Farmer Settlement, 2 More Articles
Town of Herkimer
Herkimer County, NY

Contributed by BetteJo Caldwell

Alexis L. Johnson, a venerable resident of East Schuyler, Town of Herkimer, contributed historical articles to the newspaper "Ilion Citizen," many of them written when he was in his late 80s and early 90s. His keen remembrances from childhood and young adulthood, and intimate first-hand acquaintance with people mentioned or their close family, provide anecdotal information about early 19th century residents not found in conventional history books. Local residents mentioned in his articles have turned out to be ancestors of many of our regular site visitors. Readers of other of Mr. Johnson's articles posted on this site are well aware of his occasional idiosyncratic sentence structure, punctuation and spelling. Thank you again to BetteJo Caldwell for this latest generous donation from her clippings collection.

Farmer Settlement

Part IV

Alexis L. Johnson of East Schuyler contributes to the Ilion Ctizen,

Friday, February 7, 1902

Fourth of Alexis L. Johnson's Historical Sketches - The Ainsworth and Farmer Families.

Herewith is the fourth of Alexis L. Johnson's historical sketches of Farmer Settlement. Mr. Johnson is very desirous of making these sketches accurate and if any of our readers discover errors as to dates, names, etc., they should communicate with Mr. Johnson at East Schuyler.


Nathan Ainsworth, the father of the family, was born in Suffolk, Conn., in 1772 and was one of the early settlers here. The time of his arrival here is not known but was probably near the close of the eighteenth century. Little is known of his father's family. His mother's maiden name was Phoebe Kingsley who, after the death of her first husband, married Francis Pierce. His sons, Nathan jr. and John married sisters, daughters of Joel Harvey, and moved to the State of Ohio. Fletcher, the youngest son, lived the village of Newport, dying March 28, 1901, nearly 90 years old; had no children. The daughters of Nathan sr., one married Ira K. Harvey, the other married Harvey Farrington. Mr. Ainsworth died at the home of his son Fletcher in 1863. He was a successful breeder of fine horses, an ardent abolitionist and a devout member of the M.E church. His house was always an open one to the itinerant preachers.

In writing some history of early settlements, many difficulties are met in procuring dates of the arrivals of persons or families, or names of places from which they came, their age, married or single, dates of marriage, wives maiden names, dates of births, deaths, etc. Records in many cases have never been made, or if made, have been lost or scattered. Many of the present generations are careless or indifferent in matters concerning the histories or incidents of the lives of their ancestors. Probably some regret that they did not remember the tales their grandfathers or grandmothers told them of their early privations in the primeval forest. With the help of a few willing and interested correspondents among the survivors of the families who settled here, and our memories of the aged fathers and mothers we met in our youth, we have endeavored to record a few facts in the lives of those who first felled the forest and built their log houses in the opening they had made near a babbling brook or a bubbling spring. When the history of "The Farmer Settlement" was begun, little trouble was anticipated in procuring the dates of events that would be a help to its value, but we found that records had not been made or if ever made had been lost in many cases.


But the history of the Farmer families will follow with what help we have had from some of the younger members of the families. Seven brothers emigrated from England, but the date is not known at this time nor the name of the town from which they came, or what part of the New England states they settled. Some lived in Harvard, Mass. Two of these brothers returned to England. It appears that their father came with them and was killed in the battle of Bunker Hill. The names of those who remained were William, Benjamin, Henry, James and John, and Simon, and Timothy. William had sons Uriah and William, jr. Benjamin had three sons and one daughter, names not known. Henry's children were William, Josiah, Jonathan, Rufus, Henry, Lemuel, Sybil, Suka, Eunice and Samuel. The children of James were John, James jr., William, Levi, Eben, Daniel, Susan, Lucy and Eunice. John's children were Betsey, Willard, Sally, Thirza, Sandford, John. Simon was the father of eight children, Ephraim, Luther, Simon,jr,Calvin, Joseph, Leafa, Betsy and Polly. Of the family of Timothy little is known. These pages seem too much like a genealogical table, but the lack of incidences must be pardoned by the reader. One fact remains, the settlement was rightly named as a large portion of the first inhabitants were Farmers by name and also farmers by occupation.

