The Village of Aurora is located a few miles from the Homestead where John Bowen first settled in 1805 and his descendants lived until Alfred Bowen died on November 10, 1901.
History & Profile of
The Village of Aurora
Cayuga County, NY
|Indian Occupancy||Military Tract|
|Early Settlers||Formation Of Cayuga County|
|War of 1812||Incorporation of The Village|
|Churches||Organizations & Businesses|
This site contains a summary history of the Village of Aurora as compiled and typed into a digital computer format by: Wesley Harden. The following booklet was utilized for reference: Aurora, "Village of Constant Dawn", written by Temple Rice Hollcroft for the college Alumnae News 1950 - 1958. Revised by The Aurora Committee For The American Bicentennial. Printed by W.E. Morrison & Co., Ovid, N.Y. 1n 1976 with a second printing in 1987.
When white men came to America, New York State east of the Genesee River was inhabited by the Iroquois, a confederation of the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga and Seneca nations. They were given the name, Iroquois, by the French. According to tradition, Hiawatha, a member of the Onondaga nation, founded the confederation. The seat of government was near the present city of Syracuse in the territory of the Onondagas, the central nation. There the council fire was kept constantly burning. The Iroquois were strong and warlike and subjugated the tribes on all sides beyond their boundaries.
The Cayuga nation occupied the territory bounded on the east by Lake Owasco, on the west by Lake Seneca, on the north by Lake Ontario, and on the south by Pennsylvania. There were a few Seneca villages on the east shore of Lake Seneca and the Cayugas and Senecas shared fishing privileges in Lake Seneca outlet, but the Senecas lived chiefly north, south and west of the lake bearing their name. The Cayugas, the least warlike of the Iroquois, had many villages and extensive farms and orchards. Their principal village was Goioguen, four miles north of Aurora. It was later called Cayuga Castle.
Probably by 1600 or earlier, there was a Cayuga village on the site of Aurora. The original name of this village was Deawendote, or Village of Constant Dawn. Later, however, because of the large peach orchards at this village, it was nicknamed Chonodote or Peachtown. Both the original name, Deawendote, and the present name, Aurora, almost certainly were chosen because of the fact that an eastern ridge obscures the rising sun causing the vicinity of the village to have a longer dawn than usual.
In accordance with a treaty between the Iroquois and the French, missionaries were sent to the Iroquois. In August 1656, Father Menard came to the Cayugas and they built a chapel for him near Goioguen. Although these missionaries remained with the Iroquois many years, they never accomplished their main political purpose, to win over the Iroquois as allies of the French. On the contrary, in all the wars between Great Britain and France, the Iroquois were allies of the British. Also during the Revolution, the Iroquois, with the exception of a part of the Mohawks and Oneidas, were on the side of the British and made many bloody raids on the border settlements. Finally in the autumn of 1779, General Washington sent Generals Clinton and Sullivan with armies to break the power of the Iroquois. This they did thoroughly.
From Pennsylvania General Sullivan marched north into New York between Cayuga and Seneca lakes and then westward, sending a detachment of five hundred men under Colonel Zebulon Butler along the eastern shore of Lake Cayuga. There was little fighting as practically all of the Indians had fled. Their houses, crops and orchards met with almost total destruction. At Chonodote now Aurora the fourteen long houses were burned, the crops destroyed and most of the fifteen hundred peach trees chopped down. The Cayugas fled to the protection of the British near Buffalo and most of them never came back to their native land.
II. Military Tract
In 1782 the New York Legislature set aside a portion of the midwestern part of the State, called the Military Tract, to be given to the soldiers who had served in the Revolution. The Military Tract included all of the four counties, Cayuga, Cortland, Onondaga, Seneca, parts of Oswego, Schuyler, Tompkins, Wayne, and contained more than one and one half million acres, When the Military Tract was erected the Cayugas and Onondagas still owned the land contained in it. On September 12, 1788 by a treaty made with the Onondagas at Fort Schuyler and on February 25, 1789 with the Cayugas at Albany, the State of New York purchased all of their lands with the exception of certain small reservations. In particular, the Cayuga Reservation consisted of a strip or land about three miles wide on each side of the northern end of Lake Cayuga. Its southern boundary was near the middle of the present road from Aurora to Sherwood. Thus the north part of the village of Aurora was in the Cayuga Reservation. Almost all of this Reservation was sold to the State in 1795 and the remainder a few years later. The Cayugas own none of their ancestral lands.
The Military Tract when erected was in Tyron County the name of which was changed two years later to Montgomery County. Next, the Military Tract was part of Herkimer County erected in 1791 and, finally, on March 6, 1794, the Military Tract itself became Onondaga County.
The town of Scipio was erected January 27, 1789 as a township of Montgomery County. It became one of the eleven original townships of the Military Tract and included the present towns of Ledyard, Moravia, Niles, Scipio, Sempronius, Venice, and parts of Springport and Marcellus.
III Early Settlers
Roswell Franklin and several other settlers of Wyoming County, Pennsylvania, organized The Little Lessee Company, a land company, in 1788. This company arranged with the Indians for the perpetual lease of the land lying between lakes Cayuga and Owasco for which rent was to be paid annually. In the summer of 1788 Roswell Franklin, Elisha Durkee and others surveyed these lands for the company, dividing them into lots of 160 acres each.
The first settlement in the territory that became Cayuga County, a decade later, was made in April 1789 by Roswell Franklin in that part of the town of Scipio which is now the village of Aurora. He had selected this location the previous summer. In March 1789, Franklin, his son-in-law and some neighbors left Wysox, Pennsylvania, with their families, traveling in sleighs to the head of Lake Seneca. They rowed down the lake in boats left there ten years before by Sullivan's army. On arriving at the foot of Lake Seneca, the women and children walked over to the foot of Lake Cayuga while the men brought the boats down the rapids of Seneca River into that lake. They finally landed in what is now the north part of the village of Aurora. Other members of the party drove their cattle and hogs overland along the east side of Lake Cayuga.
In September 1788 the men of this party and those Camping within a radius of about fifty miles built a log house for the home of Roswell Franklin. In addition to Franklin and his two sons and son-in-law, Ebenezer White, the following fifteen men worked on this house: Hulbert Atwell, Levi Atwell, Joseph Atwell, Jonathan Brownell, Daniel Guthrie, Ebenezer Guthrie, John Harris, unknown Harris, Thomas Manchester, Edward Fame, Seth Phelps, Job Pixley, John Richardson, H. Spaulding and John White. The master builder was John Harris who kept a ferry across Lake Cayuga at Cayuga. The house, sixteen feet square, was completed in two days. This was the first house built by white men in the western three fifths of the Military Tract, the part that became Cayuga County ten years later. Houses were also built for the other families that came with Roswell Franklin. Elisha Durkee built his log cabin, burned with thirteen others by the Sheriff in 1791, just north of Aurora. The first white child born in the original town of Scipio was his daughter Betsy, born here December 5, 1790.
During the next two years several more settlers came. Edward Paine brought his family from Connecticut and built a log house south of Aurora on the creek that bears his name. Most of the settlers were members of The Little Lessee Company and built their homes north of Franklin's on the land they had leased from the Indians. The new settlement prospered. The virgin soil yielded bountiful harvests, fish and game could be caught or purchased from the friendly Indians and the partially destroyed orchards of Chonodote furnished fruit. But an unexpected disaster awaited them.
On February 25,1789, the State of New York by a treaty with the Cayugas, purchased all of their lands with the exception of the Cayuga Reservation previously described. This treaty abrogated the lease The Little Lessee Company had with the Indians. When the state surveyors came to lay out the boundary according to the treaty, it was found that Franklin's home and those of thirteen other settlers were on the Cayuga Reservation. In the late summer of 1791, on complaint of the Cayugas, Governor George Clinton sent Colonel William Colbraith, Sheriff of Herkimer County, with fifty men to put the white settlers off the Reservation. Colbraith burned thirteen of their fourteen houses. The only house spared was that of Roswell Franklin, nearest the Reservation bounder. The Indians liked Franklin and were willing for him to continue to live there. Of those whose houses were burned, Ebenezer White moved to Ledyard, Elisha Durkee to Scipioville and the three Atwell families to the western part of the state.
Seth Phelps, who had helped Franklin build his house, brought his family in 1791 from Groton, Connecticut. Franklin shared his home with the Phelps family until a house could be built for them. Franklin had planned to purchase some land south of the Reservation line, which he had cleared. This land was part of lot 34, which contained most of the present village of Aurora. Lot 34 extended from the south line of the Reservation to an easterly line just south of Wells Road and was more than two miles in depth. Seth Phelps, on learning that this lot had been assigned to Lieutenant Peter Van Benscoten, secured the money from his nephew-in-law, John Walworth, and purchased the lot jointly with him on March 14, 1792 for $600.
Roswell Franklin had endured a long succession of misfortunes and hardships. In his early manhood he had served for several years with the British army. Following his marriage in Connecticut he moved to Wyoming, Pennsylvania, where he fought in the Pennamite border wars. He was a captain in the Revolution. The Indians burned his home while he was absent, carried off his entire family and killed his wife. Most of his children were later recaptured and reunited with him. He later married Mrs. Lester who with her small child had been captured in the Indian raid in which her husband and Franklin's oldest son, Joseph, had been killed. A year later she escaped with her child from the Indians and returned to Pennsylvania with Sullivan's army. Twice Franklin had lost all of his property in floods. He had come to this new country after securing a lease from the Indians expecting at last to have a home, only to find that his lease had been annulled and that he could own none of the land he had improved. Broken in health and believing that the man he had befriended had wronged him by purchasing the land he wanted, he became deranged and shot himself.
In 1794 John Walworth moved to Aurora. He and Phelps divided lot 34 by an east west line that passed just south of the present Masonic Temple, Phelps taking the north part and Walworth the south.
Seth Phelps was First Judge of Onondaga County from 1794 to 1799. When Cayuga County was erected in 1799, he became First Judge of that county, serving until 1810. He was a State Senator 1798-1801 and again 1810-1813. His second residence, which he built in Aurora about 1800, is now the Doughty house on the corner of Main Street and Cherry Avenue.
Early in 1795 the State purchased all of the Reservation from the Cayugas except two small areas north of Levanna. Roswell Franklin, Jr. then purchased the land in the former Reservation, from the State, which his father had improved. Later in the same year he built a tavern on the west side of Main Street, a short distance southeast of his log house. It was known for more than a decade as The Franklin Tavern and later became a dwelling. It was moved across Main Street in 1881 and is now The Grange. In the early 1800's, Roswell Franklin, Jr. sold his land to Jonathan Richmond (who had come from Massachusetts in 1792) and moved to a farm near King Ferry where some of his descendants now live.
