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. 649—659

Originally transcribed by Ruth Seibert (2004).


Palermo1 was formed from Volney on the 4th of April, 1832, and comprises an area of 24,582 acres, of which 1,004 are owned by non-residents. It constitutes survey township 14, originally called Brugen, and a small part of township 15, called Mentz, of Scriba's patent. These towns were surveyed by Elijah Blake and Ebenezer Wright in 1796. The territory was finally parcelled out in small tracts, some of which, in township 14, took the names of their owners, as follows: Fish's tract, in the southeast corner of the town; Nelson tract, in the south part; Henderson tract, near the center; and Curtenius tract, in the northeast corner.  Topographically it is nearly square and lies in the interior of the county a little southwest from the center. The surface is undulating and often quite hilly. Drainage is afforded by Fish, Catfish, Scott's and other creeks. In the eastern part of the town is what is locally known as "Big Swamp," which lies fifty-seven feet above Oneida Lake, and around which a rich alluvial deposit exists. Considerable land bordering this swamp has been reclaimed, but no systematic effort has been made to effectually drain it.

The soil is generally a sandy loam and only moderately fertile. In some parts, however, abundant crops of grain, hay, corn, and fruit, are grown. A heavy growth of timber originally covered the entire surface, and for many years furnished constant employment to numerous woodworking establishments. As late as 1860 there were eight saw mills, three shingle and stave factories, and two tanneries in active operation. At the present time there are nine saw mills and kindred concerns in the town. Most of the forests have disappeared and instead appear well-cultivated fields and comfortable homes. Agriculture is the chief industry while lumbering constitutes the principal manufacturing interest.

Contemporaneous with the settlement of the town was the surveying and opening of passable roads, and one of the earliest highways was the road leading from Fulton, through Jenning's Corners (Palermo Center), to Mexico. The Oswego and Hastings Center plank road passed through a portion of this town and for a time was a busy thoroughfare. The opening of the Oswego Canal in 1828 and the completion, later, of the railway lines through Fulton, Hastings, and Mexico, aided in the development of the town. The railroad most convenient to the larger portion of the town is the New York, Ontario, and Western (Midland) Railroad, which passes through the north part of Schroeppel, and which was opened in October, 1869.

The first town meeting was held at the home of Alva Jennings March 4, 1833, eleven months after the town was formed, and the first officers elected were as follows:

William F. Shepard, supervisor; A. E. Noble, town clerk; Lovwell Johnson, Ethan Burdick, and Ansel Goodwin, assessors; William K. Burt and Azariah Parmelee, overseers of the poor; Phineas Converse, Alva Jennings, and Alexander McQueen, highway commissioners; Ansel Goodwin, Barzil Candee, and Leman Austin, commissioners of common schools; Leman Austin, Asahel Dolbear, and Alanson Graves, inspectors of common schools; Lovwell Johnson, Matthew V. D. Backus, Harlow Merrill, and Peter Tooley, justices of the peace; Thomas Burdick, collector; Thomas Burdick, Asahel Dolbear, Alvin Cass, and Theodore Humphrey, constables. The following pathmasters were also chosen: District No. 1, Jeremiah Hull; No. 2, David Gardner; No. 3, N. C. Munger; No. 4, Henry Chapin; No. 5, Lewis Babbitt; No. 6, David Thurston; No. 7, William Beels; No. 8, Ethan Burdick; No. 9, Alvin Lord; No. 10, Henry Cole; No. 11, John Sails; No. 12, Chauncey Jerome; No. 13. Daniel Eastwood; No. 14, Ebenezer Pierce; No. 15, Obed Gulis; No. 16, John Pettis; No. 17, Joseph Ure; No. 18, John Hanson; No. 19, Amon Wood; No. 20, Alvin Cass; No. 21, Gamaliel Olmstead; No. 22. Levi Phillips; No. 23, Alpheus C. Wheeler; No. 24, — —; No. 25, Lester Goodrich; No. 26, G. Goodwin; No. 27, Benjamin Dennis; No. 28, Oliver Chaffee; No. 29, Thomas I. Cattington.

