History of Smyrna
Smyrna was formed from Sherburne as Stafford, March 25, 1808; name changed April 6 1808.
This is the eighth of the Twenty Townships and one of the six originally purchased of the State by William S. SMITH, who, in 1794, sold it, with the exception of lots 6, 8, 10, 14, 20, which had been sold to settlers, to John LAWRENCE, of New York city, whose heirs owned about three-fourths of the town as late as 1824.
The first settlement as made by Joseph PORTER, who came from Conway, Mass., in August, 1792, and settled about a half mile south of Smyrna village, on lot 14, which he afterwards purchased. His log cabin stood upon a high knoll, on the east side of the railroad track, near the south limits of the farm, which is now owned and occupied by Leman H. TALCOTT, whose father, Joshua Talcott, bought the farm of Porter, on the latter's removal to Chautauqua county. Mr. Porter had he misfortune to be burned out before leaving Massachusetts and was thus destitute of household furniture. He married in Massachusetts, Jerusha, daughter of John POPE, of Martha's Vineyard, who accompanied him in the settlement in 1792. They drove a yoke of oxen, and Mrs. Porter rode a horse, mounted on a feather bed saved from the fire. An ax, a rifle and a few culinary utensils were of necessity brought, but the latter were few in number. Mrs. Porter died without issue soon after their settlement and was buried upon the farm on which they settled. Mr. Porter afterwards married a young wife and removed soon after to Chautauqua county. When Porter sold his farm to Mr. Talcott, he reserved forever the plot on which his wife was buried.
The second family that settled in the town, was that of Joseph TOBEY, who married Mrs. Elizabeth PURCELL, older sister of Jerusha POPE, wife of Joseph PORTER. Mr. Tobey accompanied Joseph Porter in his settlement and helped him to build his log cabin, returning in the fall to Conway, Mass., his native place. The following March Mr. Tobey brought in his family, consisting of his wife, and six children, four of the latter of whom were his wife's children by her first husband. When they arrived at Pleasant brook it was much swelled and full of running ice from the spring floods, making its passage difficult. They crossed upon logs, carrying their effects upon their backs. Mr. Tobey settled on the East end of the TALCOTT farm, adjacent to Porter, and after a year or two removed to the farm now occupied by his son John, about one and one-fourth miles west of Smyrna, where both he and his wife died and are buried, his wife, who survived him some twenty years, aged upwards of 94 years. Tobey came in with a yoke of oxen and two cows, which were hitched mismatched to a wooden sled which contained their children and household effects.
Mrs. Tobey's children by her first husband were Betsey, Polly, ---- and Edmond; by her second husband (Mr. Tobey,) were Elnathan, Phebe, Jerusha, who was born May 7, 1793, being the first child born in the town, and died unmarried in her 20th year; John, who married Temperance STONE, of Smyrna, and settled on the homestead, where he still lives, having in 1876 celebrated the sixtieth anniversary of his wedding; Joseph, Freeman and Deborah.
David WILBUR, Joseph COLLINS and Joseph BILLINGS also joined the settlements in 1793.
David WILBUR [the family now spell the name WILBER] came from Nine Partners, Dutchess county, and settled about a mile north of Sherburne Four Corners, on the farm now owned by Elmer ISBELL. After one year he went back to Dutchess county, returning the following year and locating at Sherburne Four Corners, where he kept tavern eighteen years in the house now owned by Milton BENTLEY. He then traded for a farm about a mile north-west of the Four Corners, which is now owned by his son, Platt Wilbur, and occupied by his grandson, Wesley, son of Platt, where he resided till his death, Feb. 2, 1865, aged 93. He married in Dutchess county at the aged of nineteen, Polly PECK, also of Dutchess county, who died Sept. 14, 1862, aged 90. He came to this county on foot, while his wife came on horseback, carrying in her arms her infant son Thompson, then only two years old. She afterwards returned to Dutchess county and brought in her household goods in the same way. Their son Thompson married Clarissa, daughter of Asa MANWARRING, of New London, Conn., and settled on a farm adjoining his father's on the west, which is now owned by his son, Charles C. Wilbur. He died in Smyrna village, Oct. 10, 1871, having lived on that farm till the 1st of April preceding his death. His wife returned to the farm and died there Dec. 31, 1876. They leave nine children, seven of whom live in this county, (five in Smyrna,) one in Hamilton and one in Chicago.
