COLUMBIA'S EARLY HISTORY
An Address by Mrs. M. M. Hatch of Columbia, Delivered before the Herkimer County Historical Society November 8, 1902
I did not until it was too late, realize the difference between an article for a newspaper or magazine, which, coming before all classes and conditions of men, would naturally interest some one if possessed of any degree of excellence whatever, and compiling data which the most learned people in the county must listen to, whether it be of interest to them, or not. This is my only apology.
When a weaver warps a carpet for some enterprising housewife, if the rags for a woof can be classified, a special design is carried out through the entire fabric, but if the material consists of odds and ends of old and new, dark and light, somber and bright, it is used promiscuously and the pattern is styled, "hit and miss." My article is of this latter description and will, I fear, be characterized by more misses than hit.
Warren, as it was in the beginning and Warren and Columbia, as it now is, with its history one and inseparable, is the home of the Palatin and I am sure we do not and cannot sufficiently honor those grand, heroic and persistent frontiersmen. When we remember the disadvantage, they, as a whole, labored under in the fatherland--the discouragements and persecutions which forced them to leave all and with no capital but hopeful hearts and strong capable hands, sail for the land of the free, do we realize what a farce it must have seemed?
Landed in an unbroken wilderness, preempted by wild beasts, where the agriculturist had use for naught but his ax, laboring under a contract they could not possibly fulfill, where none but the coarsest food was obtainable in scant quantities, they began the new life hopefully in log huts we would consider wholly unhealthy and every way unworthy of our cattle.
Nor were even these poor quarters long suffered to afford shelter, for their titles proved defective, and their Israelitish wanderings were continued. You are familiar with the story of the seven families founding Andrustown soon after 1723--the first white settlers in Warren, and other seven families founding Couradstown, the widely separated pioneers of Columbia. Tradition as well as history is silent regarding the years which intervened until their homes and crops were destroyed during the French and Indian War.
But they, or rather their fathers and mothers had seen scores of towns in flames, along the Rhine, and ruin and desolation everywhere rampart, and they were inured to such calamities.
Their situation was pitiable indeed, but it could not be worse than their past, and they were comparatively hopeful, insomuch that they returned and rebuilt their cabins, and planted their scanty fields and enjoyed a few prosperous years.
Then the men followed the brave Herkimer, and the women and children were compelled to seek the shelter of Fort Herkimer.
What an enviable record for bravery and loyalty they left us, and what would the battle of Oriskany have been without the Palatin. Herkimer County has at last paid tardy tribute to the hero whose name it bears, but her soil is thickly strewn with the graves of patriots.
In the cemetery adjoining our Reformed Dutch Church in Columbia are the known graves of sixteen Revolutionary soldiers, while a vacant plot beside the widow, is held sacred to the memory of Major Denus Clapsaddle who sleeps on the Oriskany battlefield.
A year later the Audrustown massacre wrought ruin and devastation from the shock of which they were still staggering when they were again made homeless in 1782.
When they were at last permitted to enjoy the peace and prosperity they had so dearly bought, the church and school claimed their immediate attention.
Schools were established in the more commodious log houses and preaching service eagerly attended in the larger barns, and when at the opening of the new century it was found possible to build churches they gave of the scanty assets in a manner that would electrify the ablest townsman at the present time. The first school on the hills, south of the Mohawk, was taught by Stephen Frank, in Paul Crim's log house in Andrustown, before the Revolution. It was unquestionably a German school as neither Paul Crim nor his wife could speak or understand a word of English. There is no record of any school being taught within the present limits of Columbia until 1795 when Philip Ausman taught a German school in a log schoolhouse, opposite where the Reformed Church was later erected.