Little is known of the families of the three first named. William, James and Henry. Perhaps before these sketches are finished something may be learned. John the eldest son of James was born in Walpole, New Hampshire and married Esther Day. The dates are not known. The children born to them were Ferris, who was a merchant in Oneida county. His wife was Deborah Brown, both are dead. Their family consisted of six daughters and a son, the latter was killed in the civil war. Ira was a blacksmith, learning the trade in his father's shop. He married the eldest daughter of Henry J. Myers. He lived and died in Middleville. Harry married Angeline Woodworth and succeeded to his father's farm. He sold the farm to Wm. B Fenner and he to Heman Hildreth whose widow and children now own it. After selling the farm he moved to Ilion; he and his wife living a retired life. They had no children and both are dead. Gordon married Nancy Frank, a step-daughter of Henry J. Myers. After working on his father's farm he moved to Mohawk village, having a tin shop. Next he moved to Hoboken, N.J., where he was postmaster for 16 year, until ill health compelled him to resign. He and his wife died there. Their remains were brought to Herkimer and buried in Oak Hill cemetery. Their only living child, a daughter, is living in New Jersey. George married Eleanor Cropsy and moved to Mohawk, after living at home a few years. His wife died there and after he married again he moved to New Jersey, both dying there. Cynthia the eldest daughter married Reynold Marvin, who lived in Middleville. He bought a farm near Newport and died there. His widow went to Yorkville and lived with her son, J.H Marvin. Her youngest son was a lawyer in New York city, but all are dead. Almira married Charles Kathern, who was a merchant in Herkimer village several years. He and his wife are dead, he dying in Utica, his former home. Maria the only survivor of the children of Esquire Farmer with his first wife, lives in Englewood, N.J. Her husband, Brown H. Williams, was a druggist in the village of Herkimer. He was a son of Judge Williams of Utica and died there. After the death of his wife Esther. Esquire Farmer married Mr. Mary Martin, who was born in Coventry, Conn. One daughter was born to them, Esther Sophia, who married Heman Hildreth.

John Farmer Held the office of justice of the peace and was always known as Squire Farmer. He was a blacksmith by trade but also an enterprising farmer. He for many years kept a tavern, being the only one between Herkimer and Middleville. For the accommodation of his neighbors as well as himself, he built a cider mill in which his youngest daughter often assisted in the work by driving the team to grind the apples. The other sons of James were as follows and what is known of their families will be told. James jr., owned the farm adjoining and north of the county house farm. He met with an accident while cutting trees in the woods by which he and Henry Hazleton both last a leg. His son James succeeded to the farm. The other children were Sophronia, Jane, Walcott and twins. James and his sister Jane survive and live in Middleville. William move to St. Lawrence county. His children were Lenora, Caroline, Franklin, Lauren and Alexander. Levi Farmer also lived in St. Lawrence county. His children were Almira, Mary, Delilah, Serena, Lucy, Esther, also triplets named Washington, La Fayette and Boliver; of these only Washington survived and is now living in Canton, St. Lawrence county. His wife was Miss Harrington. They have no children. He is in his 90th year. Daniel married Katie Woodworth. They and their children are dead. Their children's names were Mary, Belinda, Callata, Catharine, Helen and Hiram. Daniel formerly owned the farm that now belongs to the county of Herkimer on which the county house now stands. Ebin's children were Jefferson, Madison, Abigail, Melissa and Sophia. The survivors of the family moved "west" and little is known of their place or history. There appears to be no record of the marriage of the sisters Susan, Lucy and Eunice. Perhaps some knowledge of them may yet be obtained. If so,it will be noted. The brother's John, James and Daniel spent their lives on the lower part of the settlements their farms living along the land bordering the West Canada creek. Some of these farms are yet owned and occupied by men who married the daughters and granddaughters of these Farmers.

This number has been delayed with the hope of obtaining dates and incidents connected with this brief and imperfect sketch, but my correspondents have lacked dates which they regret.

