FROM STEUBEN COUNTY, PART OF ROOTSWEB-NY GenWeb - Judy Allen Cwiklinski coordinator

Steuben County, New York

Township page
History of the Settlement of Steuben County, New York
by: Guy McMasters [1853]

                            
 
                      
 
 
 
                             THE OLD TOWN OF PAINTED POST 
 
                       In the summer of 1779, a numerous party
                  of Tories and Indians, under the command of a 
                  Loyalist named McDonald and Hiakatoo, a renowned
                  Seneca war-chief, returned to the north by way of
                  Pine Creek, the Tioga, and the Conhocton, from an 
                  incursion among the settlements on the west branch
                  of the Susquehanna. They had suffered a severe loss
                  in a conflict with the borderers, and brought with 
                  them many wounded. Their march was also encumbered 
                  by many prisoners, men, women and children, taken at
                  Freeling’s Fort. A party of rangers followed them a 
                  few days, journeying into the wilderness, and found 
                  at their abandoned encampment abundant proof of the 
                  manfulness with which the knives and rifles of the 
                  frontier had been used in repelling its foes, in the 
                  heaps of bark and roots which had been pounded or 
                  steeped in preparing draughts and dressing for the 
                  wounded warriors. Under the elms of the confluence 
                  of the Tioga and Conhocton, Captain Montour, a 
                  half-breed, a fine young chief, a gallant warrior
                  and a favorite with his tribe, died of his wounds.
                  He was a son of the famous Queen Catharine. His 
                  comrades buried him by the river side, and planted
                  about his grave a post on which was painted various 
                  symbols and rude devices. This monument was known 
                  throughout the Genesee Forest as the Painted Post.
                  It was a landmark well known all the Six Nations, 
                  and was often visited by their braves and chieftains. 
 
                         At the Painted Post, the first habitation of
                  civilized man erected in Steuben county, was built by
                  William Harris, an Indian Trader. Harris was a 
                  Pennsylvanian, and not long after the close of the
                  Revolutionary war pushed up the Chemung with a cargo 
                  of Indian goods, to open a traffic with the hunting
                  parties of the Six Nations, which resorted at certain
                  seasons to the north-western of the Susquehanna. A 
                  canoe or a pack-horse sufficed at that time to transport
                  the yearly merchandise of the citizens of our county.
                  Sixty-five years afterwards, an armada of canal boats 
                  and a caravan of cars hardly performed this labor. The
                  precise date of Harris’s arrival is unknown. Judge 
                  Baker, late of Pleasant Valley, found the trader 
                  established at his post in the spring of 1787. On 
                  Christmas night following, he went down to the 
                  Painted Post, and finding the cabin burned and the 
                  trader missing, he inferred that the latter had perhaps
                  been killed by his customers--a disaster by no means 
                  unlikely to befall a merchant in a region where the
                  position of debtor was much more pleasant and independent
                  than that of creditor, especially if the creditor had 
                  the misfortune to be white and civilized. On the 
                  contrary, his intercourse with the Indians was of a 
                  very friendly and confidential character. They rendered
                  him much valuable assistance in setting up business, not
                  of course by endorsing his paper, or advancing funds on
                  personal security; but by helping him to erect his 
                  warehouse, and patronizing him in the handsomest manner
                  afterwards. They even carried the logs out of which the
                  cabin was built, on their shoulders, to the proposed site
                  of the edifice which was after all, to speak with strict
                  etymology, a species of endorsement. 
 
                         The savages manifested much zeal in promoting the
                  establishment of a trading post at the head of the 
                  Chemung, and indeed it was a matter of as much 
                  consequence at that time as the building of a Railroad 
                  Depot is in modern days. Before that, the citizens of the
                  county were obliged to go to Tioga Point, nearly fifty  
                  miles below, to buy their gunpowder, liquors, knives, 
                  bells, brads, and jews-harps; and the proposal of Harris
                  to erect a bazaar at the Painted Post, for the sale of 
                  these articles, was of as vital concern to the interests
                  of the county as at the present day an offer of the 
                  government to establish a university in Tyrone or an 
                  observatory in Troupsburg would be. It was a great day
                  for the county when the trader’s was finished, and his
                  wares unpacked. Then the sachem might buy scalping knives 
                  and hatchets on the back of his own river; the ladies of
                  the wilderness could go shopping without paddling their 
                  canoes to the Susquehanna, and the terrible warriors of
                  the Six Nations, as they sat of an evening under their 
                  own elm trees, smoking pipes bought at the “People’s
                  Store,” had by, forgot their cunning; when some renowned
                  Captain Shiverscull, a grim and truculent giant, steeped 
                  to his elbows in the blood of farmers, and scarred with 
                  bullets and tomahawks like a target, set upon log, 
                  soothing his savage breast with the melodies of a
                  jews-harp, or winding around that bloody finger, which
                  had so often been twisted in the flaxen scalp-locks of
                  Pennsylvanian children, a string of beads, bought for 
                  his own ugly little cub, that lay a sleep in the wigwam
                  of Genesee. 
 