The building was a low, square structure, with teachers' desk in the center, while a massive chimney, whose foundation of brick and stone are buried neath Fred Sheldon's wagonhouse, occupied a deal of valuable space on the north side, and being of great depth, allowed the rain, hail and snow to descend unchallenged upon the great logs of green four-foot wood furnished by the parents in proportion to the number of children sent to school--1/2 a cord for each pupil. This building was accidentally burned about 1812. Soon after 1795, the first English school in the locality was taught by Joel Phelps in a log school house east of the Henry Stevens homestead. There was at that time neither geography, grammar nor arithmetic, and but few other books, and slates and pencils had not come into use. There is no tradition reaching backward to the organization of the first school in the south part of the town, and the earliest recollections are of school being held in a primitive log building on the site now occupied by the blacksmith shop in South Columbia. There is a handed down story how this building was accidentally burned, together with its meager outfit, consisting doubtless of quill pens and horn books.
While many of the husbandmen were absent doing military duty in the troublesome days of 1812, the large town of Warren was divided, and the newly constituted town, composed of 220 families was called Columbia. The cause for this selection is not in evidence, doubtless for no especial reason, whereas there is abundant showing why it might or should have been called Getmantown or some desirable variation of this name which has had more representatives in town than any other.
April 8, 1813, the first school commissioners, Rev. John Bartlett, Dennison Tisdale and Simon Woodworth divided the new town into twelve districts. No. 1 is the district at Orendorf's Corners, the school house already mentioned located east of the Henry Steven's homestead on the northeast corner of the lands of Marks Grant. Among the families in this district were those of Conrad Orendorf who had thrilling experiences during the Revolution, whose house built before the Revolution, with a later addition, is still standing, as is also the barn in which preaching service was for years held and at whose northeast corner the early dead were buried.
Conrad Helmer, who kept a time honored tavern on the Mohawk road.
Thomas Shoemaker, his neighbor on the south.
Conrad Getman at the north foot of the hill where naught but the well remains.
Frederick Getman, 3rd, at the point where the road around the hill intersects the road to the Kingdom. He was a son of Frederick Getman, 2nd., who resided in the Hanes settlement and the prominent and well remembered Hiram Getman, his youngest son, was a most public-spirited man who held many offices of trust, and was sheriff a number of years. One daughter will be remembered as the wife of Judge A. C. Tennant of Cooperstown. On the road east from the Corners were the families of Barnabas Griffith on the W. O. Ames place, but not a foundation stone remains to mark where the pleasant home of John M. Scott stood, near the stone ledge. John Oxner's premises are occupied by his great grandson, Bert Oxner, while naught remains to mark the site of the early home of Henry Oxner across the road but a spring and well. The pioneer home of Frederick Petrie was south of the Steven's homestead in the lot where some stunted and dwarfed apple trees and an old cellar mark the site. When the road was established, he built a house on the corner, later occupied by Enoch Judd and Henry Stevens. Marks Grant was the first resident owner of the lands now owned by his great grandson, Marks Grant. His honored discharge from the Revolutionary Army, signed by Washington and Trumbull, is treasured by a great grandson, Dr. Albert Getman of Oneonta.
Dennison Tisdale came from Lebanon, Conn., and with his intellectual family, settled on the farm that has of later years been the home of George Yule and his son Delos Yule. He was the first school commissioner of the town. Among his numerous children was Elizabeth who married Lyman Huntley. Of their ten children, four served in the Civil War and two, Lester and Wilkins never returned. Ensebia, a daughter, was a skilled physician in the west and Sanford Huntley and his wife, Rev. Abi Townsend Huntley are talented preachers in South Dakota.
John Clapsaddle, a son of Major Denus Clapsaddle, resided on the next farm to the east where he was succeeded by his son, Peter Clapsaddle. Dr. Abel Hannahs settled adjoining where the Reformed Church was afterward erected.
