Landmarks of Oswego County, New York; by John Charles (1821—1905). Churchill, H. P. (Henry Perry) Smith (1839—1925) and W. Stanley Child; 1895; pgs. 481—487
Originally transcribed by Julie Litts Robst (2002).
THE TOWN OF BOYLSTON
Boylston, lying in the center of the northernmost limits of Oswego county, was formed from Orwell on the 7th of February, 1828. It was originally known as survey township No. 6, otherwise called "Campania," of the Boylston tract, and upon its organization was named in honor of Thomas Boylston, who for a short time held the title to that extensive purchase. It is bounded on the north by Lorraine, Jefferson county; on the east by Redfield; on the south by Orwell; and on the west by Sandy Creek and Ellisburg in Jefferson county, and comprises an area of 24,270 acres.
The surface of the town has a general westerly inclination and the highest points attain an altitude of 700 to 800 feet above tide-water. It is one of the most sightly localities in the county. From its greatest elevations an extended and beautiful panoramic view is unfolded to the beholder. Lake Ontario and the intervening town of Sandy Creek, and portions of Ellisburg and Richland, are presented to the eye, while other landscapes little less pleasing greet the vision of the appreciative observer. "Distance lends enchantment to the view of both lake and land, and if beautiful prospects took precedence over corn and cheese, Boylston might outrank all the rest of the county."1 The surface is rolling and moderately hilly. The soil in the northern and western parts is a fertile gravelly loam, the underlying rock being the Lorraine shales. The southeast corner of the town extends into the gray limestone region and the soil there is light and thin. Outcroppings of rock are frequent, especially along the streams, and in some instances interfere with the cultivation. Until recent years the principal industry was lumbering, but agriculture has generally superseded other employments. The town was originally covered with a heavy growth of valuable timber, which gave employment to numerous saw mills, but which now is seen only in scattered remnants. Productive fields and pleasant homes have replaced the larger portion of primitive forests, and afford to the worthy inhabitants of to-day a substantial revenue as well as a desirable residence. The most important stream is Little Sandy Creek, which has its source in Redfield and flowing westerly through this town and Sandy Creek, empties into the lake. There are other small brooks that afford adequate drainage. The chief products are grain, hay, and potatoes, and considerable attention is also given to dairying.
Ever associated with a dense wilderness are many thrilling stories of adventure, and Boylston is no exception to the rule. Late in settlement and still later in development, these stirring narratives are unforgotten. Deer and bear, welcomed and dreaded respectively in the vicinity of the pioneer's home, were frequent visitors within the memory of many inhabitants. Encounters with the later animal, formerly frequent, are still of occasional occurrence. Hunting was for many years a favorite pastime, a sport not unattended with danger, but sought, nethertheless, for its genuine adventure and excitement.
Many Indian relics have been found from time to time in the town, showing that this was a hunting ground for the savages as well as their civilized successors.
The original patentee of the lands comprised within the present town of Boylston was Alexander Macomb, of New York city, who, on June 22, 1791, in behalf of a company said to consist of himself, Daniel McCormick, and William Constable, applied to the Legislature for a tract since known as Macomb's Purchase. The price was to be eight pence per acre, and the patent was issued to him January 10, 1792. He had become involved in speculation, and on October 3, conveyed to William Constable that portion of his purchase of which this town formed a part. December 18, 1792, Constable conveyed nearly all of survey townships Nos. 5 and 6 (Boylston) to Samuel Ward, who, two days later, sold a tract including this town to Thomas Boylston, of Boston. May 21, 1794, Boylston gave a deed of trust of eleven townships to George Lee, George Irving and Thomas Latham, assignees of Lane, Son & Frazer, of London, and they conveyed them to John Johnson Phyn, June 2, 1794, in whom the title became vested. April 10, 1795, Phyn appointed William Constable his attorney to sell any or all of the Boylston Tract, and on April 1, 1796, conveyed to him (Constable) the unsold lands, which included this township. March 16, 1798, Constable gave his brother James a power of attorney to sell lands, and, to establish confidence in the validity of his title, procured from Gen. Alexander Hamilton, J. O. Hoffman (attorney-general of the State), Richard Harrison, and other eminent lawyers a certificate that they had examined his conveyances and believed them perfect. William Constable died May 22, 1803, and on April 26, 1819, a deed of release was executed by his heirs to Hezekiah B. Pierrepont, from whom the title of the unsold portions passed to his son, William C. Pierrepont.
The highways of the town, owing to the scattered population, have always been a subject of more or less solicitude, yet in point of improvement they have kept pace with those of the more thickly settled communities. Those in the western part were the first to be surveyed and constructed. In 1849 the Lorraine plank road was completed and opened by a company incorporated on January 3 of that year, which consisted of Moses Brown, Philander Smith, Elihu Gillett, Chester Gilman, and A. L. Baker. This thoroughfare was discontinued as a plank road several years ago.