Dr. Silas Holbrook was the first physician to practice in Aurora, followed by Dr. Frederic Delano who came to Aurora from Orange County, New York, in 1792. Dr. Delano was also the first druggist in this village. In the same year Abiather Hull opened the first general store in a small log house that stood just south of the present Presbyterian Church.
Aurora, the principal settlement in the Military Tract, became the first county seat of Onondaga County. It remained the county seat until Onondaga County was divided in 1799, when it became the first county seat of Cayuga County.
The original name of the settlement at Aurora was Scipio, after the township in which it was located. On April 1,1795 the U. S. Post Office of Scipio was established here. Judge Walter Wood, who had come to Aurora earlier that year, was the first postmaster. The first mail carrier was Edward Paine. He carried the mail on horseback between Aurora and Cooperstown, making one round trip every two weeks, for which he received $175 annually. The gross receipts of the new post office during the first year totaled $39.28.
Benjamin Ledyard, who was a Captain in the Revolution and later Brigadier General of New York Militia, came to Aurora in 1793. He was the New York State agent for the apportionment of lands in the Military Tract. Soon after his arrival, he built a log office on lot 8 and in 1796 built his residence on lot 26 which still stands and is currently the home of Mr. and Mrs. Samuel H. Ayers. A copy of his commission as Brigadier General signed by Governor John Jay is now hanging in the front hall of his former home. He was also appointed clerk of Onondaga County in 1794.
Benjamin Ledyard carne originally from Groton, Connecticut, as did many early settlers of Aurora and vicinity. He was a cousin of John Ledyard, "The Traveler." Both of their fathers were lost at sea so their grandfather, John Ledyard, raised them.
General Ledyard christened the village "Aurora" soon after his arrival. Attempts to change the name of the post office to Aurora, however, did not succeed until 1810. During those fifteen years the name, Aurora, was used for all purposes except the post office address.
Paulina Mosher Wood, wife of Judge Walter Wood, originally of Dartmouth, Massachusetts, was the first Friend (Quaker) to settle in Aurora. Others soon came, many of them also from Dartmouth.
Judge Seth Phelps, assisted by judges John Richardson, Silas Halsey and William Stevens, held the first Court of Common Pleas for Onondaga County in a corncrib in Aurora in 1794. The first Circuit Court was held in the home of Judge Phelps in Aurora on September 7, 1795. The next Circuit Court was held in Aurora on June 12, 1798, in what has been called "the first court house" in the Military Tract. This "court house," built of crotched posts set in the ground supporting poles, which were covered with brush, was used for several years. When Cayuga County was erected in 1799, the courts were held alternately at Cayuga Bridge and Aurora until 1804 after which all were held in Aurora.
Benjamin Howland's family came from Dartmouth. Massachusetts, in 1798 in two sleighs, one drawn by horses containing the family, the other driven by Benjamin Wilbur, drawn by oxen containing the household goods. They drove twenty cattle and a number of sheep with them. Benjamin purchased 135 acres (three cleared containing a log house and a sawmill) from Walter Wood for $840. The "Mary Howland House" a two-story frame house, which still stands about two miles east of Aurora on the Poplar Ridge Road, was built immediately for Benjamin's wife, Mary. For Mary had come with the stipulation that her family would not live in a log house. In 1799 the first Friends meeting in Cayuga County was held in the front room of this new house. A year later, the first Friends Meeting House was built of logs near their home.
The bridge across the foot of Lake Cayuga was completed in 1800 after eighteen months work and at a cost of $150,000. Although the lake is very deep at Aurora, the north end is quite shallow. Piles driven into the lake bottom supported the bridge. It was more than a mile long and was at that time the longest bridge in the Americas. Cayuga Bridge immediately became an important artery in east-west travel and continued as such for more than a half century. Some of the old piles may still be seen at low water.
In 1806 John Walworth moved to Cleveland with his family and lived in the first frame house erected in that city. Eighty-one years after John Walworth left Aurora, one of his great-granddaughters came back. She was the late Julia Walworth Severance Millikin (granddaughter of Juliana Walworth Long who was born in Aurora, September 19, 1794), a graduate in 1885 and a trustee for many years and lifelong benefactor of Wells College.
Jean Margaret Lamb (Wells 1921) presented two maps of Aurora to Wells College. One was the long-lost Seth Phelps map and the other was the equally important Benjamin Ledyard map. Leonard Searing, then Surrogate of Cayuga County and President of the Cayuga County Historical Society deposited photographs of both maps in the offices of the Clerk and Surrogate of Cayuga County.
In Aurora, lot 34 of the Military Township of Scipio was 240 rods wide measured due south from the Cayuga Reservation to an east-west line near the south side of the present Dean's Cottage. It was irregular in shape with an area of about 1.2 square miles. Phelps and Walworth divided lot 34 by an east-west line a few feet south of the present Aurora Masonic Temple. Walworth received the south portion containing about 53% of the total area, and Phelps the north, containing only 47% of the lot, but about 60% of the part of Aurora included in the lot.
The Phelps map was drawn probably in 1794 shortly after the division of lot 34. It contains only the portion of Aurora originally belonging to Phelps, which extends 142 rods south along Main Street beginning at the south boundary of Goulds Hill Road. Two unnamed parallel streets were laid out 18 rods apart and each four rods wide. These are now Main Street and Court Street. The bearing of each of these streets is South, 10 degrees East. Main Street could not bear due south without running into the lake. The Phelps portion of Aurora was divided into 27 lots, averaging about 11/2 acres each and numbered 1-27, in three sections of nine lots each: west of Main Street, between Main and Court Streets, and east of Court Street.
Seth Phelps gave lot 1 and the strip of land between this lot and the Reservation to the widow of Roswell Franklin. Of the eighteen lots west of Court Street, sixteen bear the names of owners, which will be given later. Phelps built his residence on lot 24 and reserved lot 13 (west of 24) "partially for public purposes." In 1795 a street, later Cherry Avenue, was cut through lot 13.
The other map shows the entire village and more. It extends from the original Roswell Franklin house to a short distance south of Paine's Creek. It bears the legend: "Plot of Aurora on a scale of about 20 rods to an inch with a Sketch of a Winter View of it in February, 1795." The map has been mounted on cloth. The following inscription on the back, however, shows through on the front: "Map. View of the Village of Aurora taken by B. Ledyard in February 1795."
At the time this map was drawn, Benjamin Ledyard was Clerk of Onondaga County and Aurora the County Seat. The Ledyard map proves that our village was given the name of "Aurora" on or before February 1795. Indeed, it is possible that this map is itself, the christening document - that Ledyard proposed the name "Aurora" by writing it upon his map of the village. On the map he also suggested names for the streets, but these names were not adopted Evidently they did not catch the popular fancy as did "Aurora."
There was no post office here at that time. The post office, "Scipio," was established at Aurora, April 1,1795 less than two months after this map was made. In view of the fact that it required fifteen years of unremitting effort by the residents to get the name of their post office changed from "Scipio" to "Aurora," it is interesting to have this proof that the village had been given the name. "Aurora," before its post office came into being.
Twenty dwellings, fifteen log and five frame, and several log barns are on the Ledyard map. The Patrick Tavern is the only one of these buildings still standing. Of the buildings North of the present Wells Road, those west of Main Street are log construction and the five east of Main Street are frame.
The names on both maps are the same except for lot 7. The lot numbers and their owners in the Phelps portion are:
1. Mrs. Roswell Franklin, Sr. Log dwelling (On Ledyard map, north of lot 1, is shown the original Franklin home built in 1789)
2. Samuel Branch: Deputy Sheriff of Onondaga Co. Two log dwellings
3. Barber Log dwelling. (Probably Deacon William Barbers later, Barbers Corners).
4. Judge John Richardson. Three log buildings. Also owns lot 15.
8. Benjamin Ledyard Log dwelling and Clerk's Office. Also owned lots 11, 26. Three lots, each 18 rods wide. In 1796, built Ledyard House on lot 26. This house is still standing
9. Abiather Hull: Log dwelling and store. Also owned lot 10.
24. Seth Phelps: Contains two-story dwelling, only frame house in Phelps portion.
No names on the remaining lots - they had evidently not been sold before February 1795.
John Walworth also laid out his portion of Aurora in lots, but did not number them. On the west side of Main Street, north to south, these lots were owned by: Richardson (log dwelling); Avery a farmer
(Log dwelling); Mumford; Walworth; Mumford On the east side of Main Street: Joshua Patrick (frame tavern; east portion of lot owned by Lawyer Daniel Shepard); Avery (frame dwelling); Lawyer Thomas Mumford (frame dwelling containing office); John Walworth (large frame dwelling on lot 18 rods square); Mumford. Patrick, Walworth, and Mumford owned the eastern lots.
Farther south in Scipio lot 43 and east of Main Street were three log dwellings belonging to Dr. Silas Holbrook, James Richardson, and Kennedy. The petition for Scipio Lodge No.58, F, & A. M., dated
December 1, 1795 is in Dr. Holbrook's handwriting. He moved to Venice in 1797. Still farther south in Scipio lot 54 at the mouth of Paine's Creek, the log dwelling (built in 1790), barn and still house of Major Edward Paine is shown.
On the Ledyard map, "Front Street" and "Second Street", are now Main Street and Court Street, respectively. Both streets are drawn beyond Paine's Creek. Here Court Street, never more than two blocks long, appears to be two miles long! Evidently this map was meant as a plan for a future larger Aurora as well as an accurate "view" of what had been laid out and built up to this time.
Surrogate Leonard Searing found the record of a deed dated April 15, 1795 from Seth Phelps to Walter Wood for lot 6 and three fourths of lot 13. The south half of the north half was reserved by Phelps for a street between Main and Court Streets, now called Cherry Avenue. "Beginning at a certain stake" - The "certain stake" stood at the southwest corner of Court Street and Cherry Avenue. This shows that the Seth Phelps house stood in the south half of what is now Cherry Avenue, extending a few inches over the south boundary of that street with its front about 108 feet east of Court Street. In this house on September 7, 1795 the first session of the Circuit Court of Onondaga County was held. It was later occupied by Jonathan Swan and finally by Henry Wells and his family when they moved to Aurora in 1850. It burned in May 1851 while the Wells family was living in it.
Humphrey Howland came to Aurora with his parents in 1798 at the age of 18. Having had only three months schooling, he purchased books with money earned by trapping and educated himself. He was one of the surveyors of the Military Tract, working principally in Cayuga, Cortland and Seneca counties. Currently in the home of Mrs. John L Zabriskie is a beautiful picture map with the principal buildings of Aurora drawn in perspective. Here is found the only picture known of the first Cayuga Academy Building which burned a few months after the map was made. Though showing the correct location of all streets, houses and barns then in existence, it is also partly the surveyor's ideal of the future Aurora as the permanent county seat of Cayuga County. Just east of Court Street (named for the proposed county court house) and at the head of Front Street (now Lafayette Street) was the site reserved for the Cayuga County Court House, with the legend, "Proposed site for the Court House, a donation offered with $1500 by the villagers." Also Court Street, which extends only a few yards south of Cherry Ave., is shown running parallel to Main Street for the entire length of the village.