Perhaps the most prominent man in the locality at that time, was D. V. W.--David Van de Water Golden whose mother was Elizabeth Van de Water, whose ancestors came from Holland. He was born on Long Island in 1773 from where his family removed to Beekmantown, Dutchess County and in 1792 he engaged in mercantile business in Niskayuna. In 1798 he came to what is now Columbia and erected a building on the north side of the road at the foot of the hill, west of the Reformed Church, which was utilized as a store and dwelling. This was the first store in the present town, and its proprietor accepted in payment for his goods, a varied line of commodities which constituted "barter" of that time. A well known tavern keeper in the Mohawk Valley is responsible for the statement that as many as twenty-eight teams, loaded with freight belonging to D. V. M. Golden had stayed at his hostelry in a single night, enroute to Albany, from whence they would bring goods in return.
An aged friend writing of those early days says: "My mother often spoke of Judge Golden, being the handsomest man in the large congregation and that his dignity of demeanor as he walked up the aisle of a church, was admired by all present."
He was one of the committee of five to build the Reformed Church and was vandue master to sell the pews to pay the expense of the building. He was appointed one of the county judges in 1810 and commissioned first judge in 1811 which office he held until he died. His brother, Benjamin, was for years a hotel keeper, across the road from the store, and upon retiring from business resided in Ilion. John was a successful merchant in Utica and was succeeded by his son, David Golden. One sister married Otis Smith and they were the parents of the late S. O. Smith. Hannah married the pious quaker, James Thomas of Dutchess County, Dorothy labored as a Quaker missionary among the Indians while Elizabeth married Calvin Eaton, another Columbia man. Judge Golden's children were Gaylord and David who died young, Jane who became the wife of Rev. John Bartlett, the first resident pastor of the Reformed Church. David Bartlett, a son, was during the Civil War, editor of a Washington paper. The National Era, and became private secretary to Young Wing, the Chinese minister, holding the very renumerative position until 1890. Another son, John, is a professor in New Britain, Conn.. Judge Golden's daughter, Harriet, married Henry Reynolds. Mary Ann married Alanson Reynolds, while Nancy became the wife of the well known Chauncey Beckwith and their granddaughter is the gifted artist and poet, Miss Ellen Clapsaddle of Richfield Springs.
James Page's home was opposite the above mentioned premises, and was later the home of Israel Shepard. Mr. Page was one of the prominent men of that early date; he was a Tanner and Courier and had a tannery south of the house. At an early date he transferred himself and family to the premises later known as Cullenwood where he built the residence which was later the popular home of Colonel Crain, and the hamlet which grew up about Mr. Page's home was until recently called Pages Corners, where he conducted a store, an ashery and mills. Before 1795 Samuel Hatch came from Connecticut and located just west of Mr. Page. He had a family of seven children, but the recent death of Judge Edick in Richfield Springs, removes his last descendent in this locality.
The old school house which had outlived its usefulness, was torn down in [empty space ] a plot of ground was purchased at Orendorf's Corners, and a modern schoolhouse erected where a small up to date school is maintained.
No. 4 is at Millers Mills. When Andrew Muller, or Miller as the name is rendered in this country, came from Germany, he made his first home in Renssellaer County, but soon after 1790, came with his six sons and two daughters to an unbroken wilderness where he chose a most suitable location. They made the necessary clearings--built log houses, constructed a dam across the beautiful stream and built a grist and saw mills which have perpetuated his name.
The grist mill soon became patronized by the incoming tide of emigration for miles around. Before there were any highways the grain was transported in a hollowed out log drawn by one or two oxen, and people from Winfield and those far away places required two days to make the trip, driving along a cow which they milked at night, and Mrs. Miller would boil them a hasty pudding from some of the new meal affording them a most enjoyable supper and breakfast. He was of Lutheran faith and early service was often held at his house. His immense leather covered, metal finished German Bible, carefully treasured by an aged descendent, Mrs. Katherine Westfall, contains a record of baptisms about the beginning of the century.
The first school house was a frame building, top of the hill on the west side of the old disused road, leading directly south from Millers Mills, past the home of the late D. G. Young. The structure was built and used for both church and school purposes. The original organization of the Baptist society took place there in 1820 and service was held there eleven years. Rev. William Hunt conducted these services and continued twenty-two years. Mr. Ezra Star is remembered as the earliest teacher and served continuously for fifteen years, and was followed by Alonzo Tillison.
