

Solomon Bennet is said by the settlers of Canisteo to have been the Captain. John Stephens, the lieutenant, and Richard Crosby the ensign of the first military company organized in Steuben County.

A large proportion of the first settlers of Canisteo were from Pennsylvania, and had within them a goodly infusion of that boisterous spirit and love of rough play for which the free and manly sons of the backwoods are everywhere famous. On the Susquehanna frontier, before the Revolution, had arisen an athletic scuffling wrestling race, lovers of hard blows, sharp-shooters and runners, who delighted in nothing more than in those ancient sports by which the backs and limbs of all stout-hearted youth have been tested since the days of Hercules. The eating of bears, the drinking of grog, the devouring of hominy, venison, and all the invigorating diet of the frontiers; the hewing down of forests, the paddling of canoes, the fighting of savages, all combined to form a generation of yeomen and foresters, daring, rude and free. Canisteo was a sprout from this stout stock, and on the generous river-flats flourished with amazing vigor.

Life there was decidedly Olympic. The old Python games were revived with an energy that would have almost put a soul into the bones of Pindar; and although many of the details of those classic festivals upon which the schoolmasters dwell with especial delight were wanting--the godess, the crowns of oak, the music, and so on--nevertheless, one cannot help thinking that for the primitive boxers and sportsmen of the old school, men who wore lions’ hides and carried clubs, the horse-play of Canisteo would have been quite as entertaining as the flutes and doggerel of Delphi. Everything that could eat, drink and wrestle, was welcome; Turk or Tuscarora, Anak, or Anthropophagus, Blue Beard or Blunderbore. A “back-hold” with a Ghoul would not have been declined, nor a drinking match with a Berserker. Since the Centaurs never has there been better specimen of a “half-horse” tribe. To many of the settlers in other parts of the county who emigrated from the decorous civilization of the east and south, these boisterous foresters were objects of astonishment. When “Canisteer” went abroad, the public soon found it out. On the Conhocton they were known to some as the Six-Nations, and to the amusement and wonder of your Europeans, would sometimes visits at Bath, being of a social disposition, and sit all day, “singing, telling stories and drinking grog, and never get drunk nayther.” To the staid and devout they were Arabs,--cannibals. Intercourse between the scattered settlements of the county was of course limited mainly to visits of necessity; but rumor took the fair fame of Canisteo in hand, and gave the settlement a notoriety through all the land, which few “rising villages” even of the present day enjoy. It was pretty well understood over all the country that beyond the mountains of Steuben, in the midst of the most rugged district of the wilderness, lay a corn-growing valley which had been taken possession of by some vociferous tribe, whether of Mameluckes or Tartars no one could precisely say; whose whooping and obstreperous laughter was heard far and wide, surprising the solitudes.

The “Romans of the West” were not long in finding out these cousins, and many a rare riot they had with them. The uproars of these festivals beggar description. The valley seemed a den of maniacs. The savages came down four or five times in each year from Squakie Hill for horse and foot-racing, and to play all manner of rude sports. In wrestling, or in “rough-and-tumble” they were not matches for the settlers, many of whom were proficient in the Susquehanna sciences, and had been regularly trained in all the wisdom of the ancients. The Indians were powerful of frame and stature. The settlers agree that “they were quick as cats, but the poor critters had no system.” When fairly grappled, the Indians generally came off second best. They were slippery and “limber like snakes,” oiling themselves freely, and were so adroit in squirming out of the flinch of the farms, that it was by no means the most trifling part of the contest to keep the red antagonist in the hug.

In these wrestling matches, Elias Stephens was the champion. He was called the “smartest Stephens on the river,” and was in addition claimed by his friends as the “smartest” man in the country at large. No Indian in the Six Nation could lay him on this back. A powerful young chief was once brought by his tribe from Tonewanta to test the strength of the Canisteo Champion. He had been carefully trained and exercised, and after “sleeping in oiled blankets” for several nights, was brought into the ring. Stephens grappled with him. At the first round the chief was hurled to the ground with a thigh-bone broken. His backers were very angry, and, drawing their knives, threatened to kill the victor. He and his friend Daniel Upson, took each a sled-stake and standing back to back defied them. The matter was finally made up, and the unlucky chief was borne away on a deer-skin, stretched between two poles. In addition to this, Stephens once maintained the credit of the Canisteo by signally discomfiting a famous wrestler for the Hog-back.

Foot Races, long and short, for rods or miles, were favorite diversions. In these the Indians met with better success than in wrestling; but even in racing they did not maintain the credit of their nation to their entire satisfaction, for there was now and then a long-winded youth among the settlers who beat the barbarians at their own game. So for horse-racing, this ancient and heroic pastime was carried on with a zeal that would shame New-market. The Indians came down on these occasions with all their households, women, children, dogs and horses. The settlers found no occasion to complain of their savage guests. They conducted themselves with civility, generally, and even formed in some instances, warm friendships with the hosts.

