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


Calvin EATON, one of the first settlers about West Oneonta, settled on the farm now owned by Isaac HOLMES. He came from Wyoming, Pa., date uncertain. He was a famous story-teller. Many of his stories have been preserved by tradition, and are now told in the neighborhood with great zest. His wife, familiarly known as Aunt Olive EATON, died about 1944 or 1845, at a very advanced age, he having died many years before. They brought up several of their nephews and nieces, having no children of their own, William HOLMES, father of Isaac Holmes, being one of them.

Elder Emanuel NORTHRUP, a Baptist minister, settled on the farm now owned by his grandson, Isaac Northrup, about 1794. He came originally, it is believed, from Rhode Island. He had lived in Connecticut, but came last from Stephentown, Rensselaer county. His son, Josiah Northrup, who was afterwards a justice of the peace for many years, having been elected at the first town meeting, a prominent man in town affairs, and a leading member of the Baptist church, was at the time of his father's coming, about fourteen years of age; he died in 1844.

The farm now occupied by the Niles family was settled by Abner MACK, a Rhode Island man. He sold a part of his possession, what is now the Niles farm, in 1797, to Nathaniel NILES; there were two of the name, father and son, the father being the purchaser. He was at that time about seventy years of age; he brought with him some apple seeds, planted a nursery, raised trees, set out an orchard, and lived to drink cider made from the apples. The orchard became quite famous in the neighborhood, and was known to all the boys for miles around. Upon the death of the father, the son, Nathaniel Niles, who had occupied the farm with his father, became the owner, who lived upon the farm until his death in 1852, at eighty-seven years of age.

Franklin STRAIT, another of the early settlers, came from Rhode Island in 1797; he brought his family, and drove an ox team. He first settled on the farm now owned by Enos THAYER, where he lived until 1808, when he exchanged his farm with Asa THAYER, another of the early comers, for the property at West Oneonta where the hotel now stands. He enlarged the house that then stood upon the ground, took out a license, and opened "Strait's Tavern," on the Oxford turnpike, one of the old landmarks for many years; he died in 1822. Before this property had come into the possession of Thayer, it had been occupied by Daniel LAWRENCE, father of Lewis Lawrence, of Utica, and where Lewis Lawrence was born.

Robert COOK settled early upon the farm formerly owned by Hammond Cook. At the time of his coming the Indians were yet frequent visitors. One day, as the story goes, Cook was at work in the field, his wife being alone in the house, an Indian called and finding her alone, brandished his knife, and made some terrible threats frightening her almost to death. Just at this time Cook appeared; the Indian took his departure precipitately. Cook seized his gun and pursued him. He returned after a little time, and the Indian never troubled them more.

The place where Daniel HODGE now lives was first occupied by Samuel STEPHEN. His father, John Stephen, made a settlement at Laurens before the Revolutionary war.

The SLEEPERs were from near Burlington, New Jersey. During the war they became alarmed at the inroads of the Tories and Indians and returned to New Jersey. On their way back, they passed through Cherry Valley the day before the massacre. They returned to the settlement after the war. John Sleeper had several sons. One, Nehemiah Sleeper, built a mill below Laurens on the Otego creek, which was afterwards known as Boyd's mill. Samuel Sleeper took up several hundred acres of land, of which the farms of Daniel HODGE and Horace WHITE formed a part. He built a grist-mill and saw-mill on the Otego creek, just below the iron bridge this side (east) of West Oneonta. He was said to have been an active business man, and was quite a noted surveyor. He sold his property, after some years to one David SMITH, and went to Stroudsburgh, Pa., and thence to Ohio. His oldest son, Ephraim Sleeper, married Jane NILES, daughter of Nathaniel Niles, and remained in the neighborhood. The latter died many years ago at West Oneonta at an advanced age.

Other persons are mentioned by the old residents as being among the early settlers. Samuel GREEN occupied a part of the farm formerly owned by Joseph BULL. A man named TICKNOR another part of the same farm. One OGDEN lived where Joseph TABER now lives, about whom a few stories are current in the neighborhood. At one time a company of Indians was encamped at the mouth of the Otego creek engaged in making baskets and trinkets of various kinds. Ogden visited them for the purpose of geting a pair of silver shoe buckles made by an Indian who was skilled in the art. It so happened that he had not silver enough to make the buckles. Two or three of the Indians left suddenly, and after having been absent a short time, returned, bringing a handful of silver. Ogden inferred from this that there must be a silver mine not far away, but he was never able to find it. A deer often came around his house; he shot at it repeatedly, but was unable to hit it. An old woman lived not far away, who was called a witch; he finally suspected that she had something to do with the deer; *he procured a silver bullet, which he put in his gun, and next time the deer appeared he fired at it, wounding it badly, but it escaped; he soon learned however, that the old woman was badly hurt. **


*The same story is told of other hunters and other witches. **The author is indebted to Mr. N. N. Bull for the sketch relating to West Oneonta.

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