IV. Formation of Cayuga County
Cayuga County was formed March 8, 1799 from the western part of Onondaga County and contained about three-fifths of that county. Its northern and eastern boundaries were the same as today, but it was bounded on the south by a line from the southwest corner of Cortland County to the head of Lake Seneca. The western boundary was Lake Seneca and a meridian line from the foot of this lake to Lake Ontario. Thus the original Cayuga County contained almost all of the pre-Revolutionary territory of the Cayuga Indian Nation.
Aurora was near the geographical center of the new county and became the first county seat. Benjamin Ledyard, Clerk, and Seth Phelps, first Judge of Onondaga County, continued in these offices in Cayuga County. The first surrogate was Glen Cuyler who came from Albany and married Mary Ledyard, the oldest child of Benjamin Ledyard. General Ledyard died in November 1803, and Peter Hughes, who had been sheriff of Cayuga County for three years, became clerk.
Two men, several of whose descendants became prominent in the affairs of state and nation came to Aurora at about the same time, 1800, and from the same place, Groton, Connecticut. They also bore the same name but were only distantly related (third half-cousins). One was Christopher Morgan (1777-1834), the other, Jedediah Morgan (1774-1826). Both were influential leaders in politics, business and Masonry and contributed much to the development of Aurora.
Following the erection of Seneca County on March 27, 1804, which left Aurora on the western edge of Cayuga County, certain villages, more centrally located, began an active campaign to secure the county seat. Aurora, on the other hand, attempted to keep it. The 1805 map of Aurora reveals an Aurora "argument". On this map it is stated that the citizens of Aurora have donated a site for the county court house and raised $1500 for building it. The leader of the Aurora faction was Judge Walter Wood, "Scipio" Postmaster.
The five villages actively contending for the county seat were Aurora, Cayuga, Hardenbergh's Corners, Levanna, and Sherwood's Corners. The first legal move was a law, sponsored by a member from the vicinity of Sherwood and passed by the State legislature in 1804 designating Sherwood's Corners as the new county seat and appointing a committee to raise $1500 to build the court house in that village. This somewhat surreptitious action of the Legislature aroused a storm of criticism and soon practically everyone in the county had taken sides in the controversy. The next Legislature repealed the law and appointed three commissioners from other parts of the state to make a final decision. The claims of the five rival villages were considered and in June 1805, Hardenbergh's Corners was selected for the county seat.
A short time later, a meeting was held at Hardenbergh's Corners to choose a name for the village. The local physician, Dr. Crosset, suggested "Auburn". John Hardenbergh, the first settler of the village and his friends who wanted merely to drop "Corners" from the original name strenuously opposed this suggestion. When the vote was taken, however, Auburn won by two votes. For several weeks hereafter the Hardenbergh faction carried petitions around with the argument that they did not want their village named for a "deserted village," but they could not obtain a majority.
The courts continued to be held in Aurora until the first court house at Auburn was partially completed in 1808. The county records were taken from Aurora to Auburn by Peter Hughes, Clerk, in 1807 and kept in his home.
Thus Aurora, after having been the county seat of Onondaga County (the Military Tract) for five years (1794-1799) and of Cayuga County for eight years (1799-1807), lost its position of local political importance largely because it was off the beaten path. Chiefly for this reason it has always remained a small, residential village. However, as the site of Cayuga Academy, the home of some of the principal express organizers and other nationally known figures, and now as the seat of Wells College, it has had a role much greater in usefulness and wider in scope than during its early local eminence.
V. War of 1812
In the War of 1812, the entire northern border of New York, including that of Cayuga County, was exposed to the enemy. Troops were needed for the defense of this area, chiefly near Buffalo. In addition to the State Militia and volunteers many young men were drafted for service.
Aurora, especially while it was the county seat of Onondaga and Cayuga counties, had become accustomed to martial events. Local companies of the State Militia met here (as in other villages of the State) on certain "muster days" for drill and instruction. On those days bouts between fighters longing to display their prowess often provided additional excitement which sometimes rose to such a pitch that many would join in a joyful and boisterous battle royal. On August 28, 1801, a general court-martial was held in Aurora to try Captain Phineas Stevens for disobedience. Lieutenant Colonel Wilhemus Mynderse, a charter trustee of Cayuga Academy, presided. Stevens was captain of a company in Lieutenant Colonel John Tillotson's regiment, which was a part of General Benjamin Ledyard's brigade. He was found guilty but appealed to the Commander in Chief, Governor George Clinton. On January 2, 1802, Governor Clinton annulled his sentence stating while evidently guilty as charged, he had not been given time to prepare his defense. In the War of 1812, John Tillotson, Master in 1798 of Scipio Lodge No.58, Aurora, was promoted to Brigadier General, commanding the Seventh New York Brigade of Infantry.
In addition to the young men who enlisted or were drafted, older men, exempt from service because of age, often formed companies. At least one such company was raised in Aurora and vicinity largely through the efforts of Jonathan Richmond, then in his 49th year. It received the following authorization from Governor Daniel D. Tompkins, Commander in Chief of New York State troops.
General Orders: Headquarters, Albany, Nov. 11th, 1812
Whereas a number of persons, inhabitants of the town of Scipio in the County of Cayuga, exempt from military duty, have associated themselves together and formed a company, pursuant to the 25th section of the militia Law of this State. Now, therefore, the Commander in Chief, in pursuance of the authority vested in him by the said law, does hereby organize the said association as a company of Infantry and assigns and brevets one Captain, two Lieutenants, and one Ensign for said company, viz.: Jonathan Richmond for Captain, Elisha Durkee (now more than fifty years old) for First Lieutenant, Nathan Webster for Second Lieutenant, and Worden Babcock for Ensign and directs that they be obeyed and respected accordingly.
There was great excitement in Cayuga County following the burning of Buffalo by the British on January 1,1814. Rumors often came that the British Army was marching eastward across the State. At one such time the rumor seemed so well founded that several companies of both infantry and cavalry crossed Cayuga Bridge and advanced as far as Canandaigua before it became apparent that there had been no invasion.
The following, excerpted from a letter from Christopher Morgan to his brother-in-law, Erastus T. Smith in Connecticut, tells of some happenings in Aurora during the war and portrays the feelings of a Federalist who had opposed the war and was distrustful of the government of President Madison Aurora, 30th August 1814.
Yours of the 13th Inst. we received last Saturday's mail . . . . . I think it was rather hard that you should be called, immediately on your arrival home among your friends, from them on so unpleasant an occasion, but hope you conducted yourself with true American principles.
We have had a heavy draft of Militia from our County since you left here - twelve hundred and eighty exclusive of all the independent companies. The Governor in his orders states that the remains of General Brawn's Army now in Fort Erie are placed in such a situation that they cannot retreat and in order to relieve them, has called out the Militia. They have generally manifested the Spirit of 76 on this occasion.
Major General Brown and suite have been in our Village for 8 days - left here yesterday for the Army at Fort Erie. His wound has healed completely . . .
Aurora, 2 Sept., 1814
The Mail went past before I finished my letter - nothing new since excepting the news yesterday that the British had destroyed the Public Buildings in the City of Washington. Oh! God! Deliver my Country from their enemy and also from the hands of such rulers who declared that when they Came into office, they found the country in the full tide of successful experiments, at peace with the world, and an overflowing Treasury - - Men who have had their choice of time to declare war and who declare it, and have not placed any one point in the United States in security.
Many new war taxes were levied by the national government. The tax collector for the 23rd New York Collection District (the original Cayuga County) beginning January 1, 1814 was Roswell Tousley of Aurora. He received six per cent of the amount collected as his fee. The total tax collected on liquor was more than that on everything else combined. Distillers paid .20 to .25 per gallon and the annual charge for a license to retail liquor was $15. Retailers of other goods normally paid $10. Other taxes were: $2 per year on each carriage used; 8% on hats, bonnets and caps; 5% on leather goods; 3% on paper; 1% on nails; 6% on gold, silver and plated ware and on household furniture. Except for the carriage tax, the above taxes were paid by dealers in the articles named and were readily collected. Also there seems to have been no resistance to the carriage tax, but the final straw was reached when the government levied a tax on watch owners.
On page 304 of the larger collection book, Roswell Tousley listed by towns the names of the watch owners in his district in 1815. The names of 107 owners of silver (tax $1 each) and 5 of gold watches (tax $2 each) are given. Of the total $117 tax, nothing was collected. The collector had to give some reason for non-collection, so he wrote after all of the names either "not found" or more often, "absconded". It is scarcely possible that all watch owners went into hiding or left the country to avoid a one-dollar tax. A better reason is given in the following affidavit by Roswell Tousley dated July 26, 1817 and written on that same page. "I hereby certify that I have employed all reasonable means to collect the above duties without effect and that it is my firm belief that they are not collectable." This is signed and sworn to before Eleazer Burnham, Justice of the Peace.
Jonathan Richmond succeeded Roswell Tousley on April 11, 1817. Richmond resigned early in 1819, after his election to the House of Representatives, and was succeeded by Eleazer Burnham who was also postmaster and Justice of the Peace. Evidently most of the war taxes were discontinued at about this time.
VI. Incorporation of the Village
The Town of Ledyard was formed from the original Town of Scipio in 1823 and named for Benjamin Ledyard. Its eastern boundary was that of the Cayuga Reservation extended south to the Town of Genoa. The first town meeting was held at Aurora in April 1823, and the first supervisor was Jedediah Morgan.
Aurora became an incorporated village May 15, 1887. The chief reason for its incorporation at this time was "to secure the name and prevent its appropriation by Aurora in Erie County." One of the present townships near the center of Erie County is named "Aurora.". Since Millard Fillmore was born in Summer Hill, Cayuga County, and began the study of law at Montville with Judge Walter Wood, a former leading citizen of Aurora, Cayuga County, it has been stated by some, erroneously, that he began his law practice here. He began it, however, in the Town of Aurora, Erie County, as Fillmore, himself states definitely in his autobiography, and he continued his practice there for seven years until he moved permanently to Buffalo.
ORGANIZATIONS & BUSINESSES
VII. The Steam Mill and Early Inventions.
Since the plow has always been a most valuable farm implement, these early inventions of plows made in or near Aurora were of prime importance. The first patent granted to a resident of Cayuga County was obtained on a plow by Roswell Tousley, January 11, 1812. Roswell Tousley, a blacksmith, came to Aurora from Manlius about 1806. Plow patents were granted also to Mathew Patrick of the Town of Scipio, June, 1813; to Jonathan Swan, an Aurora merchant, July 5, 1814; to Jedediah Morgan, a farmer and later State Senator, and J. B. Harris, a blacksmith, October 11, 1814. No details of any of these patents have been preserved since the U. S. Patent Office burned in 1836. It is probable however; that all were improvements of the "bull plow" then in general use, since, in 1816, Jonathan Swan and Roswell Tousley were granted a further patent on this type of plow. The bull plow had a wooden moldboard to which were attached strips of sheet iron with an edge and point of tempered wrought iron.
