History of Chemung County 1892 - Towner
Chemung County NY
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Our County and its People
A History of the Valley and County of Chemung
by Ausburn Towner, 1892






The Town of Van Etten - The Character of its original Products -First Settlements made by Hollanders and Scotchmen - Joel Thomas - Gen. Jacob Swartwood His brothers Isaac and Emanuel - His father, Peter Swartwood - The Van Etten Family -- Benjamin Ennis and his Sons - The fighting Westbrook Family - " Pony Hollow " - A Woman who had the Reputation of being a AWitch " - Organization of the Town - Town Officers - Van Ettenville - Its first Inhabitants - Its business interests - its Incorporation - Officers Elected - Benevolent and other Societies - A disastrous Fire - Churches - A Swartwood Church - The first School in the Town - Present Schools - Their fine Character - Enterprises that have helped make Van Etten prominent among the Towns in the County.

THE territory embraced within the present township of Van Etten was originally covered with a heavy growth of timber not unlike many other sections along the "Southern Tier," yet inviting to that class of settlers possessed of energy and perseverance, and who believed that only a fertile soil could produce such growths. Most of the first settlers were pre-eminently fitted for the aggressive work necessary for


the establishment of homes in a wilderness country. Some of them were the descendants of Hollanders who had resisted the waves and reclaimed their lands from the embrace of the sea. Some were of Scotch descent, tracing their ancestry back to men of vigorous constitutions, strong minds, and brave hearts. A few of them were military heroes of the Revolution, and were accustomed to all the vicissitudes of war.

The first settler within the limits of the township was probably Joel Thomas, who located on the creek about a mile south of the site of Van Ettenville village. Here he built a house or properly a cabin in 1795. But little is known of what he accomplished further than this and it is supposed that he remained but a short time.

Gen. Jacob Swartwood, a Revolutionary soldier, came from near Port Jervis and settled in Cayuta Creek Valley, near the locality since known as" Swartwood," in 1797. He was a stirring old patriot, active in peace as well as in war, and immediately commenced the new settlement, liarvesting crops in the same year. He also kept the first hotel, which he opened as early as 18oi, and soon after rebuilt upon the same site the structure still standing and kept as a hotel by his grandson, Jacob Swartwood. Gen. Jacob Swartwood held the office of supervisor and was a representative from Tioga County in the legislature of the State in 1828.

Isaac and Emanuel Swartwood, brothers of the general, settled in the same locality in 1797. Isaac was well fitted by muscular development and determination of purpose for a pioneer; business was his pleasure and labor his amusement. He built the first sawmill in 1 Soo, replaced his primitive log house by a frame dwelling in 1802, and the next year built the first gristmill in the town. He quarried the millstones near Towanda, Pa., cut, dressed them himself, and drew them to their destination with ox-teams, crossing Cayuta Creek seven times upon Ills return when there were no bridges and cutting the brush in advance of his teams the greater part of the distance. At that time there were no mills nearer than Tioga Point. Isaac Swartwood died near Owego at an advanced age. John Swartwood, his son who obtained the title of captain in the "training days," occupies a part of the farm.

Peter Swartwood, father of Gen. Jacob, who had seen military service in the French and Indian War, located near his sons in 1797- Mrs.


Elizabeth Allington, daughter of Peter Swartwood, died soon after the family settled. This was the first death in the town. John Swartwood, brother of Peter, and his sons, Jacob, Daniel, Thomas, Isaiah, and John, added their numbers to the Swartwood settlement in 1797 or 1798. Jacob was a soldier in the War of 1812, was captured by the enemy, and died while a prisoner.

Daniel Decker, who settled north of Vail Ettenville in 1801, married Nancy, daughter of Daniel Swartwood, in 1803; this was the first mar-riage in town 7 sister of Gen. Jacob Swartwood, married a Mr. Shoemaker. They were the parents of James Shoemaker, who died in Several settled in 1798. Dur- ing this year James Van Etten and his son-,, Joshua and James, jr., and Emanuel Van Etten, brother of James, sr., located at the site of the present village of Van Ettenville. James, jr., settled west of the others near the creek. James, brother of Emanuel, died about two years after locating here. The sons of Joshua were James B., Daniel, Joshua, and Albert. There was also one daughter, Jemima. James B. was identi- fied with the business and political interests of the town for several years. He was several times Supervisor of the old town of Cayuta and member of Assembly in 1852. He died in the midst of his usefulness at the age of forty-five years in the year 1856. The name of James has been perpetuated through several generations of the Van Etten family and is still borne by one of the number, James C. Van Etten, a grand- son of James 13. Van Etten, a successful teacher, and a resident of Van Ettenville. James C. Van Etten, born July 11, 1859, was educated at Cortland.

