The following essay containing many historical snippets of early
CHRONICLES OF SCHUYLER LAKE VICINITY
Almena Perkins Stewart
High School Essay
"O, a wonderful stream is the river Time
As it runs thru the realm of tears,
with a faultless rhythm arid a musical rhyme
And a boundless sweep and a surge subline,
As it blends with the ocean of years."
We find that only a century and a half have elapsed since the first faint wave of civilization broke upon the primeval forest which surrounded our now prosperous village of Schuyler Lake.
The Town of Exeter was formed from the Town of Richfield March 25, 1799. Even before the Revolution, a small clearing was made and two huts erected on what was subsequently known as the "Herkimer Farm". These two cabins were standing at the close of the war when the first settlers came here, but nothing further is known concerning this attempt at settlement. The two cabins, we find, were located south of what is now known as "Jolly Camps" on the farm occupied by Arthur Lidell.
The fact that the early settlers located upon the hills surrounding this village rather than in it, leads us to believe that Schuyler Lake, or Leroy, as it was then known, was but a marshy woodland. In order to get to the first house in the village, which was built by Mr. Story and located where the bank now stands, the occupants had to use boats during the rainy seasons of the year.
Among the pioneers who settled here was Major John Tunnicliff. Major Tunnicliff located in the southwestern part of the Town about three miles from here on the lands now owned by Jesse Byard, but known to us as the "Fern Farm". The Tunnicliff homestead was named "The Oaks" on account of the many oak trees on the place. The creek which forms the outlet of Canadarago Lake was later named after this place and to this day is known as "Oaks Creek". The first orchard planted in Otsego County was situated on this farm.
Brant, the chief of the Mohawk Indians, was a frequent visitor at the Oaks and was always treated with the greatest kindness possible because his interests and those of Mr. Tunnicliff were the same, both of them being strong supporters of Great Britain. Some of the older inhabitants of this village have heard Mrs. Chauncey Judd, who was Major Tunnicliff's daughter, tell of Brant's first visit to the Oaks. She said that she had heard her mother tell how she stood at the window and watched the Indian chief approach her husband and brandish his tomahawk over his head as if he were about to have somebody's scalp. Mrs. Tunnicliff saw her husband earnestly conversing with the Indian, and learned afterward that the great Red Man was a Tory, loyal to England. Again and again the tomahawk was swung. but at last being convinced that Tunnicliff spoke the truth, Brant lifted the weapon and struck its point into Mr. Tunnicliff's breast with sufficient force to draw blood but not to seriously injure him, remarking with an expression of terrible earnestness; "If you are truly a friend of my race, remain quiet in your cabin, and I, as chief of the Mohawks, will protect you and your family in the day of battle". Then he turned, joined his comrades, and departed towards Canadarago Lake.
Another early settler was William Angel, who came to this country in the good ship Lyon. At first he located in Rhode Island but later came to this village. His family, consisting of six sons and four daughters, settled on what is now known as Angel Hill. There was a deer‑lick on this farm at the foot of one of the great trees, but its existence is doubtless unknown to this generation.
Hendrick Herkimer also was among the first to do his share in settling what was then considered the Western Wilderness. He was the nephew of General Nicholas Herkimer after whom Herkimer County was named.
In the spring of 1797, Timothy Rose came with his sizable family into this town, but before the autumn's foliage faded, he passed into the Great Beyond and was buried in the round garden of the Oaks. His son, Josiah, kept up the homestead which was situated on the farm now owned by his great grandson, our well‑known citizen, Franklin Rose.
A family by the name of Schuyler built one of the cabins mentioned above and in it made their happy home. They were unmolested by the marauding bands of hostile savages that infested the forest, because they maintained strict neutrality. It is supposed that our village, Schuyler Lake, was named after this family.
Levi Beardsley came here with his father in 1790 and erected a cabin on the Byard Farm. It was here where the first wedding in this section took place. Judge Cooper of Cooperstown came eighteen miles mostly thru the woods, to perform the marriage ceremony. The wedding feast consisted of doughnuts, rum, maple sugar, and water. The Judge received no fee for his services except a kiss from the bride and a drink of rum from the groom.
In 1794, Asahd Williams journeyed from Connecticut and purchased a farm on Pigeon Hill. He was one of the men who built the Congregational Church at Exeter Center away back in 1822. Agur Curtis came from Old Huntington, Connecticut, in 1794 and purchased the farm now owned by Square Byard. Asa Williams and Agur Curtis were the direct ancestors of one of Schuyler Lake's oldest residents, Mrs Amanda Lathrop.
When this country was first being settled, a system of spying was established. It was very necessary that the frontier settlers know the movements of the savage Indians in event of sudden attack. Abraham Herkimer, a soldier, stationed at Fort Herkimer, was chosen by the commanding officer to act as a spy in this vicinity and to watch carefully the movements of the Indians under the leadership of the famous Indian chief, Brant. Alone he would penetrate the forests and wander in their wild solitude all day. One night he suddenly came upon a band of war‑painted savages, engaged in a triumphant war dance, hurling their bloodstained weapons over their heads and shouting in exultation, rejoicing in their murderous mission. He withdrew quickly and passed a sleepless night in fear, determining that when the sun came up again he would ascertain their movements and report to headquarters. He ran all the way to the fort, gave the alarm, and then dropped dead from exhaustion. But it was too late, the dusky warriors had moved swiftly to Cherry Valley where occurred what is described as the "most inhuman massacre recorded in the annals of our country".