The most important plow invention of the nineteenth century also occurred near Aurora at this time. This was Jethro Wood's invention of an all iron moldboard and share which is still being used without substantial change except in the quality of the metal.
Jethro Wood (1774-1834) moved with his parents to Scipio in 1800. He lived in a farmhouse on the Poplar Ridge road about three miles east of Aurora. The first patent to Jethro Wood was granted July 1, 1814 and the Anal one, September 1, 1819. His plow had a cast iron moldboard shaped so that all parts of it would be subjected to equal pressures. He profited very little financially from his invention. William H. Seward said of him, "No man has benefited his country more and no man has been so inadequately rewarded." Many manufacturers in this country and abroad immediately copied his plow. All attempts to enforce his patent rights failed. Finally after his death and just before the expiration of the patent, the courts decided that the improvements in the plow then in general use that rendered it so effective were due solely to Jethro Wood and that all manufacturers must pay his heirs for the privilege of making it. This belated decision, however, was of little avail, as the patent soon expired despite attempts of the heirs to renew it.
Jethro Wood wanted to extend the usefulness of his invention as widely as possible, so he presented one of his plows to the Czar of Russia. At that time, Russia was the chief grain exporting country of the world. This plow was of inestimable benefit to Russian agriculture.
The story of "The Ring and the Plow" was published in The New York Tribune a quarter of a century later. It reveals another instance in which Jethro Wood was deprived of his just rights.
During the year 1820, Jethro Wood sent one of his plows to Alexander I, Emperor of Russia, and the peculiar circumstances attending the gift and its reception termed a large part of the newspaper gossip of the day. Wood, though a man of cultivation intellectually as well as agriculturally, was not familiar with French, which was then as now the diplomatic language. So he requested his personal friend, Dr. Samuel Mitchell, President of the New York Society of Natural History and Sciences, to write a letter in French to accompany the gift.
The Autocrat of all the Russias received the plow and letter and sent back a diamond ring, which the newspapers declared to be worth from $7,000 to $15,000, in token of his appreciation. By some indirection, the ring was not delivered to the donor of the plow, but to the writer of the letter, and Dr. Mitchell instantly appropriated it to his own use. Wood appealed to the Russian Minister at Washington for redress. The Minister sent to his Emperor and asked to whom the ring belonged and Alexander replied that it was intended for the inventor of the plow. Armed with this authority, Wood again demanded the ring of Mitchell. But there were no steamships or telegraphs in those days and Mitchell declared that in the long interval in which they had been waiting to hear from Russia, he had given it to the cause of the Greeks who were then rising to throw off the yoke of their Turkish oppressors. A newspaper of that time calls Mitchell's course "an ingenious mode of quartering on the enemy," and the inventor's friends seem to have believed that the ring had been sold for his benefit. At all events, it never came to light again and Wood, a peaceful man and a Quaker by profession, did not push the matter further.
In addition to being the first patentee in this vicinity, Roswell Tousley built the old Steam Mill later purchased by Wells College. It is in the well-known 1848 lithograph, "Aurora from the North Poplars," and occurs in all views of the Aurora lakefront.
Roswell Tousley erected this three-story stone building in 1817 to house the first steam flourmill west of the Hudson River. Steam was a new source of power in 1817 ten years after the first steamboat and twelve years before the first steam locomotive. The pioneers had become accustomed to mills run by waterpower. Evidently while the mill was being built, many had expressed doubts that steam could do the job, so when the mill was completed, this advertisement appeared in a weekly paper.
The Advocate of the People, published at Auburn, December 3, 1817.
The Steam Mill, which I built at Aurora, that has excited so much anxiety, is now in motion, and goes and grinds to my satisfaction. All persons can view it for themselves, and are at liberty to publish its merits.
AURORA NOVEMBER 27, 1817 Roswell Tousley
A week later, this editorial was published in the same paper.
The Steam Mill at Aurora recently built by Judge Roswell Tousley, is we understand, in full operation with two runs of stone. The great expense attending the construction and building of this mill has been such that all persons who feel an interest in the welfare of their country, cannot but wish the enterprising and persevering proprietor that success which he is so eminently entitled to. Much credit is also due to the ingenious Mr. Curtis who is the inventor of the steam engine and has been the principal overseer of the building.
The two Auburn Newspaper articles were given to the author by John J. Maloney, a former Aurora citizen now living in Auburn, who has preserved much valuable Aurora data.
In addition to his steam flourmill, Roswell Tousley had a blacksmith shop, a shoe shop, a tannery and a furnace. It is claimed that Jethro Wood cast his first iron plow in Tousley's furnace in Aurora.
It would be gratifying to be able to say that this early steam flourmill was a financial success. It was not, however. Evidently the building and machinery cost so much that they could not be paid for. The mill failed and with it the other Tousley enterprises. The machinery was sold and moved away and the Steam Mill became a warehouse, retaining only its name to indicate its origin. It was soon purchased by Christopher Morgan and his son, Edwin B. Morgan and served them as a storehouse for grain and produce bought in the surrounding country and shipped to New York City via Lake Cayuga, the canals and the Hudson River. It continued to serve succeeding generations, convenient to both lake and railroad. It was last owned by Sanford G. Lyon and heirs before its purchase by Wells College.
VIII. Cayuga Academy and Brier Cliff School
In 1798 the inhabitants of Aurora and vicinity decided to build a school. A committee was appointed to raise funds, select the site and secure the services of a builder. General Benjamin Ledyard gave the north half of his front lawn for the site. The first building of Cayuga Academy was begun in 1799 and completed the following year.
The first public meeting ever held in Cayuga Academy was a memorial service for George Washington on February 22, 1800, less than three months after his death. General Ledyard delivered the eulogy and the Reverend Seth Williston, the sermon. Seventeen young ladies represented the seventeen states.
In the autumn of 1800, Cayuga Academy opened "with a respectable number" of students. A few months later, several of the inhabitants of Aurora applied to the Regents of the State of New York for a charter of incorporation of Cayuga Academy. The charter, signed by Governor John Jay was granted March 23, 1801. The Charter Trustees were: Seth Phelps, President, Benjamin Ledyard, Welter Wood, Seth Sherwood, John Tillotson, Thomas Hewitt, Benjamin Dey, Silas Hutchinson, Jonas Whitney, Silas Halsey, Wilhemus Mynderse, Thomas Mumford, John L. Hardenberg, Ezekiel Sales, and Elijah Price.
The original building burned in the autumn of 1805 while the Academy was in session. At that time, Glen Cuyler was surrogate of Cayuga County. His office was a small building near the Academy and was the former clerk's office built by General Ledyard. Mrs. Cuyler" without hesitation threw open the doors of her own parlor, that apartment so choice in woman's estimation, into which she permitted the clerk's office to he removed." Thus the office building was made immediately available to the Academy and was used for instruction until a second Academy Building, also of wood, was erected the following year.
In 1809 the Cayuga Boarding school was opened in Aurora "for the reception of young ladies in connection with the Cayuga Academy." This was the first school for girls in Aurora. The Cayuga Academy instructors taught its students. Thus Cayuga Academy became coeducational at so early date. A "Quarter Bill of Cayuga Academy for the quarter commencing 13 March and ending 17 June 1820 including 2 weeks vacation" contains the names of twenty-one boys and fourteen girls.
"The Post-Village of Aurora has a flourishing academy, about fifty houses, a post Office and a small library. The Cayuga Academy is an eligible situation for the education of such youth as me absorbed in the grosser pleasures of more populous Towns and the price of board in respectable families is fixed at $1.25 to 91.75 cents per week." Thus eulogized H. G. Spafford in his 1813 Gazetteer of the State of New York.
The first scholarship fund in Aurora was a legacy of $1,000 given Cayuga Academy by Judge Waiter Wood in 1827. He directed that this money be invested and the return from it used to educate worthy boys at the Academy. The Waiter Wood Fund is still part of the estate of Cayuga Lake Academy.
The early principals of Cayuga Academy were: John fly, 1801-1811; Rev. Salmon P. Strong, 1812-1815 and 1820-1829; Rev. Medad Pomeroy, 1816-1819; Daniel D. Page, 1819-1820; Salem Town, 1829-1835.
Salem Town (1779-1864) was graduated at Middlebury College in 1805 and received the A. M. degree there in 1807. In 1829 at the age of fifty, he moved with his family to Aurora and became Principal of Cayuga Academy. Soon after his arrival he began writing textbooks, chiefly spelling books and readers. The book for which he was best known was his "Analysis of the English Language" which ran through more than thirty editions and was used in schools for fifty years, 1835-1885. It is estimated that more than one million of his books mere used. In 1835, due to a long illness, Salem Town resigned as Principal, but remained in the Academy as "Teacher of Philology and Lecturer on Ancient and Modern History and the Origin and Progress of the Arts and Sciences." Although his chief interest was in English, he was evidently well qualified in science as shown by the fact that in 1863 at the age of 84 he gave a series of lectures on Astronomy at Indiana Asbury College (now Depauw University), Greencastle, Indiana. When he retired in 1850 he became President of the Board of Trustees of Cayuga Academy. At Ithaca, New York, in April 1843, Salem Town was the chief instructor at the first Teacher's Institute held in America, Largely due to the reputation of Salem Town as a teacher Cayuga Academy became well known beyond its immediate neighbor hood. Students came to it from states as far away as Illinois and Kentucky.
In 1836 the small wooden Academy building was moved to the north side of Sherwood Road and a much larger brick building was erected. The old building on Sherwood Road was the Methodist Church of Aurora for fifty years, after which it was moved to Levanna and is now the Levanna Chapel.
The 1841 catalog contains the names of ten teachers and 208 students of Cayuga Academy. There were also 44 in the primary department making a total of 252 students. Of the 208, 138 were "Gentlemen" and 70 "Ladies." The catalog contains the following statements: "The village of Aurora, although easy of access by rail road and steamboat, is retired and very justly celebrated for the morality and kindness of its inhabitants. No groceries, eating houses or other improper places of resort are permitted to be kept." "Young men are fitted for any of the colleges." (In 1841 young women did not attend college). "Recitations commence at five o'clock in the morning and are continued one hour each." "Departments. There are a Primary, a Higher English, a Mathematical, and a Classical." "Tuition, from $3.00 to $5.00 per term." "Good board and lodging may be obtained at the Academy Boarding House at $1.50 per week." "Little or no pocket money is necessary as there are no places in which it may be spent for useless and injurious articles."