David Wilber had eight children who were born here, viz: Sally, Smith, German, Maria, Lyman, Cynthia, Platt and Miles.
Joseph COLLINS and Joseph BILLINGS, the former of whom married the latter's sister Betsey, came from Somers, Tolland county, Conn., in the winter season bringing their families on ox sleds. They settled on 160 acres previously selected in the north part of the town, COLLINS on the farm now owned by Thomas BROOKS, and occupied by Deloss Brooks, and BILLINGS on the place now owned and occupied by his son Harlow Brooks. Both resided where they settled till their death. COLLINS died of a fever in Westfield, Chautauqua county, in 1841, while returning from a visit to his son Alonzo in Michigan; and his wife, on the homestead, June 19, 1848, aged 77. BILLINGS died May 18, 1847, aged 74, and his wife "Aby" POMEROY, of Somers, Conn., Sept. 1, 1851, aged 84.
Joseph Collins was a clothier, and carried on that business in connection with farming. About 1818 he erected clothing works just below the saw-mill on Collins' creek [This stream is variously known as Collins' and Billings' Creek or Brook.], and carried on the carding and cloth-dressing business till 1840, when he sold to his sons Levi and Warren, who continued it together seven years, when they disposed of the same.
Joseph Collins and Joseph Billings were interested in the construction of a saw-mill on the same stream. It occupied the site of the saw-mill now owned by Levi Collins. It was built in 1795, and was the first mill erected in the town. A run of stones was soon after put in, and proved a great accommodation to the settlers of that period, who had previously carried their grists to Cooperstown. It was abandoned as a grist-mill about the time the grist-mill in the village was built.
The saw-mill has been continued to the present day, three or four buildings having been erected on the site. Collins & Billings owned the property till about 1835, when the latter sold his interest to Collins and his sons.
The property has since been in the possession of the Collins family.
The mill contains three circular saws-log, wood and splitting saws.
Joseph COLLINS' children were Betsey, Grace, Joseph, Warren, Myron, Marcia, Loren, Joseph W., Levi B., Alonzo and William W.
Joseph BILLINGS' children were Joseph, Timothy, Lauren, Diana and Harlow. Harlow settled and still lives on his father's homestead.
In 1795, Hopson WILLCOX and his son Lillibridge came on horseback from Exeter, R.I. They had selected lots 1, 2, 3, 4, but when they arrived in New York with their money they found that those lots had been sold. They returned and took up 64 acres in the east part of the town. They then returned to Rhode Island, and the next year Hopson came in with most of his family and settled on the place now occupied by the grand-children of his son Hazzard. There he and his wife died, the former about 1821. Lillibridge married in Rhode Island, Anna HOXIE, and settled two or three years later on the farm now owned and occupied by his son Thomas L., a little over a mile north-west of the village. His log cabin stood on the site of the old wood-colored house which stands opposite the residence of his son Thomas L., and gave place to that structure in 1812. There he and his wife resided till their death, the former in 1854 and the latter in 1859. The old wood-colored house is now occupied by his grand-children, Pomeroy and Susannah BILLINGS. Hopson's other children were Robert, John, Russel, Hazzard and Betsey.
