Settlers of the Town of Afton New York

The first settlement in Afton was made in July, 1786, by Elnathan Bush, who came in from Sheffield, Mass., with his family, then consisting of his wife and four children. They came as far as Cooperstown on horseback, and thence by canoe down the Susquehanna, leaving Cooperstown May 2, 1786. He settled on the west side of the river, opposite the forty acre island, known as Stowel’s Island, about two miles below Afton. This island and another near it, one of which contains ten and the other forty acres, had been cleared and cultivated by the Indians, and derive their name from Hezekiah Stowel, who subsequently owned them. Mr. Bush had visited this locality with a view to settlement before the Revolutionary war, in company with two others who were relatives. The Dominie Johnston (Col. Witter Johnston,) was then living at Sidney Plains, where he settled in 1772. He left his improvements during the war and returned to them at its close, having rendered service therein as Colonel. He (Johnston,) continued his residence there till his death October 4, 1839, aged 86. Lois, his wife, died there July 27, 1787, aged 22; and Jane, his second wife, Sept. 26, 1817, aged 47. January 30, 1790, Mr. Bush exchanged his property here with Hezekiah Stowel for a piece of land on lot 74 in Bainbridge, nominally containing 81, but actually 100 acres, which Stowel had taken up the previous year, the consideration being 80 œ, to which he removed. It is the farm on which his grandson, Joseph Bush, now resides, and there he resided till his death, May 15, 1791. Joseph Bush, just referred to, says he very well recollects hearing his father say there were no other settlers in the old town of Jericho when Elnathan came in. The Kirbys came next, a year or two after, and the Bixbys soon after.

It has been generally supposed, and is so stated in French’s Gazetteer of the State of New York, and subsequent publications copied therefrom, that William Bush, a grandson of Elnathan Bush, was the first child born in the town, in 1786. The fact is, the William Bush referred to was born in Sheffield, Berkshire county, Massachusetts, April 15, 1785, and was brought to the present town of Afton, then a part of Jericho, the following July. He died November 15, 1858, aged 73, having been honored with three wives, Esther, who died November 5, 1813, aged 27, Sally, who died December 29, 1828, aged 33, and Maria, who, we believe, is still living.

Hezekiah Stowel, to whom reference has been made, was a Vermont sufferer, and came in from Guilford in that State in 1786, and settled at Bettsburgh, on 220 acres on lot 63, on the east side of the river, and was the pioneer settler on the site of that village. He subsequently removed to the west side of the river, where he is buried, probably at the time he made the exchange with Elnathan Bush. He lived and died in the locality. It is not known that he lived on the place exchanged with Bush in Bainbridge. His children were:–Asa, who settled at Bettsburgh, on the place now owned and occupied by Enos M. Johnston, where, in 1788, he kept the first inn, in a log building(+) which stood on the river bank, opposite the residence of Mr. Johnston and who married Hannah, daughter of Samuel Bixby, of Guilford, Vt. and died there November 3, 1826, aged 66, and his wife September 18, 1850, aged 88; Elijah, who settled on the west side of the river, on the farm now occupied by (???) Chamberlain, and who died childless, in advanced years, while on a visit to a relative in Pennsylvania, and whose wife, Rebecca, died here February 25, 1837, aged 70; Betsey, who married Daniel Dickinson, who settled in Guilford and afterwards at Seneca Falls; Isabel, who married Elisha Stowel, who settled at the ferry about two miles below Bettsburgh; Polly, who married Calvin Stowel, who settled on a farm adjoining Asa Stowel’s on the south; Levi, who settled on the homestead on the west side of the river, and afterwards, in advanced life, moved to the east side, to the farm now occupied by James Pool, and died at Seneca Falls while visiting relatives there; and Sally, who married Charles Grinnells, and settled on the homestead farm on the west side of the river, where she died. His only grandchild living in the county is Gratia Ann, wife of Gustavus Greene, in Afton, daughter of Levi. Four great-grandchildren are living in the county, Abel, Nathan and Jenette, wife of Henry Jones, in Afton, and Hannah, wife of Charles Bixby, in Bainbridge.

The log building afterwards gave place to a frame one, which stood a little nearer the highway; and this in turn to a third, also a frame building, which stood on the site of Johnston’s residence, for which it gave way in the summer of 1876, when it was moved just across the road, and a little lower down, and has since been converted by Mr. Johnston into a cheese factory, for which purpose it is now used by him. Stowel kept tavern in each of these, and till his death. There has not been a tavern kept there since. Lepha, daughter of Asa Stowel, who married Dr. Boynton, was, it was said, the prettiest woman who has lived in Afton.

