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It was as though Mother Earth had known, back when she had donned her apparel of luxurious green, that in the year of 1790 there would come a man, tired from his long trip, walking slowly through the woods of the Genesee Country beside his oxen, looking for a place to locate his land.
The summer was a short one devoted largely to cutting trees and shaping the logs for his cabin; harvesting the hay which nature had provided In the few open spacess; building it into a flat stack which would withstand the wind and weather, and stand firmly through the long winter ahead, for It was said in those days," the year is nine months of winter and three months of late fall."
When the early September moon rose with the first frost In tow, the man stored against a freeze what supplies he had gathered and took stock of the long cold months ahead. Silently and brilliantly week followed week as the cold days shut down, dusk falling early, the dawn coming late. Then it came to the man that his supplies would not last till the spring came again. So, packing what he could carry on his back, and before the drifts got too high, he set out for his home back east, following the blazed trees he had cut when coming ln until he reached the old Indian trail.
It was too late to drlve the oxen out and so these docile beasts were left with a strong shelter of logs against the blizards, and the haystack for their food. Left all alone in the forest this heavy coated pair weathered the strange stillness of the deep cold, using their strong muzzels to crack the ice In the brook.
Then with the coming of the warmer days they seemed to know that the man would be back, and so he found them grown lean and bony, and gnawing on what was left of the stack..., When the yoke and bows had been placed upon the furry necks and the last wooden key slipped Into place, with A "gee" and a "haw" from the man the work of another year began. This time when the fall came there would be more supplies, more hay, a bit more of everything, and this time the man would be able to "winter it" for it was only those who had "wintered it" that could bear the name of The First Settler.
By Marion Rawson
I owe thee debt, brother of by-gone years, for brave example shining yet to speed me on." ---Campbell.
Those who live in Ontario Co. are more or less familiar with the account of the Sullivan Expedition through central and western New York state in 1779. By subduing the Indian the expedition paved the way toward opening up a new country. It made it possible for the settler to come in with his family with some degree of safety. Many of the men with Sullivan, retracing their steps homeward from this land of rich soil, began to anticipate the time when they might return on a mission of improvement, occupancy, and permanent development. And ten years later, through an association formed by the Phelps and Gorham Purchase, settlers began to come from the east and the south to buy land for their homes.
The War of the Revolution had been a hard school for the sturdy youth of New England and Pennsylvania. Fearless and independent, there was no obstacle they did not remove, few dangers they did not surmount. He who traveled the forests of Ontario County In the 1790's found that three fourths of the heads of families had been soldiers or the sons of soldiers of the Revolution. Inheriting the manly firmness of their forefathers they felled the original forests, opened roads for communication, built their homes schools and churches with a rapidity akin to the marvelous. No age has supplied men and women more Intelligent, better versed in useful acquirements, more skilled in the practical concerns of life.
The same axe used in cutting the logs for their cabin home was used to fell the tress for their church home. They were the descendants of the men and women who had left the old world that they might have religious freedom, and religion had the same vital force in the lives of these pioneers.
Although the land was covered with forest and swamp with only trails winding through, yet these forefathers of ours must have been men of vision in their building for future generations. They must have had before then the vision of rich cultivated fields, fine roads, homes, schools and churches, to have laid the foundation so wisely.
As we know the turnpike was, in its original state, the old Indian trail across the state--how old we will never know. But it was destined to become a huge artery for cross country traffic. For many years the road has held its own as such, but now at this writing it is entering upon a new era, with the great Thruway paralleling It.
Away from this constant roar of traffic by only few rods, on a rise of ground studded by pine trees is found the old Pioneer Burying Ground of Hopewell, or Easton (In some old legal papers I have found It called East Town.) Here we find the names of the pioneer settlers of the lower half of Hopewell and a portion of Gorham and Seneca Townships. The Gates, the Whitacres, the Cones, Murray, Miles, Thatcher, Birdseye, Brundle, Pratt, Case, Babcock, Hart, Lewis and others. No record of the settlement of Ontario County can be written without these names, and as we trace their records, we find that they became, through marriage, one large family. Like the weaving of a tapestry, colors appearing in one motive are found, here and there, through the whole pattern.
Since settlement began in or before 1790 and death came early and often as the pioneer faced hardship with each morning's rising, we have no record of burials before 1800 In Easton. Before this date no doubt they were made each on his own land not far from the cabin, or In a family plot set aside for that purpose. When I was a small girl I remember such a plot in the Smith Road across from the George Brundage home, even then the shale markers were crumbling away.
After 1796-7 the town of Hopewell began to fill up rapidly, and soon after 1800 the "First Presbyterian Society of Hopewell" was formed and plans made for the church building. Deacon George Babcock, 1749-1816, gave the land for It with space around it for their "Burying Ground." Many of the old slab stones have long since gone down and I think that 1805 is as early as any remaining.