During the early forties, one of the students at Cayuga Academy was Ely Samuel Parker, a Seneca Indian, later a sachem. During the Civil War he became a Brigadier General on General Grant's staff. He copied the final draft of the surrender terms, delivered it to General Lee and brought back Lee's acceptance. In 1869 President Grant appointed him U.S. Commissioner of Indian Affairs. In 1845 the citizens of Cayuga County subscribed to a fund to send his sister, Caroline Parker, to Cayuga Academy. She became very active in the education of her people and was later known as "The Queen of the Senecas."
In 1856 a four-story brick addition was built on the front of the older brick building. It contained classrooms, a library, a laboratory, and dormitory rooms. E. B. Morgan gave $5,000 to endow the library.
In 1860 the name of Cayuga Academy was changed to Cayuga Lake Academy. The attendance during the Civil War was temporarily reduced. Twenty-six Academy students volunteered as soldiers in the U. S. Army.
In the spring of 1882, the Trustees accepted the proposition of Colonel J. C. Wright, Principal of Peekskill Military Academy, to change Cayuga Lake Academy into a military school. Cayuga Lake Military Academy opened the following September. A year later a large wooden addition at the back was built. The military school prospered for a time but was discontinued shortly before 1900.
During several years prior to World War I, Albert Somes conducted a private school in the Academy building. In 1920 the building was remodeled for the public school of Aurora and vicinity. The local public school, now called Cayuga Lake Academy, continued to use the Academy building for twenty-five years until April 19, 1945, when it was destroyed by fire.
The proposed site of the Cayuga County Court House east of Court and facing Front (now Lafayette) Street is shown on the 1805 Humphrey Howland map of Aurora. Waiter Wood built this structure in his effort to keep the county seat at Aurora. It was an inn until 1815 when it became a Friends school for girls, conducted by Ass and Ruth Potter. The school accepted girls from both Quaker and non-Quaker families. Judge Elijah Miller of Auburn sent his two daughters, Lisette (afterward Mrs. Alvah Worden) and Frances Adelaide (afterward Mrs. William H. Seward) to this school. In his autobiography, William H. Seward wrote that his wife received part of her early training "in an excellent school in her own county conducted under the care of the Society of Friends."
Susanna Marriott, an English Friend, came in 1820 to take charge of this school. Miss Marriott, an orphan, came to America in 1793 at the age of 17. She first lived in the home of her brother near Philadelphia and cared for his motherless children. Later she became a teacher. She was an ardent abolitionist and would use none of the products of slave labor. She once told Miss Emily Howland that she erred only in the use of paper, which was a necessity in her vocation. Paper in those days was made from discarded cotton cloth. Miss Marriott partially eased her conscience by adopting this point of view, "Paper, being made of cotton that has done one work, costs no increase of unrequited toil.
The school, now known as Brier Cliff, prospered under Miss Marriott's able management and girls came to it from many parts of central New York. Many girls without means to pay for an education were received at Brier Cliff and given board and tuition in return for whatever assistance they could render.
This was the "female School" to whose students Waiter Wood bequeathed the use of his pew. He disposed of the Brier Cliff building as follows: "Also I give and devise to my Daughter Matilda (Mrs. Eleazer Burnham) the house and lot and all the buildings thereupon in the village of Aurora, now occupied by Susannah Marriott and which lays East of the highway leading northerly from Jonathan Swans."
When Susanna Marriott left Aurora about 1835, Brier Cliff was taken over by Rebecca Bunker. The school was discontinued three or four years later.
During the forties, the building was used for an entirely different purpose. It was a gambling house, an Aurora casino, known as "The Castle," which drew patrons from almost as wide an area as had the school. Still later, it was a home for unemployed Irish immigrants. Shortly after 1870 it was torn down and replaced by a residence for Henry Morgan's gardener.
IX. The Aurora Gazette.
In the spring of 1805, two English newspapermen, Henry and James Pace came to Aurora. They brought their well-worn type with them and began publishing The Aurora Gazette, a weekly newspaper, on Wednesday, June 19, 1805. This was the third newspaper in Cayuga County, the first having been The Levanna Gazette and Onondaga Advertiser, printed in 1798 at Levanna; the second, the Western Luminary, Watkins Settlement (Scipioville) 1801.
No copy of the first issue of The Aurora Gazette is known to exist. Fortunately, however, William H. Bogart, builder of Wavebank house, author of several books and many newspaper articles, and a charter trustee of Wells College, preserved a clipping from the first issue in one of his many valuable scrapbooks, and in his policy statement Pace decried the actions of those printers "who make news in their own closets!" He promises to faithfully and impartially record, but states that he is compelled to produce the "earliest account" and has "no time to reflect upon the improbability of the information, or to compare it with other accounts, or dates. Besides, this precious news is generally fabricated to answer political purposes, and it must find admission, at all events. "
Two dollars per Annum was the price for his Wednesday weekly issue, in quarterly payments.
The oldest known copy of The Aurora Gazette is Vol. 1 no. 35, dated February 12, 1806 and the latest, Vol. 3, no. 146, June 17, 1808. Both of these are in the Wells College Library. The Aurora Gazette was published for a period of more than three years.
While Aurora was still the county seat, the legal advertisements appeared in this paper:
November 20, 1807
By virtue of a writ of testatum fleri facias residium, issued out of the Supreme Court of Judicature of the state of New York, to me directed and delivered, against the goods and chattels, lands and tenements of Henry Blateur, I have seized on and taken all the real property of the said Henry, in my baillwic, which I shah expose to sale, as the law directs, on Saturday the second day of January, next, and nine o'clock in the forenoon of said day, at the house of Daniel Avery, innholder, in the village of Aurora.
JACOB T. C. DE WITT, Sheriff.
Advertisements, most of which were local, filled almost half of each issue. Some examples of these follow.
SOME Person who understands making Scythes, Axes, Hoes, and mast kinds of country work, will meet with good encouragement, by settling and laboring at the trade in this Village, and may rely upon an extensive ran of custom and good pay. If a young Man, well recommended as to his moral conduct, inured to industry, should apply, he may be assisted with the means of carrying on the business to advantage.
Aurora, March 10, 1806 WALTER WOOD
Two Journeyman Shoe and Boot-makers, Also a smart LAD, Fourteen or Fifteen Years of Age to learn the Art of TANNING and SHOE-MAIIING.
Aurora, Sept. 23, 1807 GAYLORD & SWEET.
WHEREAS, my Wife LYDIA, has this day eloped from my bed and board, without any just cause OF provocation; These are, therefore, to forbid any person or persons harboring or trusting her on my; account, as I am determined not to pay any debts for her contracting after this date.
Milton, 31st October, 1807 JACOMIAH SMITH
The printer used other means to eke out a living, as witness:
For Sale at the Aurora Printing Office, Doctor Solomons' Jaundice Bitters -- effectual in removing those sleepy, dull sensations so common in the spring season. Price fifty cents per box.
When the county seat was moved to Auburn, the Pace brothers soon followed and on June 7, 1809 they began publishing The Western Federalist, Auburn's first newspaper. Their paper became unpopular during the War of 1812 largely because they were English. In 1817, two other papers having appeared, The Western Federalist suspended publication. One of its successful rivals was The Auburn Gazette.
X The Masons: Scipio Lodge 110.
On December 1, 1795, thirteen settlers of this vicinity petitioned the New York Grand Lodge for a Masonic lodge at Aurora. In response to this petition, which is still preserved in the Grand Lodge archives, Scipio Lodge No. 58 was chartered March 22, 1797. This was the first Masonic Lodge established in the Military Tract. The three highest charter officers, Seth Sherwood (for whom the village of Sherwood was named), Comfort Tyler and John Tillotson, had all been officers in the Revolution. Scipio, Lodge No. 110 in Aurora now operates under the original charter of 1797 signed by Grand Master Robert R. Livingston, a member of the committee that wrote the Declaration of Independence.
Scipio Lodge No. 58, F. & A. M., had its first permanent lodge room in the original Cayuga Academy building which burned in October 1805. Immediately following: the fire, Scipio Lodge appointed a committee "to look out a suitable place in the village of Aurora and procure the same and thereon to erect a building twenty feet by twenty-eight feet, two stories high ...... all to be done in a plain but workmanlike manner and finished as soon as circumstances will permit." The chairman of this committee was Dr. Frederic Delano and the "suitable place" procured was the southwest corner of the lot on which his dwelling and drug store stood. Within a year after the fire, the Masonic Hall was completed. The first meeting of Scipio Lodge was held in it on October 27, 1806. Christopher Morgan wrote the minutes of this meeting, which was attended by forty members. This building is now the front two-story part of the "Chimney Corner." It is the oldest existing building erected by a Masonic Lodge in the State of New York.
Jonathan Richmond and his two personal friends, Christopher Morgan and Jedediah Morgan, were leaders in politics, business, and Masonry in Aurora. Christopher Morgan had the Morgan Store, the business center of the community. Jedediah Morgan lived on his farm three miles south of Aurora until 1822 when he moved to the village.
These three friends were the leaders in the organization of Aurora Chapter No. 64, Royal Arch Masons, chartered February 3, 1819. They became the three highest officers in the new chapter and continued in these same offices for seven years. Although Scipio Lodge No. 58, F. & A. M., had erected in 1806 a Masonic Hall the members of the Chapter decided to build a separate hall for themselves. On July 3, 1819, Jedediah Morgan, Christopher Morgan, and Jonathan Richmond signed a contract (in the handwriting elf Christopher Morgan) with Jacops Hovey, an architect of Phelps, New York, and a member of Aurora Chapter No. 64, to build a Chapter Hall. The contract states that the building is to be erected "according to the understanding of the said Jacops and the contracting party who have that confidence in Jacops Hovey as a Mason and as a mechanic as to believe that he will not slite or turn off any necessary work that ought to be done to render the building reasonably ornamental or useful."
The cornerstone was laid by DeWitt Clinton August 18, 1819, before a large assemblage. At that time, DeWitt Clinton was Governor of New York, Grand Master of Masons in the State of New York and General Grand High Priest of the General Grand Chapter of the United States. The land was not formally purchased until after the building was begun. The deed dated October 8, 1819, to Jedediah Morgan, Christopher Morgan, and Jonathan Richmond, acting for the Chapter, is for "the land on which the Aurora Chapter Hall is now being built."
The building was completed in March 1820. Long before this it had become evident that the cost would far exceed the original estimate, so the Chapter invited Scipio Lodge No. 58 to share the building and also the expense of its erection. Even so, the final cost must have been startling. In the contract it had been agreed to pay Jacops Hovey $200 as architect and builder and $750 for all building expenses. Hovey turned in an itemized bill for materials and labor (in addition to his 9200 fee) totaling $1,748.26, one thousand dollars more than the original estimate As much of that as possible was raised by subscription. For the remainder, two notes were given jointly by the Lodge and Chapter, one to Jacops Hovey for $205.60 and one to Jedediah Morgan, Christopher Morgan and Jonathan Richmond for $486.79. The final payment on the first note was made in 1823 and on the second two years later. The building was never mortgaged and was fully paid for five years after its completion.