Hon. Isaac FOOTE as born in Colchester, Conn., January 4, 1746, and removed thence in May, 1773, to Stafford, Conn. In February, 1795, he removed to Smyrna, and settled a mile south of the village, on the farm now owned by Pierce NEARING, where he died Feb. 27, 1842, aged 96. While a resident of Stafford, Conn., he was repeatedly elected to the General Assembly of the State. In May, 1779, by the united approval of the people, he received a commission as Justice of the Peace, which at that day was the highest evidence of a sterling character. In 1797 he was appointed to the same office in Smyrna, then Sherburne.
October 30, 1800, he was appointed First Judge of the Court of Common Pleas and General Sessions of the Peace in Chenango county, being the first person who held that office in the county.
May 31, 1773, Mr. Foote married Mary, daughter of Jonathan KELLOGG, Jr., of Colchester, Conn., who died Nov. 15, 1826, aged 81. They had eight children: Mary F., Margaret P., Isaac, who died in infancy, Isaac, (the second by that name,) Amasa, Asahel, who died in childhood, John and Hiram.
Elijah SEXTON was born in Somers, Connecticut, in 1752. He participated in the battle of Bunker Hill. After the close of the war, Mr. Sexton married Sibyl SPENCER and in 1795 or '6* he purchased and settled on a tract of wild land in Smyrna. The farm on which he settled is located about two miles south of the Madison county line and adjoining the town line of Sherburne. It is now owned and occupied by Robert H. KNOWLES. There they resided till their death. He died in March, 1839. His wife died about 1805, aged 44. After her death he married the widow Thankful SPRAGUE, of Hamilton, (nee Grannis,) who died in October, 1862, in the 86th year of her age. He had nine children, six of whom were born in Connecticut, viz: Elijah, Sibyl, Cynthia, Lovina, Harriet, Norman, John L., Abigail, and Rhoanna, all of whom married and raised families.
[* John L. Sexton, of Big Flats, son of Elijah, who was born in Smyrna, May 3, 1798, who claims to be the oldest person living who was born in Smyrna, and is the only one of Elijah Sexton's children now living, says, under the date of March 14, 1880, the settlement was made in 1795. Mr. W. Sexton, of Smyrna, a grandson of Elijah Sexton, says, under the date of March 25, 1880, the settlement was made in February, 1796, though he does not claim entire accuracy as to dates.]
In 1798, Simeon REXFORD bought and settled on the farm now owned by his grandson Frank D. Rexford. His deed bears date of Aug. 24, 1798. A deed bearing the same date was made out to Stephen KELSEY for what is now the Nelson COLE farm, one-fourth mile south of the village. Simeon Rexford died Dec. 31st, 1857, aged 82, and Milla, his wife, May 7, 1836, aged 53.
John BILLINGS came from Stonington, Conn., his native place, and bought farms for his four children, John , Flavia, who married John PARSONS, Joseph and Betsey, who married Joseph COLLINS, but he never made a settlement here. His son John came about 1798, settled on lot 2, in the north-east corner of the town, on the farm now owned, 100 acres of it, by his grandsons, E. C. and John Monroe Billings, and some 60 acres, including the homestead, by William H. CONGDON, where he died June 6, 1828, aged 63. His wife, Lucia, also died there Jan. 29, 1845, aged 80. John Billings' children were Augustine, Mary, Nancy, Lovice, Bertha, John F., Lorenzo, and Orson. John F. Billings built on his farm in 1850 a large commodious cobble-stone house, which was then said to be the finest house in the county. It is also said to be the only house of its kind in the county.
Only two of John Billings' grandchildren are living in the county, Erastus Clinton Billings, a druggist, and J. Monroe Billings, a farmer, both in Smyrna.
John PARSONS came in, previous to 1800, and settled on lot 1, in the north-east corner of the town, on the farm now owned and occupied by his son Alfred, where he died Oct. 17, 1841, aged 70, and Flavia Billings, his wife, June 10, 1859, aged 83. His children were Marvin, Billings, Flavia, Hancy, Solomon, Alfred and Hiram.
