A History of Oneonta from its earliest settlement to the
present time by Dudley M. Campbell. Oneonta, NY G. W.
Fairchild & Co. 1906
Transcribed & Contributed by Sandy Goodspeed
Chapter III. PROMINENT MEN OF THE TOWN
It is impossible to mention the names of all the early business men
of the village, but it is only just that their names should be carried
down to the generations that are to come:
Prominent among the early settlers of Oneonta was Jacob DIETZ,
who removed into the settlement from Schoharie county about the
year 1804. Mr. Dietz was early appointed a justice of the peace, and
continued in office either by appointment or election for a great length
of time. He was a long time in mercantile business, and his store,
which was situated where now stands the First National Bank block,
was the center of a lively trade for those times. Mr. Dietz
accumulated an extensive estate, and reared a large family of
children. He became the owner of extensive tracts of land, some of
which are now occupied by the streets and residences of the village.
About the same period, 1804-5, one Joseph WESTCOTT, from
the present town of Milford, erected a store nearly opposite the
residence of R. W. MILLER. These stores-Dinninny's, mentioned in
the preceding chapter, Dietz's and Westcott's-were all of the most
primitive order, and contained but a meagre (sic) stock of goods.
There was but little money and the merchants' trade was carried on
mostly in the way of barter, the tradesman exchanging his
merchandise for grain, lumber and shingles.
Early in the history of the town, a Mr. WALLING, the grandfather
of the late J. R. L. WALLING, located to the east of Oneonta creek,
near where his descendant above named formerly resided. One
NEWKIRK also settled on Chestnut street, on the lot adjoining the
home of L. B. LENNON. Lawrence SWART settled on the farm now
occupied by Henry WILCOX, about the same time that Jacob DIETZ
came into the settlement.
At the time of Swart's settlement the land on the lower end of
River street was covered by a dense forest of hemlock and maple.
Over those attractive and well-tiled fields now composing the Henry
Wilcox farm, roamed at that time the bear and the panther, and
glided with little molestation numberless rattlesnakes of the largest
and most poisonous species. The settlement along the river, below
the SCRAMLING residence, seemed to proceed slowly, as the land
below this point was considered of but little value, while the heavy
growth of hemlock precluded the rapid clearing away of the forest.
To the north and east of the village the hillsides yielded a vast
quantity of the more valuable timber.
Among the early inhabitants of Oneonta, whose enterprise
contributed to the development of the resources of the town, was
William ANGELL, who soon after his settlement here became the
most prominent inhabitant of the village. He built the Oneonta House,
where he acted as host for a number of years. He was also one of
the proprietors of the Charlotte turnpike, which, upon its completion
in 1834, was made the great highway from Catskill to the
southwestern portion of the state.
Timothy SABIN, a native of the town, upon arriving at the age of
manhood, embarked in mercantile pursuits, and continued to an
advanced age to lend his aid to the management of an extensive
business. Another of the older class of men of the village was John
M. WATKINS, born in Oneonta in 1806. For thirty years Mr. Watkins
was one of the leading hotel keepers of the village, and during this
long period in which he acted the part of host, his house was known
far and wide as the best kept hostelry in this section.
Occupying a prominent position among those who, at an early
date, emigrated into the town was Eliakim R. FORD. Mr. Ford was
born in Albany county in 1797, and removed to Greenville, Greene
county, when quite young. From the latter place he removed to
Oneonta in 1822, he then being twenty-five years of age. He at once
embarked in mercantile enterprises and so conducted his business
matters as to rapidly win both the confidence and trade of his fellow
citizens. His first store stood near the Free Baptist church. From
that point he removed to a store next to the lot where now the
Stanton block stands, and in 1828 he again moved into a store which
he had built near the residence of Harvey BAKER. His later
residence was built in 1839-40.
Dr. Samuel H. CASE settled in the village of Oneonta in 1829.
He was born in Franklin, N. Y., in 1808, and at the age of twenty-one
was graduated at the medical college at Fairfield, N.Y. More than
sixty years he continued the practice of medicine in the village and
throughout the surrounding country. There are but few among the
longer resident population of the community who have not, at one
time or another, been under the Doctor's treatment. When he moved
into the village, the latter contained only two painted houses, and
the whole business prosperity of the hamlet was then centered in
two stores-Dietz's and Ford's-one potash and two distilleries.
Though not a resident of the town, yet his business relations were
such as to identify the name of Jared GOODYEAR with its history.
Mr. Goodyear for a long term of years resided upon the borders of
Oneonta, and from an early period was largely interested in the
business of the village. He was born in Connecticut, and while a boy
removed to Schoharie county, whence he came to Colliersville while
yet a young man, and there he resided the remainder of his life. By
persistent industry Mr. Goodyear accumulated a large fortune, and
won a high reputation for integrity.
Harvey BAKER, coming from Broome county, early identified
himself with the business interests of the community. For more than
sixty years he resided here and took an active part in whatever work
tended to the advancement of the public welfare. With others he was
of great assistance in the long struggle that preceded the completion
of the Albany and Susquehanna railroad.
William McCRUM has passed most of a long lifetime here, and
has always been interested in the prosperity of the people and their
social advancement. Mr. McCrum came here in 1839 from Hobart,
Delaware county, his birth-place.
About the last named date William W. SNOW came here from
his birth-place in Franklin county, Mass. He became a prominent
figure among his fellow men, and was at different periods their
representative in congress and the State legislataure.
Solon HUNTINGTON, from Huntington, Conn., settled here in
1840. Soon after he was joined by his brother, Collis P.
HUNTINGTON. Solon became an extensive land owner, while the
two were engaged in various manufacturing works and also as
merchants in a general country store, until the departure of Collis P.
for California in 1850. For some years the Huntington brothers were
in the mercantile business in the building known as the Mendel store.
After the departure of Collis P. for California, Solon became largely
engaged in agriculture, having become owner of extensive tracts of
land in and about this town. C. P. Huntington early became
interested in the development of the Pacific coast. He, associated
with others, built the Central Pacific and the Southern Pacific
railroads. He was also largely engaged in ship building and in the
management of various steamboat lines. Representatives of Mr.
Huntington are still carrying out the work of developing the railway
system of California.
Among the settlers on the east side of Otego creek on the road
leading to Laurens was Ezra WHITE, who became a resident early in
the last century. Joseph HODGE came from Washington county in
1804, and became an inhabitant of the same neighborhood. There
some of his descendants still reside.
Ezra GATES and Stoughton ALGER were pioneer farmers at the
The father of the late Samuel RICHARDS from the East
established a home near the Plains where afterwards a number of
his descendants became largely interested in farming and
Among the early settlers on the south side of the Susquehanna
was James BLANCHARD, who was a sturdy native of New England.
He was the father of twelve children, one of whom was missed at
roll call and was afterwards found asleep between the rows in the
potato field. The father then instructed the mother to carefully count
them over every evening. They all became progenitors of a good
class of citizens. His first store stood near the Free Baptist church.
From A worthy settler on the Plains was Orrin BEACH, who came
from Jefferson, N. Y., in 1840. His descendants continued to
occupy the same farm for many years.