The families of the pioneers were generally large, and many of the children like their forefathers, sought new forests to fell, new homes to build and new fields to till.

The "Farmers" are scattered and few remain in the county. Many of the other members of these early families made choice of locations on the upland that was above the farms above described, and these will be told of in the next paper.

I repeat that if any readers find errors or have any additions, etc. to make, that they will be thankfully received by the writer.

Farmer Settlement

Part V

Alexis L. Johnson of East Schuyler contributes to the Ilion Ctizen,

Friday, February 21, 1902

Fifth of Alexis L. Johnson's Historical Sketches - More About the Farmer Family.

Herewith is the fifth of a series of most interesting historical sketches of Farmer Settlement from the pen of Alexis L. Johnson. This paper gives a very complete history of the Farmer family.

This number of the Farmer Settlement history will tell principally of the families who lived on the upland lying above and adjoining those who lived along the West Canada creek, but like the former numbers will not be as complete as we wish.

Joseph Farmer was one of the brothers who came from England. His son, or one of his sons named Simon, came to Herkimer county some time in the last decades of the 18th century. Soon after 1790 there seems to have been many people moving from the New England states into portions of Central New York. It was called "going west." Some of the Farmer families came from New Hampshire and others from Harvard, Mass. The children of Simon were Ephraim, Luther, Simon,jr., Calvin, Joseph, Lefa, Betsey and Polly.

The families of Ephraim and Joseph moved to St. Lawrence county and little is known of them at present by the writer.

Luther was born 1784 in New Hampshire and came to the Farmer Settlement with his father's family in 1798, that portion of the country being nearly a dense wilderness. In 1806 he married Lydia, the daughter of Jonathan Willard, whose mother was a cousin of President Monroe. He bought 90 acres of land that was heavily timbered which he cleared off by felling the trees in wind rows which facilitated the burning and made the gathering and saving of the ashes much easier. In clearing the land by early settlers, much pains were taken to save all the ashes after a "burning" as they were a sort of currency that was received at the country store or ashery in exchange for goods or money. [See notes]. Some of Luther's brother lived near him, occupying log houses of which there were four within a mile that were built by them or the men who married their sisters.

Log houses of a single room and covered with bark were the first habitations of the hardy families of the pioneers. Most of the "logging" was done with ox teams, and only one horse was owned in the Settlement. This was used more or less in common by the neighbors for carrying their grain to the grist mill at Little Falls. A blanket was laid across the horse on which the bag of grain was placed with a man or boy on top of it, and away to mill. He would wait for the grist and perhaps come home after dark. Mr. Farmer said he rode the horse to Little Falls to buy a wheel for spinning flax. A heavy rain falling while he was gone raised the West Canada creek so high that he was obliged to swim his horse across near Countryman's on his return, holding the wheel up so that it would not get wet. This fording place is rarely used now. The writer remembers of wading across the creek here when a boy of a dozen years. Six children were born to Luther and his wife Lydia.

The eldest son, Loren W., married Mary Crawford and succeeded to his father's estate. He had one child, George, who in 1860 married Katie Johnson. He still occupies the homestead of his grandfather and is the only surviving male member of the Farmer families that lives in the settlement. Loren Farmer died on the farm in 1883 and his wife in the next year.

Nancy married Nathan Fenner, a carpenter by trade. He bought ten acres of Thaddeus Hildreth on which he built a house and barn. After a few years he move to St. Lawrence county, selling his to T.W. Thurston, who is now a superannuated preacher of the M.E. church, past 86 years old, living in Minnesota. Thurston's father occupied the place several years and it is now owned by Mr. Lauren Griswold. Fenner sometimes taught singing schools that were common in those years, during the winter season. It is doubtful if there are any of his pupils living. He and his wife are dead, leaving a son and daughter.

Lydia married Peter Rema of Schuyler. In a few years they went to Nebraska and little is known of the family. It was reported that one of his sons was killed in the rebellion.

