FROM "A HISTORY OF THE VALLEY AND CHEMUNG COUNTY" BY AUSBURN TOWNER 1892
The town of Big Flats, lying upon the western border of the county, consists of broken upland and rich alluvial flats along the Chemung River, which flows through it and receives the water of Sing Sing Creek as its principal tributary. The area of the town is 26,097 acres, the greater part of which is arable land of fair to excellent productiveness. The inhabitants are almost exclusively devoted to agricultural pursuits, in which they are especially successful. The township embraces a part of the old town of Chemung.
As follows are the names of early settlers and old-time residents:
Christian Minier (Myneer), Caleb Gardner, George Gardner, Eleazer Owen, John Winters, Robert Miller, Roswell Goff, John Goff, Clark Winans, Abram Bennett, John Bennett, William Miller, John L. Sexton, Charles Frye, Elisha Brown, Uzel Goble, John Silsby, Gershom Livesay, Joel Rowley, John F. Delaney, Joseph Rowley, Abram Minier, Nathan Rowley, Nathan Mundy, Charles Beard, Simon Hawes, Cornelius Lowe, j r., David Van Gorder, David Reynolds, Benjamin Whitney, Roswell Goff, jr., Tunis Dolson, John Emmons, Jonathan Boyer, Martin Hammond, Calvin Hawkins, Abram Scofield, Henry Fuller, John C. Scofield, Darius C. Bennett, Lewis Scofield, T. N. Bennett, John Pound, Jacob Van Tassel, Daniel Middaugh (Revolutionary soldier), John Mead, John Riker, Ebenezer Snow, Nathan Sanders, James Cooper, Abram Wilmarth, George Shriver, James McNulty, Jonathan Kent, Aaron Cook, Hezekiah Mead, Hugh Miller, Amos Rowley, Thomas Buck, John Huey, James Hughson, George Bucher, Daniel E. Brown, Henry McCormick, Hezekiah Beebe, Levi Lovell, Able Keyes, Henry Farr, Benjamin Farwell, Andrew McNulty, Jacob Dorn, James Jackson, William H. Reeder, Lewis Edminster, Patrick Haggerty, Aaron Edminster, Elihu Chapman, Joseph Rhodes, Joseph Chandler, William Hooker, Jacob Reeser, John S. Miller, George Reeser, David Van Deren, James De Armand, Charles Reynolds, Daniel Hagar, Edmund Brace, Samuel Boyer, John Wormley, Philip Boyer, John M. French, Hezekiah Woodruff, Erastus Beard, Coleman Olmsted, Henry Farr, John White, J. Beardsley, Daniel Lord, Samuel Minier, Frederick Woolcott, Ira Minier, sr., Silas Mills, John Blowers, William White, George Reeser, John J. Barton, Comfort Bennitt.
In the spring of 1787, prior to the laying out of the lands in this vicinity into townships, Christian Myneer, accompanied by his wife and seven children, came Up the river and landed upon the north side, where he built a cabin and planted corn for their bread. To him is accorded the honor of being the first settler as well as planting the first orchard, building the first log house, and erecting the first frame building in the town. Here he laid the foundations of future prosperity; here was born to him his son, Christian, jr., the first white child born in town ; his was the first great sorrow, - the shadow of death crossed the threshold and removed a daughter in her winsome childhood ; at his house was the marriage rite first solemnized, when his daughter Catharine was wedded to William Applegate. Remaining where he settled he received on March 23, 1791, a certificate of lot 117 in the town of Chemung, thus confirming his right to his chosen possessions. He died it' 1837, and side by side on the farm where he first settled rests the ashes of Christian Myneer and his faithful wife, who toiled with him in the hardships and endured with him the privations of pioneer life. Descendants of this family are still prominent citizens of the town.
In 1788 Tunis Dolson, Caleb Gardner, Capt. George Gardner (son of Caleb), Henry Starrett, and Clark Winans became settlers. Dolson located near Myneer's on lot 118. Henry Starrett settled near what is known as Starrett's Hollow. Caleb Gardner located on the farm afterward ovvned by John Minier. Capt. George Gardner settled nearer the present site of the village, where he built a frame tavern in 1807. Clark Winans settled on Sing Sing Creek ; Joel Rowley and John Winters took up their residence here in 1790. Winters located on the Martin Hammond farm He was a hunter and claimed to have paid for 200 acres of land from the sale of the skins of bears and wolves which he killed and the bounty he received from the State for their destruction.