This building, now the Aurora Masonic Temple, is the oldest existing building in the State erected by a Royal Arch Chapter. The lodge room, decorated with Masonic emblems, is a "room within a room." A set of detailed drawings and photographs of both. the interior and exterior was published in The Architectural Review, vol. 5 (1917). A description of it also has been placed in the Library of Congress by the Historic Buildings Survey. The design of the Masonic Temple is a harmonious combination of delicate quaintness and charm with more sturdy characteristics, affording as a whole a unique and beautiful pattern of early American architecture. Professor W. S. Rusk has called it "Aurora's chief claim to architectural fame."
XI. The Churches
THE Presbyterian CHURCH
In The History of Western New York, written in 1848 by the Rev. James H. Hotchkin, himself a pioneer minister in this region, the origins of the early churches in Central New York are described. One of these was the church that later became the Presbyterian Church of Aurora.
The Reverend Seth Williston, a Congregational minister sent to the area by the General Association of Connecticut, in 1800 assisted in organizing a Congregational Church in the Town of Scipio which later became the first Presbyterian Church of Scipio and finally, the Presbyterian Church of Aurora. There was no church building at first. The original congregation was small and services were held usually at the homes of members.
In January 1804, certain Congregational churches in the Military Tract organized "The Middle Association of the Military Tract and its Vicinity." The record book has been lost, but the organizing churches probably were those of Aurelius, Skaneateles, Pompey, Homer, ·Genoa and Scipio. The Association existed until 1811, when it merged with the Cayuga and Onondaga Presbyteries. The change from Congregational to the Presbyterian denomination was occasioned by the gradual relatively greater increase of Presbyterians over Congregationalists. This change was one of mutual agreement among the members and leaders of the two denominations. About 1803, the Rev. Hezekiah North Woodruff became pastor of the Scipio Church and continued as pastor until he moved to Auburn ten years later. He resided in Aurora and the services of the Scipio Church were held alternately in Aurora and on "The Ridge." This church was received into the Cayuga Presbytery early in 1811 as the First Presbyterian Church of Scipio.
Members of the First Presbyterian Church of Scipio organized on August 21, 1818, the "First Presbyterian Society in the Village of Aurora." In Stroke's History of Cayuga County (1879), it is stated that this reorganization was chiefly a change in name from Scipio to Aurora, so that the Aurora Church was a continuation of the First Church of Scipio. The Aurora Church was received into the Cayuga Presbytery on September 22, 1818, at a meeting held in Aurora; at a second meeting on the next day, Rev. James G. Ogilvie was ordained and installed the first pastor of the Presbyterian Church of Aurora.
The erection of the church was begun immediately and the cornerstone was laid on December 28, 1818. A drawing of this church, a beautiful wooden structure with a tall, slender steeple, hangs in the present church. The name of the architect has not been found, but it is possible that it was Jacops Hovey of Phelps, N. Y. He designed many churches in Central New York. A few years ago, Hovey's great-great nephew, while visiting the author, saw the drawing of the original church and said, "That certainly has the characteristics of a Hovey church." Jacops Hovey was the architect and builder of the Aurora Masonic Temple, which he began in the summer of 1819. It is possible, therefore, that he came to Aurora to build the original Presbyterian Church and remained to build the Aurora Masonic Temple.
The following were pastors of the Presbyterian Church from 1823 to 1863: Asa K. Buel, E. N. Nichols, Henry R. Hoisington, Chauncey Cook, James Richards, Jr., Charles N. Mattoon, Richard Dickinson, Henry Webster Parker (Ordained in Aurora by the Cayuga Presbytery), William R. Chapman, P. P. Burnham and Daniel H. Temple.
From 1825-29, there was no regular pastor. Medad Pomeroy, Salmon P. Strong and George Alien were occasional preachers. The first two of these were principals of Cayuga Academy.
The original church was destroyed by fire, and Salem Town laid the cornerstone for the present edifice July 31, 1860. The master builder, Samuel D. Mandell, received twenty shillings ($2.50) per day. Henry R. Menzie, an Aurora stone mason worked 114 ¾ days at 18/ ($2.25) per day. The wages of the other workmen varied according to the type of work done.
The two round windows in the west end evidently were first filled with clear glass. Henry Morgan purchased the stained glass now in them from the Royal Glass Painting Establishment, Munich, Germany while abroad. In a letter from this firm to Henry Morgan occurs the statement, "I trust that these works will fully meet your expectations as they have been carefully executed in the style of very early Gothic and upon the principles of glass painting of that period for which this establishment is particularly noted." Henry Morgan wrote E. B. Morgan from Madrid, November 30, 1867: "I bought in Munich two round windows for the west end of our Church and they have been forwarded to the care of Mr. Garvin. I think they will look right and keep out the glare of the sun in the summer." The upper window was covered on the inside when the church was re-modeled in 1970.
Three years after the church was completed, the steeple was de signed and erected by Samuel D. Mandell. It was completed December 22, 1864 at a cost of $4591.82. Miss Annie McGreevey told the author that on the day the steeple scaffolding was to be torn down, Samuel D. Mandell's 77 year-old father, Samuel Mandell, climbed to the top of the scaffold to get a view of the village from that height.
The clock was purchased from Alonzo Taylor, New York City, in May 1865. His bill to E, B. Morgan is for "One Tower Striking Clock, 3 wood dials, $550."
The church building complete with steeple cost about $28,800 of which about $22,000 was given by E. B. and Henry Morgan. While recognizing the fact that such a structure could not have been erected without the generous aid and vital interest of the two Morgan brothers, the subscription list shows that many contributed substantial sums. A number of the contributors, moreover, were members of other denominations or not members of any church. Many others labored and planned whose names are not recorded. The Aurora Presbyterian Church has served the village through the years, accepting wholeheartedly into its congregation those of many faiths. Its stately edifice is a monument to all who helped to build it.
Henry Morgan presented the first pipe organ, built by Samuel Hamill, Cambridge, Mass., to the church about 1866. In 1869 E. B. Morgan purchased a small pipe organ for the session house, also from Samuel Hamill. The session house was a brick building on the south side of the church with no connecting corridor. It was torn down in 1910 and replaced by the present chapel. A rose window from the session house was saved at the insistence of Mrs. Sewall. It is on the east wall and is visible from the outside, but not from the inside. With no light shining through it, its colors are lost.
The two marble medallions were modeled in Aurora by the well-known sculptor, Erastus Dow Palmer. The Salem Town medallion, made in 1863, was placed in the church in 1870; the Samuel Mandell medallion was made in 1872. The bronze plate commemorating the Ledyard Civil War soldiers who gave their lives was erected in 1872 by E. B. Morgan. He also gave the W. W. Howard memorial tablet in 1874.
One of the two memorial windows is inscribed to "Roswell Franklin, first settler in the village. Chosen elder in this church, 1810." This was Roswell Franklin, Jr. (1768-1840?) son of the first settler, Roswell Franklin (1740?-1792) for whom the first house was built in 1789. The other window is inscribed, "To Rachel Dix Temple, the first missionary lady from this to the Holy Land, died 1827." Rachel Dix Temple was a sister of Governor John A. Dix, and the mother of Daniel H. Temple, pastor, 1856-63.
The pews still bear the original nameplates. Henry Wells and family occupied the, two in the southwest corner. Salem Town and Charles Campbell had the two center front pews. Behind Salem Town's pew was one reserved for the pastor's family. E. B. Morgan, Henry Morgan, Otis Howe, Thomas Could, James Avery, Richard Morgan, Samuel Mandell, W. S. and W.W. Allen and W. H. Bogart had pews on the center aisle; Nancy Morgan, W. J. Morgan, and Patrick Sliney on the north aisle.
Wells College is mentioned for the first time in the church account book as follows: "Dec, 16, 1868, Wells Seminary, Eight seats per W. Howard, President. (half year) $76.00." The Lady Principal (later, the dean) accompanied the students to church This custom was continued through Dean Piutti's administration. The students sat in the first five rows and Dean Piutti sat with the seniors in the Henry Wells pews.
In 1867-68, the Manse, (formerly Isaac Wood's residence purchased for the church about 1840) was remodeled at a cost of $7,859.36 of which E. B. Morgan paid $5,239.57 and Henry Morgan, $2,619.79. Local tradition says that the Manse was made up of two old houses put together but whether this occurred in 1840 or 1867-8 cannot be proved.
In 1870, E. B. and Henry Morgan gave the church $14,500 and $5,500 respectively to provide a permanent endowment of $20,000. During the decade, 1860-70, the gifts of these two Morgan brothers to the Presbyterian Church of Aurora totaled more than $50,000.
Since 1863, the Presbyterian Church has had these pastors: William W. Howard, 1863-71; Thomas C. Strong, 1871-75; William Aikman, 1877-81; William A. Barr 1881-85; S. T. Clarke, 1883-85; J. R. Wills, 1886-89; Henry Schlosser, 1891-98; Grenville P. Sewall, 1901-20; Robert S, Axtell, 1920-25; Charles H. Walker, 1926-34; Frederick H. Allen, Jr., 1935-39; Harris B. Stewart, 1939-57; Robert E. Herst, 1957-68; Richard F. Kuenkler, 1968-.
W. W. Howard was Principal of Erasmus Hall Academy, Flatbush, Long Island, when he accepted the call to Aurora. The pastor's salary at that time, $700, probably was less than Mr. Howard could afford to accept. E. B. Morgan, Henry Morgan, and Henry Wells each contributed $100 making his annual salary $1,000. In 1868 W. W. Howard became the first president of Wells College, but resigned at the end of the academic year. In September 1869, perhaps to make up for the loss of his salary as president, E. B. and Henry Morgan added $600 more to his salary as pastor. Mr. Howard died in July 1871. The next pastor, Thomas C. Strong, became the third president of Wells College in 1873, serving until he resigned from both positions in 1875.
G. P. Sewall holds the record for longest service, nineteen years, and Harris B. Stewart was a close second with eighteen.
Since January 1969, the congregations of the Presbyterian Church and St. Paul's Episcopal Church have worshipped together as The United Ministry of Aurora.
ST. PATRICK'S ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH
In August 1656, Father René Menard, a French Jesuit missionary, arrived at the Cayuga Indian village of Goiogouen, which was located on the north bank of Great Gully three miles east of the lake. A rough chapel of bark was built by the Indians and, in this structure, Mass was first celebrated in the Aurora area. That temporary chapel, constructed in two days, was in sharp contrast to the brick building of Romanesque design that we know as St. Patrick's Church.