Lavina taught district schools, and married Alexander Cotlia, who with his brother Edward had a dairy farm in Schuyler, but finally moving to Newport village, died there, leaving a daughter, who married Otis Olds.

Louisa A., married Ira P. Farrington, son of Harry Farrington of Herkimer. Most of their lives were spent in West Frankfort. He died in 1901. Mrs. Farrington, a son Vernon, and daughter, Mrs. Ed Morgan, all of West Frankfort, survives.

Washington survives, about 90 years old, lives in Canton, St. Lawrence county. He married Mrs. Harrington. She is an invalid. One son was born to them, died young.

Simon Farmer, jr., was born in 1787, in New Hampshire, and came here with his father's family. He married Hannah, a daughter of Reuben, and sister of Thaddeus Hildreth, in 1813. Twelve children were born to them; Alanson, who married Catherine Rhodes and went to Wisconsin. One of his daughters, Katie, married Howard J. Farmer, who lives in Minnesota. Little is known of Alanson's family. Francis, born in 1813; but little is known of his family. He with most of his brothers and sisters went to St. Lawrence county in 1841; he died in 1897. Lucy married George H. Dygert, a young man brought up by Henry J. Myers, whose first wife was a relative of Dygert's mother. Lucy died 1884, and he the next year. Of their family I have no further record. Simon 2d never married. He died in 1851 aged 83 years. Albert, born in 1820, married Belinda, daughter of Daniel Farmer. He is living. Amos, born in 1821, Myra, born 1823, died in infancy. Almira, born 1825, married Jerome J. Johnson at Eatonville, afterwards moved to Canton; both dying there in 1891, leaving one daughter who married Lewis H. Whitney; he died in 1871; she is living in Syracuse. Lousia, born in 1826, married Eldad Hazelton; she died in 1880. Diana, born 1828, married Chauncey Woodworth who drowned himself by jumping in the river near his home. Lenora, born 1838, is living. Gaylord born 1832, married, lived in Canton, died 1889.

The other son of Simon sr. was Calvin his wife's name is not known, and very little is known of the family. He lived in various places in Herkimer Co., but finally moved to Wisconsin. Of the daughters of Simon sr., Betsey never married. Fanny married John Cabot who after living several years in the vicinity of the Farmers, moved to York Mills, Oneida Co., where his children worked in the cotton factories there.

Polly married Mathias Durst of Schuyler the eldest son of John Durst. Some years after his marriage, Durst moved to Oneida county. Little is known of his family, except that his eldest son Norman survives and lives with his son-in-law Jerome Sheaf at Niagara. Leafa was the wife of Daniel Williams, who after raising a large family in Schuyler moved to Sandy Creek, Jeff. Co. Mr. Williams was remarkable for his great weight, as he weighed more than 400 lb. He was afflicted with dropsy.

At one time there was probably forty or fifty male members of the Farmer families old and young in the Settlement but time works great changes of names in any given place. In the early history of the country it was often that several brothers emigrated to a new place together, and generally giving the family name to it.

Where people were Germans or near them it would be "Bush" with the family name prefixed, as Schell's Bush. But the "Farmer's Settlement" was made by full blooded Yankees, direct from the New England states and although they went into a dense wilderness, or Bush as the German's called it, their place got the English name of Settlement. Probably only three or four heads of families moved here, but with the large number of children in these days, the neighborhood became populous.

As before stated there is only one Farmer living there today, and his only child is a daughter, and with his passing away, the name will be extinct.

There are only two other Farmers in the county of Herkimer that the writer is aware of, but if this is wrong it is hoped it will be corrected. How many Schells are there in Schell's Bush or Smalls in Small's Bush?

I hope my readers have not expected too much in these sketches or, that my young friends, the grand and great grand-chlidren of those whose names have been given are not disappointed in not seeing their names or actions in print. Perhaps some of these young friends may in after years tell what they saw and knew of railroads, trolley roads, telephones, telegraphs and balloons, and their bearers may lay with truth, such tales are told, we can beat them all today.

One more number with some notes and additions may appear.

Still More Farmer Settlement

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Created 10/1/03
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