Infant Canisteo of course followed in the footsteps of senior Canisteo. When fathers and big brothers found delight in scuffling with barbarians, and in racing with Indian ponies, it would have been strange if infant Canisteo had taken of its own accord to Belles Letters and Arithmetic. The strange boy found himself in den of your bears. He was promptly required to fight, and after such an introduction to the delights of the valley, was admitted to freedom of trap and fishery in all the streams and forests of the commonwealth. And for infant Canisteo, considering that passion for wild life which plays the mischief with the boys everywhere, even in the very ovens of refinement, a more congenial region could not have been found. The rivers and brooks alive with fish, the hills stocked with deer, the groves populous with squirrels, the partridges drumming in the bushes, the raccoons scrambling in the tree-tops, removed every temptation to run away in search of a solitary island and a man Friday; while their little ill-tempered Iroquois play-fellows, with their arrow-practice, their occasional skirmishes, and their mimic war-paths satisfied those desires to escape from school to the Rocky Mountains and the society of grizzly bears and Camanches, which so often turn the heads of youngsters nurtured in the politest of academies.

This backwoods mode of education, through by no means so exquisite as our modern systems, has proved nevertheless quite efficient for practical purposes. The boys who in early times played with the heathen and persecuted raccoons, instead of learning their grammars have, astonishing to see, became neither pagans nor idiots. Some have become farmers, some lumberman, some supervisors, and some justices of the peace; and whether in the field or in the saw-mill, whether in the county’s august parliament, or in the chair of the magistrate, the duties of all those stations seem to have been performed substantially as well as needs be. For the Robin Hoods of Canisteo could plow, mow, and fell trees, if need be, as well as the best, and did not hold laziness in higher respect than did the other pioneers of the county.

The Indians made their appearance shortly after the landing of the settlers--the Canisteo Valley having long been a favorite hunting field. The men of Wyoming found among them many of the old antagonists. Tories never were forgiven, but the proffered friendship of the Indians was accepted: old enmities were forgotten, and the settlers and savages lived together on the most amicable terms. Shortly after their arrival an old Indian, afterwards well known as “Captain John,” made his appearance, and on seeing the elder Stephens,” went into a violent fit of merriment. Language failed to express the cause of his amusement which seemed to be some absurd reminiscence suddenly suggested by the sight of the settler, and the old “Roman” resorted to pantomime. He imitated the gestures of a man smoking--putting his hand to his mouth to withdraw an imaginary pipe, then turning up his mouth and blowing an imaginary cloud of smoke, them stooping to tie and imaginary shoe, then taking an imaginary boy in his arms and running away, and returning with violent pearls of laughter. One of the sons of Mr. Stephens, a hot and athletic youth, supposing that the Indian was “making fun” of his father, snatched up a pounder to knock him on the head. Captain John was driven from the ideal to the real, and made good his retreat. He afterwards became a fast friend of the settlers, and explained the cause of his merriment.

When Mr. Stephens lived near Wyoming, he was one day going from his farm to the fort, with two oxen and a horse, which were attached to some kind of vehicle. His boy, Phineas, was riding on the horse. Mr. Stephens was an inveterate smoker, and walked by the side of the oxen, puffing after the manner imitated by Captain John. While passing through the woods near a fork of the roads, his shoe stuck in the mud, and was drawn off his foot. Just as he stooped to recover it, a rifle was fired from the bushes, which killed the nigh ox, by the side of which he had been walking. The alarm of “Indians!” was sounded from the other branch of the road, where some of his neighbors were killed. Mr. Stephens started and ran, but his boy crying out, “Don’t leave me, father!” he returned and took him in his arms, and fled to the fort. The ambushed rifleman was none other than Captain John, and he, recognizing the smoker fifteen years after the adventure, was quite overpowered at the recollection of the joke.