The church was the only one In that part of the township and so had a large membership. In 1828 the present Presbyterian Church in the village of Gorham was organized, with its charter members taken from the Hopewell church. Among the charter members of the Seneca Castle church were the Beldings, the Yackleys and the Whitneys. As churches were organized at Reed's Corners at Hopewell Center, at Lewis, now Aloquin, and Flint Creek-- even Chapin and Canandaigua, all drew from the membership of the old Hopewell Church until it finally went down. The last record in the clerks book is dated May 1, 1870. The last service that of the funeral service for Dr. Jonathan Pratt March 15, 1880. The Inside arrangement was something like that of the Congregational church in Canandaigua, though more simple, with its built-in box pews and balcony on three sides. But the pulpit with several steps leading up, was at the front; a door on each side from the entrance hall. The church was heated by two stoves with a long run of pipe to a center chimney. The windows were on the sides looking toward the north and the south. The front entrance hall had stairs on each side of the double entrance doors; outside an uncovered porch or platform across the entire front. Upstairs there was a "Session room" and steps going up to the steeple or belfry. I do not think there was a bell. There was a door on each side going Into the Balcony. In front of the pulpit there was a mahogany table. The last I knew that was In the possession of a family in Gorham. Of course the church was of white clapboards, New England type.
Rev. Joseph Merrill was the first minister and was there for more than 25 years. The next minister was the Rev. Isaac Flagler, the father of Henry M. Flagler, the oil and Rail-road Magnate. Henry M. Flaglar was born In the Church Parsonage and baptized in the Church August 22, l83O. He also attended the district school a few rods from the church on the turnpike. This son of Ontario County is most noted for his promotion of real estate in Florida and for building the Florida Keys Rail-Road.
The parsonage was south of the church on the same side of the road just over the township line into Gorham. It burned several years ago, and now a small frame house stands on the site.
During the time of the Rev. Flagler's ministry, William and Oliver Babcock, Stephen Maltby, Jeremiah Stryker And Nathanial Smith were deacons; Oliver Babcock was clerk; these members made up the "Session." Among the ministers which followed Rev. Michael Carpenter, Jacob Burbank, Rev. H.B.Pierpoint, Rev. Warren Day. On Nov. 3, 1833 John Corson and Carlo Reed were "set apart to the office of Elders." In 1838 Jacob Pickle became an Elder, in place of Carlo Reed. Later John Mead and Ephraim Watkins became Elders and Jacob Pickle and John Mead became Deacons. In 1841 Richmond Case became an Elder and John J. Stone, Clerk. Seth V. DeGraff an Elder. The first Clerk's book could have told us so much and it is too bad that lt is lost to us. I think that Capt. John Hart was Clerk during that time.
About 1890 the Hopewell Pioneer Cemetery Association was formed by a few of the descendants of the Hopewell Pioneers; the old church building was sold to Mr. Stark of Gorham and moved away for a barn, and the money received for it was put in a saving's account in the bank. But the cemetery itself needed repair and care; many stones with their records were already lost and many of those remaining needed mendinq to save them; the old board fence was of little account; the ground where the church building had stood must be leveled and seeded, etc.
Mrs. Mary Gates and Mrs. Candice Birdseye drove, for this was In the horse and buggy days, many miles hither and yon, and wrote many letters they could not see till about $300 dollars was raised for this repair work. An Iron fence was put up across the front, stones mended; since then each year stones have needed repair, for the winter winds can play havoc with the old slab stones, grass has been mowed, holes filled. Some years it has been hard to find anyone for this work. Much work has been contributed by a few interested persons and members of this small association. A few years ago a member of the Joel Pratt family gave us a $1000 Dollar Rail-Road bond which is a great help. The dividends to be used for the upkeep of the cemetery grounds.
What is most needed are those who can give an active interest and support to the care of this old cemetery. This should not necessarily be confined to the descendants, for all who live in Hopewell, Gorham, and Seneca, are, in some measure, beneficiaries of the work of these people who lie burried here. They worked through dangers and hardships that we may live and enjoy.
Some one has said, "They are not dead so long as any remain who remember."
---author of above unknown
Note from Burr : Being the last of the Cemetery Association we unanimously decided to put the care of the grounds into the hands of the town.
The history of a locality is closely associated with Its old cemeteries, which hold records obtainable from no other source and for this reason, if none other, these records should be preserved.
Evidently those in the War Department in Washington think well of these old cemetery records for the tomb-stone records of all Revolutionary soldiers and their wives are being sought out and collected to be bound in book form by the State D.A.R. for the Smithsonian Institute, by its request. For this work, in 1933, the Hopewell Cemetery Association submitted the following five names.
1-George Babcock. 1749-1816.(Deacon George) Wife Sarah, 1751-1820. In the year 1775 he was then 26 years old. He and his wife came from Stonington, Conn. the very south eastern tip of the state on the Sound. His grave was marked in May 1933 by the Sons of the American Revolution of Rochester, N.Y. and is on Lot No, 21.
2-Captain Davis Flint. 1748-1836. Captain Flint and wife Lucy,
of whom we
have the following letter from the Adjutant Generals Office, War
dated June 16,1933.