Elder William Hunt was succeeded by Elder Robert Hunt in 1836. In 1831 the Millers Mills church was erected and soon after a new school house was built adjoining. While this change was bring effected Lucy Ann Barringer taught school in the church. In 1840 M. C. Brown became pastor of the society and taught a select school two or three years in the home of the Jacksons, west of the Ludden homestead on the road from Millers Mills to the Cedarville road.
The family of Elder Robert Hunt was not in affluent circumstances but are remembered as most exemplary people who lived in various homes, coming from the present Mumford place to the Joseph Ludden place east of Millers Mills. The sons and daughters were persistent in obtaining an education and Isaac and Harvey became prominent physicians in Utica. Harry married a daughter of Denus Clapsaddle of Mohawk and their granddaughter, Miss Ethel Wickes is gaining enviable notoriety. She had studied art in Paris and is considered one of the finest artists in San Francisco, whose productions are largely sought, and command startling prices.
One of the most studious scholars in the old school house was a lad named George Harper, bound to one Rufus Reynolds. He was a most exemplary youth, but as years rolled by and his classmates began escorting the red-cheeked maidens home from spelling school, owing to his somewhat awkward and diffident way--his lack of funds--his quiet demeanor and the coarse ill fitting clothes provided him, it was evident he was not of the favored few, and soon came to be omitted from most social gatherings. With stoical indifference he served his entire apprenticeship, and when released at the age of twenty-one, was qualified to teach and went to Yorkville in that capacity. Some years thereafter a townsman while in Oswego was very much surprised to find the leading man in a council of eminent physicians assembled there, was Dr. George Harper.
District No. 5 is the "Bloodgood District", so called. Richard Pray was, perhaps the first settler within its limits. He was a "way down east yankey" who bought a large tract of land of Gouldsborough Bauyer, and mounting his horse, provided with a gun and an ax, while the bright silver dollars which was to pay for his woodland acres in the western world were stowed inside a new pair of boots and slung along side his saddle bags, he started on his solitary journey. At an inn where he obtained lodging, two young maidens of the household took his fancy, and when about to mount and continue his journey, he very gallantly informed them that he wished they were going with him, whereupon one of the maids informed him that his wishes coincided with hers. Mr Pray procured the services of a magistrate, a pillion was added to the trappings on his faithful steed, and with his new made bride seated behind him, the lonely bachelor's solitary ride suddenly merged into a wedding trip. The home where they passed the remainder of their lives has in recent years been the home of David Locke and his sons, the famous hop growers. His confidence in his wife's charms must have remained unabated as the years rolled by for when a bear came down from the woods back of the house and was carrying away a fine fat pig, Mr. Pray seized his gun and requested his better half to come out and attract Bruno's attention, the result proved the wisdom of his reasoning. His brother, William Pray cleared and occupied the acres which have since 1816 been the home of William Brown and later his son, Lafayette Brown.
Willard Eddy and his interesting family enjoyed the sunshine and shadows of life on the farm for many years occupied by the late Ephraim Ward.
Joel Merchant was an early occupant of the premises now owned by Stewart McRorie, while John Bloodgood owned the premises further east and on the south side of the road. One Jacob Casler lived across the road from the present school grounds and a few rods further east was an old house which sheltered an English family by the name of Ripley. Mr. Ripley, like many another English man, thought so little of the land he was coming to, that he brought a plow along with him, which was so ill shaped and so long geared that the team was barely within call and the awkward implement wobbled about in a manner very amusing to Americans.
The first farm east of the school house was occupied by Samuel and Wilson Baird who came from Saratoga County, while the second home was that of the widow of Major Denus Clapsaddle and her son, Denus. An interesting volume might be written of the experiences of this family during the Revolution. John F. Getman and his large family occupied the premises still further east, while David and Azel Hatch were his nearest neighbors. Jacob Barringer came from Schodac and lived in a primitive house on the west side of the road leading north toward Columbia Center, while the four farms on the east side the road were those of Johannes Getman and his sons, Frederick, Jacob, George and Henry.