Cornelius Lowe, William Miller, John Emmons, Robert Miller, and David Van Gorder came about 1794. Robert Miller was a prominent town official for several years. Cornelius I-owe settled near the pond which bears his name. He was a successful dealer in skins, furs, and salt. David Reynolds and two sons, Nathan and James, came from Pennsylvania and settled in the locality afterward known as " Egypt." He subsequently became the owner of a tract of land nearer the village and built a log house near the later residence of John D. Parks. He also built a saw-mill near Sing Sing Creek about 1804. His settlement in town was about 18oo. John Huey, a merchant, brought goods from Philadelphia. and established the first dry goods store in the village about this time. A part of the store was afterward used as a dwelling and became the residence of Abram Minier. Prominent among those who came later was Eleazer Owen, who settled in 1805 on land which was later the property of Stephen Owen. Eleazer Owen's father was One of the victims of an Indian massacre at Minisink, N. Y., in 1779. Nathan Sanders and Andrew and John McNulty settled not far from 1810. Charles Hammond subsequently lived where Andrew McNulty settled. Nathan Sanders kept tavern for a number of years near the later residence of Lewis Fitch. Reuben M. Mundy, a veteran of the War of 1812 and a native of New Jersey, came into the town in 1820. he was a thorough and practical farmer, a man of wealth and influence. He died in 1862. Nathan Mundy, father of Reuben M., was born in 1770 and died in 1847. His wife, born in 1776, died in 1840. Simeon L. Mundy, son of Reuben M., born in February, 1825, died from the effects of an accidental gunshot wound in 1853. Among many others who have been residents of the town and have added to the intellectual and material wealth of the community may be mentioned Lauren A. Tuttle, born December 1, 1803, and died March 19, 1875; William A. Tuttle died April 4, 1864, in his fifty-fourth year; Henry Minier, born in 1810, died in 1873 ; Joel Rowley died July 4, 1854, aged eighty years ; Rebecca, his wife, died in October, 1859, at the age of eighty-four; Patrick Haggerty, born in 1787, died in December, 1851 ; Sarah, his wife, died in 1860; David Reynolds died in 1853, aged ninety-two; his wife, Sarah, died in April, 1847, in her eighty- first year ; Capt. George Gardner died in 1848; John Winans, born in 1 801, died in 1831 ; William Winters, born in January, 1805, died in June, 1878 ; Eleazer Owen, born January 1, 1780, died December 19, 1859; Samuel Minier died October 18, 1876, aged seventy-two years. John Haggerty was born at Big Flats, June 30, 1824. He was the son of Patrick Haggerty and was the member of Assembly from the County in 1858. He died in Waterloo, N. Y.
One of the noticeable cases of longevity was that of William Mapes, who spent the last years of his life in this town. He was a native of New Jersey, enlisted in the Colonial army, served at the battle of Monmouth, where he was twice wounded, was with General Sullivan on his memorable campaign against the Indians, and after several years of honorable service received a formal discharge from General Washington's own hands. Fifty years later he came to Big Flats, where he spent the remainder of his life. He died April 1, 1856, at the age Of 103 years. A marble shaft erected by the generous citizens of Big Flats marks his last resting place in their beautiful cemetery.
Big Flats was formed from Elmira, April 16, 1822. Among those who held the office of supervisor prior to the organization of Chemung County in 1836 were George Shriver and Samuel Minier. The names of Robert Miller, John Miller, T. Brooks, and W. Wyatt appear as town clerks. February 18, 1823, Clark Winans, John Bennitt, and Uzel Goble as commissioners of highways divided the roads of the town into twelve districts.