Another meeting of two old enemies took place on the banks of the Canisteo not long afterwards. Major Moses Van Campen, (late of Dansville, Livingston County,) well known to the Six Nations as a powerful, daring and sagacious ranger in the border wars of Pennsylvania, moved up the river with a colony destined for Allegany County, and offered to land at the settlement on Canisteo Flats. Van Campen was especially obnoxious to the Indians for the part he had taken as a leader of a bold and destructive attack, made in the night, by himself and two others, prisoners, (Pence and Pike by name,) upon the party by which they had been captured in an incursion against the settlements, in which Van Campen’s father and young brother had been killed before his own eyes. There were ten Indians in the party. One evening, while encamped at Wyalusing Flats, on their way to Niagara, Van Campen resolved to put in execution a long meditated plan of estate. He managed to conceal under his foot a knife which had been dropped by an Indian, and this, at midnight, the prisoners cut themselves loose. They stole the guns from their sleeping enemies, and placed them against a tree. Pike’s heart failed him, and he laid down just as the two allotted to him for execution awoke and were arising. Van Campen, seeing that “their heads were turned up fair”, killed them with a tomahawk, and three besides. Pence killed four with the guns. Van Campen struck his hatchet into the neck of the only remaining Indian, a chief named Mohawk, who turned and grappled with him. A desperate and doubtful struggle followed, one being sometime uppermost and sometimes the other. Van Campen half blinded by the blood of his wounded antagonist, who felt, as often as he got opportunity, for the knife in his belt. This would have soon settled the contest, and Van Campen finally stuck his toes into the Indian’s belt and hoisted him off. The latter bounded into the woods and escaped.

The savages recognized Van Campen on his arrival at Canisteo as “the man that lent John Mohawk the hatchet.” Captain Mohawk himself was there, and had a special cause of grievance to exhibit in a neck set slightly awry from the blow of the tomahawk. The settlers rallied for the defense of Van Campen. There was every prospect of a bloody fight; but after much wrangling it was agreed that the two parties should divide while Van Campen and Mohawk advanced between them to hold a “talk.” This was done, and in a conference of considerable length between the two old antagonists, the causes of difficulty were discussed, and it was finally decided that each was doing his duty them, but that now war being ended, they ought to forget past injuries. Mohawk offered his hand. The threatened fight became a feast. A keg of spirits was broken and the hills rang with riot.

The Indians sometimes entertained the men of Canisteo with a display of their military circumstance, and marched forth on the flats, to the number of three hundred warriors, in full costume, to dance the grand war-dance. They made a fire about eight rods long and paraded around it with hideous chants and a great clattering of little deer-skin drums. On one of these grand field-days, the whole tribe, arrayed most fantastically, was marching around the fire, and with the flourishing of knives, the battering of drums, and the howling of war songs, had worked themselves up into a brilliant state of excitement. The settlers, boys and men, were standing near watching the performance, when a high-heeled young savage stepped out of the line and inquired of one of the bystanders--

“What’s your name?”

The settler informed him.

”D----d liar! d----d hog!” said the Indian.

Elias Stephens, who was a prompt and high tempered youth, said, “Daniel, I wish he would just ask me the question.”

The Indian instantly turned and said, “What’s your name?”

“Elias Stephens,”

“D----d liar! d----d ----”

The sentence remains unfinished to the present date. A well-planted blow of the fist knocked the barbarian headlong over the fire, senseless. The sensation for a moment was great. The dance was stopped, the drums became dumb; tomahawks and knives were brandished no longer, and the savages stood aloof in such angry astonishment, that the bystanders trembled for their skulls. The Chief, however, came forward, and striking Stephens approvingly on the shoulders, said, “Good enough for Indian.” He expected his warriors to behave themselves like gentlemen, and when cooper-colored gentlemen so far forgot themselves as to use indelicate or personal language, he would thank pale-faced gentlemen to knock them over fire, or through the fire, or into the fire, as it might be most convenient. The dance went on with renewed vigor, but the punished pagan descended from his high horse and sat aside in silence, volunteering during the rest of the entertainment no more flourishes not promised “on the bills.”

Sometimes the Indians treated the settlers to a display of their tactics. Hiding behind a rampart of roots or lying in ambush among the bushes, at a signal given the whole party fired their rifles at certain imaginary foes. The chief sprang up and raised the war-whoop, and then the three hundred joined in the frightful cry of the Six Nations, which, to use the favorite phrase of the pioneers, “was enough to take the hair off a man’s head.” Then, rushing out, they tomahawked the pumpkins and scalped the turnips, then dodged back to their covert and lay still as snakes.

Elias Stephens, for his prowess and resolution, became an object of respect to the red gentry. Fourteen men were working in Bennett’s millyard when sixteen “Romans’ came down whooping furiously, and drove the lumberman from their work, took possession of the mill, and converted it into a dancing saloon. It was told to Stephens. “What!” said he, “you fourteen let sixteen of those critters drive you out of the yard! Lord! I can whip a hundred Indians.” And taking the swingle of a flail ran to the mill. The Indians were capering about in high glee, brandishing their knives and shrieking very like Mark Anthony and fifteen other Romans, and indulging in all those antics with which the barbarians of the Long-House were wont to divert themselves.