                         At the time of Judge Baker’s visit, Harris was only 
                  temporarily absent. He afterwards returned to Painted Post
                  with his son,, and lived there a few years, when he again
                  removed to Pennsylvania. One or two others are sometimes 
                  pointed out as the first settlers of the county; but 
                  evidence, which must be regarded as reliable and decisive,
                  proves that the first civilized resident was William 
                  Harris. It is possible, indeed, that before his advent 
                  some straggling adventurer may have wandered hither, built
                  him a lodge, perhaps planted corn on the open flats, and 
                  afterwards strayed to parts unknown, leaving no trace of
                  his existence. There have always been, on the frontiers,
                  eccentric geniuses, to whom such a line of conduct was no
                  strange thing. There have always been, on the frontiers,
                  a few vagabonds, who should have been born wolves, who 
                  forsake civilized homes and join the Indians, and are only 
                  hindered from living with the bears in their hollow trees,
                  by the refusal of these sensible monsters to fraternize 
                  with such loafers. Hermits, hunters and vagabonds find 
                  their way into strange places, and it is by no means 
                  impossible that some pleasant island or open flat may 
                  have harbored one of these outlaws before any other 
                  wanderer, laying claim to civilization, smote our forests
                  with the all conquering axe. No such Robinson Crusoe, 
                  however, presents himself as a candidate for historical
                  honors, and it is, upon the whole, improbable that any 
                  such preceded the trader, or if he did, that he enjoyed 
                  his solitude a great while unmolested. The “Man Friday” 
                  he would have been likely to catch here would most 
                  probably have caught him, and whisked his scalp off
                  without winking. 
 
                          Harris was a trader and did not cultivate the 
                  soil. Frederick Calkins, a Vermonter, was the first 
                  farmer of Steuben. He made his settlement near the 
                  head of the Chimney Narrows, in 1788. After living 
                  there alone for a time, he returned to the east for
                  his family. During this absence, Phelps and Gorham’s 
                  surveyors made head-quarters at Painted Post, which 
                  accounts for the omission of his name in Judge Porter’s
                  narrative, quoted in the last chapter, George Goodhue
                  followed Mr. Calkins in a year or two. 
 
                         Township number two in the second range, was
                  purchased of Phelps and Gorham, in 1790, by six 
                  proprietors, Frederick Calkins, Justus Wolcott, of
                  Eastern New York, Ephraim Patterson, of Connecticut,
                  Silas Wood, Caleb Gardener and Peleg Gorton. The price
                  paid for the township was eight cents per acre. 
 
                         The old town of Painted Post comprised the
                 present towns of Hornby, Campbell, Erwin, Painted Post,
                 Caton and Lindley. The earliest settlers along the 
                 Chemung and Conhocton were the six proprietors (except
                 Silas Wood), Eli and Eldad Mead, (1790,) David and 
                 Jonathan Cook, of New Jersey, (1790,) Judge Knox, of 
                 Eastern New York, (1793,) Benjamin Eaton, Elias Williams,
                 Henry McCormick, Hezekiah Thurber, Bradford Eggleston, 
                 Samuel Colegrove, John Berry and others. John Winters,
                 famous hunter, settled there at an early day, and families
                 named Rowan, Waters, Van Wye, Turner, McCullick, etc. 
 
                          Mr. Eli Mead was the first Supervisor of the town,
                 and went on foot to Canandaigua, to attend the meeting of
                 the Board of Supervisors of Ontario county. 
 
                          Gen. McClure, speaking of the early settlers of
                 the neighborhood, mentions “a man by the name of Fuller, 
                 who kept the old Painted Post Hotel. That ancient house
                 of entertainment, or tavern (as such were then called) 
                 was composed of round logs, one story high, and if I
                 mistake not was divided into two apartments. This house
                 was well patronized by its neighbors as by travelers from
                 afar. All necessarily stopped here for refreshment, as 
                 well for themselves as for their horses. Fuller, the 
                 landlord, was a good natured, slow and easy kind of man,
                 but his better half, Nettie, was a thorough-going, smart,
                 good-looking woman, and was much admired by gentlemen
                 generally. To the wearied traveler, nothing can be more 
                 agreeable than a pleasant, obliging landlady. There were 
                 other respectable families settled at Painted Post, not
                 many years after, (1794,) Thomas McBurney, Esq., Capt. 
                 Samuel Erwin, Frank and Arthur, his brothers, Capt. Howell
                 Bull, John E. Evans, an Englishman and others.” 
 
                          A mill was built on the Post Creek, near the 
                 Narrows, by Mr. Payne and Col. Henderson, as early as 1793
                 or 1794. This mill is described by the few who remember
                 it, as having been mainly built of logs “so that you could 
                 drive a pig through it.” 
 
                         The first establishment for the sale of goods,
                 to civilized men, was kept by Benjamin Eaton. He went for
                 his first stock to Wattles’ Ferry (now Unadilla village) 
                 by a canoe, with a man and a boy, (Mr. Samuel Cook, of 
                 Campbelltown.) At that place he purchased another canoe,
                 loaded his fleet with goods and returned to Painted Post. 
 
                        Col. Arthur Erwin, the ancestor of a large family
                 bearing his name, emigrated from Ireland before the 
                 Revolution. During the war he served in the American army.
                 He resided in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and became the
                 proprietor of a large landed estate. He was shot dead 
                 through the window of a log house at Tioga Point, in 1792,
                 by an ejected squatter who escaped. 
 
                       Hon. William Steele, a well known and highly respected 
                citizen of Painted Post, removed from New Jersey in 1819. 
               He served in the war of the Revolution, and was severely 
               wounded and made prisoner at sea in 1780. In 1785 he was 
               appointed clerk in the old Board of Treasury, and in 1794,
               he commanded a troop of horse and aided in suppressing the 
               insurrection near Pittsburgh. He died in 1851. (Obituary 
               notice in Corning Journal.) 
 
 
 

                            
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