Alexander, John, Emanuel, and Benjamin Ennis settled near Cayuta Creek above the Swartwood families in 1798. They were the sons of' Benjamin Ennis, a Revolutionary patriot who was killed in 1778. His father, William Ennis, emigrated from Scotland and settled near Port Jervis. The Ennis families inherited those traits of character which made them and their descendants worthy citizens of the town and the county.

Maj. Samuel Westbrook settled on Cayuta Creek south of the village in 1788 or 1789. He and his brothers, Cornelius and Peter, were soldiers of the Revolutionary war. Cornelius held the rank of colonel


and Peter, who was killed in all encounter with the Indians and Tories, was a captain. Three sons of Maj. Samuel Westbrook, James, Daniel, and Joshua, settled near the father. The sons of James were Cornelius, Peter, and James, jr. Amasa D. Westbrook, still a resident of the town, is the son of Peter, and was the first enlisted soldier from Van Etten in the war of the Rebellion. He was then about nineteen years of age, enlisted as a private, and afterward received a commission as captain. Peter, his father, was a soldier in the War of 1812. Jacob Westbrook, long a resident of the town and one of the successful farmers, is the son of Joshua. Mrs. Rachel Swartwood, for several years a resident of Vail Ettenville, was one of the daughters.

Three brothers, John, David, and William Hill, and their father, who died soon after, came from near the Delaware River and settled west of the village about 1799. Isaac and Levi Decker settled in 1801.

One of the first settlers in the locality known as "Pony Hollow" was Hiram White from Connecticut, who came about 1800. He represented Chemung County in the Assembly in 1838. Gabriel and David Jayne located near Hiram. White in the same year with him. Henry and Abraham Barnes, who were among the first settlers, were sons of John Barnes, of Pennsylvania, whose other sons were Thomas, Cornelius, Jeremiah, John, Nathan, and William. Henry, who settled in Vail Etten in 1801, and Thomas, his older brother, were Revolutionary soldiers. Abraham Barnes located it' 1803 upon the farm owned by his son Abraham and adjoining the farm where Henry settled. Abraham Barnes, sr., had twelve children, among whom were Mrs. Hannah Swartwood and Jeremiah Barnes, who settled in the town of Erin. Hala Barnes, esq., of Vail Ettenville, is a relative of the family. During the time of the early settlement of this section of the county the delusion of witchcraft had a strong hold upon the minds of some of the people. Nancy Johnson had the reputation of being a witch, and the proof of her unenviable notoriety in that direction lay in the fact of her having a peculiar movement of the lower jaw, which some of her acquaintances believed to be all indication of sorcery. So far as known they were tolerant of her eccentricities and she probably never knew of the suspiscions against her.

Of those who became residents of the town at a later date were Sol


omon White, who settled near Swartwood in 1 808; Michael Higgins, who located south of Van Ettenville in 1825, where he built a mill and carried on business several years; and Charles Murray, who came in 1823 and was a resident physician for several years. Guy Purdy, of Spencer, Tioga County, born in 1808, came to Van Ettenville in 1839. He was one of the prominent men of the town. He held the offices of supervisor, justice of the peace, town clerk, justice of sessions, superintendent of schools, and was instrumental in securing the incorporation of the village.

Jacob Van Auken settled in Van Etten in 1822. he was nurtured amid the stirring scenes of the Revolutionary struggle and imbibed the war spirit of 1812, standing in readiness to resist British invasion from Canada. He lived to be nearly 100 years of age. Cyrus Bloodgood, aged eiglity-three (1891), and his wife, a year younger, have been residents of the town for twenty-five or thirty years. They have been people of industrious habits and exhibit a marked degree of vitality for persons of their age.