Ebenezer, John, Isaiah and Joseph Landers, brothers, the former of whom had served two or three years in the army during the war of the Revolution, came in from Lenox, Mass., in March, 1787. They started when the ground was covered with snow, with ox sleds, with which they arrived at Unadilla. There they built canoes to carry their families and goods down the river when the ice gave way; but becoming impatient of waiting they proceeded on foot, on the crust of the snow, Ebenezer carrying a feather bed on his back, and his wife, her youngest child, Stephen, in her arms. They reached their destination the last of March. Ebenezer afterwards brought in the goods by the river, making several trips for that purpose. Ebenezer and Joseph had been in the previous year and made some preparation for their settlement. They had made a small clearing, built a log cabin, and planted some corn on Stowel’s Island. Ebenezer, who brought his wife, Olive Osborn, of Massachusetts, and three children, settled near Afton, on the east side of the river, on the farm now occupied by his grandson, Charles Landers. He took up 100 acres when he first came in, about forty rods above the place on which he subsequently settled, lying on both sides of the river, but his title proved defective and he had to relinquish it. His second selection was 50 acres on lot 58, to which he subsequently added by purchase. He was a carpenter and worked at his trade for several years. He died where he settled February 14, 1846, aged 87, and his wife, August 27, 1850, aged 93. The children who came in with him were Polly, Thomas and Stephen, the latter of whom was then two years old. Polly was born July 6, 1781, and married David Pollard and settled on the farm now occupied by Hiram Landers, where she died. Thomas was born November 2, 1782. He married Esther, daughter of Moses Hinman, and after living at home several years, took up the farm now owned by (???) Hard, where he died June 8, 1862, and his wife March 26, 1830, aged 46. Stephen was born August 10, 1785. He married Polly, daughter of Matthew Long, and settled one and one-half miles north of Afton, on the farm now owned by his son Thomas, where he died July 19, 1870, aged 84, and his wife, October 13, 1850, aged 60. Stephen was a millwright and put a great many buildings in the town. Ebenezer’s children born after he came here were Joseph, who was born July 6, 1790, and married Jerusha, daughter of Lemuel Warner; Nancy, who was born March 17, 1795, married Billings Church, and died December 25, 1841, aged 48, and her husband, January 7, 1871, aged 82; Hiram, who was born December 31, 1796, and married Sophia, daughter of Jonathan Hammond; Solomon, who was born December 10, 1798, who married Mary, daughter of Benjamin Carpenter, and after her death, January 16, 1829, aged 26, her sister, Elizabeth A., (who died April 27, 1845 aged 45,) and died December 24, 1876, aged 78; and Isaiah, who was born in March, 1801, and died young. Hiram is the only one now living. John Landers, brother of Ebenezer, settled in Lisle; Isaiah, another brother, in Afton, where he died August 31, 1844, aged 75, and Thirza, his wife, April 8, 1836, aged 69. Joseph, the other brother settled nearly a mile up Kelsey Creek, on the place now occupied by Luman Pollard. He afterwards removed to Lisle. Jehiel Landers, who lives on the east side of the river, about two miles above Afton, is a son of Isaiah’s, and the only one of his children living. Isaiah Landers, Jr., died March 8, 1839, aged 35.