It seems strange to us that such dreadful things could have happened in so lovely a spot as is ours today. But such were the experiences of the pioneers of our historic little village, pleasantly located at the foot of the beautiful Canadarago Lake, skirted on either side by wooded hill‑tops which greatly enhance the beauty of the natural scenery. In the bosom of this picturesque lake two wooded islands once rested, one of which disappeared in 1792. The names of these islands were Deowongo and Loon. Ethel Lynn, in a beautiful poem, written from a legend connected with the Sunken Island, has said:
"But just where the mountain shadows break
Lies the sunken isle of the laughing lake.
Where the soft green rushes idly away
And the fisher's boat is seen always
As the angler peers thru the limpid wave
For a glimpse of the island's lonely grave
And dreams of the time when in air it stood
with its crown of flowers and belt of wood."
After a few brave pioneers had penetrated into the wilderness in this vicinity and had begun to make their homes here, others soon followed their example. As a result of this growth, a town meeting was held in 1799. The following is an account of this meeting: "At a town meeting held at the house of Mr. Thomas Angel on Tuesday, the second day of April, 1799 for the Town of Exeter, in the County of Otsego.
Moderator, Humphrey Palmer
Supervisor, Thomas Brooks
Town Clerk, Minerva Cushman
Assessors, Seth Waren, Edgar Curtis, John Martin
Collector, David Hollister
Commissioners of the Highways, Caleb Clark, Joseph Round,
Overseers of the Poor, Thomas Angel, Caleb Clark
Constables, Joel Coss, Garthan Palmer and Charles Lewis
School commissioners, Lyman Jackson, Minerva Cushman, and
During the early days of this settlement, the pioneers were obliged to travel many miles for the necessities of life, and it was considered a great convenience when the first store was opened by Major John Tunnicliff shortly after the Revolution. In 1826, Richard Tunnicliff built what is sometimes called the Veber Store but known to most of us now as Flensburg's Store. Mr. Richard Tunnicliff was the first postmaster and his first quarter's salary was thirty‑six cents. By this we understand that the first post‑office was in a part of George Flansburg's Store in 1835. Later the store was run by J. P. Sill, who was the father of Dr. Sill, for many years a well‑known physician of Cooperstown. Afterwards it was occupied at different times by Don Lidell, John Gray, and William Henderson. Mr. Gray sold his interest to Lucius Eygabroat and Lucius Veber. After a few years Mr. Eygabroat retired from the partnership, and Mr. Veber managed the store for a long time. In 1906, A. L. Flansburg took possession, and since that time it has been conducted by him or his son, George, who took over the management in 1916, but did not own the building until 1923.
The former May Store, which is now the home of Mr.& Mrs. Francis Huyck, was built by J. P. Sill for Ira Palmer, who conducted a boot and shoe store. Later the business was sold to D. W. Mitchell who was succeeded by the Watson Brothers, Horace and William. The second floor of this building was used by the Good Templars as a Lodge Room about 35 years ago. The store was vacant for a time, but later Mr. May rented it to Fayette Allen who conducted a prosperous business there until three years ago.
The store now occupied by E. F. Washburn was built many years ago by Nelson Coswell. Part of it burned and it was later re‑built by Daniel Veber. Other owners and occupants of this store were John Austic, William Henderson, D.W. Mitchell and Nathan Burke. For fourteen years Mr. A. L. Flansburg conducted his business there, moving in 1906 to the store which his son now occupies.
About fifty years ago Dr. E. A. Taylor built the store where M. J. Clarke now has his business. For several years Elon Durfee was engaged in the drug business there, which was afterwards conducted by Dr. Taylor and F. B. Williams. About twenty years ago Mr. A. F. Park took possession of this store. In 1911 he retired from active busisness, selling his property to Charles Stephenson and Merton Clarke.
The stone store which Mr. Southworth conducted for about fifty‑years was built by Daniel Veber in the year 1847. It was later enlarged for the purpose of making Lodge Rooms for the Masonic Fraternity. This store is now owned by Schuyler's Lake Lodge #162.
Where the old Baker cheese factory now stands, Amos Fitch ran a large tannery. In the north end of this tannery there was a boot and shoe shop. Bazilla Robinson later owned the tannery and finally sold out to H. J. Baker, who for many years conducted a cheese factory. About forty-five years ago he built what is now John Jones's feed store. This building was erected for the purpose of selling feed and groceries. To many of our villagers this store has a significant meaning. On Decoration Day, 1884, a dinner was to be held in honor of the soldiers who had enlisted from this village; but, owing to the intense cold and severe weather, the dinner could not be held out doors, as had been planned. Mr. Baker decided to use this building for the occasion. There was no floor in it as yet, so he hurried and laid one. He put carpets up at the windows to keep out the cold and to make it more comfortable. So the dinner was served in the feed store.