The territory embraced within this township was within the limits of Montgomery County as formed in 1788, Tioga County as organized in 1791, and Chemung County as constituted in 1836, and became a town April 17, 1854, being, formed from the towns of Erin and Cayuta. The name was given in honor of James B. Van Etten, the member of Assembly two years before. The first election of town officers was held May 9, 1854, at which time the following officers were elected : George 13. Hall, supervisor; John S. Swartwood, town clerk; Daniel Swartwood, James Ennis, Nicholas Richards, assessors; Lauren J. Stewart, Uriah Osborn, and Seymour Burchard, commissioners of highways; Emanuel Ennis, superintendent of schools ; Guy Purdy, justice of the peace ; William Campbell, John Swartwood, John S. Ennis, inspectors of election; Benjamin D. Sniffin, H. Vandenberg, overseers of the poor; John Banfield, collector; John Banfield, Asel Nichols, John Swartwood, Cornelius Van Auken, Nelson Woolever, constables; Daniel C. Van Etten, sealer of weights and measures. Town clerks and justices of the peace elected since have been :

Town Clerks-1854, John Swartwood; 1855, Francis A. Sniffin; 1856-58, Elijah Dimon; 1859-60, Francis A. Sniffin; 1861.-62, Daniel C. Van Etten; 1863-64, Guy


Purdy; 1865-66, Miles Ennis; 1867, William H. Van Etten; 1868, Francis A.Sniffin; 1869, Jesse Rosekrans; 1870-71, Guy Purdy; 1872, William A. Sniffin; 1873, Hala Barnes; 1874, Sylvester Briggs; 1875, William W.Warner ; 1876, John C. Clark; 1877. Clarence H. Ward; 1878, Owen S. Clark: 1879, no record; 1880, George Banfield: 1881, Jasper S. Wheeler; 1882-83, George Banfield; 1884, B. Frank Burgess; 1885. Judd Mabee; 1886, no record; 1887-89, Julian Goldsmith; 1890, Wilber S. Nichols; 1891, Charles F. Cannan.

Justices of the Peace.- 1854, Guy Purdy: 1855, Charles Patchen, John Swartwood

1856, John Swartwood; 1857, John C. Hanson, Dither S. Hain: 1858, Luther S. Hain: 1859, Charles Patchen; 1860, Jason P. Woolever; 1861, John C. Hanson, John Swartwood; 1862, John Swartwood; 1863, Jesse Rosekrans; 1864, Jason n P. Woolever; 1865, James Swartwood, Hala Barnes; 1866, fames Swartwood; 1867, John C. Hanson, George W. House; 1868, Jason P. Woolever ; 1869, George AN'. House; 1870. James ar;

Swartwood; 1871, John C. Hanson 1872, Jason P. Woolever- 1873, Elijah Rug

1874, Guy Purdy: 184-5, George W. House 1876, Lowman Ennis: 1877, Jason P.Woolever, Edwin A. Nourse, John C. Hanson 1878, John C. Hanson; 1879, no record; 1880, Lowman Ennis; 1881, James C. Swartwood; 1882, James Van Etten; 1883, Benjamin Rumsey; 1884, Lowman Ennis; 1.885, John E. Van Dewaker, Owen S. Clark; 1886, no record - 1887, Albert S. Ward ; 1888, J ason P. Woolever; 1889, Jesse Hobson 1890, Jackson J. Parke; 1891, Albert S. Ward.

The first school within this township was established in 1803 and was taught by Mrs. Ann Baker, wife of Jonathan Baker, who was one of the early settlers in the Swartwood neighborhood. This school was kept in Isaac Swartwood's log house, which was probably one of the first buildings in the town, and vacated by himself in 1802, when he built a frame dwelling, The next school was opened in 1804 in the Van Etten settlement, now Van Ettenville, and taught by Miss S. Wooden. The township includes twelve districts having schoolhouses in each, and also parts of three joint districts with the houses outside the county. The e principal school is located at Van Ettenville. With the growth of the village this school increased in numbers and importance and in 1882 was organized as a union school. The first Board of Education consisted of the following members : Henry Huber, Albert S. Ward, John E. Van Dewaker, Charles A. Murray, Amos S. Hixson, 0. P. Dimon. In the apportionnient of school moneys for 189 1 the district was entitled to four teachers or district quotas and received in the aggregate $642.76. The acting Board of Education in July, 1891, consisted of Edwin Bogart, president: J. Goldsmith, clerk; A. S. Ward, C. A. Murray, S. Briggs, H. P. Whitney, George Dunbar, trustees. The amount apportioned from State funds to all the schools of the town in 1891 was


$1,984.18. Few towns remote from larger villages have better school facilities than Van Etten.

