THE VILLAGE OF ILION IN 1830
Source: The Ilion Citizen, Thursday, September 18, 1919, front page
ILION 89 YEARS AGO,
Valuable Reminiscences of the Earliest Days of the Young City
Ilion in 1830
The first settlers came to this vicinity in 1723 and '24 and the Burnetsfield pattent (sic) was dated April 30, 1725 but there is but little known of the personal history of the early families that found a home where our beautiful village now stands. A half century passed filled with work and worry and Indian alarms, which culminated in the war with England the the horrors of border strife. For years the settler's rifle was his constant companion for not alone were Indians to be expected or looked for at any time but the worse dreaded Tory might be hiding among his friends ready to surprise and waylay his former neighbors. More than once every man, woman and child fled for their lives to Fort Herkimer or to the block house that they built in the orchard just south of East Clark street. Scouting parties were kept out at time of alarm to guard against surprise and sometime they needed all the skill and courage and cunning that their frontier life had taught them.
I have heard several traditions of close places in which the accounts showed coolness and skill. One was told me in 1860 by Nicholas Steel, father of Mrs. Rivers and Mrs. Wright. He said that four scouts were sent from Fort Herkimer to warn settlers on the hills and watch the approach of Brandt and his Tories and Indians. On their return late in the afternoon they separated, one taking the more direct route past the Spencer place while the other three came to the flats along the crest of the hill west of Ilion and descended the hill where the steps now are near Main street. They stopped at the creek for a drink. There were some trout under a boat, and one of the number, a great uncle of the narrator by the same name, lay down and tried to catch them with his hands when there was the report of a musket, the ball striking Mr. Steel in the heel. The Indians had struck their trail but the whites made good their escape to Fort Herkimer but when they found all the houses deserted they were afraid to go direct so forded the river at the mouth of Fulmer Creek and again at the riff below the Fort. Steel's wounded heel did not hinder his running and afterwards heeled (sic) up.
The other scout met with an adventure fully as startling. He was following a ridge where the Warren road now is and when about a hundred rods from the river road he saw an Indian directly in his path step behind a tree. Of course he placed the nearest hemlock between his enemy and himself and each tried to get sight of the other without exposing his own person. With the white man time was precious for he did not know how many more savages might be near and in fact four or five hundreds of Brant's men lay in the little valley forty or fifty rods west of where he stood. So fearing the deadly rifle behind that other hemlock ten rods away he placed his cap on his gun and carefully exposed it, then drew it quickly back but the second time the Indian put a bullet through it when he let it drop and stepped out and saw his enemy with tomahawk and scalping knife in the open thirty paces away. When the Indian saw him he threw up his arms and uttered his last "Ugh!" and the scout succeeded in reaching the fort in safety. I have heard this story many times in my boyhood and could point out the spot where the big hemlocks stood when I was a boy.
Mr. Dygert tells me that he once talked with a colored woman who was once a slave in the family of Rudolph Shoemaker. At the time of Brandt's raid she was a young married slave with one or two children. The settlers in their slight to the fort took with them what they could carry of their valued effects and some of them were overloaded and left bundles of clothing at the Shoemaker tavern, thinking they would be safe from the Tories as the Shoemakers were loyalists but that night it was rainy and the Tories and Indians who came to the tavern, tore up the coats and pants for covers for their flint lock guns, the sleeves and legs making ideal gun cases. The raiders spared the Shoemakers when they burned the buildings and drove off the stock of the other settlers but they took the slave woman's little boy with them and she never saw him again.
After peace came gain another fifty years had passed before the date that this paper treats of, but it was a time of peace in the valley and prosperity among the hardy farmers.
Not many of the names that appeared in the Burnettsfield pattent (sic) remain. The Shoemakers had acquired title to four times as much land as they had a century before but in place of Rickert, Speiz, Beele, Teller, etc., we have Staley or Steele, Myrs, Clapsaddle, Morgan, Dygert, Ingersol, Remington and others.
All that was left in 1830 of the old block house was a depression filled with stone and brush. The canal had been in use but ten years and had brought with it many changes. The former had a market for their grain although many of them continued to draw it to Albany with their own teams. Store houses had been built and "forwarding" in large letters was seen on many buildings. Mills and shops had given employement (sic) to numbers of men. The old log houses had disappeared and substantial frame houses had taken their place.
The busy little hamlet London, had two hotels, a hat factory, two cooper shops, a blacksmith shop, paint shop and the county house and about a dozen dwellings; but Morgan's Landing, which took its name from Morgan's store house which stood nearby where the Morgan block now stands, was beginning to take the lead.
Eliphalet Remington had bought the Clapsaddle farm in 1827 and had commenced the industry that has made the name of Remington and Ilion known throughout the world; but the great shops had not yet been built and there was but little promise of the thriving village that now occupies the valley and surrounding hills. There was a little school house that had been moved in 1827 from the canal bank where the coal sheds now are, to a spot near the east end of the Arms C o.'s storehouse site.
There was the old river road, corresponding to Main St. except from Rasbach bridge to the gas house bridge. It ran on the north side of the canal, the low, swampy ground on the south side being unfit for a road. Then there was the old creek road following the route up Otsego St. from Ingersoll's south but occupying nearly the line of John St. from Ingersoll's to the grist mill that stood nearby where the M. E. church parsonage now does. Crossing the creek about twenty rods north of Second street and then following the creek to the river road, there was a pine swamp between Grove and Fourth Sts. and across that a corderoy (sic) road had been made that afforded plenty of exercize (sic) to passengers.
Otsego street had been opened about the time the canl (sic) went into operation but in the spring and fall it was almost impassable. It was in a mud hole in this street that E. Remington, Jr., was so seriously hurt as to cause his death. There was not a house on Otsego St. until E. Remington built one in 1828 near where the upper Armory building now stands. There was a house oil mill and saw mill at the drop at the Weaver place and a saw mill and plaster mill on the creek at Ingersoll's; the house stood back near the hill. The only house standing on what is now John St. was near the grist mill and there was an old cellar near the head of the mill race said to have been the site of the first log house in the creek valley.
All the other houses on the present site of Ilion were near the River Road and canal; several of them were of the old Dutch pattern with wide stone fireplaces and stick chimneys. The front doors were made in two parts so that the upper half could stand open while the lower part was closed, an arrangement which admitted the sunshine and fresh air while keeping the pigs and poultry on the outside. The Clapsaddle, Steele, Piper and Soemaker (sic) houses were in this style and some of them were gambrel roofed life (sic) the Spencer house that burned near Mohawk a few years ago. A hotel was built in 1829 by E. Remington on the corner where O.B. Rudd's store now is. There was a form bridge over the canal where the lift bridge now is, but there was no street north of the river road except a land ten rods long, reaching across the Dygert land and connecting with the Morgan and Clapsaddle farms. There was no river bridge and the only communication with the north side was by foot or in the winter across the ice.
The farming community south of us were nearly as numerous as at present and there were numerous saw mills and other mills using the water power afforded by Steel's Creek and its tributaries, but the roads were bad and hills steep so that but little trade came this way.
It remained for the next twenty-five years to show what push and vim could do in making business, creating a market and bettering the roads to change a little hamlet to a thriving village.
Copyright © 2016 Herkimer County NYGenWeb
All Rights Reserved.