Henry Pearsall came from Long Island about 1787 and settled in the north-east part of Afton, one-half mile west of what was known as the Middle Bridge, which went off in a freshet a number of years ago and was not rebuilt. Having built a small house in the woods, he brought in his family, consisting of his wife, Anna Simmons, and one or two children. The house thus erected answered the double purpose of a dwelling and shop, for he followed his trade till his death. About 1809 he removed to the north line of the town of Bainbridge, about three miles north of Bainbridge village, and took up 88 acres, on which he resided till his death, about 1840. His children were: Amos, who married Clarissa, daughter of John Nichols, an early settler in the north part of Bainbridge, and settled in the locality of his father in Bainbridge, where he died February 18, 1864, aged 72, and his wife July 4, 1878, aged 83; Ann, who married Alson Searles, a resident of Bainbridge, and is now living at Unadilla, her husband having died June 26, 1871; Smith, who married Polly, sister of Alson Searles, and settled near his father, where he died in 1874; Samuel, who married Sally, daughter of Henry Thompson, of Bainbridge, and settled and died in the same locality; Abigail, who married Ansel Phinney, a blacksmith, with whom she removed to Bainbridge village, where she died; Henry, who married Samantha Norton, of Guilford, and succeeded his father on the homestead farm, where he died December 23, 1871, aged 70, and his wife August 28, 1871, aged 68; and Polly, who married Leonard Norton, of Guilford, where they settled. He died October 23, 1870. She is still living, in Coventry, with her niece, Mrs. Chester Benedict. His grandchildren living in the county are Charles and Reuben, sons of Amos, in Coventry, where the former has been Justice of the Peace for twenty years, was Supervisor in 1856 and ’57, and a Member of Assembly from this county in 1869; William and Hiram, sons of Smith, on the homestead of their father in Bainbridge; Frank, Charles, Emma and Sarah Phinney, children of Abigail, all in Bainbridge; James and Polly, wife of Melvin Yale, in Bainbridge, Amanda, wife of Hiram Landers, in Afton, and Matilda, wife of Chester Benedict, in Coventry, all children of Samuel; and Sherman Pearsall and Ada, wife of Jerome Wescott, in Bainbridge, and Lewis Pearsall, in Guilford.

Richard Church came in from Brattleboro, Vt., in the fall of 1788, and settled on the east side of the river, one-half mile below Afton, on the place now owned by the heirs of Levi Church and Andrew Johnston and Joseph Angell, the latter a son-in-law of Billings Church. He was a son of Col. Timothy Church, a Vermont sufferer, who did not settle here, but acquired land as such, on 300 acres of which Richard settled, and which, after the latter’s death, in the spring of 1813, was divided between two of his sons, Billings and Levi, Billings’ portion being that now occupied by Andrew J. Johnston and Joseph Angell, and Levi’s that occupied by his heirs. Richard brought with him his family, consisting of his wife Polly, daughter of David Pollard, and one child, Billings, then an infant. Billings married Nancy, daughter of Ebenezer Landers, and settled on the homestead, where he lived till advanced in years, when, in the spring of 1857, he sold his place to his nephew, Devillo C. Church, and went to live with his daughter Frances, wife of Enos M. Johnston, with whom he died January 7, 1871, aged 82. Richard’s children, who were born after he came here, were: Col. Ira, who married Angelia Atherton, sister of Cornelius Atherton, and settled about a half mile above Afton, on the east side of the river, on the farm, a portion of which is owned by Stanton T. Donaghe, afterwards purchasing the Peck farm, about a mile below Afton, on the east side, now owned by Ransom Merrill, and subsequently the farm which forms a part of the Ives farm, which he subsequently turned over to his sons, and removed to Morris, where he resided till his death, March 12, 1861, aged 70, his wife having died July 15, 1847, aged 56; Rufus, who married Phebe Turner and settled in Afton, and afterwards removed to Orleans County and died there; Polly, who married Dr. Gaius Halsey, of Kortright, Delaware county, where she lived and died; Warren, who married Saloma C. Hall, who died May 2, 1849, aged 37, who was of a roving disposition, and moved and died out of the county, December 24, 1857, aged 57, and Esther, his second wife, April 1, 1858, aged 39; Levi, who married Elathea, daughter of Joseph Works, and settled and died on the homestead; Permelia, who married Ezra Corbin, and is still living in Bainbridge; Rhoda, a maiden lady, who died in the town April 2, 1866, aged 66; Richard, who died, young and unmarried, of small-pox, June 2, 1828, aged 20; and Wilson, who married Eliza Ann Jones and settled in Afton, on the east side of the river, where he now resides, with his second wife, Fanny Nevins. Numerous descendants are living, ten in this county, viz: Devillo C. Church, a banker, Richard, Rush, Clara, wife of James Corbin, Frances, wife of Enos M. Johnston, and Polly, wife of A. E. Estabrooks, in Afton; George Corbin, Eunice, wife of Charles J. Humphrey, and William Corbin, in Bainbridge; and C. A. Church, in New Berlin. Dr. Gaius L. Halsey, a prominent physician in Unadilla; Dr. Richard Halsey, a prominent physician at White Haven, Pa.; Frank Church, Road Agent for the U. S. Express Co. at McGregor, Iowa; Alonzo S. Church, formerly Cashier of J. M. Little’s Bank of Mason City, Iowa; Lafayette Church, who keeps a livery at McGregor, Iowa; Gaius H. Church, a prominent farmer at Cresco, Iowa; and George M. Church, a speculator at McGregor, Iowa, are grandchildren of Richard Church’s.