“Put up those knives, damn you, and march,” said Stephens. The diversions came to a sudden pause. “Put up those knives, damm you, and be off, or I’ll beat all your brains out!” The Romans said never a word, but stuck their knives into their belts and departed.


Our notes of the settlement of the lower valley of the Canisteo are very brief. None of the original settlers of Addison are now living in the county. We can present nothing more than the names of these pioneers. The settlement of Addison were commenced probably in 1790, or shortly after. The settlers were Reuben and Lemuel Searles; John, Isaac, and James Martin; Jonathan Tracy; William Benham; Martin Young, and Isaac Morey.

The first name of the settlement was Tuscarora. This was afterwards changed to Middletown, and again to Addison.

The first tavern as kept by Reuben Searles, on Lockerby’s stand.

George Goodhue built a saw-mill there as early as 1793.

The first generation of settlers, as we are informed, has become extinct. Messrs. William Wombaugh, William B. Jones, John and Stephen Towsley, and Rev. Tarathmel Powers, through early settlers, came in a few years after the first settlement.

The pioneers of the town of Cameron were Joseph Warren, John Helmer, Samuel Baker, and Andrew Helmer.

This meager notice of the settlement of the valley below the present town of Canisteo is the most complete that could be obtained from the best authorities to whom the writer was referred.


The first settlements in the Tioga Valley were made just over the Pennsylvania line, in the neighborhood of Lawrenceville. Samuel Baker, afterwards of Pleasant Valley, in this county, settled upon the open flat, at the mouth of the Cowenisque Creek, in 1787, and not long afterwards a few other settlers, the Stones, the Barneys, the Daniels, who also afterwards removed to Pleasant Valley, erected cabins in the wild grass and hazel bushes of the vicinity.

Col. Eleazer Lindley, a native of New Jersey, and an active officer of the “Jersey Blues” during the Revolutionary War, rode through the Genesee country previous to the year 1790, to find a tract of land which he might establish himself, and gather his children around him. The sickliness of the regions around Seneca and Canandaigua Lakes deterred him from locating his township in the rich northern plains, and he purchased township number one of the second range, a rugged and most unpromising tract for agricultural purpose, but intersected by the fine valley of the Tioga. The healthy hills, the pure springs, and the clear beautiful river, descending from the ravines of the Alleganies, promised,, If not wealth, at least freedom from those fevers, agues, cramps and distempers, which prostrated the frames and wrenched the joints of the unfortunate settlers in the northern marches.

In the spring of 1790, Col. Lindley started from New Jersey with a colony of about forty persons, who, with their goods, were transported in wagons to the Susquehanna. At Wilkes-Barre the family and baggage was transferred to seven-ton boats and poled up the river, according to the practice of emigrants penetrating Ontario county by the valley; while the horse and cattle, of which there were thirty or forty, were driven along the trails, or rude roads, on the bank. On the 7th day of June, 1790, the colony reached the place of destination.

Two sons of Col. Lindley, Samuel and Eleazer, and five sons-in-law, Dr. Mulford, Ebenezer Backus, Capt. John Seely, Dr. Hopkins and David Payne, started with the colony from New Jersey. Dr. Hopkins remained at Tioga Point to practice his profession. The others settled near Col. Lindley.

The river-flats were “open,”,” and overgrown with strong wild grass and bushes. Ploughs were made by the settlers after their arrival, and as soon as these were finished, the flats were immediately broken, as on the Canisteo, with four oxen to each plough. The season was so far advanced, that the crop of corn was destroyed by frost, but a great harvest of buckwheat was secured. With buckwheat, milk and games, life was stayed during the first winter. History, looking sharply into the dim vale of ancient Tioga, smiles to see the image of “Old Pomp,” negro pounding buckwheat in a samp-mortar, for the first ice in November till the breaking up of the rivers in March, when canoes can find a passage to Shepard’s Mill, on the Susquehanna. History also, in this connection will embrace the opportunity to rescue Old Pomp from oblivion for the notable exploit of killing four bucks at a shot, and has the pleasure, therefore, of handing the said Pompey down to future generations as a fit subject for as much admiration as an intelligent and progressive race may think due to the man who laid low, with a musket at one shot, four fine bucks, as they were standing in the water.

Colonel and Mrs. Lindley were members of the Presbyterian Church, at Morristown, in New Jersey. In his settlement the Sabbath was strictly observed. Traveling missionaries were always welcomed, and when none such were present, the settlers were collected to hear a sermon read by Col. Lindley himself. In 1793, Col. Lindley was elected a member of the Legislature, and while attending the session of the body died in New York. Numerous descendants of Col. L. live in the neighborhood settled by him. His son, Hon. Eleazer Lindley, was, for several years, a Judge of the County Court. He died in 1825.

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