The supervisors have been:

William F. Shepard, 1833; Jeremiah Hull, 1834; Lovwell Johnson, 1835; Elijah Dickinson, 1836—38; John Bostwick, 1839; George Blossom, 1840—43; Elijah Dickinson, 1844—45; David Jennings, 1846—47; Abner Chaffee, 1848—49; David Jennings, 1850—51; Abner Chaffee, 1852—53; Leman Austin, 1854; David Jennings, 1855; Abner Chaffee, 1856; David Jennings, 1857; Sherman L. Decker, 1858—59; George Tinker, 1860—61; Joseph Harding, 1862—63; Guy P. Loomis, 1864; Abner Chaffee, 1865; Jay L. Johnson, 1866—69; David L. Brown, 1870—71; Samuel R. Smith, 1872—73; Henry F. Parsons, 1874; George M. Hanchett, 1875; Samuel R. Smith, 1876; David H. Trimble, 1877—78; Samuel R. Smith, 1879—81; Henry F. Parsons, 1882; David H. Trimble, 1883—88; Henry F. Parsons, 1889—90; D. W. Hart, 1891; Henry F. Parsons, 1892—93; Minott F. Tooley, 1894—95.

The town officers for 1895 were:

Minott F. Tooley, supervisor; G. D. Trimble, town clerk; Amos Wood, George W. Dennis, Ellis O. Parsons, and Herbert Gulliver, justices of the peace; John Bradford, Frank Parson, and John Knowlton, assessors; D. W. Hart, highway commissioner; A. B. Flint, collector; D. H. Trimble, overseer of the poor.

In 1800 Phineas Chapin and Lemuel Shepard (father of Norman Shepard) came from Sauquoit, Oneida County, to Three River Point with a team and thence on foot to what was afterward Chapin's Mill, where each purchased a farm lot. It was not until 1807 or 1808, however, that they began to clear their land. In the latter year a son of Mr. Chapin ,was accidentally killed, which was the first death in town.

The first permanent settler in the present town of Palermo was David Jennings, who removed from Paris, Oneida county, in the spring of 1806, and located in township 14, on what was long known as the old Shepard farm. Later he moved to the place now occupied by Timothy Dolbear and in 1852 to the farm owned by his son, E. L. Jennings, where be died July 1, 1869. He was born March 2, 1791, married Lois Hartson, March 26, 1809, and had ten children, of which only one (E. L.), survives. He was a Whig in politics and held several town offices, supervisor, justice of the peace, etc. During the first years of his pioneer life Mr. Jennings returned to Oneida county to spend the winters, but in June, 1810, he brought his young wife hither and they began housekeeping. At that time two or three other families had become residents. He cleared the first land and built the first log house in the town, and a number of his descendants are now living in that vicinity. Eliphalet Jennings (who uses the initials E. L. as there are others here who bear the initial E.) was born in this town October 5, 1822, has been married three times, and has one daughter, Ida C. (Mrs. Arthur Loomis). The family have always been prominent in the community and have the respect of all who know them. The first marriage in Palermo was that of Joseph Jennings and Sally Chapin.

In 1809 Simeon Crandall and Sylvanus Hopkins settled in Palermo and about this time or soon afterward Enoch Hyde, Zadock Hopkins, Alvin Walker, sr., and perhaps a few others became permanent residents. Phineas Chapin erected on Kilby Creek, in 1812, the first saw mill in town; it was long known as the Chapin mill and was subsequently owned by Martin Chaffee. Lemuel Shepard with his son, Albert Shepard, built the first frame house in the fall of 1812. It was torn down in May, 1880, by John Albee, a native of the town. Enoch Hyde erected another frame house near Jennings's Corners (Palermo Center), about the same time. Zadock Hopkins was killed in 1811 while digging a well, his being the second death in the town. The first birth was that of Alvin Walker, jr., in September, 1811. Stephen Blake sr., arrived in 1812 and purchased about 100 acres of land where the village of Palermo Center now stands, and in 1816 built the first tavern in Palermo. It was a log structure and stood in the center of the road just south of the village. In 1816 he sold a little more than half an acre of land for a burial place; this has since been enlarged and is still used as a cemetery, being the oldest one in town. Mr. Blake was the second town clerk and held that office about eight years.