Johannes Getman was one of four brothers who were Revolutionary soldiers, and was a staunch advocate of whatsoever things were pure and true and right. He was a grandson of the late John Frederick Getman who came to this country in 1723 and who was the ancestor of all the Getmans in the county. This beautiful building in which we are met, is a token of the wisdom and generosity of a descendent of that first John Frederick Getman.
The first school in this district was taught in a building (presumably of logs) on the south side of the road at the top of the knoll, east, and across the creek from the present school building, perhaps about twenty rods distant. When the new town was districted, a plot of ground was purchased of Jacob Casler, the deed bearing date 1814. On this, the present school house was erected, and the land east of it which has been utilized as a road, is the rightful school grounds, and the property of the district, the road passing on the west side. The first trustees were Matthewson Eddy, Joel Merchant and Azel Hatch. The building is well preserved and does not compare unfavorably with more modern structures. During the winter evenings, meetings were held there prior to thirty-five years ago, and called out a large attendance.
Among the other early settlers in this district were Luther, Nathan and Parley Spaulding. The brothers King, Green and Tom Paddock succeeded Mr. Casler opposite the school house. Elisha Monday and Charles Gray occupied successively an old house on the east side of the road, south of the McKoon crossing milk station. Peter Getman was one of the earliest occupants of the home later belonging to Alonzo Getman and Bert Zoller. Simeon Remington, a Revolutionary soldier who came from Suffield, Connecticut, occupied the David Bailey home, while Abisha Smith, Sr., his neighbor before and after his emigration, was succeeded by his son, Abisha, Jr.
District No. 6 is at South Columbia, and Ashbul Freeman was the first settler in this hamlet. He came from Metuchin, New Jersey and must have followed the Indian trail and located his log cabin a few rods south on the Indian camp ground on either side the stream which the Indians called Otskonoga, but which their pale-faced successors called by the much more suggestive name of Mink creek. The site of this first cabin is now occupied by the store house east the depot and we might add that the D. L. & W. Railroad closely follows the Indian trail to the Great Western turnpike. Doubtless the first death in the locality was a child of Mr. Freeman's who was drowned in the creek, and presumably buried on the premises. Mr. Freeman felled an immense pine across the creek and with this as a foundation constructed a dam directly west of the present sawmill, south of the road. The banks show the pond to have been very deep and not extending far up stream as the road way bridge was in nearly its present location. Some years later the present dam was constructed and the lower one removed. While some grading was being done a few years ago, the before mentioned pine log was reached and being unearthed was found sound as when in its primitive grandeur it reared its proud head for untold years on the bank of the stream, and it is now serving in another phase of its existence as the shaft for the big wheel in the mill. Mr. Freeman built the first saw mill in this locality, and the grist mill soon after, or before the close of the century.
Mr. Freeman moved to Cattaraugus County where he was one of the first three county judges in 1817, as was also his son-in-law Peter TenBroeck soon after.
You are all familiar with the history of Abram Woleben and his Revolutionary experiences which would provide ample material for a most thrilling narrative. He was, perhaps, the next settler in town after Mr. Freeman and his rude cabin near the trail was built where is now Olcott Harwicks garden. The well is still in use but the foundation stones of the immense chimney were some years ago drawn to Richfield and their present mission is to uphold the Storer Block. His children settled near him. One son was struck by lightning while binding wheat in the harvest field, when the sun was shining, and another was killed in a clover mill while a grandson, Charley Woleben will be remembered as the victim of the caving in of the Myer's well between Mohawk and Ilion.