Town clerks since 1836 have held that office in the order following:
Edmund T. Gilbert, W. A. Tuttle, D. B. Brown, 13. A. Rose, D. B. Brown, W. A. Tattle, H. D. Lovell, Horace Miller, W. A. Tuttle, Lorenzo Brown, Horace Miller, J. M. Brown, W. T. Overhiser, John M. Brown, William Woodward, G. M. Norman, William Woodward, W. E. Tuttle, N. E. Munson, T. W. Reed, Willis -AT. Hilton, J. R. Minier, George W. Woodward, Abram B. Minier, William Woodward, Huldall L. Storms, George IT. Woodward, Alfred Miller, William 11. Hornby since 1885.
The following named have served as justices of the peace:
Abel Rogers, Abel Crofut, George A. Gardner, J. L. Sexton, J. C. Scofield, S. K. Wollcott, J. M. Wheeler, Nelson Hotchkiss, Andrew W. Gilbert, J. D. Williams, John Rockwell, Aaron Whitney, John A. Stewart, William Clark, George Menthan, Henry Minier, Reuben Lovell, Henry Minier, A. S. Tuller, Cephas Breed, J. L. Sexton, Henry Wood, L. A. Tuttle, W. A. Seeley, G. W. Haynes, Elmer Gilbert, John Campbell, James E. Farr, S. 11. Smith, jr., J. R. Lowe, George S. Voorhees, Charles H. Hammond, Harris Wickham, S. H. Smith,jr., Charles Gardner, Edwin Gilbert, J. R. Lowe, Ambrose S. Fuller, Charles H. Hammond, Lemuel Caywood, Charles Gardner, Elmer Gilbert, Sylvester Miller, John Elwood, De Witt C. Rinehart, P. J. Brown, Thomas Caywood, Elmer Gilbert, William B. Miller, T. B. Silsby, William B. Miller.
The highways of the town have been under the supervision of competent and painstaking men as commissioners, usually three, who have carefully studied the convenience of the traveling public. The construction and maintenance of bridges has been attended with considerable expense. Besides those of minor importance are two which span Chemung River. These are suspension bridges, the first built about 1870 at an expense of $1 5,000 and the other, near the southeast corner of the town, erected in 1882 at a cost of $16,ooo, sixty per cent. of which was paid by the town of Big Flats and the remainder by the town of Southport. This bridge occupies the site of the old bridge erected by the Lumbermen's Bridge Company, which was carried away by a flood February 11, 1888.
At the town meeting of 1880 it was voted to have but one highway commissioner. Pursuant to this the next election was made in 1882, the choice being David Churcher. He was succeeded by Asa Storms, who held the office for six consecutive years. Grover Johnson was elected in 1889 and Asa Storms again the year following. J. Marion Easterbrook was elected to the office in 1891.
This town has eight districts with a school-house in each, and parts of three joint districts with the school-houses in Steuben County. District No. 1 employs two teachers and has a commodious school building. The aggregate attendance in all of the schools of the town by report for 1890 was 30,641 days. The State appropriation for 1891 was $1,250.28. The village of Big Flats has had three school houses : the first a log building erected about 1815, one known as the red schoolhouse built in 1837, and the one built near the cemetery in 1853.
A council from the churches of Ovid, Romulus, and Chemung, represented by Revs. Goff, Caton, and Gillette, organized a church of the Baptist denomination August 30, 1807, the first in the town. The first services were held in a barn and later in schoolhouses. The Rev. Roswell Goff, a pioneer preacher, was the first pastor. He was succeeded by the Rev. Philander Gillette, under whose ministration in 1827 a Meeting house was built and first occupied in January, 1828. The building stood northeast of the residence of J. R. Lowe and was used for church purposes until 1851, when it was abandoned and subsequently used as a tobacco house. About this time a branch of the regular Baptist Church purchased the Episcopal Church edifice in the Village and remodeled it at an expense of about $3,000. This was first occupied in September, 1852. The pastorate of Rev. Philander D. Gillette was Succeeded by those of Revs. Stephen Wise, Aaron Jackson . Benjamin R. Swick, Daniel Reed, James Coffin, Isaac Esterbrook, Samuel Kelm, J. W. Emery, David Burroughs, Charles L. Bacon, William N. Entwistle, Hobart Leavenworth, J. Jones, H. D. Baldwin, and F. A. Martin, who commenced his labors as pastor in June, 1889. The church has a membership Of 154 and about the same number attend the Sunday school.