For the first twenty- five years after the first settlements were made in the town some sections remained almost in their primitive condition, and the settlers were annoyed by the wild animals which infested the forests. As late as 1831 a book of records pertaining to the part of the town then Cayuta contains among other items of disbursement " two dollars paid to James Ennis as a bounty on a wild-cat " and "five dollars paid to Peter Ennis as a bounty on a wolf." Subsequent to 1840 the development of the resources of the town was more rapid, and especially after the organization of the township in 1854. The erection of the steam saw mill of Joseph and James H. Rodbourn at Swartwood a few years later gave to that part of the town a prominence in business thrift which it still retains. The establishment of the saw-mill of Hoff, Thayer & Co. in 1873, together with other enterprises already mentioned and the railroad facilities of the town, give it a prominent rank among the towns of the county.

VanEttenville, a village in the east part of the town, is the center of the business interests of the township. Adam Schick was the first settler in the vicinity of the village, but Joshua and James Van Etten settled here in 1798 and owned the land Occupied by the village. Joshua Van

Etten built the first house of which there is any record. The first frame dwelling was erected in 1818 by James Van Etten. It was occupied many years later by Thaddeus Rumsey. The intersection of two of the principal highways of the town and the establishment of a store in 1833 by Edward Hall gave the place the name of Hall's Corners. The first tavern was of logs, built in 1812, and kept by Joshua Van Etten. The first part of the present commodious hotel was built about 1825.

There were but few families residing here prior to 1850. Among the number were the families of James B. Van Etten, Guy Purdy, John Hill, Daniel Clark, Elijah Dimon, Jacob Allington, and L. Mattice. The election of James B. Van Etten to the Assembly in 1852 and the organization of the township in 1854 gave the village some prominence. Hall's Corners had become Van Ettenville, Manufacturing interests began to locate here. The extensive extract works of J. F. Hixson & Co. were started in 1869.This establishment used about 3,000 tons of


hemlock bark annually, from which was extracted its astringent qualities for tanning purposes. The output of the establishment was about 30,000 barrels per year. The buildings were burned in September, 1879. Van Ettenville was established as a postoffice on May 5, 1836, with the appointment of James B. Van Etten as postmaster. His successors with the dates of their appointments have been as follows : Joseph Giles, July 29, 1841 ; Daniel C. Van Etten, July 7, 1842 ; Albert Van Etten, June 25, 1846 ; Charles Patchin, November 14, 1848 Daniel C. Van Etten, December 12, 1849 ; Guy Purdy, June 18, 1853 Daniel B. Clark, December 10, 1861 ; Will H. Van Etten, March 18, 1873 Daniel B. Clark, September 1 9, 1873 ; Albert S. Ward, April 2 1, 1881 Orville P. Dimon, January 21, 1886; Albert S. Ward, May 31, 1889.

The steam saw-mill of J. F. Hixson & Co., erected in 1869, giving employment to a number of men, and manufacturing 20 feet of 500,00 lumber per year, contributed to the growth of the village. The mill was sold to David W. Lounsbury in 1885 and John Banfield became the owner in 1888.

The town and village have abundant railroad facilities, being upon the lines of three roads. The town was bonded for $25,000 to aid in the construction of the Geneva, Ithaca, and Sayre Railroad, completed in 187 1. The Utica, Ithaca, and Elmira road, now known as the Elmira, Cortland , and Northern, constructed in 1874, also has a station at Van Ettenville. The extension of the Lehigh Valley, in process of construction In 1891, crosses the town near the village. Following the growth of the village several prominent citizens became interested in its incorporation. Among these were 0. P. Dimon, Guy Purdy, J. C. Hanson, Isaac Knettles, C. H. Ward, E. Handy, M. Van Valkenburg, N. Rumsey, L. Clark, Isaac Hyman, W. M. Robinson, S. Briggs, Levi Bowers, E. A. Nourse, John Banfield, S. Hoff, D. B. Clark, W. Clark, Edwin Bogart, A. 1). Westbrook, C. A. Crawford, A. B. Clark, and Solomon Barnes. At a meeti n g held October 24, 1876, a majority of sixty-on e votes were cast in favor of incorporation, which was consummated under the general law November 27, 1876. The officers elected were: Amos S. Hixson, president; John Banfield, A. B. Clark, 0. P. Dimon, trustees; G. Smith Carmon, clerk ; Alfred Burchard, J. Devendorf, Edwin Bo