Among the few who came in during the war of 1812 was Elder Asaph Graves, the father of Alanson and Cyrus Graves, and a Vermonter by birth, who arrived in 1813 and located about a mile east of Palermo Center on what is familiarly known as the old Lewis Johnson farm. He was an ordained preacher of the Baptist church and the first settled minister in town. John Trim took up a farm just east of Palermo Center in 1814 and died near there at the age of eighty-three. When he was sixteen his father, mother, two sisters, and a brother were massacred by the Indians near Schenectady, and himself and a younger brother were taken captives. The latter, being unable to endure the hardships of a long march, was shot. John was taken to Canada and after two years escaped. During his life he killed eight Indians and one squaw. In 1816 Barzil Candee came into the town and in 1837 removed to the farm in Schroeppel subsequently occupied by his son, C. W. Other settlers prior to 1820 were Lester W. Babcock and D. B. Coe.

In 1820 Josiah Chaffee and Capt. Ephraim McQueen settled in town. The former was from Connecticut, was the father of Dea. Josiah Chaffee, of Schroeppel, and settled near the Volney line, while the latter settled near Flint's Corners on the farm now occupied by his sons. Ezra Ure was born in Palermo in 1823 and was a life-long resident of the town. In 1870 he purchased the store and grist mill at Vermilion, and died March 5, 1890. Among other comers during the decade of 1820—30 were Ashley K. Ba1l, A. G. Clark, Harry Clark, O. P. Jennings, John Jackson, Sheldon Remington, Leander Scudder, jr., Samuel R. Smith (long supervisor and a merchant at East Palermo), Gamaliel Perkins, and Peter Tooley and his sons George M. and James A. The families of Perkins and Tooley came in 1828. Mr. Perkins died at Mexico Point in 1884. Peter Tooley located on lot 52. He came from Oneida county and served his town as justice of the peace.

Isaac N. Lansing, born in Hoosac, N. Y., in 1796, came from Madison county to Palermo in November, 1830, and settled on the farm now occupied by his son, J. Fitch Lansing. His children were Joseph Fitch, born in 1831; William S., born in 1840; Sarah E. (Mrs. Benjamin G. Eaton); and Eunice L. and Erastus W. His wife's father, Frederick Wilcox, came from Connecticut the same year and settled on the farm now owned by J. Fitch Lansing. Other settlers of 1830 were Elder Hills (near Palermo Center, where his son John now resides), Leman Austin (from Oneida county, the father of Mrs. Sarah Wright), and Harvey Whitmore (where George Babcock now lives). In 1832 D. C. Burritt and George W. Hicks became residents of the town, the latter on lot 72. In 1834 George Tinker arrived from Marshall, Oneida county, and settled on the farm (lot 63) now occupied by Willis A. Jennings. In 1836 Robert Flint and his father came to Palermo and opened a blacksmith shop at Flint's Corners. Robert was born in Otsego county July 18, 1818, was class leader of the M. E. church thirty-one years, and died April 14, 1880. Harvey Whitmore was town clerk several years and George Tinker served as justice of the peace. John Hills held both offices some time. Other settlers prior to 1840 were:

A. W. Allen, W. M. Bartlett, A. K. Beckwith, L. G. Burrows, Nelson Cross, Orson and H. Davis, Asahel and Timothy Dolbear, Elijah Dickinson, David Gardner, Ezra Green, Reuben T. Hanchett, W. H. Hannan, Lovwell Johnson, Andrew Keller, A. E. Noble, Alvin Osborn, E. O. Parsons, J. H. Snyder, David H. Trimble (born here) and William F. Shepard.