In 1799, John PERCIVAL bought land on the turnpike, west of the center of the town, near Warren STANTON's and Hoxie TEFFT's.
In 1800 Obadiah SPENCER bought the Smith CAULKINS or Milton SMITH property.
The same year Stephen PARKER bought the farm owned by Thomas BROOKS.
In 1803 Jesse HUTCHINSON and Apollos ALLEN bought lot 15, comprising the site of the village; also the west half of lot 16. They are supposed to have been the first settlers on the site of the village and were jointly interested in milling and distilling. They built the saw-mill and grist-mill which was purchased in 1809 by Squire John MUNSON. ALLEN's house stood near the residence of A. EASTMAN, on the west side of the garden plot of Laroy C. SWEET.
Alapheus HALL bought the Col. Solomon HALL farm, towards Earlville, in 1804.
Sept. 18, 1804, Aaron HUTHCINSON purchased the east half of lot 26, west of the village, now owned by Dwight HALL and Mrs. MANWARRING.
The same year William STOVER bought the Stover farm; and David FELT, lot I, the PARSONS and TEFT farms. William Stover was elected supervisor in 1810 and held that office continuously till 1820.
Comfort RECORD was an early settler in the west part of the town; also John PARKER, on the farm now owned by Mr. RICHMOND.
Luke HALL came at an early day from Somers, Conn., and settled in the north part of the town, where his son Erastus now lives, and died there, he and his wife.
Benjamin PAUL came from Westminster, Vt., in 1805, and settled about two miles south-west of Smyrna village, on the farm now owned and occupied by William FIELDS. In 1810 he removed to North Norwich and settled where Benjamin SEYMOUR now lives, about two and one-half miles above North Norwich village. After various removals in the town he finally located on the Whapanaka, [An Indian name meaning martin, an animal which frequented that locality.], in the east part of the town, where his son Benjamin now lives, and died there in 1858, aged 76. His wife, Abigail CARR, to whom he was married in Vermont, died on the same place in 1859. Two sons, Alfred and Benjamin, are living in North Norwich. A daughter, Jane, wife of Jeremiah CLARK, is living in Plymouth.
John MUNSON came from Barkhampsted, Conn., in the spring of 1809 and settled just north-west of the village of Smyrna, where his son Albert now lives. He purchased some eight acres, including the HUTCHINSON & ALLEN mill property. He built a distillery in connection with the grist-mill, both of which were burned March 30, 1829.
Mr. Munson was engaged in the milling and distilling business till his death, Dec. 13, 1827, aged 42. He married Sally, daughter of John MERRELL, of Barkhampsted, Conn., who died on the homestead in Smyrna, Jan. 29, 1862, aged 76. He came here with his wife and two daughters, Eliza and Hannah, the former of whom married Philip S. MEAD, brother of Dr. Nicholas B. Mead, who came from Kingsbury, Washington county, about 1826 and settled about two miles south-west of Smyrna village, on the farm now owned by the heirs of Thomas PURDIE, to whom he sold about 1830, and removed to Smyrna village, where he died June 13, 1833, aged 29, and where his wife still lives. Hannah married Jonathan SHEPARDSON, Jr., a native of Plymouth in this county, and settled on the Munson homestead, where he died May 16, 1841, aged 35. His wife afterwards removed to Smyrna village to live with her son and only child, Andrew Shephardson, who is the present clerk of Chenango county. She died there in 1877. Mr. Munson had only one child after coming to Smyrna, Albert, who was born in 1811, and owns and operates the mill property purchased by his father in 1809. Amanda, wife of Gardner BUTTS, living in Smynra village, is the only one of Eliza's children living. She married for her first husband Albertus MERRITT, who died in Milwaukee, where they then resided. Albert has three children living in Smyrna, George A., John H., and Sarah, wife of Frank DIMMICK, a jeweler in that village.
