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Early History of the Town of Springwater New York
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The first settlers in this part of the town were in what was then called “Hemlock Valley.” Seth Knowles came from Massachusetts in the spring of 1805, and took and lived on what is now called the “Gibbs ” farm in the town of Pittstown, now Livonia. The year 1806 was one of extreme drought in that town and the region north, but south around the lakes showers were of frequent occurrence, and after harvest, Seth Knowles, his son Jared and his brother-in-law, Peter Welch, with guns, axes and provisions followed the old Indian trail, over Ball Hill to the town of Middletown, now Springwater. Before they returned, they built the body of a log house on the farm owned by the Rev. T. J. 0. Woodin at his decease, and on the last day of March, 1807, Seth Knowles and his family came up the hemlock lake on the ice and took possession of the cabin mentioned. His house was situated on the west side of the present road near the watering trough on the east, and his garden was north of the house. He cleared some eight acres on the flat, back of his house, set out some elecampane, and traded his interest there in 1821, with David Jolatt for the farm on which the St James Hotel now stands on the east side of Hemlock lake, where in after years he died. Jolatt lived on the place until he was undermined by David Phillips in 1826, when he moved to the Elisha Bailey farm and then to a house on the east side of the road on the present farm of S. W. Wheaton, where his wife died soon after. His children were Montreville, Sally, Patty, Miner, Henrietta, who with their father went to Campbelltown, Steuben county. Jolatt came from Centerville, Allegany county, where he settled in 1809, to the St. James farm. Phillips staid 2 years and sold to William Jenkins. Jenkins was here 2or 3years and sold to Ira Jackman, and in 1835 sold to Ira Gilbert. ‘The children of David Phillips were Miranda, Truman, Thomas A., Nancy, and Electra. Minerva lives in Mahaska county, Iowa, and the others are with their mother in Holt county, Nebraska. Phillips married Charlotte Gilbert, Reuben Jr.’s oldest daughter The children of Seth Knowles were Seth, Daniel, Jared, Clark, Sybil, Lydia, Jonathan, Ruth, Mercy, Polly, Willard and Roswell. Willard was born September 9, 1809, and was the first white child born in this hollow, and second in town. Willard is living in Palaska, Michigan. Seth Knowles built a house nearly on the site of the present house on the premises, lived there awhile and went to Ball Hill in Canadice. John Nixon built the present house and died there. Rev. A. B. Green, John Jennings and the late Rev. T. J. 0. Woodin have been later owners. The account of the advent of Knowles into Middletown published in the last History of Livingston county, and credited to Rev. William Hunter, was copied almost “verbatim” from the Ontario county Times of April 5th, 1876, written by us, and supposed to be correct, but later investigations prove be was not the first settler in town. Simple justice to all parties requires this statement. The farm next in order in this immediate vicinity is the ” Gilbert “farm. The Gilberts came from Brookfield, Massachusetts, where Reuben Sr. was born August 18th, 1756, in an early day to Bristol, Ontario county. In the spring of 1809 Rueben Gilbert Jr. came from Bristol with his brother-in-law David Badgero via Honeoye to Livonia, and in canoes or Indian “dugouts’ up the Hemlock Lake. They built a log house on the west side of the road nearly on the spot where Thomas Reynolds now lives where Badgero lived until he could build another just across the line in the town of Pittstown now Canadice. In the fall of that year Gilbert returned to Bristol and brought his family to the house first erected. The next year his brother Phinehas came and took the south half of the same lot, and built a log house nearly on the same ground where stands the house in which William Norton now resides. Araunah. another brother, came in 1817, and Jones a brother to Reuben Sr. and family in March 1818. Reuben Sr. in the fall of 1817 put up the frame of the old house now standing, and when he arrived the next spring, Phinehas wishing to sell out, Reuben Sr. bought him out and moved there, and Reuben Jr. finished the house, the frame of which was already erected, and moved into that. Jones when he arrived erected another house on the west side of the road where the brook now runs, and lived there till October 1839, and then went to Ohio. David Phillips lived in that house afterwards. Phillips went to Livonia, to Ohio and to Iowa where he died In 1871. He was a soldier of 1812. Reuben Sr. lived with Ida, son Araunah on the place he bought of Phinehas until his death July 20th, 1840. Araunak built the present house, and sold in 1855 to Dr. John B. Norton and went to Michigan where he now resides. Reuben Jr. lived on his place thirty-five years, sold out to H. S. Tyler and went to Ohio and to Iowa where he died. The children of Reuben Sr. were Polly, Sally, Betsey, Phinehas, Reuben, Abner W. and Araunah. Polly died on Ball Hill, Sally at Pataskala, Ohio, aged 95 years, Betsey at Rushville, Phinehas went to Kentucky as we have said, and after a residence there of fifteen years, went to Ohio and to Iowa where he died, and Abner died in Richmond. His widow is living In town. The children of Rueben Jr. were Charlotte, Lydia, Catharine, Philander, Lucinda, Olive, Ann, Reuben, Caroline and Sally. Catharine went to Ohio, and to Missouri, Philander, Ollye, Lucinda, and Reuben went to Ohio, and Lucinda afterward went to Iowa. Ann’s last husband was the late Thomas Truxton Dyer of this town. The children of Phinehas were Minerra, Loreuzo, Riley and Franklin. Minerva went to Ohio, Lorenxo to Oregon, Ililey to Iowa, and Franklin died in Ohio. Araunah’s children are Almira and Alonso, both of whom are living in Michigan. Reuben Badgero was born across the line March 2nd,1810, and Catherine Gilbert September 16 of the same year, making the first “little strangers “in that group of settlers.
Another house was built by Philander on the east side of the road south of the butternut tree. It was taken down and made the frame of the house on the farm of late Endress Tucker in Canadice. In 1811 John Alger, Phinehas and Reuben Gilbert erected the sawmill there each owning an equal part therein. It did a good business for a long term of years. John Alger was a settler in West Bloomfield in 1790, was a soldier of 1812 from that town, and so badly wounded that he was incapacitated for farm labor. He built a saw mill on the farm of Lorenzo Ingraham near the head of Canadice lake in the winter of 1809 and ’10 and owing to a badly constructed floom, it failed to do good work. He sold the premises, reserved the mill irons &c. and removed them to the mill aforesaid. He sold his interests in the mill to Reuben Gilbert in 1814. He died in Bloomfield in 1819.
In 1828 the large, red shop was built, which after a number of years was taken down and removed to West Hill by Christopher Osgood, a distillery was erected by Ira Gilbert, a son of Jones which ran five or six years, a cider mill put in an appearance, and Francis Badgero quarried stone and sawed them to any shape required, making in fact a very busy place. While Araunah owned the place he sold a piece of the land to his brother-in-law, the Rev. A. B. Green who built the house Josiah Norton now lives in. Spaulding Shepard owned the place for a number of years, and sold to Daniel Norton, father to the present occupant. While Green lived here he carried on the business of turning and rake making in the gully on the farm. The Gilberts cleared many acres of pine timber, erected scores of buildings for the country roundabouts, and for quality of work, promptness and honesty in deal, they left a good name. Some of the best frames in these parts were put up long years ago by Arsunah. From the records of Naples, we find that Reuben Gilbert was Inspector of schools in 1818, and pathmaster and fence viewer in 1815, and Phinehas was also Inspector of schools in 1814, and we also copy from the records of the said town that the first school district organized in the western part of the town was, Fifth School District in Naples is to take in all the Hemlock settlement, so called, May 30th, 1813.
The following biographies were extracted from the small manuscript written by Orson Walbridge in 1887 on the Early History of the Town of Springwater New York.
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