A. E. Noble was the first town clerk, Alvin Osborn held the same office and was also a justice of the peace, A. K. Beckwith served as town clerk, and Elijah Dickinson, Reuben T. Hanchett, and Ezra Green were justices of the peace. Lovwell Johnson, who is noticed in the Bench and Bar chapter in this volume, was one of the first justices and was also the first postmaster in town, holding the latter office until 1839, when he moved to Fulton, where he died in 1859.

Among the settlers between 1840 and 1850 were W. N. Collins, F. C. Church, Alexander Flint, Charles Gero, G. M. Hanchett, and Israel Rigley. Other prominent settlers were:

E. B. Bartlett, a well known meteorologist; David L. Brown, born near Utica, N. Y., in 1827, came to Volney in 1855, and located near Palermo in 1859; and James Atkinson, N. B. and William B. Ellsworth, J. H. Knowlton, J. W. K. Loomis, Uriah Johnson (who died in March, 1895), Almon Mason (born in Fairfield, N. J., May 11, 1795, served in the war of 1812 and settled in Richland in 1825, in Granby in 1828, and in Palermo in 1851), James Pitcher, Conrad Snyder, Nathan J. Wilcox, Edwin Easton, Alanson R Ingersoll, Hezekiah Lee, Phineas Converse, Charles Conklin, Martin B. Campbell, Joseph Harding, William B. Forsyth, Ansel Goodwin, Lorenzo W. Robinson, Julius Hall, C. B. Ashley, Henry Goodwin, Horace Decker, Jonah H. Snyder, and others mentioned further on and in Part III of this volume.

The growth of the town is best shown by its population at various periods, as follows. In 1835, 1,655; 1840, 1,928; 1845, 1,906; 1850, 2,053; 1855, 2,023; 1860, 2,088; 1865, 2,219; 1870, 2,052; 1875, 2,044; 1880, 1,996, 1890, 1,607.

During the civil war from 1861 to 1865 the town sent 149 of her sons to the defense of the country. Among them the following received deserved promotion:

Charles E. Beers, Amasa Hall, Seymore Smith, Judson B. Wyant, Bradley S. Joice, William A. Smith, Eli Cobb, Eli D. Babcock, Edgar F. Morris, Harvey O. Flint, Alvin B. Flint, Ransom G. Ball, Willard Ure, Albert Ure, Walford Sweetland, James Sweetley, Charles Brownell. Harvey Powers, Eugene Cole, Jonathan D. Hungerford, Cornelius L. Woolsey, Jarvis Dryer, William P. Derry, Joseph Dolbear, Martin Bates, Pelson D. Bates, Lafayette Hanchett, Gilbert B. Mace, William Edmonds, and Levi L. Gillman.

The first school house in town was built about 1820 at what is now Palermo Center. It was a small log structure and answered the purpose for several years. The first school, however, had been taught in 1812, in a private house by Harriet Easton, The town now has thirteen school districts with a school house in each, the schools in which in 1892—3 employed thirteen teachers and were attended by 333 children. The school buildings and sites are valued at $5,700 and the assessed valuation of the districts is $461,355; public money received from the State, $1,542.45; raised by local tax, $982.74. The various districts are locally designated as follows: No. 1, Palermo Center; 2, Moss Corners; 3, Grout; 4. Hanchett; 5, Upson's Corners; 6, Paradise; 7, Peat's Corners; 8, Thomas' Corners; 9, Munger; 10, Beals; 11, Clifford; 12, Island; 13, Sayles Corners.

Supervisors' statistics of 1894: Assessed valuation of real estate, $478,700, equalized $529,315; personal property, $12,820; town tax, $2,199.65; county tax, $3,035.96; total lex levy, $6,366.56; dog tax, $66; ratio of tax on $100, $1.30. The town has two election districts and in November, 1894 polled 400 votes.

