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


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 Plains.

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 mechanical pursuits.

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.

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