During the pastorate of the Rev. Benjamin R. Swick in the regular Baptist Church a dissension upon the subject of Free Masonry resulted in the building of a church in 1849 near the residence of George Shriver; this was known as the Freewill Baptist Church. The Rev. S. T. Aldrich was the first pastor. The history of this church is uneventful and the society disorganized.
There was a Methodist class formed at an early day and circuit preachers visited the society occasionally. The Rev. Edward T. Gilbert preached about 1820. There was only a feeble existence of the society for several years. 11, 1853, through the influence of Dr. and Mrs. T. W. Read, who had then resided in the town about a year, and the efforts of Rev. John Nevin, a church organization was effected under Rev. John Parker as presiding elder. There were then twelve members The Rev. Isaac Ketchum was the first pastor. A church edifice was erected about 1866 and completed in 1868. There have been two appointments, but later only one, this at Tompkins Corners in the town of Catlin. There is a membership of about 100. The pastors who have succeeded Rev. Isaac Ketchum are the Revs. George Wilkinson, F. Kent, W. E. Pindar, Eli Brown, John Hutchings, William Walge- Harris Peck, R. D. Munger, Walter Statham, A. T. West, G. J. Du Bois, A. W. Staples, C. W. Winchester, A. S. Durling, John A. Sackett, A. D. Edgar, S. G. Rhinevault, G. W. Moxey, Wesley Cochran, James A. Roberts, G. W. Foster, N. M. Wheeler, N. A. De Pew, Walter Statham, and (1891) H. D. Barber.
The First Presbyterian Church was organized in 1825 with Nathan Reynolds, Charles Fry, and Joseph Pound as deacons. A flourishing Sunday school numbering about 100 was held in Robert Miller's barn. The first preachers were Revs. Rouse, Ford, and Jones. In 1829 a church was erected by William H. Reader under Benjamin Farwell, Eleazer Owen, Nathan Reynolds, Robert Miller, Charles Frye, John Winters, Clark Winans, and David Reynolds as building committee who furnished the means. The first settled pastor was the Rev. S. Harmon. he was succeeded by the Revs. Shaw, Whitney, Mills, and Clark. The pastors in more recent years have been Revs. T. Harrington, C. W. Higgins, E. S. Wilson, William Atwood, and S. D. Jewell.
St. Paul's Episcopal Church was organized in 1830. John Minier was largely interested financially and otherwise in the erection of a church edifice which was completed in 1834. Capt. George Gardner gave the land for a site and Trinity Church of New York contributed several hundred dollars. Rev. E. T. Gilbert was the first rector. Deaths, removals, and other causes led to partial disorganization about 1843 and the church building was sold in 1851. Services were held occasionally by rectors from Corning and Elmira. The Rev. Mr. Moody was their rector for a time. In October, 1861, a reorganization was effected under Bishop De Lancy. L. A. Tuttle was chosen senior warden and A. H. Gates junior warden; the vestrymen were William Woodward, W. A. Tuttle, John Hag-gerty, A. J. Bennett, A. D. Huey, 0. T. Tuttle, Jedediah Stowe, and A. B. Steele. It has since been known as St. John's Episcopal Church. The Rev. Henry M. Brown was the first rector of the new church. He was succeeded by the Revs. Robert R. Goudy, John A. Bowman, and George W. G. Van Winkle. Services were afterward conducted by the Revs. Francis D. Hoskins and John F. Hurlich, rectors of Grace Church, Elmira. Supply services were afterward rendered by the Rev. S. D. Boorom, who was succeeded by the Rev. F. E. Easterbrooks as rector. Rev. F. E. Badger then supplied until the ministration of Rev. Thomas Duck, who is the present rector. The building of the church edifice was the result of generous contributions and self-sacrificing efforts of. several members of the congregation, and its completion in 1867 and its subsequent consecration fully assured by a gift of $3,000 from Warden Lauren A. Tuttle, who closed his earthly labors March 19, 1875
The few Catholic families of this town are occasionally visited by Rev. Peter Colgan, of Corning, and at other times by his curate. A neat little church was erected at the village in 1881 at an expense of $1,000. There has been a gradual diminution of the number of Catholics in this town during the last decade, mainly on account of removals.