The town now has two cheese factories, one at Peat's Corners and another at Palermo Center, and also the following mills: A saw mill at Vermilion, formerly owned by Aaron Gardner, now run by Frank Mack; a saw mill at Palermo Center operated by John Trimble; a stave, heading, and saw mill one and one half miles west of Clifford, formerly owned by John Keller, now operated by his son, William Keller; a saw mill a mile and a half south of Palermo Center, formerly the old Chaffee mill, now run by J. E. Stewart; the heading mill and cheese box factory of J. D. Trimble; two saw mills belonging to Jonathan Seymour; the old Jennings saw mill one mile north of Flint's Corners owned by Mr. Russ; the saw and stave mill of Sanford Willis, formerly owned by N. B. Ellsworth; and the grist mill formerly operated by Ezra Ure, now run by Howard Cusack. The first cheese factory in the town was built at Vermilion in 1864.

Palermo, familiarly known as Palermo Center and in earlier days as Jennings Corners, is a post village situated a little west of the center of the town. The first settler was Stephen Blake, sr., in 1812, who built the first log house in the town in 1813, and in it opened the first tavern in the town in 1816. The first frame dwelling in the village was erected by Enoch Hyde, and the first store was built and opened by Bush & Babbott in 1817. The latter stood on the site of the present Palermo Center Hotel. This firm finally failed and the store remained vacant for a time. It was reopened by William T. Shepard, who continued business until about 1830, when he sold out to Amasa Botchford, who eventually failed. The building was converted into a dwelling house, afterward turned into a tavern, and in February, 1862, was burned. Mr. Blake's inn was the only public house in the vicinity until about 1825, when David and Alvin Jennings erected a frame tavern, which is now a part of the dwelling and store of Frank H. Jennings, a son of Willis A. and grandson of Alva Jennings. David Jennings was an early merchant where D. H. Trimble's store now is. About 1857 he was succeeded by Freeman Waugh, who sold out in 1870 to H. H. Ross & Co. In 1871 David H. Trimble purchased the store and has continued in business ever since. Frank H. Jennings started a grocery in l892. Among other early settlers in the place were Turner and O. P. Jennings, Alvin Walker, Alvin Osborn, Dr. A. E. Noble, Truxton Seeley, William N. Burt, Humphrey Dolbear, and Sylvanus Hopkins. Among the postmasters have been O. P. Jennings, Freeman Waugh, H. H. Ross, David H. Trimble, Frank H. Jennings, D. H. Trimble, again, and Frank H. Jennings, again, incumbent since October, 1893. The village contains about 150 inhabitants.

Vermilion is a postal hamlet on Catfish Creek in the north part of the town. Settlement was commenced as early as 1816, and among the pioneers were Elijah Dickenson, Ebenezer Wallace, Samuel Perkins, John Scott, Rev. Asel Harrington, Benjamin Spencer, James Walworth, Moses Gaines, Candlipp Pitcher, and John Sayles, sr. A grist mill was built here at an early day, of which Ezra Ure became proprietor in 1870; it is now conducted by Howard Cusack. Ingersoll & Hill also had a pump factory, and for a time a tannery was in active operation. The postmaster is W. H. Belchamber, who succeeded Franklin J. Mack. Dr. Forsythe held the office at one time. The place has about 150 inhabitants.

Clifford is a post-office one mile north of Palermo. It was established about 1882 with Allen Merriam, postmaster. His successors have been Charles Davis, Frank Young, and C. E. Trask, incumbent. Frank Young is the present merchant. The place was formerly known as Denton's Corners, from Robert Denton, a hatter, who settled on the northwest corner of the cross-roads about 1823 and there followed his trade. The first settler was a Mr. Spencer in 1816.

East Palermo is a postal hamlet one mile north of Peat's Corners. It is more familiarly known as Flint's Corners; and among the first settlers were Jacob Flint and William and Timothy Phelps, who came there as early as 1830. Samuel R. Smith was the postmaster and a merchant here for many years; the present merchant and postmaster is Henry Bourlier.

Peat's Corners is a small hamlet in the eastern part of the town one mile south of East Palermo. It was first settled by Peter Howe and Jesse Holbrook in 1813. Among others who came to the vicinity prior to 1820 were Charles Peat, Leander Scudder, sr., Elijah Munger, Alpheus Wheeler, Ebon Thomas, Nathan Miller, Daniel and Nathaniel Rowls, and Stephen Clark. The present merchant is Mr. Johnson.

