The Town of Columbia abuts the southwest corner of German Flatts and borders the Town of Richfield, Otsego County, which is to the south. Columbia's whole eastern border faces the Town of Warren, of which it was once part. Since Warren in turn had broken off from German Flatts in 1796, many descendants of early German Flatts settlers are found in this township. As late as the 1869 directory there is still a sizeable representation of well-known early surnames such as Ackler, Clapsaddle, Cristman, Edick, Getman, House, and Zoller, as well as descendants of families who came after the Revolution. For earlier history, check out the Town of Warren section.
Source: "Boyd's New York State Directory, 1872-3," business directory and gazetteer, by Andrew Boyd, Syracuse, N.Y., 1872
Cedarville, Herkimer Co.
In the town of Columbia.
Ashpall James, manuf. cheese
Columbia, Herkimer Co.
Getman H. & A. farmers and agricultural implements
Columbia Centre, Her. Co.
Hunter John D. dry goods, &c
Source: "History of Herkimer County 1791-1879," F. W. Beers Co., 1879
THE TOWN OF COLUMBIA.
COLUMBIA lies in the southern part of Herkimer county and is bounded on the north by German Flats ; on the east by Warren ; on the south by Otsego county, and on the west by Winfield and Litchfield. The town was formed from Warren June 8, 1812. Its surface is moderately rolling and hilly, and the soil a clay loam, which is generally fertile. The streams are small brooks, some of which flow south into the Unadilla and the others northward into the Mohawk. There are several springs in the town, the waters of which have a local reputation as a curative for some diseases. Irpn ore is found to a limited extent. In the southern part of the town is a swamp containing perhaps a thousand acres, from which flow the headwaters of the Unadilla. Steele's Creek flows from the northern side of the town into the Mohawk at Ilion. Within the present boundaries of Columbia are parts of Staley's, Henderson's and Conrad Frank's patents.
The old Indian trail from the upper Mohawk to Schuyler's Lake passed through this town from northeast to southwest, and there was an Indian camp ground a little northwest of the site of South Columbia, on the farm now owned by J. H. Fox.
Columbia was first settled in 1765 by several German families from the Mohawk River, who located in the eastern part at the crossing of the old Utica and Minden turnpike and the Mohawk and Richfield Springs road. The settlement was long known as Conradstown, and later as Orendorff's Corners, after one of the settlers, Conrad Orendorff, whose original farm is still owned in the family by William Orendorff. The families who first settled here were those of Henry Frank, Nicholas Lighthall, Timothy Frank, Joseph Moyer, Frederick Christman, Conrad Frank, Conrad Fulmer, Nicholas Lighthall, and Mr. Orendorff. Between the time of its first settlement and the close of the Revolution the town was overrun by the enemy, and the inhabitants made to feel the effects of the struggle. Conrad Orendorff was a lieutenant in Capt. Henry Eckler's company and was twice taken prisoner and his cabin burned. Richard Woolaber, one of the early settlers, was in Heinrich Staring's company which left Fort Herkimer July 19, 1778, to overtake Brant and rescue prisoners taken at the destruction of Andrustown. At Young's Settlement (now Liftle Lakes) the main body of the pursuers turned back; but Woolaber, Peter Flagg and Thomas Van Home kept on and overtook two savages on the west side of Schuyler's Lake. The Indians had a woman and babe as prisoners. Woolaber and his companions killed both Indians and carried home the prisoners. In the fall of 1778, while Woolaber was at work in the field on what is now "Shoemaker Hill," south of Fort Herkimer, he was surprised by Indians, knocked down and scalped and left for dead. He was found by his family towards nightfall, carried home and finally recovered.