Several Jesuits toiled among the Cayugas during the time of French influence. The French and the English were at war intermittently during the 1700s, the two nations vying not only for possession of land but the allegiance of the native inhabitants. BY the terms of a treaty concluded in Paris in 1763, France was vanquished and relinquished all claim to the country of the Iroquois Nations. During the Revolutionary War the Cayugas sided with the English. Indian raids against the colonists along the frontiers of New York prompted the Sullivan Expedition in the summer of 1779, at which time the three Indian villages near Great Gully and the village of Chonodote, Peach Town, where Aurora is today, were destroyed. After the destruction of their homes and crops the Cayuga Indians were forced to flee, some seeking refuge with other nations, some going to Canada and eventually to 'Wisconsin.
In the 1820s and 1830s a number of Catholic newcomers settled in Cayuga County. The Erie Canal, in operation since 1825, and the New York Central Railroad, which reached Auburn in 1835, opened the area to immigration. One of the first Catholic families in Aurora was that of Andrew and Ann McGordon. A son, James, was born in Aurora on October 4, 1834. It is believed that the first Mass was celebrated in the village on January 26, 1841, at the McGordon home then located on the east side of Main Street across from the Aurora Inn. In the years before a priest came to Aurora, Catholics of the area traveled to Auburn or Seneca Falls to worship and were visited periodically by priests who were probably pastors of Holy Family Church in Auburn. The first pastor of Aurora was the Rev. William Quigley (1851-52). Mass continued to be celebrated in private homes until 1855, when Father Nicholas Byrne, the second pastor of Aurora, purchased, from Thomas Callan, a house and lot on Dublin Rill that became the St. Agnes' Church property. St. Michael's Church, Union Springs, was completed while Father Byrne was pastor. During the pastorate of Father John Touhy (1856-64), St. Agnes' Church was enlarged. The early priests of Aurora served the Catholics of a wide area, in the townships of Aurelius, Springport, Ledyard, Scipio, Venice and Genoa with private homes in Cayuga, West Scipio, East Scipio, West Genoa and East Genoa designated as stations where Mass was celebrated.
In the fall of 1872, ground was broken for St. Patrick's Church. The Rev. Eugene Pagani (1871-77) was then pastor. Father Bernard McCool (1864-70) had purchased the land from Colonel Edwin B. Morgan in 1870. An additional lot to the south was acquired in early 1873 to provide for a church lawn. The Rt. Rev. Bernard J. McQuaid, Bishop of Rochester, presided at the laying of the cornerstone on July 6, 1873 and returned to Aurora on October 11, 1874 for the dedication. The structure built of brick and trimmed with cut stone, cost $8,200.00 to complete. Parishioners donated the stained glass windows. Eighteen pastors have served the Catholic parish in Aurora. In 1817, the Rev. Thomas A Hendrick was assigned to the parishes in Union Springs, Aurora and Cayuga. During his fourteen years as pastor he was successful in removing the debt incurred in building St. Patrick's Church. In 1883, land at the north edge of the village was purchased from Henry Morgan to be used as St. Patrick's cemetery. St. Agnes' Church building on Dublin Hill was sold to sons of Andrew McGordon in 1889 and subsequently moved to the west side of Main Street, opposite the library, where it served as a hall until destroyed by fire around 1900. Horse sheds were built on the site of the old church. In 1903, while pastor of St. Bridget's Church in Rochester, Father Hendrick was named the first American Bishop of the diocese of Cebu, Philippine Islands. Death from cholera came to this well respected man in 1909 while serving in Cebu.
Father John F. Nelligan came to the lakeside parishes in 1891. During a preceding appointment at Holy Family Church, Auburn, on September 14, 1884, Father Nelligan had the distinction of celebrating the first Mass in Auburn Prison. It was during Father Nelligan's pastorate, in 1901, that the present rectory was purchased and the priest began residing in Aurora. Numerous improvements, including a new high altar, a church basement, and installation of electric lights and sidewalks, were made to the church property during Father Nelligan's nineteen years in Aurora.
Several priests have celebrated jubilees while pastors at Aurora, In June of 1974 the Rev. Henry C. Manley, Pastor Emeritus, celebrated the golden anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood. The present pastor of St. Patrick's Church and St. Michael's, Union Springs is Father John S. Hayes.
On October 11, 1974 St. Patrick's Church celebrated the 100th Anniversary of its dedication. During these years there have been many changes both in the Church and the community it serves.
ST. PAUL’S EPISCOPAL CHURCH
Episcopal services in Aurora were first held in private homes and in the second Cayuga Academy Building. The first mention of the establishment of a church occurs in the following document:
The Rev. Amos G. Baldwin of the Protestant Episcopal church, having performed several services in Aurora since the 16th of January 1835: and it being desirable to continue his services and to establish and organize a Protestant Episcopal Church in Aurora in the Town of Ledyard as soon as can be effected, We, the undersigned, agree to pay to the Vestry of such church or to said Rev. Amos G. Baldwin, the sums set opposite to our respective names in quarterly installments for his services for one year from this date (Jan. 16, 1835) as such clergyman.
Thirty-six persons and two firms, E. B. & H. Morgan and Curtis & Marsh, pledged from $1.50 to $25, totaling $301.50.
At a meeting held February 1, 1835, in Cayuga Academy, the Rev. Amos G. Baldwin presiding, St. Paul’s Parish was organized and the following officers elected: Church Wardens, Isaac Wood and John R. Travis; Vestrymen, Jonathan Richmond, Ephraim C. Marsh, Henry Post, John E. Williams, Coral C. White, Henry Morgan, David Wright and Alvah Worden.
In 1819, Aurora Chapter No. 64, Royal Arch Masons, had built the present Aurora Masonic Temple. Jonathan Richmond was one of the leaders in this enterprise. The meeting room was on the second floor and, until 1835, the first floor, still unfinished, was Samuel Mandell’s carpenter shop. At a meeting of the Vestry of St. Paul’s in the Aurora House, February 14, 1835, Jonathan Richmond, Henry Morgan and David Wright were appointed a committee “to obtain an estimate of the expense of fitting up the lower room in the Masonic Hall for a place of public worship.” Samuel Mandell gave up the room and it was leased to St. Paul’s Church.
This lease was signed by several members of the former Scipio Lodge No. 58 and Aurora Chapter No. 64, including Jonathan Richmond, E. C. Marsh, Isaac Wood and Charles E. Shepard. Since the Lodge and Chapter had disbanded in 1830 due to Anti-Masonic agitation and were not revived until 1846, the above conveyance was made by individual Masons. It was, however, considered binding by both Lodge and Chapter and continued in effect for twenty-five years after their revival.
The sale of slips and pews, priced from $10 to $26, brought in $549.50. The deed to a pew read like a land deed. For example:
KNOW YE that for and in consideration of the sum of Twenty Six Dollars by HENRY MORGAN of the Town of Ledyard... in hand paid to the Vestry of St. Paul’s Church... the said Vestry have granted, demised and released ... unto the said Henry Morgan, Pew Number ONE in the Room of the Masonic Hall in Aurora... I, Joseph Shepard, Secretary of said Vestry ... have affixed their Common Seal at Aurora, the Twenty-third day of April in the year of our Lord, 1836.
On March 11, 1837, the Rev. Amos G. Baldwin sent the Vestry his resignation to take effect the first of May. His letter continues:
I beg leave to state that my receipts of every kind, subscriptions, donations, fees, etc., the first year was $346, and the second year $401. I take occasion to say that the salary of the Presbyterian minister of this place the last three years was $400, and a house and prerequisites, fees and donations, etc., yet he had to draw, it is affirmed, on his own resources to the amount of $250. But I need not have mentioned these facts to prove to gentlemen so well acquainted with the expense of living, how utterly inadequate has been my support the last two years and now on the third of my residence with you. Had the Missionary Stipend been granted me from the beginning, as the Vestry had official encouragement it would, the whole would have supported me and no more. This was a misfortune, but blame attaches nowhere. I received only the last quarter’s stipend of the second year, $31.25; $218.75 less than two years stipend. You will see how great a deficit this is from a small living.
For several years after Mr. Baldwin left, there was no resident rector. Services were held by rectors from nearby communities. The next resident rector, the Rev. John Leech, began his nine-year ministry in 1854. During the first year he lived in Moravia. On March 8, 1855, Charles H. Richmond offered the Vestry his farmhouse (now The Grange) for one year beginning April 1, 1855. Evidently this residence and a salary of $500 brought the Rev. Mr. Leech to Aurora. He was a strong leader both in his church and the community. On August 8, 1855 E. NV. Arms, William R. Grinnell, and Charles H. Richmond were appointed a committee “to ascertain if a convenient lot could be procured for a church.” A month later, this committee reported that Dr. Thompson’s lot on the west side of Main St. could be purchased for $900.
That the Wardens and Vestrymen of St. Paul’s Church deem it expedient to erect a Church edifice upon the lot in Aurora owned by Dr. A. Thompson. The expense of said lot and building is estimated at $7200. And that a subscription list be circulated at home and abroad with the approbation of the Bishop to raise said amount.
Although five Aurora residents, including Dr. Thompson, subscribed $500 each, a sufficient amount was not obtained, so all building plans were temporarily tabled.
Dr. Alexander Thompson was a Charter Trustee of Wells College. He was an Aurora physician from 1834 to 1869 and president of the Medical Society of the State of New York, in 1850. He is the only Cayuga County physician who has held this office during the 150 years existence of the State Society.
The Rev. Mr. Leech resigned as rector in 1863 and the Rev. E. D. Tompkins came for a year at a salary of $600. In 1865, St. Paul’s Church and Calvary Church of Northville (now King Ferry) united in calling the Rev. George Perrine “to supply both churches for one year from this date for $700 and the Missionary Stipend of $125 and his livery bill not to exceed $50, half to be raised by each Society.”
A. C. Boyer, E. W. Arms, and E. T. Brown were appointed in 1869 to confer with the vestries of Grace Church, Union Springs, and Calvary Church, Northville, in regard to obtaining a rector for all three churches. Grace and St. Paul’s churches united to call the Rev. Alfred Brown at an annual salary of $700, the livery bill to be divided between them.
At a meeting of the vestry on January 6, 1870, the rector stated that the meeting had been called to make plans for building a church in Aurora. The rector and vestrymen were appointed a committee to circulate a subscription to raise funds. In the minutes of the next meeting, we find:
Mr. John E. Williams and Mrs. Lucy Williams have donated to the Wardens
and Vestry of St. Paul’s Church in Aurora a desirable lot, being in
the southwest corner of the lot on which they reside, for the purpose
of having a church edifice erected thereon, Resolved, unanimously, that
the same be accepted for that purpose and that the thanks of said
Wardens and Vestry-men and the Congregation they represent, be and they
are hereby tendered to them for their noble, disinterested and very
generous gift. ... Resolved that we proceed to adopt a plan and proceed
with all due dispatch to erect a brick Edifice on said lot.