Other settlers about this period were Seth Stone, Nathaniel Benton, Isaac Miner and Orlando Bridgeman, all from Vermont.

Seth Stone settled in Afton village, on the east side of the river, nearly opposite the Universalist church, where he died April 22, 1826, aged 65; and Eunice, his wife, July 12, 1815, aged 54. His son Horace married Rebecca Johnston and lived on the homestead farm. He built a tavern about 1825, the first in the village, on the east side of the river, which he kept a good many years. It stood where Noble Buck now lives. He and his wife both died there, the former December 2, 1845, aged 60, and the latter July 5, 1874, aged 83. Seth had two daughters, Rachel, and Irene, the latter of whom married Jesse Easton, both of whom lived and died in that locality. Nathaniel Benton settled on the east side of the river, three miles above Afton, at what was known as the Middle Bridge, which was built about 1825 or’6, and swept away by a freshet some thirty years ago. The Benton’s were considered wealthy, and formed the nucleus for quite a settlement in that locality. A hotel was built there about forty years ago by a man named Stevens. It is now occupied as a dwelling. A grist and saw-mill were built there some sixty years ago. They have since been rebuilt and are still in operation. The Corbins, who also settled in that locality, were interested in the construction of the mills there. Quite a little business centered there at an early day in opposition to Afton. The Benton family mostly died in that locality, Nathaniel May 8, 1845, aged 84, and his wife Hannah, March 11, 1839, aged 71. His children were Belah who was a bachelor and lived and died at home, February 17, 1830, aged 40; Nathaniel, who removed to Ohio at an early day; Col. Ansel, who married Cornelia, daughter of Samuel weeks, and settled where William B. Grover now lives, near the homestead farm, and died a year or two after his marriage, September 6, 1845, aged 48, leaving one child, Albert Hyde, a druggist in Afton; Eunice, who married Hiram Ramsey and is now living in Ohio, well advanced in years; William, who accompanied Nathaniel to Ohio; Jared, a bachelor, who died there June 30, 1835, aged 35; Julius and Isaac, both bachelors, and both of whom died there, the former March 10, 1837, aged 35; and Orrin, who married a daughter of James V. Humphrey. Orlando Bridgeman settled one and one-half miles below Bettsburgh, on the farm now occupied by John Pool, where he died a good many years ago. Reuben and Abner Bridgeman were sons of his. Abner married Temperance Johnston, and, after living for a number of years below Bettsburgh, removed to Elmira, where he died. Reuben settled in the same locality.

David Pollard came in from Norwich, Conn., in 1790, and settled on the east side of the river, one mile below Afton, on the place now occupied by William Landers. He made a small clearing and built a log cabin and then sent for his family, consisting of his wife Polly, and six children. He died here December 30, 1830, aged 85, and his wife June 9, 1821, aged 69. His children were Polly, who married Richard Church, Lucy, who married William Olden, Cynthia, who married Heman Kelsey, Thomas, who moved to Seneca Falls some fifty years ago and died there, David, who married Polly Landers and lived and died on the homestead, Joseph, who married Polly Pool, and settled about a mile west of Afton, on the north end of the farm now owned by his son Luman C. Pollard, and after becoming too feeble to work it sold it to his son Jeremiah, (who is now living in California, to which State he removed in 1849,) and removed to the village, on the east side of the river, where he died March 13, 1859. Only two grandchildren are living in the county, Luman C. and Lysander Pollard, both in Afton.

In this year (1790) the first school-house in Afton was built. It was a log structure and stood at the forks of the river and bridge roads on the east side of the river, in the village of Afton, a little north of the water tank in that locality. The first teacher was Nathaniel Church. In this school-house the first church in the town was organized twelve years later.

Settlements were made as early as 1795, probably earlier, by Abijah Stevens, Abraham Benton, and Heth Kelsey, and as early as 1796 by Thomas and Capt. Enos Cornwell.