Sayles Corners is a small settlement situated about one mile north of Denton's Corners.

Catfish is a post-office on the creek of the same name, and N. W. Wright is the postmaster.

Churches—The first Sunday school in town was organized by Seymour Coe, superintendent, at his log house in 1816. The first minister of the gospel was Rev. Asaph Graves, a Baptist and a Vermonter, previously mentioned.

The First Baptist church of Palermo was organized with Rev. Enoch Ferris as pastor in 1817, and with the following constituent members: Asaph Graves, Phineas Chapin, Rachel Chapin, Henry Chapin, Harriet Chapin, Hannah Williams, Jonathan Munger, and Rachel Munger. Meetings were held in private dwellings and in the school house near Palermo Center, and the early ministers were Revs. John Evans, George Hills, and Asaph Graves. In 1835 the society was legally incorporated, and in 1836 their frame edifice at Palermo Center was completed. The first deacon was Rev. Asaph Graves. The society has become extinct and the building is now used by all denominations.

As early as 1819 a branch of the First Congregational Church of Volney was established at Jennings Corners (Palermo Center), and August 3, 1823, Seymour Coe and Stephen Blake were chosen ruling elders. The first members were Stephen and Charity Blake, Miles and Triphosa Dunbar, Seymour and Phoebe Coe, Zenas and Lydia Dunbar, Silas Bellows, Hannah Gaines, Obadiah Albee, Mary Coe, Laura Blake, and Hannah Jennings. Oliver Leavitt was the first pastor and Seymour Coe and Miles Blake were the first ruling elders. Upon the organization of the Congregational Union church at Denton's Corners this church voted to disband and unite with that society. Among the early pastors at the latter place, where a frame church edifice was built in 1838, were Revs. A. C. Lord, Norris Day, David Davis, George Blossom, Olney Place, and others. The church building has been closed several years and is now used as a storehouse.

The Methodist Episcopal church of Vermilion was organized about 1840, and among the first members were Rev. Asel Harrington, Benjamin Spencer, D. C. Coe, Burt and James Harrington, Ezekiel Lewis, and Martin Campbell. A house of worship was erected a few years later. The church is supplied by Rev. S. D. Robinson.

The Methodist Episcopal church of Denton's Corners was formed as a class at a very early day. A site for a church edifice was purchased in 1858 and the society was incorporated as the Anti-Slavery M. E. church in 1860. The first trustees were Freeman Waugh, Alexander Flint, and David L. Brown, and among the early members were David Andrews and wife, Alexander Flint and wife, Harry Lansing and wife, Charles Conkling and wife, Father Morris and wife, David L. Brown and wife, E. L. Wallace and wife, Stephen Melvin and wife, and Henry Cole and wife. The edifice was built and dedicated in 1860, and is still in use.

The Methodist Episcopal church of Peat's Corners was organized in 1861 with Gilson Goodwin, Job Bradford, A. Scudder, S. D. Coon, and F. Richardson as trustees, and the same year a house of worship was erected. Among the early members were Nathan Miller and wife, Rev. Elijah Munger and wife, Joseph Ure and wife, L. Scudder, sr., and wife, Andrew Parsons, L. Goodwin and wife, Elon Thomas and wife, and Peter Howe and wife.

The Roosevelt M. E. church was built in the southeast part of the town in 1864, at which time Lyman Treadwell, A. G. Clark, and R. T. Harris were trustees of the society, which was organized about the same year. Among the first members were A. G. Clark and wife, L. D. Harris and wife, Mr. And Mrs. Sherman, Chauncey Hamilton and wife, Rufus Harris, and others.

The Methodist Protestant church of Upson's Corners was erected in 1880. It is a frame structure and was dedicated May 18 of that year, under the pastorate of Rev. G. P. York.


1. Why and how the name Palermo was given this town is not definitely known. Its namesake is the capital of the province of Palermo, Sicily, and a seaport situated on the Bay of Palermo in the Mediterranean Sea; the ancient Panormus.



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