"The records of this office show that one Davis Flint served in the Revolutionary war as a Corporal In Capt. Keys Company, Regiment of Light Horse, Conn. Enlisted Sept. 8,1776 and was discharged Nov, 2,1776. No record of the service of any other man of that name In the Revolutionary war. Collection of Revolutionary War records la, In this Office, far from complete."
Singed James F, McKinley, Mnjor General.
We know there were Flints living at Flint Creek, from which came its name. Also there were Flints living on the Reed's Corners Road. Davis Flint and his wife Lucy were buried on Lot No. 36, In 1775 he was 27 years old.
3-Captain John Hart 1747-1836. wife Mary(Molly),1752-1834,, They Settled on Sect. 47, the first to live on the site of the Watkins house, Later the Jason Gates farm now Zimmerman. Francis (Fanny) Hart Riker Was a gggrandmother of Capt. Hart. In 1775 he was 28 yrs. Old.
4-Major Elijah Murry. 1756-1816. Wife Mary, 1768-1811. They Came to Hopewell from Pittsfield Mass. and settled on Sect, 42 In 1798. In 1775 he was but 19 years old.
5-William Wyckoff. 1737-1817. With his wife Isabelle he came
around 1790 and settled on Sect. 19, on what Is now the Smith Rd. The
that he was In the Sullivan army, captured by the Indians and held
them In their encampment on what became the McClure farm, on the south
the Smith road. While there he Promised himself that he would sometime
his abode on, or near that very spot. And this is what be did, building
cabin across from the site of this Indian encampment. Later he built
house, still standing though much changed, on the corner of the Smith
the turnpike, now the Love house. He was 38 when the Revolutionary War
In 1776. I quote as follows from a, letter received Sept. 6,, 1933 from
Genealugist of the State library, Harrisburg, Pa:
"The Wyckoff(Winkoff) family of New Jersey settled at an early date in Northumberland Co. Penn. In that part that later became Lycoming Co. You will find a reference to the family in the History of Lycominq Co. pp. 118-180. by Merinnes. It refers to the fact that Peter and his brother William settled near Mill Creek. In 1778, June 10, Captain Barry and a number of his men set out to find some stray horses. Peter Wyckoff and William, his son, as well as the brother William were Of the party.
Peter and William were captured by the Indians. It is possible that the William mentioned In Ontario Co, was the younger William, This item was taken from the report of the Secretary of War, 1835. It is possible that the older William may have also come up into the Genesee Country along with his Son William. It is evident that both Williams saw service, the history of Lycoming Co. Is sufficient authority for this, after the attacks on the Wyckoffs was made occurred the Great Runway in that vacinity and many families removed temporarily to New Jersey for safty. The Wyckoffs of Hopewell came from near Muncy, Penn. Margaret Wyckoff, a sister of William, was the wife of Robert Whitacre from Muncy and who settled on Sect. 19 also.
6-According to my records Daniel Gates was a soldier in the
1-George Couch. With his wife Mahala Nichols came to Hopewell In 1815. He settled east of Aloquin on Sect. 72. 2-Captain Daniel Gates. 1771-1812.VVife Susanna, 1777-1856. 3-Captain Joel S. Hart. 1782-1852. Wife Zerujah, 1792-1821. Capt. Joel was the son of the Rev. soldier Captain John Hart. 4-Captain Ephraim Watkins. 1788-1843. Wife Daborah 1796-1876. Their pioneer home was on the corner of Spangle Street and the turnpike. 5-Captain Robert Whitacre. 1769-1822. lst wife Margaret Wyckoff 1769-1810, 2nd wife Polly(Mary) Johnston(Reznor) 1779-1862. From Muncy, Penn. to hopewell in 1790. On Sect. 19. 6-Captain Samuel Conklin, 1762-1825, Wife Mary,1760-1840*
1-William 0. Witter. I840-1864. He was a private in C 1, 49 Regiment, N,Y. S.V. He died at the age of 24 In Andersonville Prison in Georgia. He was the son of Lewls Witter and lived just over the Hopewell line In Gorham, south of Sect. 48. His step-mother was Hannah Birdseye. 2-Watson Wyckoff. 1842-1861, He served in the 28th Infantry. I believe he was the grandson of the Rev. soldier William Wyckoff.
There may be others of which we have no record. Among the first settlers the following were in the age bracket to have been in the War of the Revolution but this does not necessarily mean that they were: in 1776 Henry Badger was 29; Joseph Brundage was 27; Benj. DePew was 19. Nathan Phelps was 26; John Russell was 28; Zalmon Smith was 32.
A little spot is all they now require
For their last resting place. There the green turf
May grow and flowers may bloom, and sun and rain
May come, but they still ne'er have thought or care
For them again. A stone, a single stone
Will tell their humble names to passers-by.
But their best monuments will ever be
Engraven on the hearts of those who knew,
Nor yet knew half their worth till they were gone.
-----From an old newspaper. Author unknown.
Hopewell Presbyterian Church Records 1830-1870
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