Abijah Stevens came in from Connecticut, and settled on the east side of the river, about one and one-half miles above Afton, on the farm now occupied by the widow of John Carr, where both he and his second wife, Esther, died, the former May 9, 1844, aged 87, and the latter January 1, 1832, aged 76. His children were John, who married Clara Landers and settled where Jonathan Farnsworth now lives, and died there, he and his wife, the former March 9, 1861, aged 73, and the latter November 11, 1877, aged 84; and Harvey, who removed to Ohio, children by his second wife. He had one child by his first wife, Lydia, who died September 1, 1822, aged 76, viz.: Sally, who married Samuel Hinman and died on the homestead. Abraham Benton, settled on the site of Afton, on the west side of the river, on a portion of the farm now occupied by Luman C. Pollard. His house stood just east of the railroad track. He was the first settler on the site of the village, on the west side. He died here August 3, 1816, aged 53, and Desire, his wife, who afterwards married William Beardsley, January 24, 1858, aged 85. Heth Kelsey, a Revolutionary soldier, settled in the upper part of the village, near the mouth of the creek which bears his name, where he kept a tavern. He afterwards removed to Coventry and lived with his daughter and died there February 5, 1850, aged 94, and Rhoda, his wife, November 26, 1838, aged 80. His children were Russell, who married Fanny Mersereau, of Otego, and settled on the homestead farm, afterwards removing to Bainbridge, subsequently to the locality of Elmira, and finally dying in a poor-house; Heman, who married Cynthia, daughter of David Pollard, and settled on one-half the homestead farm of 396 acres (Russell taking the other half,) and afterwards removed to the Chemung River and died there; Lois, who married Clark Smith, of Coventry, where both she and her husband died, the latter, in a fit, October 8, 1864, aged 82; Lodema, a maiden lady, who died in Afton; Rhoda, who married Alpheus Wright, who, in 1823, in company with his brother Josiah, built the Sullivan House in Afton, and kept it 15 to 20 years. Rhoda died in Afton. Her husband afterwards removed with his brother Josiah to the Chemung River and died there (we think it probable that Heth Kelsey, who died in Afton, July 3, 1846, aged 63, and whose wife Clarissa died January 20, 1852, at the same age, was a son of the one who died in Coventry, though none of the authorities consulted mention him in connection with the latter’s children. He is probably the Heth Kelsey who kept tavern in the yellow building now occupied as a residence by Silas Fairchild in the village of Afton.) Thomas and Enos Cornwell were brothers. They settled on some 300 acres about one and one-half miles below Afton, on the east side of the river, which has since been cut up into several farms and divided among Thomas’ heirs. Abel Cornwell, son of Thomas, is living on a part of the farm, and is the only one of his children living there. Thomas died on the place February 12, 1841, aged 71; and Anna, his wife, who was born February 3, 1783, died February 27, 1860. Enos was a bachelor. He deeded his farm to Samuel, Thomas’ eldest son, to take care of him in his old age. He died July 27, 1843, aged 76. Samuel removed to Elmira several years ago.

Joab, Abner and Daniel Buck, brothers, came from England before the war of the Revolution. Joab settled at Canton, St. Lawrence county; Abner, in Bucks county, Pennsylvania, to which county he gave his name; and Daniel, settled first in Danbury, Connecticut, and a few years previous to 1800 removed to Afton, and settled on the farm now occupied one-half of it by Robert Clark, and the other half by William Ives. Daniel was a Presbyterian minister and organized in 1802 the first church in the town. Daniel S. Buck, his son, came in with him, but afterwards removed to Sheshequin, Pennsylvania, where he died February 8, 1870, aged 87, but was brought here for interment. Anna, his first wife, died July 25th, 1835, aged 57, and Eunice, his second wife, October 9, 1851, aged 61. Three sons of Daniel S. are living, Noble, in Afton; Daniel S. H., in Greene; and Lyman, in Hooper, below Binghamton.