Soon after the settlement of the town a plot of land where the village of Big Flats is located was set apart by the proprietor of the land for burial and school purposes. The first burial of which there is any record was that of Amos Rowley, who died June 5, 1809. The next record of death gives the name Isabella Miller, wife of Robert Miller, July 14, 1809.
On July 24, 1855, Big Flats Cemetery Association was incorporated with William A. Tuttle, president; John Haggerty, vice-president; William Woodward, treasurer; John D. Williams, secretary. The trustees were: First class, N. S. Mundy, John Minier, and John D. Williams ; second class, H. B. Noyes , William A. Tuttle, and Samuel Minier; third class, William Woodward, John Haggerty, and Levi Rose. A lot adjoining the old cemetery was purchased by the association of Nathan Reynolds, November 12, 1855, for $50, and another, known as the Barton lot, April 5, 1870, for $500. The whole contains about four acres.
The Big Flats Burial Association was organized February 13, 1886, with Simeon S. Smith, president; E. Gilbert, secretary; J. R. Minier, treasurer; trustees, M. C. Bennett, N. S. Mundy, J. R. Minier, E. Gilbert, James E. Farr, J. P. Smith, J. R. Lowe, Uriah Goff, and S. S. Smith. S. M. Hughson has since succeeded Simeon S. Smith as president. The cemetery under the management of this association is situated north of the tracks of the Delaware, Lackawanna, and Western Railroad, and contains about six acres. The entire expense of land, grading, trees, and other improvements has been $2,500. One acre was purchased by the town for $452. There is a smaller cemetery near the site of the old Baptist Church.
A Masonic lodge was organized in 1810, holding meetings at Capt. George Gardner's tavern in an upper room. Daniel E. Brown was W. M. George Gardner and Benjamin Farwell held other offices in the lodge. The number of the members is not known and they probably disbanded several years later.
Big Flats Lodge, NO. 378, F. and A. M., was instituted in July, 1855. Dr. Corbett Peebles was first W. M. and meetings of the lodge were held at his house. Past masters who succeeded Corbett Peebles were John D. Williams, Samuel Minier, John A. Stewart, A. D. Huey, P. J. Brown, J. R. Minier, H. L. Storms, Purley Churcher, and L. S. Brant. Officers for A. L. 5891: D L. Churcher, W. M.; Thomas Caywood, S. D.; S. A. Minier, treasurer; E. H. Wakeley, secretary; J. R. Minier, organist; N. S. Mundy, W. H. Elliot, and L. S. Brant, trustees. The lodge has a membership of eighty-two. Masonic Hall, the property of the lodge, was first occupied October 30, 1872. The building is valued at $3,000. The lower rooms are rented for town and other purposes.
The Big Flats Lodge, A. 0. U. W., was organized in March, 1879. Relatives of deceased members have received since organization and prior to July, 1891, $12,000. The present officers are: James P. Smith, M. W.; Grove Johnson, recorder; J. R. Lowe, financier.
An Equitable Aid Union was instituted December 16, 1884. It has twenty-seven members and its meetings are held in Silsby's Hall. Its present officers are : N. J. Lowe, president ; S. P. Reader, secretary and accountant; W. F. Tifft, treasurer.
Seeley Post, NO. 554, G.A. R., was chartered April 25, 1885. The first meeting was held May 8, 1885. The charter members were James Burton, Henry Saunders, Orlando Groom J. E. Farr, S. B. Hilton, Samuel Higins, George W. Brant, Jerry Transue, Jacob Weaver, Israel Kimball, Andrew Blackman, Horace Kimball, David Quackenbush, Benjamin Smalley, Andrew Groom, Wallace Pease, Charles Quackenbush, Eleazer Hogancamp, Charles Seymore, John Rickey, Adelbert Kenyon, and John Webber. The meetings of the post are held in Campbell's Hall. Officers in 1891 : Henry Saunders, commander ; Orlando Groom, senior vice-commander; J. D. Campbell, junior vice-commander ; Israel Kimball, chaplain ; John D. Miller, quartermaster ; J. E. Farr, adjutant Wallace Pease, 0. D.; G. E. Hogancamp, officer of the guard.