After the close of the war settlement in various parts of the town progressed rapidly. The following list of jurors for the year 1813 is worthy of preservation, as it doubtless contains the names of most of the prominent settlers down to 1810:
Asahel Alford, John Bloodgood, Jeremiah Brown, John Burchdorff, Philip Businger, Elias Benedict, Philip Brown, Christopher H. Benedict, Jacob Bell, Amos Crain, Josiah Ctain, William Chapman, John Clapsaddle, Augustenus Clapsaddle, Simon Clark. Henry Cronkright, Daniel DromdofF. Ira Dethrick, Jabez De Woolfe, William De Wolfe, jr., Jacob Eaton. Benjamin Eaton, Ephraim Elmer (still living at the age of 113 years at Utica, N. Y.), George M. Edick, Jacob P. Fox, John P. Fox, Peter P. Fox, Frederick Fox, Abner Gage, John Gorsline, Barnabas Griffith, Henry Getman, George I. Getman, Frederick I. Getman, Stephen Griffith, Timothy Getman, Frederick Getman, jr., Conrad Gettman, Thomas Hagerty, Henry Helmer, Samuel Hatch, Joseph Hatch, Daniel Hatch, John Harwood, Abner Huntley, Thomas Hawks, Jacob Helmer, William Haner, Jeremiah Haner, Augustenus Hess, jr., Frederick Hess, Conrad Hess, Henry Jones, Calvin Johnson, Luther Johnson, Michael Jackson, Samuel Lord, Thomas Ladow, Caleb Miller, John Miller, Henry A. Miller, Henry Miller, jr., Oliver Miner, William Miller, Andrew Miller, John Miller, jr., Martin McKoon, Joel Merchant, Ephraim Mills, Isaac Mills, John Mills, Andrew Meyers, Joseph Meyers, John D. Meyers, James Morgan, Abraham Maning, Henry S. Orendorff, Jacob Orendorff, George Petrie, Theodore Page, Ira Peck, Dean Pearce, Daniel I. Petrie, Marks Petrie, Frederick Petrie, Reuben Reynolds, John Runyan, jr., Parley Spaulding, Ralph Sanford, Thomas F. Shoemaker, John Shoemaker, Nicholas Sternburgh, William Stroup, Timothy Smith, George Steele, Blisha Standish, Gershom Skinner, Peter I. Turpening, Moses Thompson, Hill Truesdale, Samuel Woodworth, Festus Williams, Peleg Wood, Isaac Wright, Charles Young.
Most of the above have descendants at present living in town.
Tunis Vrooman came early into this town. He was made a prisoner by the Indians, with three of his brothers, in 1776, and taken to Canada; returning a year later, he passed much of his life in Columbia and died in 1866.
Asahel Alford settled here in 1791, was a well-known citizen, and died in 1853 at the age of ninety-three years, having passed all his life on his original farm ; this was afterwards occupied by his son Cyrus, and now by his son Oscar Alford.
Abijah Beckwith, a native of Columbia county, came into this county in 1807 and became conspicuous in public affairs ; was a member of the Legislature in 1817 and 1823; a member of the Senate in 1835 ! was six years county clerk, and presidential elector in the first Lincoln campaign. He was the great-grandfather of John D. Beckwith, now a lawyer at Little Falls.
George Lighthall was a settler prior to the Revolution on what is known as the Briggs farm, a little west of South Columbia, and he and his family were sufferers during the war. Some others who settled early in Columbia were Peter Horton Warren, who located in the western part of the town; Martin McKoon, who came in 1796, to the extreme southern part; Jacob Edick and his father, also named Jacob, who were pioneers of the town; Lorenzo Hosford and his father, William, who were tanners at Cedarville from early in the century; Henry Devendorf, who settled early at Cedarville; John D. Hunter, long a merchant in the town; Andrew Miller, who built the first mills at Miller's Mills ; Nicholas Spohn, Daniel Stroup, an early blacksmith, and Jacob Seckner.
The first town meeting was held at the house of Daniel I. Petrie on Tuesday, March 2, 1813, and the following officers were elected:
Supervisor, Jacob Haner; town clerk, John Mix; assessors, Denison Tisdale, Peter P. Fox, Jeremiah Haner, and Rufus Ohapin; overseers of the poor, Daniel I. Petrie and Abijah Beckwith; commissioners of highways, Henry Orendorff, Ira Peck and Joel Merchant; constables, Jacob D. Petrie, Charles Randale, Jeremiah Baringer, and William Truesdale; collector, Charles Randale; school commissioners, Rufus Chapin, John Bartlett, and Denison Tisdale; school mspectors, Henry S. Orendorff, David V. W. Golden, and Henry Gardiner.
The town was divided into thirty-one road districts, and the usual incipient legislation was enacted. A meeting of the excise commissioners was held in May, 1813, at which D. V. W. Golden, Jesse Campbell, and Samuel Woodworth & Son had applied for permits to sell liquor, and Reuben Reynolds, Daniel I. Petrie, Joseph Petrie and Conrad Orendorfif applied for licenses and were given the privilege of keeping taverns.
There is now scarcely any manufacturing in Columbia, and there never was very much. The industries outside of farming have been limited almost wholly to mills erected early in various parts of the town, some of which are still in operation, though greatly changed. D. V. W. Golden and Benjamin Mix were the first merchants in the town, and carried on business at Orendorfif's Corners in 1798. The old store was demolished about twenty years ago, and the site is owned by Daniel Crim. Frederick Petrie, brother of Daniel, had a blacksmith shop at the same point in 1799, and was the first blacksmith in town. The first frame house was built at the Corners in 1788 by Conrad Orendorff, and now forms part of the building occupied by William Orendorfif. The first and only brick house in Columbia was built in 1855 by Abraham House, at what is known as Elizabethtown, in the northern part of the town.
