Monday, May 9, 2011

Reminiscences of Oaks Corners and Vicinity, Phelps Citizen 1889

Amanuensis: A person employed to write what another dictates or to copy what has been written by another.

Amanuensis Monday, hosted by John Newmark at Transylvanian Dutch.

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Three branches of my family were all in Ontario County, New York in the early 1800's, with the Hall's and Glover's settling in the town of Phelps at Oaks Corners. In celebration of the town's centennial the Phelps Citizen ran many pieces about the early history. I have been transcribing items as I have time. Other transcriptions may be found here.

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The Phelps Citizen
Thursday, Oct. 24, 1889.

Reminiscences of Oaks Corners and Vicinity.
(By Mrs. Philomela Cooper Wright.)

At the beginning of the present century the most imposing structure in western New York, was known as :Oaks Stand." It was a grand hotel for those times, and was as well known from Albany to Buffalo as any of the best hotels of the present time. Although not a temperance house, it was always quiet and orderly and no drunken brawls were allowed to disturb the rest of the many weary travelers who found ample accommodations at this famous hostelry.

Closely allied to the hotel and quite as well known, was the race course. Here were assembled every year some of the most noted running horses of Pennsylvania, New York, some of the southern States, and Canada. The races were continued from four to six days. The immense crowds in attendance were composed of every grade of humanity, from the genteel sportsman down to the lowest debauches. There were dog fights and cock fights among brutes in human form also. What would seem very incongruous, the racing ground was closely adjoining the church, the "old meeting house," the first church building erected in western New York. Speeding around the one mile course, the horse with his rider, passed within three rods of the building. South of the church, nearly in direct line to the point now occupied by the railroad depot, and extending west to the public road, was the common, occupied during the races by tin peddlers and hucksters. On the race ground was also held "general training." All able bodied men between 18 an 45 years of age, were required to assemble at this place annually for military drill, lasting three days. This was a proud time for the boys, who were delighted with the gay uniforms and the music of the fife and drum.

The first building north of the church was occupied by Benjamin Hartwell, a carpenter, John and Jacob Sheckles, brothers, lived on the farm occupied many years by the late Hiram Armstrong. They also owned land adjoining, extending north to the east and west public road. Lemuel Bannister lived on the west side of the road, and owned a large farm. Many years ago he built a large brick house which he occupied until his death, and where some of his descendants still live. Ashel Bannister, a brother of Lemuel, lived on the adjoining farm north. The building in which he lived and kept a tavern for many years, is yet standing. It is the first building west of the residence of John B. Armstrong on the opposite side of the road. Next west was the home of Gen. Philetus Swigy, farmer and owner of the Swift flooring and saw mills. These mills were operated by the General and his successor Henry Swift, until the year 1857 and have since been known as Barlow's mills. General Swift was prominent in the war of 1812.

On, leading south from Oaks Corners, was a small house where Alpheus Lang a shoemaker lived. On the east side of this road, lived Benoni Grover, south of Grover lived David Northam, a farmer who it is said, taught the first school in district No. 1. Opposite on the west side of the road lived Alex. Glover, Sr. Next we come to the old brick school house, around which cluster many pleasant memories not unmixed with sadness. Of the fathers, it may be said where are they! And the few that remain of the children and youth, are the grandfathers of today. Opposite the school house, and a little further south lived Capt. Nathaniel Merrill, a soldier in the war of 1812, and was wounded in the battle at Sodus, N. Y. Major Joseph Hall lived on the next farm, since known as the Chester Webster farm. Opposite thus was the farm of Col. Elias Coat, now known as the Kirtland farm. The next house on the west side of the road was the home of Enoch Eddy, a carpenter. He sold the place many years ago to Theodore Swan who is still living on the same house. Pne mile south of Oaks Corners, is what is known as Simmons Corners. Here Abram Simmons kept a tavern and owned a farm. The old building is yet standing. Osee Crittenden lived at Simmons’ Corners, a little west of the tavern. David Boyd, the father pf James, Hugh and David Boyd, and Jonathan Crittenden and William Clise lived on adjoining farms south of Simmons; Corners.

West of Oaks Corners on the hill, Thaddeus Oaks owned a tenant house, now occupied by Dr. G. H. Church. The next house on the north side of the road, was the home of Charles Crandall. Daniel Trowbridge lived on the opposite side of the road. Mr. Crandall was a carpenter, and Mr. Trowbridge a cooper. Dr. Joel Prescott, 2d. West of the corners was the farm of John Taylor; west of Taylor’s farm was Abner Bigelow. On the road leading north was Dr. Joel Prescott, 1st, Esq. Stearns, Capt. Hall, Thomas Kelley, Caleb Phillips and Abram Yosburg, in the order named. On the road leading south from Dr. Prescott’s, was the home of Jacob Cooper. Bela Wetmore lived in the next house and owned a large farm. On the road leading east from Oaks Corners, James Pullen lived, I think he was a shoemaker. The house in which he lived, was, for many years, at a later period, the home of Dr. John Spaisbury. Joseph P. Tower, a blacksmith, lived in the house now occupied by John Calu. Samuel Cross lived and died on the farm which is still the home of his descendants, known as the John Cross farm. The next farm east was owned by John Wooden, farmer and tavern keeper. One mile farther west, was another tavern kept by William Howell.

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