gart, police. E. A. Nourse was the first police justice. The presidents of the incorporation have been: 1876-80, Amos F. Hixson; 1881, William IN. Warner; 1882-85, Amos F. Hixson ; 1886, Enos Canfield; 1887, Charles A. Murray; 1888, Levi Bowers ; 1 889-90, George Banfield ; 1891, Enos Canfield.

On December 1, 1879, the village board purchased Mount Hope Cemetery lying within the corporation for the sum Of $460, pursuant to a special act of the legislature passed April 6, 1879.

Canfield Hook and Ladder Company, consisting of thirty members, H. G. King, chief, was organized in January, 1889. The village owns the hook and ladder truck and the company consists of volunteer members.

Van Ettenville is the home of a number of benevolent and other societies. Mount Lebanon Lodge, F. and A. M., was instituted July 12, 1877, with Amos S. Hixson, W. M.; Alfred Burchard, S. W.; George W. Banfield, J. W. - past masters, Amos S. Hixson, 0. P. Dimon, Isaac Knettles, C. A. Murray, Dr. J. W. Gee, James McGivens. Officers A. L. 5891 : Alfred Swartwood, master; Aaron Hammond, S. W.; Julian Goldsmith, J. W.; George Banfield, treasurer; Henry G. King, secretary ; David Lindsay, S. D.; J. C. Knettles, J. D.; Sanford Blake, S. M. C.; James Gunderman, J. M. C.; J. J. Parks, chaplain; James McGivens, marshal ; Isaac Knettles, tyler -trustees, J. J. Parks, Isaac Knettles, Alfred Burchard.

Van Etten Lodge, Knights of Honor, was instituted April 19, 1879, with twenty-five charter members. The membership has increased to forty. Five deaths have occurred since the organization. The Rev. C. M. Jones was the first dictator of the lodge; others have been W.W. Warner, J. C. Knettles, A. S. Ward, G. F. Dunbar, 0. P. Dimon, J. B. Dimon, F. B. Shelton, H. G. King, G. A. Sabin, C. L. Nichols. Officers of 1891 : W. F. Nichols, dictator; G. W. Harvey, vice-dictator; G. A. Sabin, assistant dictator; J. C. Knettles, reporter; J. B. Dimon, financial reporter; 0. P. Dimon, treasurer; C. L. Nichols, chaplain; W. W. Warner, guide ; Frederick Hotchkiss, guardian; W. L. Stewart, sentinel; J. B. Dimon, deputy grand dictator in charge of lodge.

A lodge of Knights and Ladies of Honor was organized in 1883. There are sixteen members. One death has occurred in the membership, that of Mrs. Bowers.


The Van Ettenville Equitable Aid Union was organized in 188o. It has thirty-three members and its officers are: Mary Bartholomew chancelor ; 0. P. Dimon, advocate; William Warner, president; Jacob A. Westbrook, vice-president ; L. L. Briggs, secretary and treasurer; Patty Thayer, accountant. There have been eight deaths in the membership.

The Provident Shield, a beneficial organization under the Supreme Lodge of Philadelphia, was chartered July 9, 1 880, the charter members being Harry Banfield, Julian Goldsmith, 0. S. Clark, Henry Huber, Charles F. Carmon, John Rochford, 0. P. Dimon, F. B. Shelton, J. W. Gee, Samuel H. English, Frank Staples. Henry Huber is the president of the organization and Harry Banfield secretary.