The village bearing the same name as the town is located in the western part of the township and conveniently near the stations of the Erie and the Delaware, Lackawanna, and Western Railroads, which extend through the town from east to west. There are five churches (the Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist, Episcopal, and Catholic), a school of two departments, a dry goods store, four groceries, a store of millinery and fancy goods, a drug store, a wagon shop, several blacksmith shops, a bakery, harness shop, Masonic Hall, and a hotel. There are also a grist-mill, saw-mill, and a cigar manufactory.
During the early history of the town lumbering was actively carried on, and especially during the first years of the existence of the Chemung Canal feeder, which was constructed about 1833. This extended cast and west through the town and was the scene of active commerce. Vale and hill contributed each of its stock of pine and other timber to supply the increasing demand. The culture of grain and grass has since yielded profitable returns to the tiller of the soil. The Culture of tobacco, which was commenced in 1850, has gradually increased until there are nearly 400 acres of the choicest land in the town in the shadow of its broad leaf.
Big Flats steam mill, operated by an engine of sixty horsepower, was built by Voorhees as a gristmill in 1869. Other owners or proprietors have been Voorhees & Rhinehart, S. S. Smith, and H. C. Warner. It is successfully operated by Grover Johnson. Since 1872 there has been a sawmill in connection with the grist-mill doing Custom sawing to the amount of about 500,000 feet per annum. About the same amount is sawed yearly at the sawmill of Johnson & Rhinehart.
The Stephens grist-mill on Sing Sing Creek, built by S. S. Stephens, has both steam and water-power and is owned and run by James Casterline.
Hammond's creamery, started about 1870 by Homer Bennett, afterward owned by Martin Hammond, manufactures annually about 40,000 pounds of butter and 60,000 pounds of cheese.
Grove Spring Creamery Company was organized in 1884. The building is located at Grove Spring on the old canal feeder. This spring flows at the rate of fourteen barrels per minute and the purest of water at a temperature of 47 degrees. Fifty thousand pounds of butter and about 75,000 pounds of cheese are made annually, Its superintendent is Lewis Fitch.
A co-operative creamery at Sing Sing near the town of Catlin does a successful business and is patronized by a number of the citizens of that town.
G. S. Voorhees & Co. employ ten hands in a cigar manufactory.
There is but one postoffice in the town. Robert Miller was the first postmaster. His successors not otherwise and heretofore named, with the dates of their appointments, are as follows: Horace Weller, April 8, 1852 ; Nelson Hotchkiss, December 3 1. 1853 ; William A. Tuttle, February 1 1, 1859; Theophilus W. Read, April 7, 1863 ; William E. Tuttle, May 3, 1867 ; Thomas Cuddeback, May 26, 1871 ; Edgar A. Campbell, May 18, 1879 ; William A. Seeley, March 2 1, 1 88 I Ed Will C. Taylor, jail nary 15, 1883; Samuel A. Minier,
August 24, 1 88 5; Edgar A. Campbell, May 13, 1889.
The town took an active part in the war of the Rebellion, furnishing 170 men for the defense of the Union.
Among interesting and peculiar events connected with the history of the town may be adduced the following: Aaron Cook built the first distillery in 1809. The building was burned in 1812 and Cook (died by the bite of a rattlesnake in 1825). John L. Sexton erected the first steam saw-mill. It was stolen and removed to Canada. justice failed to reach the thieves, but fate brought retribution in disaster and ruin. The first schoolhouse was built in 1814. On June 1, 1889, the flats along the river were flooded, two houses were carried away, horses, cattle, and other animals drowned, and crops seriously damaged if not entirely ruined. Daniel Middaugh, a Revolutionary, soldier, an early resident of Big Flats, great grandfather of L. Whitcomb, died at the age of 102. Dr. Corbett Peebles, born in 1803, practiced medicine in this town fifty years. He died December 26, 1890. His son, a graduate of Elmira Free Academy, is winning a fine reputation as a writer in the editorial columns of the Elmira Gazette. A locust tree standing upon the premises of Stephen T. Owen measures fifteen feet In circumference. The dwelling house of James E. Farr, which was built in 1814 of brick burned upon the premises, stands with a firmness and solidity which make it appear able to withstand the wear of a century to come. It was built by Clark or John Winans, one of the earliest settlers of the town.