Merchants: - The first merchant in Smyrna was James ELMORE, who came from Sherburne about 1812 and opened a store in the building which, having been enlarged, is now owned and occupied as a dwelling by Cheney HAYWARD. He remained here but a short time and returned to Sherburne, where he had previously been engaged in mercantile business. Harvey TALCOTT, brother of Joshua Talcott, both of whom were among the first settlers in Smyrna, next opened a store in the same building, succeeding Elmore and continuing till shortly before his death, Feb. 25, 1846, with the exception of about a year during the crisis of 1837, having in the meantime built and occupied for several years the store now occupied by the Dixon Brothers. He sold to Webster MORRELL, who very soon after admitted Giles COWLES, from Connecticut, with whom he traded about a year, when he bought Cowles' interest and some two years later sold to Deacon Gardiner J. KINYON, of Smyrna, who traded till his death February 17, 1857. Herbert M. DIXON, in the winter of 1858, opened a store in the interest of Charles H. and Nathan P. WHEELER, as a branch of Wheeler & Co.'s store in Norwich. On the death of the former in 1860, and the subsequent division of the property, the store in Norwich fell to the latter, and the store in Smyrna to Dudley R. Wheeler, father of Charles H., who associated himself as partner, Herbert M. Dixon, who, in company with John S. BLACKMAN, bought Mr. Wheeler's interest, and traded under the name of Dixon & Blackman one year, when Mr. Dixon bought his partner's interest, and in the spring of 1866, his brothers Charles G., and Mott C., became his partners, continuing such three years. In the spring of 1872, his brother Charles G. Dixon again became his partner, and the business has since been conducted under the name of Dixon Bros.
J. Billings PARSONS and Aristarchus MUNROE, the former from Smyrna and the latter from Plymouth, traded in the old Elmore store a few years about 1840. Elmer ISBELL, of Smyrna, whose father, Seymour, came here from Otsego county about 1840, occupied the same store three or four years from about 1843 or '4. Eber DIMMICK, father of F. E. Dimmick, came from Sherburne Hill and traded about a year in the store now occupied by A. K. DIXON. J. Orville RANSOM, from North Norwich, succeeded him, and traded three or four years during the war, first in the same store and afterwards in the building occupied by F. E. DIMMICK and George P. PUDNEY.
Joshua PRATT, from Sherburne, opened a store in 1825, in the building now occupied by Giles COWLES as a dwelling, which was built by Mr. Pratt, who was engaged in mercantile business in Sherburne, and entrusted the management of the store at this place to Richard WILEY, who afterwards traded in the bar-room of the old HALL tavern, which occupied the site of the M. E. church, and was the first tavern in the village. It was kept at a very early day by Obadiah SPENCER, by whom, probably, it was built. The present tavern, or rather the central part of it, was built about 1820 by Luther BOWEN and Jethro HATCH, who kept tavern and traded there a number of years. Several additions have subsequently been made to the building.
Dr. Nicholas B. MEAD and Nathan SUTLIFF, the former from Kingsbury, Washington county, opened a store in the building now unoccupied just west of the residence of Brundage FERRIS, and traded several years. They were succeeded by Milo, son of Nathan SUTLIFF, who also did business several years and failed. Brundage FERRIS occupied the tavern stand of Julius KELSEY. Julius Kelsey, before he moved into the tavern, kept a good grocery some eight or ten years.
Luther BOWEN and Jethro HATCH sold to Russel CASE, who kept the tavern and traded at the same stand for several years.
Trowbridge SHEPARD, a native of Lebanon, commenced trading here about 1830. After a few years he engaged in the drug business, which he continued till his death, Aug. 26, 1862.
The other merchants now doing business here besides the Dixon Bros., are Abel COMSTOCK, druggist and grocer, who commenced in 1864; Almenzo K. DIXON, hardware dealer, in 1866; Ery W. STOKES, flour and feed and ready-made clothing, in 1869; Erastus C. BILLINGS, druggist, in 1878; Charles D. STOKES, general merchant, 1877.