The first schools in Columbia were taught in the German language, the earliest one by Philip Ausnian in 1796 at what is now Orendorff's corners. The first English school was begun about the same time by Joel Phelps. On the 8th of April, 1813, the school commissioners divided the town into eight school districts. There were then 255 families in the town and the commissioners designated which district each family should belong to. At the present time there are eleven districts in Columbia.
There are no considerable villages in this town. Columbia Center was formerly known as "Petrie's Corners," and it was here that the first town meeting was held. As indicated by its name, it is near the center of the town, and here Daniel I. Petrie kept the first tavern on the site where Abram Jacobson formerly kept. Jacob J. Petrie, son of Daniel, formerly kept a store where Elmer E. Spohn is now located. John D. Hunter also traded on this site. Martin L. Springer and Ira Derthick were also merchants here. There was a distillery operated here in early times. The present business consists of two stores, one by Frank N. Petrie and one by E. E. Spohn, a hotel kept by Wallace Purchase, on the old Petrie site, a store and post-office kept by Frank N. Petrie, and two blacksmith shops by David Getman and Jabez Bliss & Son. The Methodist church here was organized in 1887 and the building was erected in 1888 at a cost of about $2,000. The first pastor was Rev. Frank West and the present one is G. P. York. The trustees are Israel Shepherd, George Gray and H. J. Chrisman.
South Columbia. - This is a station on the railroad in the southern part of the town and on the old road from Mohawk to Richfield Springs. It was in this vicinity that the Lighthall families settled prior to the Revolution, and Richard Woolaber was the first settler after the war. Asaliel Freeman built here the second grist mill in the town, and in 1800 a saw-mill and a fulling-mill; the latter went to decay long ago. The first hotel was kept here in 1808 by Simeon Hammond. The site of the old mills is now occupied by the extensive plant of the Chase Mills and Supply Company, who operate a saw-mill, grist mill, planing-mill, deal in coal, lumber, etc. A box factory is operated by James Collyer, and a second saw- mill by Eugene Hoffman. Philip Wormouth is a blacksmith and wagon repairer, and Frank ZoUeris merchant and postmaster.
Miller's Mills. - This is a hamlet in the southwestern part of the town, half a mile from the line of the railroad, on which it has a station. The site was settled in 1760 by Andrew Miller. Jost Bell was the owner of much of the land in the vicinity and from him Miller leased and purchased his property. Jonas Miller now occupies a part of the original farm of Andrew Miller. Miller, probably in connection with Bell, built the first mills here, on the site of W. D. Gorsline's present mills; this property passed into possession of John Miller and was enlarged by him. Other owners of the mills, before they came into, Mr. Gorsline's possession, were a Mr. Tennant, Jacob Miller, and Daniel Devendorf Mr. Gorsline put in a circular saw and added a box factory and planing mill to the plant. The post-office was established in 1869 with Tunis Finger as postmaster; he was succeeded by Andrew Finger. J. R. Scudden was next appointed to the office, and then William H. Finger. Andrew Finger is the present postmaster and merchant. The "First Free Baptist Church in Columbia "was organized here in September, 1820, and the church was erected in 1831. Public services have been kept up with considerable regularity since 1814. In 1840 a Sunday-school was established with David G. Young as superintendent. Elder J. B. Randall is the present pastor. Rev M. C. Brown preached here for seventeen years ; he died recently in Boston.
Cedarville. - This is a hamlet in the western part of the town and at the junction of the lines of the three towns of Winfield, Litchfield and Columbia. While a considerable portion of the little village is in Litchfield, the post-office is now in the town of Columbia, and the history of the village may as well be given here. The first settler at this point was Henry Devendorf, who came in 1803. The first store was established in 1823 by John and Thurston Mabbitt, and in the same year the post-office was opened. Henry Devendorf kept the first tavern about 1810. The tannery that was conducted here for many years was begun by William Horsford in 1824, who operated it for thirty years. Its last owners were Hon. Ezra D. Beckwith and Hiteman Brothers, who gave it up about eight years ago and located at West Winfield; the tannery is now going to decay. The hotel now kept by J. J. Thorp was built by A. L. Fish about the time of the establishment of the post office. F. E. Stephens now has the principal store and is postmaster and supervisor, succeeding D. L. W. Kibby in the former ofifice in June, 1889. Mr. Kibby kept a store here about twenty years. The second hotel is kept, and has been for twelve years, by Monroe Wilkinson. The store now kept by H. G. Knight was occupied before him by Irving Maxwell and Benjamin Davis. Lyman Woodart wa,s a wagonmaker here for many years, and his sons now carry on the business. W. E. Meacham has a harness shop and W. H. Rhoda a tin shop.