The brothers, George M. and Frederick Edick were the first to occupy the Shimel and Fretts farms respectively. The land was measured with a rope and the dimensions sent to Albany. George M. Edick's wife, who was a daughter of Major Denus Clapsaddle, was killed by being thrown from a wagon in Mohawk. Frederick Edick or Fretts as he was commonly called, was the one who had so much trouble in drilling the militia, who tied strips of hay around one foot and straw about the other, then commanded hayfoot forward and strawfoot forward. His commands right face and left face were equally ineffectual and he substituted face the house and face the hogpen. His early home was a few rods west the railroad and while the cellar is considerably filled in, the well is in good condition. He returned to his Fort Herkimer home and Michael Weaver succeeded him and built a dam upon the creek and had a primitive saw mill where the ruins of the wheels may still be seen. A man was accidentally drowned in this pond, the second fatality in the hamlet. There is no history or tradition reaching back of the occupancy of Richard Pangburn on the farm where the railroad emerges from the big swamp, which has since been cultivated by Isaac Wright, Isaac House, Eli Riggs, Abel Riggs and many others. Moses Thompson with his large family, came from New Jersey and located on the farm later occupied by Joel Eggleston, Henry Shaul and others. Squire Ayers and Jersuha, his wife and their son, William and several daughters were among the early arrivals; William returned from Sacketts Harbor with epaulets and a captain's commission. They resided on the farm now occupied by Walter Vrooman. Captain Ayer married a daughter of Ashbul Freeman, and while cutting wood, had the misfortune to wound his knee in such a manner as to necessitate the amputation of the limb. By a singular and unfortunate coincidence one of his sons, the late O. P. Ayer was accidentally shot while out hunting, in 1862, and also had to submit to the amputation of a limb. He was for many years justice of the peace and was the first ticket agent in South Columbia. Seth Smith and his family were natives of Suffield, Connecticut, who coming here, located on the farm now owned by Martin Kayner, while a Mr. Frazer and family are the earliest residents on the premises where George House kept a tavern for many years, and was succeeded by Hyde and Peak, John H. Shaul, Walter Vrooman, Nathan Palmer and the present owner Maria Schuyler. Peleg Wood first cultivated the farm since owned by Jacob Lain who was succeeded by his son, John Lain. Nicholas Van Slyke built a house ad lived west of the depot where nought but a well marks the site. John Davis built the house which is now utilized as a wagon house by Jonathan Morgan. James Rooker built the house on the corner, after which being rebuilt by W. E. Chase, bears little resemblance to the original structure. James Brown built and lived in the old house on the lands of M. M. Hatch, which was near the old Fulling mill of which he was the successful operator for many years.
Joseph Hatch was one of four brothers who emigrated from Connecticut about 1794 and purchased four adjoining sections of land, he locating on the plot futherest east. The present house succeeded the log house before 1800 and remained in possession of his descendents about 100 years until disposed of by Damon Clapsaddle to Joseph Migue. Joseph Hatch was an enthusiastic member of the early Masonic Lodge in town, and the Masonic emblems carved on the front door casings have not been wholly obliterated by the storms of the century.