Postmasters: - The first postmaster at Smyrna was probably Samuel HALL, who kept the office in the tavern which occupied the site of the M. E. church, of which he was also proprietor, soon after 1800. He was succeeded by Chester HAMMOND, but the office was still kept in the tavern by Samuel HALL as Deputy. Harvey TALCOTT held the office from about 1829 to 1841, and Elmer ISBELL from about 1841 to 1849. Milo SUTLIFF and Beardsley LEAVENWORTH each held the office about four years. Nicholas B. MEAD was appointed in 1857; Andrew SHEPARDSON in 1861; and Dr. George E. LAWRENCE, the present incumbent, Jan. 10, 1871.
Physicians: - Before any physician located in Smyrna, Drs. CAMP of Plymouth, Israel FARRELL, of Sherburne Hill, and Asa WHITE, of Sherburne, extended their practice in this direction. Probably the first physician who located in the town was Dr. Samuel GUTHRIE, a native of Brimfield, Mass., who came here in 1802, and removed to Sherburne in 1811. He also extended his practice in this direction after his removal. Nicholas B. MEAD came from Kingsbury, Washington county, about 1816, having previously studied medicine in Sherburne with Dr. Israel FARRELL. He continued in practice here till about the close of the late war. William W. PAGE, then a young man, came in about 1823. His health was poor, and he died here after a few years' practice. Dr. BROWN came from Otselic about 1830 or '31, and after a few years' practice removed to Earlville. Asa BABCOCK came from the eastern part of the State about 1833, and practiced two or three years in company with Dr. MEAD. Joshua M. FISK came about 1840, and practiced till about 1856. William H. STUART, a native of German, practiced here six months in 1862, when he entered the army. [See page 327, Norwich]. Dr. URE came in about a year after Dr. Stuart left and practiced nearly two years. Frederick F. COMSTOCK practiced here from the spring of 1873 till Dec., 1875. Other physicians have located here for short periods of a few months, but did not become properly identified with the history of the place.
The present physicians are George E. LAWRENCE, James E. McCLENNAN and Thomas Edward STACK.
George E. LAWRENCE was born in Oneonta, N.Y., Nov. 18, 1816, and educated in the common schools of Oneonta and Sherburne. He commenced the study of medicine in 1837, at Cobleskill, N.Y., with Dr. KIBBER, and subsequently pursued his studies with Dr. Holden SWEET, of Sherburne. He attended a course of lectures in the New York Medical Institute in 1867, and Jan. 5, 1868, was granted a certificate by the Eclectic Society of the State of New York. In January he received a certificate from the Chenango Co. Medical Society, and commenced practice that year in Sherburne, continuing till 1854, when he removed to Smyrna, where he has since practiced.
James E. McCLELLAN was born in Glasgow, Scotland, October 3, 1836, and emigrated to Sherburne in 1852, removing thence after two or three years to Smyrna. In 1867 he entered the Long Island College Hospital, where he was graduated in June, 1868. From thence he went to DeRuyter, where he practiced eight years, and thence in 1876 to Smyrna.
Thomas Edward STACK is a native of Ennis, Ireland and emigrated thence to Smyrna in March, 1878. He is a graduate of Dublin University and the Queen's College.
Lawyers: - Demas HUBBARD, Jr., whose parents were early settlers in Sherburne, was born in Winfield, Herkimer county, Jan. 17, 1806, and received an academic education. He commenced practice here some fifty years ago, and after practicing some five or six years in Justices' courts, was regularly admitted and practiced here till his death, Sept. 1, 1873.
----- WALES, who lived about three-fourths of a mile south-west of the village, practiced in Justices' courts about sixty years and until his death. A Mr. CHAPEL practiced here two or three years from about 1839.
George P. PUDNEY, the only attorney now practicing here is a native of Smyrna, and was admitted in 1877, in which year he commenced practice here.
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