~~~  The Town of Stratford  ~~~

The following history was taken from:
"History of Montgomery and Fulton Counties, N.Y.", (New York: F. W. Beers & Co.) 1878, page 241.

The first recorded movement toward a settlement of this town was that of Clarence Brookins, who in the year 1799, contracted with the State to cut and build a passable road from Johnstown to Salisbury, Herkimer county.  This road ran through the Palatine district, as it was called at that time, crossing the East Canada Creek at Hart's Bridge, now called Emmonsburgh.

The town was erected in 1805, from the north end of Palatine, and named after a town in Fairfield county, Conn.  It is supposed to have been settled by pioneers from that section.  The first settler is supposed to have been one John Wells, who located on what is now the Mallett farm.  He was followed by Samuel Bennett, Abiel Kibbe, and Levi, Eleazer and Samuel Bliss, who settled in 1800, locating themselves on the Johnstown road.  Other pioneers took up farms in other parts of the town, among whom were Isaac Wood, Ebenezer Bliss, Joseph Mallett, Nathan Gurney, Amos Kinney, Silas and Abijah Phillips, Chauncey Orton, Eli Winchell, Peter Buckley, Daniel Shottenkirk, Jesse and Ephraim Jennings, Daniel Bleekman and Hezekiah Warner, the latter of whom settled prior to 1805.  All were of New England origin, but most of the names are now extinct.

The following is a list of the first officers of the town, part of them being elected by a show of hands:

Samuel Bennett Supervisor
Nathan Gurney Town Clerk
David Orton
Jonathan Gillett
Wm. Deans
James Odell
Ebenezer Bliss
Silas Phillips
Commissioners of Highways
Joseph Mallet
Amos Kinney
Overseers of the Poor
Samuel Bliss Collector
Joseph Mallett
Samuel Vanscriver
Pound Masters
Chauncey Orton
Eli Winchell
Fence Viewers
Samuel Bliss
Chauncey Orton
Daniel Bleekman

The name of Bliss is represented in the Board of Supervisors for twenty-five years; William Bliss holding the position fort ten years.  Abijah Phillips was town clerk for twelve years.  Silas Phillips was Assemblyman for one year.  Voting and training were of yearly occurrence in the vicinity of the "old stone church", which is still standing in the town of Palatine.

During the early settlement of the town the people were rarely troubled with Indians, who occasionally called for food, but always conducted themselves in a peaceable manner.  The houses, in those days, were often built without floor boards, the bare earth answering the purpose of floors.  But as the people could gain time from their other labors, they in some cases split poles in halves and hewed them for lower floors, and used basswood bark for upper floors.  The howl of the wolf and the cry of the bear for her cubs were common sounds during the early days connected with the settlement of the town.

Abiel Kibbe had a reputation of being a fearless and most successful hunter, having caught as many as fifty bears and eleven wolves.  On one occasion he and Eben Beekman caught three bears during one trip; on another occasion they caught a large wolf, which Kibbe got in such a position as to hold by the ears while Beekman bound him, and thus they brought him out and exhibited him at a training which was held at Kibbe's.

Richard Bullock and William Avery had an adventure with a panther which is worth noting.  Returning from their line of traps, they struck the trail of a panther, which they followed to cave it had left.  Not knowing what might be inside, and having only gun between them, Avery, being the best shot, remained at the entrance, while Bullock sharpened a stick, crawled into the cave, and as he gained darkness, saw eyes glaring upon him.  Being possessed of a little of "the old Putnam grit", he determined to find out what they belonged to.  Avery soon heard cries within, then all was quiet; upon entering to ascertain the state of things, he found Bullock with three young panthers as trophies if his daring.  Fearing some might discredit their story, they brought out two of the heads and one whole carcass as evidence of their exploit.

The first grist-mill was built in 1810 by Sanders Lansing, one of the patentees, on Fish Creek.  There was but little business ever transacted there.  The first saw-mill was built in 1806, by Martin Nichhols, where Livingston's mill now stands.  He also built the first frame house in 1807, located where the lodge room is.  The second grist-mill was also built by Nichols, as well as the first blacksmith shop.  The place was then called Nicholsville, but the name was changed to Whitesburg, then to Emmonsburgh, being named after the person who owned the tannery and surroundings.  The first tannery was built in 1812, by Daniel Cross.  The first school-house, built of logs, formerly stood on the farm of Henry LeavittStephen P. Cady kept the first store and post-office, opposite the lodge-room.  David Potter was the first mail-carrier.  In 1809 the first bridge was built across the Canada creek in Stratford, connecting Nicholsville and Devereux.

This town comprises parts of Glen and Bleecker & Co.'s patents, one tier of lots of Lott & Low's patent, and a part of the Jerseyfield patent granted to Henry Glen and other April 12th, 1770.  The widely known "Royal Grant" of Sir William Johnson's days corners in this town at Stratford.  Part of Caroga was taken off from Stratford in 1842.

The first male birth was that of Lansing Wells, in 1800.  The first female child born was that of Betsey Bliss, whose stint it was at five years of age to spin five knots of tow.  The first death in this town was that of Jesse Wilson, who was killed by a tree falling upon him, December 25th, 1802.  Samuel Bennett kept the first tavern.

The earliest marriage was that Samuel Ellis to Polly Gurney.  The Gurney family in those days were inclined to be somewhat aristocratic, and thought their daughter must be married to a magistrate outside of the town.  Col. Drake, of Salisbury, Herkimer county, was accordingly invited to perform the ceremony, but out of respect, Squire Thomas Bennett, of Stratford, was also invited to be present.  Wine, which in those days and upon such occasions was always indulged in, was so freely imbibed by Colonel Drake, that when the time approached for their marriage ceremony, it became necessary, finally, to call upon Squire Bennett to tie the knot.

The first burying ground was the one known as the Mallet burial place.

The business of the town is principally lumbering, there being sixteen saw-mills, five tanneries, and a clothes-pin factory (at Foster's mill).  D. W. Crossman also manufactures butter tubs at Stratford.

The Stratford and Salisbury cheese factory, and the Emmonsburgh cheese factory furnish some business for the farmers.

Bliss, Kibbe & Co. have the only general store kept in the town, and do a flourishing business.

The oldest inhabitant, Willys Bennett, died on the 13th of September, 1877, aged 99 years.  He came from Connecticut, and lived in this town from his emigration until his death.  Acres of forest have fallen before his axe, and for sixty years he furnished choice hemlock to piano manufactures for sounding boards.  Piano makers in New York and Boston credit their best efforts to his hemlock.

The surface of the town is rolling and hilly upland, from 800 to 1200 feet above the Mohawk, and in the extreme north the land in some places if 2000 feet above tide water, with a general inclination toward the southwest.  East Canada creek passes through the western part of the town, and forms part of the western boundary.  Other principal streams are Fish creek, Ayers creek,  and North creek, also the Sprite and Spectacle streams.  There are 19 small lakes in the town, among them Pleasant, Ayres, North creek, Spectacle, Dexter, and Long lakes, furnishing abundance of sport for the angler.

In 1810 the population of the town was 353, the number of taxable inhabitants 206, the number of polls 60, and the whole amount of taxable personal property $1,735, and of real estate $259,115.  In 1875, the population was 1,047, the number of taxable inhabitants 213; valuation of real estate and personal property $576,470.


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Copyright 1999, Jeanette Shiel
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Last updated Tuesday, 13-May-2008 13:13:56 PDT