As already stated the log building in which the generation who are all dead and gone, were taught to make their manners was burned and in 1813 the newly elected commissioner called a meeting and a building opposite the present hotel was served for school purposes and money raised to fit the building with glass windows and putty them in, repair the immense chimney and floor, buy a pair of brand irons or andirons, a pail, a chair, a fire slice, cup and broom. Three years later a desk was added. The first school was taught by Betsey Dodge, commencing May 2nd, 1814 and continuing 17 weeks at $1.00 per week and board herself. Her successors are as follows, many of them teaching several terms at different times or successively: Simon P. Clark, Charlotte Scoby, Guy D. Comstock, Betsey Hatch, Asael Williams, Laura Sanford, Ann Benedict, Stephen Griffith. Hannah Hatch, Jesse Angel, Elijah H. Rice, G. W. Little, Laury Waters, Lucina Tenny, Urial H. Peak, Samantha Smith, John Clement, Lucretia Hudson, Sarahann Merchant, Mary Ann Hauer, George Stephens, Mary E. Miller, Rachel Alexander, Saphrona Rowland, Henry Brown, Josiah Miller, Sarah Eveleth, Henriette Carder, Dr. Hawks, Fanny Carder, Mr. Sloan, Harriet Wheeler, O. P. Ayer, Susan Smith, Joanna Miller, Horace Howland, Mary Ann Smith, A. W. Wilder, Biauca Helmer, Caroline Morgan, William Ames, Lucretia Hatch, John R. Helmer, Sarah L. Helmer, John Frank Getman, Cornelia Getman, Agur Williams, George Baker, Maryette House, Walter C. Green, Lizzie Round, Newton Chamberlain, William Johnson, Jacob Getman, Juliette Merchant, Lydia A. Huntley, Abbie Silliman, Sarah Sheridan, Cyrena Huntley, H. G. Willsey, Frank Getman, Helen Stevens, Lida Harwick, Ella Gano, Leila Fake, Emma Crim, Lavega Brainerd, Christine Kayner, Lola Brainerd, Charley Brownrigg, Sophie Norris, Nettie Andrus, Moses Jordan, Tena Orendorf, Will Vrooman, Daniel Ames, Jennie Rathbone, Sidney Ayers, Genie Parkhurst, Mary Reagan, Byron McLane, Flo Goodier, Eva Willsey, Emma Johnson, Elma Hopkinson, Rose Hopkinson, Celeste Barrus.
In 1836 the first wood was purchased - 20 cords of 18 inch wood at five shillings and six pence a cord. The building was repaired in 1819 and the same year the first public money was received, $22.78. Number of students between the ages of 5 and 15, 68. In 1826 a plot of land was purchased of Peleg Wood, 1/4 of an acre at $25 per acre and a new school house erected. In 1854 that building was sold, torn down and removed and the present building erected, which after nearly fifty years of service is well preserved. Josiah Miller taught a select school in a house north of the Ayers residence, which burned many years ago. A select school was at one time taught in the upper rooms of Miss Susannah Barringer's house and Miss Eusebia Huntley taught a select school in the upper rooms of Mrs. S. O. Smith's house, about the time of the Civil War. The district school house has been the scene of spelling schools, debating societies, exhibitions, Christmas trees, singing schools, meetings, revivals and Sunday Schools.
District No. 9, the Hauer settlement was founded by the brothers, Jacob, Jeremiah and William Hauer, who came from Rensselaer County at an early date and located east of Millers Mills. The home of Jacob Hauer was midway between the Peter Clapsaddle farm and the school house, on the north side the road, but nothing now indicates the location. He was a man of affairs and had a commodious barn in which meetings and funerals were held at that early day. A plot of ground on his farm was given for a burying ground, and is thickly populated. Jacob was chosen one of the committee of five to erect the Reformed Church. When Columbia was set off from Warren he was the first supervisor and elected again in 1822. His son, Jacob, Jr., was a chorister and taught singing school. He caused guideboards to be erected at the cross roads at that early date. William Hauer or Helnus Hauer, as his clansmen styled him, chose and cleared the lands known as the Schuyler place south of the present school house. The more commodious early homes contained two rooms, the square or spare room, while the other was called the schtup. Wall paper was not plentiful and the plastered walls were oft painted, bright blue being a favorite color, on which sprigs of flowers were scattered. The schtup was heated by an immense fireplace over which was the inevitable mantlepiece with its decorations of brass candlesticks and pewter platters, while above this was suspended the bright hewed valetja. In this room they lived and baked and brewed, dined and spun and wove, here the catwhipper or traveling shoemaker established his bench for a two week stay or until all the family were properly shod. The highpost bedstead with its hangings and tester of curtain calico, underneath which, in daytime, the truckbed was stored, also occupied considerable space in this much furnished room, and here also in the Helnus Hauer home, school was kept for many years by a non-resident German whose name has been forgotten. An English school was also taught here for about three years before the town was districted.