The Methodist Episcopal church at Cedarville was organized in 1862, under the corporate name of the McKenzie Chapel. The deed of a lot was given by Henry Devendorf on which to build a chapel. The first church was erected about 1826, at a cost of $1,500. The society became extinct, and in 1870 the building was removed and fitted for a public hall.
The Universalist church at Cedarville was organized October 27, 1829, and Rev. Orrin Roberts became the first pastor in 1830. Among those who have at various periods preached here are Revs. T. J. Smith, Mr. Belden, Dr. Smith, J. H. Tuttle, E. M. Wooley, L. C. Brown, Mr. Paine, W. H. Grigsby, D. Ballon, L Rice, L. G. Powers, and O. B. Beals. The present pastor is Rev. C. H. Vail, who preaches also at Bridgewater. The first church edifice was erected in 1830 at a cost of $2,500; it was dedicated in the following year. In 1872 the building was remodeled at an expense of more than $5,000, and an organ costing $1,000 has since been added. The society has been uniformly prosperous and shown energetic activity from its beginning.
Trustees are elected for one, two, and three years. Tlieir names are as follow: For one year, F. B. Stephens, D. A. Angell, and A. E. Seckner; for two years, Chauncey Mathews, Jacob W. Miller, and Bernard Crim; for three years, C. J. Wheeler, E. B. Holcomb, and William Miller.
Other hamlets that have had distinctive names in Columbia are Getman's Corners, at the headwaters of Steele's Creek, on the north side of the town. Elizabethtown, taking its name from Elizabeth Campbell, on the north line of the town, on Steele's Creek, where a tannery was formerly carried on; and Haner Settlement, so called from the families of that name who located there. Spinnerville, named in honor of the late Gen. F. E. Spinner, is a post-office in the northern part, established in 1890. A tannery was operated here for many years by Peter H, Warren, father of T. D. Warren, esq., and the wife of Col. Alonzo Wood, of Winfield. It is now closed up. S. D. Warren now owns the homestead and is the postmaster.
The oldest church in this town is the Reformed Church, which was organized in July, 1798. Timothy Frank and Jacob Petrie were made elders, and George Edick and George F. Helmer, deacons. The first meetings were held in Conrad Orendorff's barn. Steps were taken in 1803 to erect a church, the First Congregational church of Warren and the First Lutheran church of Warren uniting in the work. A subscription paper was circulated and money raised for a beginning. In November, 1808, the three societies assembled at the meeting-house to arrange for raising money to finish the interior of the building. Through subscriptions and the sale of pews in December, 1808, the necessary funds were raised and the church finished by Parley Hutchings. This church was used until 1849, when it was considered unsafe and a new one was erected, which has received extensive repairs. It is pleasantly located on the east and west, road between Columbia Center and Orendorff's Corners, with a cemetery adjoining. In the rebuilding of this church in 1840 a scaffold gave way and John Edick was killed and several others badly injured.
Following is a list of supervisors of this town, with date of their incumbency:
Jacob Haner, 1813, 1822; Samuel Woodworth, 1814; John Mills, 1815, 1821; Henry S. Orendorff, 181C, 1817; Abijah Beckwith, 1818, 1819; Henry S. OrendorfF, 1820, 1831, 1837, 1842; Jeremiah Haner, 1823, 1824, 1827; Abijah Beckwith, 1825, 1845, 1846; Jacob Mills, 1826; Isaac Mills, 1828; John Miller, jr., 1829, 1834, 1835; Abel Hannahs, 1830, 1832, 1833; Peter H. Warren, 1836, 1838, 1839, 1863-65; Joseph L. Hatch, 1840, 1841; William J. Miller, 1843, 1844; Andrew Van Dusen, 1847, 1848; Loren Mills, 1849, 1850; John W. Beckwith, 1S51-52; John D. Clapsaddle, 1853, 1859-60; Jefferson Rowland, 1854, 1856; James Kelley, 1857, 1858; David G. Young, 1861-62; Levi Shaul, 1866-67; David Harter, 1868; Lorenzo Horsford, 1869; Jacob J. Getman, 1870-72 ; John M. Lipe, 1873, 1874; George Van Alstine, 1875-78; William D. Gorsline, 1879, 1880; Samuel Miller, 1?81; Israel I. Young, 1882, 1883; Frank N. Petrie, 1884-1889; Damon A. Clapsaddle, 1890; Abram Manning, 1891; Frank E. Stephens, 1892.
Last Updated: 8/17/18
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