Chemung County NY

Town of Veteran from Ridge Road, Catlin hills in background. Taken October 12, 1998 by Joyce M. Tice

Observations on Early Days in the Town of Veteran.

Helen MacDougall Samson (1909-1995) 

This page is part of the Tri-County Genealogy sites by Joyce M. Tice

wrs (Walt Samson) Oct 1998 note- I came across some fading typed sheets by my mother, Helen Mac Dougall Samson. They look like a couple of drafts of something she was writing on the Town of Veteran. The content may not be new, but perhaps she adds a bit of color not found elsewhere.

What follows is what I believe was her later version. I have appended some text from the earlier where I think it contributes.

The Town of Veteran

The names of the towns of the county all have historical significance and this one is no exception. Green Bently, a veteran of the Revolution was the first settler and the town was named "Veteran" in his honor. This first citizen of the valley of the Catherine lived on land now a part of the town of Millport and his grave lies along the road to Seneca Lake, on the old route of the Indians on their way to the Chemung.

Organized by an act to the legislature of N.Y. State, in 1823. It was formed from the town of Catherine in Schuyler Co., and is on the northern boundary of Chemung.

The town of Millport was called Millvale and it was once the scene of most of the commercial life of the town. It is hard to believe that the population was over a thousand when the canal ran through the village and many small industries flourished.

Last year, an old bridge was demolished on the Lower Middle Road and it bore the name plate of a bridge company once located in Millport. A chair factory, a sash and blind factory, several mechanics shops, wagon shops and other small factories which utilized the plentiful pine lumber from the hills around, employed many men and boys from the village. In the 1870s, a close rival of Millport was Pine Valley, some distance south. Here a creamery manufactured 8 cheeses a day and utilized the milk from 300 cows. There were several small shops which made wooden articles, two stores and a saw mill.

The only other settlement of any size is Sullivanville, once called Dean's Corners because of the number of people of that name who lived nearby. This town, too boasted of a few small shops and a saw mill. None of these villages have an industry of any size today. The era of small, locally owned factories which ran in the winter with a few local workers and reduced their force or closed in the summer so the men could work the farms is very different from the big factories of today. However, these same small settlements are now the homes of many people who do work in factories and commute to their jobs.

The Indian stories connected with this locality are rather few. Possibly the last red man seen in the town may have existed in the imagination of a small school boy. George Parsons walked to a little school in the woods up on the Ridge Road. His route from his home an the Middle Road led across the fields and through thick woods. On his way home one night, he was accosted by an Indian who grinned at him in a manner that caused him to run screaming to his home. The Indian disappeared and was seen by no one else.

However, there was uncovered evidence of another Indian inhabitant of the valley. In the early days, while excavating for a cellar in Millport, a skeleton was uncovered. It was the grave of an Indian who had been buried in a sitting position and was accompanied by a treasured iron kettle.

Another fascinating relic of early days is a cannon ball that was found in a pine woods near the Ridge Road. When it was discovered, the remains of a rusted antique sword was also found imbedded in a tree. The sword was destroyed by a farm house fire but the cannon ball is in the possession of a great grand son of the finder, Mr. Charles Lattin of Montour Falls.

Of the early buildings built by the first settlers, few remain. In 1833 the Methodist church in Millport was built and in 1855 the one in Sullivanville was erected. Several of the other churches are also evidence of the religions zeal of the early settlers. One of the most interesting, a Free-Communion Baptist Church was built an the Ridge road in 1836. The building was erected by the freely given help of the men of the church. On the first day, a contest was held to see who would draw the first load of sawed lumber to the site. The first to arrive was Morgan Egbert who was the lucky possessor of a spirited team of young horses and many of the other farmers were using their faithful teams of oxen. (wrs- The site of the church is now occupied by the Town of Veteran road maintenance facility. Diagonally across the intersection of the Ridge and Church Hill Roads was the Parsonage. I lived in that old house during my High School years. Later both my brothers lived there with their families. It was razed.)

The Glen trolley route ran north to Watkins Glen from Elmira. It was the highlight of the life of many a small citizen of the area to be taken for a Sunday afternoon ride on the cars. This line was abandoned in favor of a bus line in 1922, having served the community faithfully since 1895, When the farmers and their families wanted to go into “the city" for a day of shopping, the horse and buggy was left hitched in the Masonic hitching shed in Millport and the trolley was taken to Elmira. Many students rode the trolley morning and night to High School in Horseheads, and men went to work in town by the same mode of transportation.

Every community has its tale of horror and affliction. The one in Veteran has to do with a terrible epidemic of cholera which broke out in 1849. This disease, more often thought of as an Asiatic scrouge, was brought in by laborers who came directly to their jobs from Staten Island. All during a long, hot summer, "many went to bed at night who would not awake the next morning" . Peaceful Catherine Creek, now the scene of a well publicized fishing angeler's paradise every spring when the big Rainbows start running.. The creek has also been the cause of devastation and in 1857 a terrific flood tore out locks an the canal and washed away mills along the banks. Again in 1936, the high water tore away foundations of homes and caused great damage.

This town 's children now attend one or another of the modern schools of the centralized district which was organized in 1950. At one time, 17 small district school furnished the education for all of the children. Only the one in Millport had more than one teacher. These two teachers were often man and wife and they were required to do all of the janitor work as well as teach . For the year of 1888 their combined wage was $750.

The town still deserves the name of "Veteran". It was the first of the towns to fill its quota in the Civil War and there is an impressive roster of names for the later wars. The stands of big White Pines are gone, and the gravelly loam of the hills produces good crops and grass far the dairies of the farms. Many new homes are being built every year as workers in the factories in town discover the joys of country living.

Extracts from an earlier draft Green Bently, a veteran of the Revolution first settled in Wellsburg. His home had been in Wyomong (wrs-Wyoming?), but his fear of Indian troubles drove him up the Susquehanna with his family and goods in a flat boat which he poled upstream. He remained in Wellsburg until 1798 when he sold his 300 acres and bought another 300 In the town of Veteran.

No one else saw the Indian but he often told his daughters of "the last of the old Indians”.

This creek, at present better known for the spring fishing when the Rainbow Trout came up, was then more important as a source of power to saw the lumber which was sold in Havana (Montour Falls) for $4 a thousand feet,

These fascinating old blacksmith shops have all disappeared and the few saddle horses are shoed by an enterprising young man, Marshall Conklin, who carries his shop with him in a small truck, However, in the days of the horse and buggy, most farmers and their wives drove to Elmira on rare trips to shop or to dispose of farm produce. Sometimes, the farm wife drove to Millport and tied the horse in the Masonic sheds to await her return on the trolley which ran from Elmira to Watkins Glen.

The Glen trolley line was built in1895 and was a wonder to the people around. A Sunday ride to the lake was a treat to be remembered, Many men rode the trolley to jobs in Montour. Falls and in Elmlra, and many students went into Horseheads to High school on it. In 1922 the line was abandoned in favor of a less romantic bus.

It was introduced by laborers who were brought directly to their jobs from Staten Island without the later introduced period of observation and health checks. The disease spread through the farm homes near by and all through the long, hot summer citizen after citizen died. The year of 1849 was long remembered in the town.