Helnus Hauer's son, Jonas, was a soldier of 1812. Mary Ann, a daughter of Jonas, was an early teacher in town and taught embroidery before she became the wife of Michael Edick. Jeremiah Hauer's home was on the road running north and south and has in later years been the home of Jacob Hauer and Jacobís widow, the last of the family. Jeremiah served his town as supervisor in 1823-24 and 27. He reared a large family and beside numerous grandchildren in town, others are engaged in the business enterprises of Herkimer, Mohawk, Ilion and Frankfort. Frederick Getman, who arrived soon after, had served through the Revolution with his father, Captain Frederick Getman. He reared a large family, among whom was the well known Bartlett B. Getman, whose children were among the town's most honored citizens. Among them were David of Millers Mills, Dr. Norman of Richfield Springs and the late Marshton Getman of Mohawk. The history of Gersham Skinner, another pioneer, is doubtless too familiar to need repetition. He held the commission of adjutant during the Revolution and at its close came here accompanied by his son, John and five daughters, and cleared the lands more recently occupied by his grandson, the late Benjamin Skinner. The little trunk, with its papers and the pocketbook and waterstained colonial money which he retained at the burning of the mill in Little Falls in 1782 is carefully treasured by his descendents.
Peter I. Terpening, with his eight children came to this district from Half Moon in 1800, and for many years has rested in the family cemetery near his early home. He has many descendents in this town and county.
Augustus Hess, who located in the northern part of the district was of another historic family. At the time of the Indian invasion of 1782, his grandfather, Augustinus Hess fled to the Fort and was shot dead while entering the picket gate. Augustinus 2nd was a member of the Tryon county committee of safety in 1775. He was in the battle of Oriskany, was taken prisoner, but escaped the same day, while his brother, John Jost Hess was a valued aid in Sullivan's expedition and had an unusual experience at Oriskany. Augustinus 3rd, who settled in town, patterned after his father in rearing a family of eight children. He held a captain's commission in the war of 1812. John Jost, who settled neat the south line of the town, held all the various offices in the Reformed Church.
The name of Edick also appeared on the school register as it did in almost every other district.
The present school house is doubtless the first one erected. It is said of the Palatins that notes and contracts were unknown among them, their word being all that was required. Their honor first of all and next, and honest living, however poor it might be; then their religion, for when the church was to be paid for in 1806, without having some ardent, autodedicatory pleader extract their gifts from them by sheer eloquence, they came together, and bought the pews and paid and pledged over four thousand dollars in three yearly installments. Think what that amount meant to them, and estimate its equivalent at the present time, and decide whether it could be raised in like manner. Their next consideration was the education of their children. I do not recall where any of the first generation of the pioneers learned a profession. In 1822 Andrew H. Miller was ordained to the ministry, but we may rest assured it was without a college education, and the first to enjoy these advantages were usually not farmer's sons. Among those who became physicians, Kilbourn and Lucius Hannahs were sons of Dr. Hannahs, B. J. Philleo was a son of Dr. Philleo, James M. Rose was a son of Orrin Rose, the hatter, George Carder and his brother, Dixon who was a rector were the sons of a miller. Other early physicians were Amos Rowland, Jr., Rufus Reynolds, Parley Spaulding, Daniel Thomas, and Calvin Griffith. We may rest assured, however, that those early plodders were not lacking in talent, it was only dormant to spring forth with renewed energy, and many of the strong, reliable men of today, look back upon these humble ancestors with the reverence which is their due, and have united in this grand Herkimer County Historical Society and others of its kind to honor and perpetuate their memory.
Spellings and punctuation are exactly as printed in the original.
Source: "Papers Read Before the Herkimer County Historical Society Covering the Period From September 1902 to May 1914, Volume 3"
Columbia's historical sketch was prepared by Judy Anger, whose roots go way, way back
in the town.
Copyright © 2000 Judy Anger/ M. Magill
All Rights Reserved.