Daniel S. Buck was a noted hunter. He took 300 acres of land for which he paid with the bounties received for the destruction of wild animals, $60 for each wolf and $75 for each panther, of the latter of which he killed eleven in one year. He made hunting his business while game lasted and some seasons made more than his neighbors did at lumbering. While in Afton we spent an evening very pleasantly with his genial son Noble, who is now well advanced in years, listening to the recital of his father’s adventures while on hunting expeditions; but two must suffice to illustrate his prowess. At one time, about 1811 or ’12, he, in company with Robert Church, followed a panther to its lair, which was in a ledge of rocks, about five miles south of the village of Afton, in the town of Sanford, in Broome county. The passageway to the den was about three feet high and two feet wide, and terminated at the distance of 24 feet in a cave about 20 by 30 feet and 11 feet high. His dog led the way into the den, and soon returned very weak from the loss of blood from a severe wound in the throat. Buck took from his neck a handkerchief and tied it around his dog’s throat, and having stationed Church at the entrance of the cave with an ax in hand to assail the panther if it followed him out, he proceeded into the den himself with his rifle. He threaded the narrow passageway on his hands and knees. At its terminus there was a descent of some two feet to the floor of the cave, which was covered with leaves. There he halted, and on peering through the darkness discovered at the further side of the den the glaring eye-balls of the panther. He aimed between these orbs and fired, observing at the instant he did so a slight change in their position. After delivering his fire he backed out closely followed by the panther, which forced its head into his face, but owing to the closeness of the quarters was unable to hurt him. On reaching the outer terminus he discovered Church retreating in the distance, notwithstanding his cries to him to be prepared to assist him should the panther emerge from the opening. Having prevailed on Church to resume his post he reentered the den, again took deliberate aim at the glaring eye-balls, and was again followed in his retreat by the infuriated beast. He entered the third time and noticed but one orb, the second shot having taken effect in the other. He aimed at the remaining one, fired and again backed out, this time without being pursued. His dog, though weak, was then sent into the cavern, and was followed by Buck, who, on reaching the further extremity of the entrance way, heard it lapping blood. He proceeded into the den on his hands and knees and had not proceeded far when his hand came in contact with the animal’s head. This sent a cold shudder through him, but the panther was dead and was dragged from its den.

At another time, about 1815, while proceeding toward a deer he had chased through a thick brush, about two miles south of Afton, and shot, he discovered a huge panther standing upon the body of the prostrate deer, from the side of which he had torn a fragment of flesh. Without an instant’s warning, the panther, as soon as it discovered him, leaped toward and within thirty feet of him. Quick almost as lightning, Buck raised his rifle, took aim between the eyes, and fired, and so nearly was the animal upon the point of making a second spring, that it half spanned the intervening distance, and, changing ends, fell dead. It measured eleven feet from the end of its nose to the tip of its tail, and was spotted with jet black spots as large as a silver dollar, in this respect differing from the ordinary panther.

Daniel Hyde came in from Claverack, Columbia county, in 1801, and settled two and one-half miles north of Afton, at what is known as Ayrshire or North Afton, on the farm now occupied by Edward Wilkinson, where he died. His children were: Edward, who married Lydia, daughter of Nathan Bateman, and settled in the same locality, and who afterwards removed to Masonville and died there; Daniel, who married a woman named Graham, and settled in Ashtabula county, Ohio, where he died; Chauncey G., who married Lucretia, daughter of Amasa Newton, and settled and died near the old homestead; Elijah, who married Jemima, daughter of Amasa Newton, and also settled and died near the homestead; Sophia, who married a man named Martin, and removed with him to Paris, Canada, and died there; Polly, who married Leighton Joyce, and settled in Greene county, and died in Brooklyn; Cynthia, who married Dr. Archibald Welch, and settled and died in New Haven, Conn.; and Olive, who married Wells Newton, and settled in Bainbridge and died there. The grandchildren living in the county are: A. C. Hyde, only child of Chauncey G., a druggist in Afton; and Daniel A., Rosanna, wife of Jas. M. Olendorf, William E., Lodosca, wife of George Knight, Chauncey G., and Harriet, wife of Justus Carr, children of Elijah, also in Afton.

Judge Peter Betts came in as early as 1803 and settled at Bettsburgh, to which place he gave his name. He was a large land-holder, and opened there in 1805 the first store in the town, which he kept till his removal to Bainbridge, about 1820-’25, where he was also engaged in mercantile business. He represented this county in the Assembly in 1804-’5, again in 1808, and again in 1811. He was born in Norwalk, Conn., January 17, 1772, and died in Bainbridge, June 19, 1849. Eliza, his wife, died February 9, 1819, aged 40. His children were: Peter, Sally, who married a man named Kassam, Pamelia, who married Robert Harper, Eliza, who married a man named Rathbun, all of whom are dead.