At the first town meeting, held in the spring of 1828, the following officers were chosen:
Supervisor, John Wart; town clerk, Joseph Shoecraft; assessors, Jesse Colman, Matthew Shoecraft, Barnabas Porter; commissioners of highways, Daniel Chase, Peter Wells, Zaben Cole; overseers of the poor, Thomas Dutcher, Martin Lillie; collector, Henry D. Pruyn; constables, Henry D. Pruyn, Philip A. Bortles; commissioners of common schools, John Wart, John Dunbar, jr., Reuben Snyder; inspectors of common schools, Miller R. Larmouth, Peter Wells, Philip A. Bortles.
The supervisors have been:
John Wart, 1828—29; Joseph Shoecraft, 1830—35; Henry Snyder, 1836—37; Joseph Shoecraft, 1838; John Wart, 1839—40; Jacob V. Gordon, 1841—43; Joseph Shoecraft, 1844; Jacob V. Gordon, 1845; Daniel Shoecraft, 1846—48; James Lowry, 1849—50; Azariah Wart, 1851—52; Abraham Snyder, 1853—54; Azariah Wart, 1855—56; Joseph L. Bortles, 1857—58; Henry J. Snyder, 1859—60; James Lowry, 1861; Henry J. Snyder, 1862; Christopher J. Huffstater, 1863—64; Joseph L. Bortles, 1865—66; Henry Lester, 1867—70; David Hamer, 1871—72; Henry Lester, 1873; John Oderkirk, 1874—75; George W. Rudd, 1876—78; Leonardo R. Huffstater, 1879—80; George N. Shafty, 1881—90; Orrin L. Stowell, 1891—92; Emerson D. Lester, 1893—94.
The town officers for 1894—95 were:
Emerson D. Lester, supervisor; Charles A. Fuller, town clerk; Elvin S. Blodgett, highway commissioner; Aaron W. Fuller, William Ridgeway, James Hunt and Eugene Wells, justices of the peace; Walter H. Greenwood, Philando Delong and Lyman J. Baker, assessors; Joseph L. Bortles, overseer of the poor; Henry G. Greenfield, collector; James B. Tilton, George Wills and George Doneburg, town auditors; William A. Snyder, sealer of weights and measures.
In 1882 a neat frame public hall was erected near the center of the town at a cost of about $600; this is used for holding elections and for the transaction of other town business.
The first settlers in the town of Boylston were John Wart and Michael Sweetman, who, unknown to each other, made permanent locations in 1812. Mr. Wart was the first actual resident, as he arrived two days before his neighbor. He came from Otsego county and settled in the northwest corner of the town, as did also Mr. Sweetman, who removed hither from Montgomery county. The locality then was an unbroken wilderness, and many were the stories which these hardy pioneers lived to recount. Soon after their arrival, the War of 1812 broke out and both hastened as volunteers to the defense of Sackett's Harbor. Immigration ceased, and for two years theirs were the only families in the town save a man named Gordon, who lived a part of the time in the vicinity. Alonzo Wart, eldest son of John, was born December 12, 1812, and was the first white child born in Boylston, but he survived only until February 1814, when he died, which was the first death in the township. William Wart, a son of John, was born here September 4, 1819, married a daughter of John Dingman, and resides in Sandy Creek, where his son holds the office of postmaster. In 1814 Rhodes Streeter became the third permanent settler of the town.
In 1815 four families came in.—those of Peter Wills, John F. Dean, Martin Lillie, and Asa B. Copeland, all of whom located in the vicinity of North Boylston. The last survivor of this pioneer band was Mrs. Lillie. In 1816 Morris Wart, a younger brother of John, became a settler. Among those who came hither the same year were Andrew Bortles, George Huffstater, Matthew Shoecraft, , Jacob Weidrich, Jesse Blue, Peter Huffstater, Joseph Shoecraft, Peter Barga, and Jacob, Reuben, Henry, Abram and Jonathan Snyder, nearly all of whom were substantial farmers from the famous Mohawk Valley. Abram Snyder located on the homestead now occupied by his son, Abram, jr., while Reuben settled where Ira Cummins now lives. The locality took from them the name of Snyder's Corners.
As early as 1822 Elisha Stevens made a settlement in the Snyder neighborhood and in that year built on Sandy Creek, near the western boundary of the town, the first saw mill in Boylston. About 1830 a grist mill was erected, but it was neither valuable or enduring. On the Moore road is now a mill owned by Edward Snyder.