Maxwell Post, NO. 454, G. A. R., was organized in March, 1884, with the following charter members: Jesse W. Cornell, Albert J. Whitley, Joshua Westbrook, Loren 0. Cooley, Albert S. Ward, Edgar L. Bogart, George A. Sabin, George W. Harvey, Abram Shoemaker, Jacob A. Westbrook, John C. Sims, Alonzo Bunnell, John C. Knettles, William Kelley, Abram C. Decker, Charles P. Harvey, Charles Gilmore, Levi B. Card, John Callahan. Its past commanders are : J. C. Knettles, A. S. Ward, George W. Harvey, J. C. Sims, George A. Sabin, 0. P. Dimmock. Its present officers : John C. Knettles, Com.; Albert S. Ward, S. V.-Com.; Albert J. Whitley, J. V.-Com.; George A. Sabin, surgeon; Joshua Westbrook, Q. M.; Abram C. Decker, 0. D.; Jacob Westbrook, 0. G.; George W. Harvey, adjutant; Loren 0. Cooley, S. M.; Edgar L. Bogart, Q. M.-S.

A disastrous fire swept away the better part of the village February 2, 1888. The buildings of an entire square adjoining Front street were destroyed. Among these were the Knights of Honor, Masonic, and Equitable Aid Halls and several stores and shops. The loss was estimated at $75,000. During the same year the Clark block was erected in another part of the village. This contains two stores, several offices, and Clark's and Masonic Halls. The first new building on the burned district was the village hall for the use of the fire department and village officers, built in 1 89 1. Dimon & Dunbar started business in the elevator warehouse in 1886. The business is now managed by 0. P. Dimon.

The Baptist Church at Van Ettenville was organized in 1841 as a


branch of the Spencer church, and so remained for about twenty-seven years, when it became independent. Some of the first members were Samuel English and wife, John C. Hanson and wife, George Bennitt and wife, James Brink and wife, Seymour Burchard and wife. William W. Clark and wife became members afterward. The original number was fourteen: About the time the church became independent of the Spencer church, in 1868, the Revs. Taylor and Kimball held protracted meetings, which resulted in increased membership, the number reaching at one time nearly forty. The church was erected in 1852 and was afterward repaired at an expense of several hundred dollars. The pastors have been Revs. Lewis, Fox, Huntley, Van Dorn, and C. M. Jones. In 1878, during the pastorate of Rev. C. M. Jones, the church was reorganized and had a flourishing existence for several years. But few Of the members now remain and they have no regular services.

The early history of the Methodist Church in the village is somewhat obscure. The society was probably organized about 183o. The first church was built in 185 1. The society was re-organized in 1857 and the church was subsequently repaired. This church and the parsonage belonging were burned in April, 1882. The fire was probably of incendiary origin. The buildings were worth about $3,500. The work of rebuilding was commenced soon after the fire. A commodious brick structure was erected at an expense of $6,000 and dedicated in June, 1883. Among the pastors who have labored here are Revs. Burgess, Wetherwax, Samuel Barter, George W. Reynolds, 0. McDowell,J. W. Jenner, J. W, Mills. The church and parsonage were burned during the pastorate of Rev. C. E. Mogg. Those who have succeeded him as pastors are Revs. M. C. Coyle, U. S. Hall, H. King, and John N. Sackett, the last of whom commenced his labors with this church in 18go. The membership of the church has been about 100 during the past ten years. The Sunday school has largely increased in numbers and general interest. The number of children in attendance is about 150.

The Hedding Methodist Church at Swartwood had its origin soon after the first settlement of the town. Religious meetings were held at private houses. A class was formed about 1805. John Shoemaker, Emanuel Ennis, Benjamin Ennis, John Ennis, and the wives of each of the four were some of the first members. In 1826 Benjamin and Alex


ander Ennis erected a church which was first used as a place of free worship. Ten years later it was purchased by the Methodist Society. It was remodeled in 1883 at a. cost of $ 1,000. This is a part of the Van Ettenville charge, one minister having the two appointments.

Swartwood.-The postoffice of Swartwood was established as Van Etten with Jacob Swartwood postmaster on February 27, 1860. Its name was changed to Swartwood, November 17, 1875, with George B. Pompelly as postmaster. His successors have been as follows : John Nichols, April 17, 1878; Eli Adams, October 24, 1881 ; William R. Van Horn, September 12, 1889; C. B. Snyder, January 15, 1891.

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