Cornelius Atherton came in from Pennsylvania in 1803 or ’4. He was born in Cambridge, Mass., in 1736, and was the fourth in descent from Gen. Humphrey Atherton of Boston, from whom all the Athertons in America are descended. He married Mary Delano and with her removed to Amenia, Dutchess Co., N. Y., in 1763. He was a blacksmith by trade, and having discovered the process of converting iron into American steel, in 1772 he entered into a contract with the Messrs. Reed, merchants of that place, to superintend the erection of steel works, to be constructed by them, and to instruct their workmen in the art. The works were erected and were in successful operation during the war of the Revolution. From Amenia he returned to Cambridge, where he superintended an armory belonging to John and Samuel Adams and John Hancock, which was burned by the British soldiers during the Revolutionary war. Thence, in 1775 or ’6, he removed to Plymouth, Luzerne Co., Pa., where he worked at his trade. He was drafted at the time of the Wyoming massacre, but his place was filled by his eldest son, Jabez, who volunteered to become his substitute, and was accepted and mustered in. The youthful patriot fell in that sanguinary engagement and his name heads the list on the Wyoming monument. Atherton’s wife, by whom he had seven children, died soon after the Wyoming massacre. He afterwards re-married and had seven children by his second wife. After his removal to Afton he continued to work at his trade till his death, December 4, 1809. Humphrey, his oldest son by his second wife, was a miller. He married a widow lady named Wicks, but had no children, and died in Afton, December 11, 1849, aged 62. Charles, his second son, was a blacksmith. He married a lady named Bramhall, with whom, a few years after, he removed to Friendship, Allegany Co., where he worked at his trade several years, till the death of his wife, when he sold his property and went with a friend to Emporium, Cameron Co., Pa., where he died May 13, 1869, aged 76. He had no children. Hiram, the third son, married Miss Lovina Sisson, of Plymouth, and followed his trade of wagon-maker a few years in Afton and subsequently for several years in Norwich, from whence he removed to Greene, and engaged in the cabinet business, which he pursued till his death, March 19, 1870, aged 73. They had five children, all of whom are dead, except one daughter, who is living with her mother in Norwich. William, the fourth son, was a shoemaker. He married Miss Jane E. Hamlin, by whom he had two children, both of whom died in infancy. They finally removed to Paterson, N. J., where both died, he August 2, 1879, aged 77. Cornelius, the youngest son, is still living in Afton. He has one son who is a telegraph operator on the Baltimore & Ohio R. R.

William Johnston, a Revolutionary soldier, came in from Hartwick, Otsego county, in 1807, and settled a half mile south of Bettsburgh, on the farm now occupied by Devillo Dutton. He took up 50 acres in Broome county, on the line of Afton, and bought about one and one-half acres in Afton, the title to which proved defective. He subsequently purchased it of Asa Stowel. He afterwards removed to the town of Sanford, in Broome county, where he died February 10, 1843, aged 91, and Deborah, his wife, April 14, 1843, aged 81. He had six children, only one of whom is now living, Levi, in Afton, aged 77.

John Johnston, brother of William, also a Revolutionary soldier, came in from Montgomery county two or three years later, and settled about half a mile south of Bettsburgh, on the place now occupied by Ira Woodruff, where he and his son Samuel started a tannery and carried on the shoe business, and where he died. His children were: John S., William, Nathaniel, Nancy, Persis, Henry and Betsey, all of whom came in with him,
and all of whom are dead. Nancy married Joshua Crosby, and Betsey, Whittington Sayre. Enos M. Johnston, a banker and merchant in Afton, but a resident of Bettsburgh, is a grandson of John and son of Henry Johnston, the latter of whom was a lumber dealer, speculator and oil stock dealer, and acquired considerable wealth. Andrew Johnston, a farmer in Afton, is also a son of Henry’s, and these are the only two of his children living in the town. Several of William’s grandchildren are living in the town, among them Lydia, wife of Jonathan Farnsworth. Samuel Johnston, brother of William and John, also from Montgomery county, came in a few years later, and has numerous descendants living in the town. He died December 1, 1830, aged 68. Nathaniel, a bachelor brother, and Mary and Christiana, maiden sisters of William Johnston, came in with him and lived with him till their death.