In 1817 the present Boylston became a part of Orwell, and John Wart was appointed a justice of the peace, being the first within the limits of this town. In that capacity he married Jonathan Snyder and a Miss Stevens, the first couple wedded in the town of Boylston. Prior to that, however, Samuel Wells and Betsey Gordon were united in the sacred bonds of matrimony, but they went eastward to have the ceremony performed.
By 1824 a sparsely settled community had become established in the west part of the town, leaving the eastern and central portions a dense forest, in which the bear, wolf, and deer roamed almost unmolested. Even down to 1850 these localities remained practically untouched except for the game they furnished the sportsmen. As fast as the numerous saw mills devoured the timber the pioneers resolutely opened farms, and rapidly brought the hills under cultivation, and during the past forty years more land has been improved in Boylston than in any other town in the county.2
Aaron W. Fuller, who, with his son Charles A., occupied the center lot of the town, settled there in 1852, and the same year his brother, William T., located on the farm across the road. Stephen Baker came to the neighborhood also in 1852, but subsequently moved to Missouri.
Other early settlers were Thomas and Robert Sliter, Mr. Crawford (a blacksmith), Joseph A. Tilton (father of James B.), Jacob Barga (father of William), Leonard Palmer (a farmer and foundryman where his daughter, Mary Palmer, now lives), William Barker (father of James), Jesse Ballou (father of Hosea), Nelson Oderkirk (father of John A.), Frederick Barga (brother of Jacob), Henry Palmer (brother of Leonard), James Lowry, sr. (father of James), Cornelius Delong (father of Philander and Charles), James McDougall, John Smith (father of George), William Tanner, Solomon Paddock, Barney Ostrom, David McDougall, Hosea B. Turner, David Brown, Garrett Snyder, and the Cole family, on whose farm stands the Le Clair cheese factory.
During the war of the Rebellion the town sent sixty-five of her brave citizens to fight in the Nation's cause. Each served with credit and fidelity.
The first school house in Boylston was a bark covered log structure erected in 1817, and in it school was taught during that summer by Polly Allport. The town at present has nine school districts with a school house in each, in which nine teachers were employed during the year 1892—93, and which were attended by 219 scholars. The value of school buildings and sites is $3,650; assessed valuation of the districts in 1893, $168,579; public money received from the State, $1,036.45; raised by local tax, $715.77. The districts are locally known as follows: No. 1, Wart; 2, North Church; 3, Van Auken; 4, Hemlock; 5, Phelps; 6, Palmer; 7, Joint; 8, Center; 9, Smartville.
The population of Boylston in 1830 was 388; 1835, 368; 1840, 481; 1845, 538; 1850, 661; 1855, 815; 1860, 909; 1865, 960; 1870, 1,053; 1875, 1,132; 1880, 1,283; 1890, 1,081.
Supervisors' statistics of 1894.—Acres of resident land, 14,779; non-resident, 9,491; assessed valuation of real estate, $183,785; equalized, $171,608; personal property, $1,720; town tax, $1,434.74; county tax, $970.63; total tax levy, $2,766.97; dog tax, $89; rate of taxation, $1.50. The town constitutes a single election district and in November, 1894, polled 222 votes.
Villages.—There are no villages in the town. North Boylston is a small hamlet and post-office in the northern part, at which George W. Rudd is postmaster. This post-office was established in April, 1852, under the postmastership of Luke Wells, who opened a tavern there in 1851. Eugene Wells erected a store and cheese factory there in 1888. Boylston Center is a post-office near the center of the town; the postmaster is Daniel Amos Snyder. Smartville post-office, named in honor of William Smart, who formerly conducted a store and saw mill there, was established in the fall of 1893 with Theophilus F. Lenoir as postmaster.
Churches.—The First Wesleyan Methodist church of Boylston, situated near the line of Sandy Creek, was first organized about 1845, and among its early pastors were Daniel Calkins, Loomis Chase, Daniel Hollis, and James Francis. The present incumbent is Rev. Mr. Havens. In 1856 a church edifice was built and is still in use.
The North Boylston circuit (Methodist Protestant) was set off from the Boylston-Orwell circuit in 1868, prior to which meetings had been held in the school house near the present church edifice, which was built in the northwest part of the town in 1859. The first pastor was Rev. Charles Wiedrich, the present one being Rev. Mr. Beebe. This same denomination holds services in the school house at Smartville.
Regular services are usually maintained at each of these three places, which afford the inhabitants convenient facilities for religious worship.
1. Johnson's History, 1877
2. Boylston taken from Orwell in 1828; from Albany 140, from Pulaski N. E. ten miles. Pop. 481. The greater part of the town is still covered with a forest.—From Hist. Coll. of the State of N. Y., 1846.
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