Various industries have been carried on in this village at different times. About the year 1855, Mr. William Rose built the first saw mill in this part of the country, and in the mill he used the first circular saw that was used these parts. So many people in this vicinity brought their work to him that it was necessary to employ five or six men.
Since the nearest railroad was at Richfield Springs, a distance of six miles from here, it was with deep interest that our inhabitants watched the building of a trolley line thru Schuyler Lake that would bring us in closer touch with the outside world. In the fall of 1902, the first car passed over his road. At that time there was no electrical power; a steam locomotive was sent to take some of the people to Otsego County Fair. Friends gathered to see them depart, many feeling sure that it was a most dangerous undertaking.
Mr. Richard Tunnicliff who has been mentioned previously as the builder of Flansburg's store, also built in 1825 the hotel now owned by F. G. Roberts. For many years this building was owned by Lucius Veber who sold it to H. W. Dyer. In the early days of this building, there was a large hotel shed located where Francis Huyck's dwelling now stands.
Facts concerning the history of Bullion's Hotel were unobtainable. The building is a very old landmark and dates back many years before the earliest recollection of the oldest inhabitant of this village. The first man who is remembered to have owned this hotel was Bailey Plumb. This was about 1840. At that time the hotel was a one‑story, dilapidated structure. For the past fifty years it has been owned and occupied by G. D. Bullion.
Let us now turn to the churches here in the village. The first church organization in Schuyler Lake was the Free Communion Society begun in 1821 by Elder William Hunt. This organization took place in the old Tunnicliff homestead previously mentioned as the Oaks. The Baptist Free Church was organized in 1830, and the ball‑room of the Tunnicliff Home was used as a place of worship until the Union Church was built in 1849. In the early days of this church the Universalists held services on the first Sunday, the Free Baptists on the second and fourth, the Methodist‑Episcopal on the third Sunday, and the Christian Order on the fifth Sunday, when one occurred in a month. In 1880 the Methodists
built the church which they now occupy. The Free Baptists and the Christian Orders later disbanded) and for many years the Universalists have been the only denomination to use the stone church. They have remodeled it and now it is a neat and substantial edifice. The date of the organization of the Baptist Church is unknown, but it was probably about the year 1805 or 1806. In 1826 it was reorganized and two years ago the Baptists and Methodists united in supporting one pastor. Before the Baptist Church was built, Richard Tunnicliff had a trout pond on the very‑spot where this house of worship now stands.
For some years after this place was settled, there was no cemetery association, and the pioneers selected private plots‑for the burial of their dead. One of these family cemeteries was the round garden at the Oaks, and another was on the Herkimer Farm overlooking Herkimer Creek. As time passed, several burials were made in the old part of our present cemetery, but it was not until 1877 that the Schuyler Lake Cemetery Association was organized. At that time land was bought of J. F. Gray and the present boundaries were formed. All thru the cemetery we find graves of those who gave their lives for their country. Five soldiers, who fought in the Revolutionary War, are buried here; four, who fought in the War of 1812; and twenty‑five of the forty-four who offered their lives during the Civil War. The only surviving citizen of Schuyler Lake, who fought in the Civil War, is Mr. Henry Eason.
The Masonic Hall is another interesting landmark in our village. The date of the original charter of Schuyler's Lake Lodge was granted December 8th, 1808, by the Grand Lodge of the State of New York to Richfield Lodge. The meetings of Richfield Lodge were held at Monticello until about 1853 when they were transferred to Schuyler Lake and the name was changed to Schuyler's Lake Lodge Number 162. There are now over 1000 Masonic Lodges in New York State, and number 162 is proud to be one of the very oldest. The centennial of the founding of this Lodge was celebrated December 8th, 1908 when G. M. Flansburg was Master. A very interesting program was prepared.
Information about the early schools of this community seems to be difficult to obtain. In those days when private and select schools prevailed in the newly‑settled communities this State, Schuyler Lake, too, had its teachers and schools. In these days Mr. Frank Thompson taught a private school in the second story of Francis Huyck's dwelling. The original structure of the present Schuyler Lake Union School is probably over a hundred years old. Frank Thompson was also the first to teach in our present school building which then consisted of one room, now the intermediate. In 1894 the primary room was added, and in 1897 it was further enlarged.
W. T. Bailey, in his annals of this vicinity, writes: "Around the place of our birth there is always thrown a veil of the most delightful illusion that time can never entirely obliterate. This love is no doubt strengthened by familiarity with past events, and as time advances reverence and recollection add their influence to the natural affections." As we turn our thoughts backward to the landmarks of by‑gone years, may we commit the future of our community to the present and coming generations, believing that the sons and daughters of such heroic people will not fail to imitate those sturdy pioneers in all commendable public enterprises and noble endeavors; and thus by so living, bring no stain or blot of disgrace upon these sacred pages of our history; but rather may they seek to improve and to construct and to beautify this part of our great country which God has so wonderfully blessed thru the passing years.