Oliver Easton came in from Wilmington, Vt., in 1809, and settled on Long Hill, where Matthew Long, from Vermont, with a large family of grown-up children, was the first settler at an early day. Easton settled on the farm now occupied by his grandson, Henry Devillo Easton, about three miles north-west of-Afton. He leased 60 acres of gospel lands, which he occupied till his death December 11, 1839, aged 74. Delight, his wife, died January 5, 1860, aged 86. He carried on farming and lumbering, mostly the latter. His children were eleven in number: Chauncey, who married Lucinda, daughter of Taft Pollard, (an early settler from Vermont, on the farm now occupied by Hiram Landers,) and settled and died at Ayrshire; Ebenezer N., who studied for the ministry and removed to Andover, Mass., where he married when well advanced in years and died; Jesse C., who married Irene, daughter of Seth Stone, and settled in the village of Afton, on the east side of the river, where Fayette Benton now lives, and who afterwards removed to Wellsville, N. Y., where he now resides, aged 80; Louisa, who married Stephen Williams, and settled in the south-west part of the town, and afterwards removed to Coventry, where she died; Lester, who married Asenath, daughter of Luke Nichols, and settled and died on the homestead, where Devillo Easton now lives; Lucretia, who married Heman B. Smith, for several years a merchant in Afton village, where she still resides; Rufus, who married Prudence DeWolf, and settled in Windom, Pa., and died in Afton while on a visit, September 10, 1845, aged 37; Riley, who was born in 1809, married Betsey, daughter of Nathan Bateman, who settled in Windom, Pa., and after fifteen years returned to Afton, where he and his wife still reside; Abby Ann, who married S. C. Bump, and settled in Afton, about two miles north-west of the village, and afterwards removed to the edge of the village, where, about 1846, her husband rebuilt the grist-mill erected several years previously by his father, and where she died, her husband subsequently remarrying and is now living in Baltimore; Elijah, who married Jerusha, widow of James Nichols, settled in Wisconsin, and is now postmaster at Winona, Minn.; Cynthia M., who married J. C. Flagg, a wagon-maker in Afton village, where she died.

Other early settlers were William Bateman, Aaron Slade, Joseph Peck, Levi Pratt, Silas Wright and Moses Hinman. William Bateman came from the New England States and settled at Ayrshire, on the farm until recently occupied by his grandson Henry Bateman, where he died. He was an Irishman and a Revolutionary soldier in the American army. His sons were Nathan, who married Dolly, daughter of Samuel Nichols, who settled at Ayrshire, opposite his father, and died there; and David, who married Margaret Campbell and settled in Bainbridge. After the death of his wife he went to live with his daughter in Masonville. He died June 7, 1866, aged 89, and his wife, September 5, 1862, aged 75. Aaron Slade was from Vermont. He too settled at Ayrshire and died there. Among his children was Aaron, who went to Buffalo with the Mormons when en route for Nauvoo, but returned and settled on the Chemung. He had a grandson also named Aaron. Joseph Peck settled about a mile below Afton, on the east side of the river, where Hezekiah Medbury now lives, and died there. His children were Joseph, who lived and died at Ayrshire; John, who lived in the south part of the town, where Abel Stowel now lives, and afterwards removed to Lisle; Ezekiel, who married Electa Buck, and after living some years in the town joined the Mormons; Noah, who was a bachelor; and Benjamin, who married Phebe Crosby, and lived and died on the homestead farm April 30th, 1829, aged 41. Levi Pratt came in from the New England States and settled near the Pond which bears his name, on the farm now owned by Joshua Hallett, where he died March 3, 1846, aged 81, and his wife, Sarah, August 11, 1858, aged 92. Silas Wright came in from Vermont and settled on the site of the village of Afton. He bought of David Church, who came in shortly previous and was dissatisfied with the quality of the land, a plank house which the latter had erected on the site of Dr. James B. Cook’s residence, and lived there till his death, May 27, 1827, aged 75. He was a farmer and lumberman. His sons were Alpheus and Josiah, the former of whom married Sophia Mersereau of Otego, and the latter Rhoda, daughter of Heth Kelsey, and who jointly built and kept for several years the Sullivan House in the village of Afton. Both subsequently removed to the Chemung River country and died there. He had one daughter, who married a man named Kelley, who is also dead. Moses Hinman settled about one and one-half miles above Afton, on the east side of the river, on the farm known as the Carpenter farm. He was a wheelwright and worked at his trade. He died July 22, 1872, aged 81. None of his children are living. Harvey, John, Seth and Pliny, who live in the south part of the town are grandsons of his.




MLA Source Citation:

Smith, James H. History of Chenango and Madison Counties, New York. Syracuse, NY: D. Mason & Co. 1880. AccessGenealogy.com. Web. 2 April 2014. http://www.accessgenealogy.com/new-york/settlers-of-the-town-of-afton-new-york.htm - Last updated on Aug 18th, 2012


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