E. W. Arms led the subscription list with an offer of $3,000 “on condition that an equal amount be raised by others.” W. H. Bogart, A. C. Boyer, E. T. Brown, Charlotte Irving Grinnell (niece of Washington Irving), Henry Wells and Abram E. Williams subscribed $250 each and 23 others, $1200. Ten later gifts, including $577 from Dr. and Mrs. Alexander Thompson, brought the total to $6,713, including the $3,000 given by Arms.
The cornerstone of St. Paul’s Church was laid June 24, 1870, Bishop F. D. Huntington officiating. There is no date on the cornerstone, but “A. D. 1870” is carved on the keystone of the arch over the entrance. This church was designed and constructed by the Aurora architect, Samuel D. Mandell, who built the first Wells College building and the two other churches in Aurora. The solid walnut pews were made in Michigan from Mandell’s designs. They cost $375 and were given by Erastus D. Corning of Albany.
The building cost of St. Paul’s Church was $16,438.43 and the furnishings amounted to $1,305.17. Of the total, $17,743.60, Mr. Arms paid $13,642.53.
The first service in St. Paul’s Church was on October 1, 1871, the Rev. Mr. Brown officiating. Mr. Brown resigned as rector, December 31, 1871, to return to his native Canada. In 1873, the Rev. William H. Casey of Trinity College, Cambridge, England, became rector. Bishop F. D. Huntington consecrated the church building on September 29, 1874.
E. W. Arms was elected treasurer of St. Paul’s Church in 1859 and junior warden in 1863, and continued in both of these offices until his death, January 15, 1877.
At a meeting of the wardens and vestrymen of St. Paul’s Church on January 20, 1877, it was unanimously resolved:
That we, the Rector, Wardens and Vestry here assembled, do solemnly declare that henceforth St. Paul’s Protestant Episcopal Church in the village of Aurora is unto the glory of God a memorial of the Christian life and character of Ebenezer White Arms and there be placed within this Church, either in brass plate or marble, an enduring record of this, our declaration.
The Albany sculptor Erastus Dow Palmer started to work on the Arms Memorial at once and it was placed in the church on the north side near the pulpit on February 27, 1878. The head of an angel symbolizes “Grief” and the inscription is in mosaic letters set in brass.
The Rev. W. H. Casey lived in Aurora for several years. His two daughters were born here and both graduated at Wells College, Mabel in 1895 and Norah in 1897. Mr. Casey moved to Union Springs in the early nineties, continuing as before to serve the Union Springs and Aurora churches.
The payment of pew rents by Wells College students to the Aurora churches was discontinued in 1923. The last such payment of $122.50 for pew rent in St. Paul’s Church the second semester of 1922-23 was the first amount credited to the fund for a new pipe organ, which was installed in 1930. The peal of bells was presented in 1922 by Wallcourt alumnae and students in memory of Mrs. Anna Goldsmith Taylor, founder and principal of the Wallcourt School. Mrs. Taylor, herself, had begun accumulating a fund to purchase the bells in 1920, the year before she died.
The Rev. Edwin G. White became rector in 1915 and served for eight years, followed by the Rev. George D. Barr in 1923-24. The Rev. Louis Jabine became rector in 1925. He and his family were the first to occupy the present rectory behind the church. Mr. Jabine resigned in 1929 and moved to Baltimore where he died in 1933. He is buried in Oak Glen Cemetery, Aurora.
The Rev. Thomas J. Collar became rector of St. Paul’s Church in 1930. He resigned in 1949, but continued to live in Aurora. In addition to his long and devoted service as rector, Mr. Collar was a skillful printer and has been of great assistance to many local organizations in this capacity. He was also a church historian, having written an excellent history of St. Paul’s Parish, and printed it as well. He was chaplain of Scipio Lodge No. 110, F. & A. M. from 1933-1972. He celebrated his 101st birthday, October 29, 1975.
The late Miss Edith P. Morgan ranks high among those faithful members who have given greatly in time, interest and devoted service to St. Paul’s Church, and no one has done so much financially for it.
In 1949, the Rev. Robert J. Page became rector and was succeeded in 1952 by the Rev. Robert W. Beggs. The Rev. Edward R. McCracken succeeded the Rev. Mr. Beggs in 1959 and remained until December 31, 1968. In the 60’s there was a strong ecumenical movement at the national level of seven Protestant churches including the Presbyterian, Episcopal, and Methodist. The Protestant churches in Union Springs, Aurora, and Scipioville were reorganized. Congregations combined and the Rev. Richard F. Kuenkler came to Aurora to serve a joint congregation of Episcopalians and Presbyterians as The United Ministry of Aurora, with regular services being held in the Presbyterian Church, beginning in January 1969.
ODIST CHURCH OF AURORA
ODIST CHURCH OF AURORA
The second Cayuga Academy building, erected of wood in 1806, was replaced by a brick structure in 1836. The 1806 Academy building was purchased by the trustees of the Methodist Church and moved to a lot north of Sherwood Road and opposite the end of Court St. The front of the church faced Sherwood Road. The deed for the church lot, size 60 x 70 feet, dated October 6, 1841, was given by Jonathan Richmond to Isaac Dwight and other trustees of the Methodist Church.
The first pastors were S. C. Phinney and Sylvester Minier in 1839. About 1845, the Aurora Church became part of a circuit including the Methodist churches in Union Springs, Fleming and Bolts Corners. Aaron Cross and Benoni Ives were the first pastors for this circuit. In 1879 Wesley Mason was pastor and the membership of the Aurora Church was about twenty-five.
The trustees of the church in 1881 purchased an additional strip of land twenty feet wide on the east side of the church lot from Henry A. Morgan. On this addition, stables were built for the protection of horses and vehicles of those attending the services.
The membership decreased until finally the church was discontinued about 1900. The church building was moved across the fields to Levanna and is now its Community Church. The lot was sold for $200 by the church trustees to Edith P. Morgan on March 12, 1904.
XII. The Aurora Inn.
The principal business district of Aurora before 1829 was at the intersection of Farmer St. (now Dublin Hill Road) and Milton (now Main) St. The present business district contained no store before 1809. In that year, Jonathan Swan opened a store in a small building on the west side of Main St. opposite Cherry Ave., then unnamed and only one block long.
In 1827, Edwin B. Morgan purchased the Morgan Store from his father, Christopher Morgan. The store building, erected in 1810, was on the northwest corner of Farmer and Milton streets, just south of Morgan House.
At about this time, E. B. Morgan decided to move the business district to its present location, where, in about six years, he erected three buildings. The first was the Morgan Store completed in 1829.
The second building was the Aurora Inn. The first reference to it so far found is in the last sentence of the minutes of the April 1833 annual meeting of the inhabitants of the Town of Ledyard: "Ad-journed to Morgan's Brick Tavern in the Village of Aurora on the first Tuesday in April 1834." The original name of this building was the "Aurora House." It was completed in the spring of 1833.
The third building, also of brick, still stands on the east side of Main St. opposite the site of the Morgan Store. It was erected in 1834 as the Aurora office building, but has since been used for various purposes.
The first manager of the Aurora House was David M. Braman of Utica. The following editorial was published in the Auburn paper, The Journal, June 12, 1833.
During a short excursion a few days since, we had the good fortune to call at the Aurora House. we say, the good fortune, for it did our hearts good to witness the regularity, neatness, and order everywhere exhibited - as well as the thousand little attentions which are paid to the comfort and convenience of travellers. Of the Village of Aurora it is unnecessary for us to say a word: It is known to our readers as one of the most delightful little retreats to be found in this section of the country - affording scenery unrivalled for its beauty; and from its situation in the midst of a rich, healthy and flourishing territory, possessing almost every advantage that could be desired - and we doubt not - the travelling community will give their most hearty approval of the present most laudable enterprise by taking this lovely village in their route. This building is situated near the bank of the Cayuga Lake, and from its several balconies on the west, furnishes an uninterrupted view of water scenery of the most enchanting kind. It has but recently been opened by Mr. D. M. Braman from Utica, who has finished it and furnished it throughout in a style of neatness and elegance scarcely surpassed by the most expensive houses of our large towns.
In the early forties, William D. Eagles purchased the Aurora House and engaged his uncle, John Eagles, to manage it for him. John Eagles came about 1840, possibly before his nephew made the purchase. A former sea captain, John Eagles (1783-1855) had had charge of a hotel in Ovid where on June 9, 1835, he entertained a "menagerie," consisting of 50 men, 70 horses, and 2 elephants. This was a forerunner of the traveling circus. W. D Eagles (1820-1854) married Nancy Richmond (1827-1917), a daughter of Jonathan Richmond. Mrs. W.D. Eagles told John Maloney that they never lived at the Aurora House, but left its management entirely to their uncle.
The author has found in an account book that the well known artist, Charles Loring Elliott (1812-1868), who was born in the Township of Scipio, was in Aurora several weeks in the autumn of 1842 painting portraits. He painted at least five portraits of the Morgans, two for E.B. Morgan, one for Henry Morgan, and two for Christopher Morgan. He received $40 for each portrait. This coincides with the statement of Miss Edith Morgan to the author that the two paintings in the Aurora Inn are portraits of John Eagles, with his spyglass, and Mrs. Eagles, painted by Elliott while here painting portraits of members of the Morgan family.
As an example of prices, in 1856 while E. B. Morgan, then a member of Congress, and his wife were in Washington, one of his sons lived at the Aurora House. The bill from Consider Carter for 171/2 weeks' board was $52.50, or $3 per week.
The Aurora House was owned by Henry Morgan when he died and was sold by his heirs, May 11, 1887, to Coral W. Smith for $2500.
When the first College building burned in 1888, the Aurora House was chartered by the Trustees and became the principal student dormitory until Main Building was completed in 1890. The students christened it, "The Wayside Inn," and that continued to be its name for many years. The addition at the back was built in 1904. Another addition (dining room and kitchen) was built in 1958.
When most of the business district, including the Morgan Store, burned in 1919, the south cornices of The Wayside Inn caught fire. Wells President K. D. Macmillan, while lying flat on the Inn roof, leaned out over the burning Morgan Store and put out the fire in the cornices with an extinguisher. At this time, the building was owned by N.L. Zabriskie. He bequeathed it to his son, R.L. Zabriskie, who deeded it to Wells College March 30, 1943. The name for several years was "The Inn," finally becoming the "Aurora Inn" in 1948.
XIII. The Morgan store.
The Morgan Store, founded by Christopher Morgan in 1801, continued in his family for 118 years until it burned in 1919. It was kept successively by sons, a grandson, and a great grandson of the founder.
Christopher Morgan (1777-1834) came to Aurora from Groton, Connecticut, in April 1800, making the journey on a colt purchased with his earnings as a school teacher. After serving as clerk of the Manhattan Bridge Co. until the completion of the bridge over Lake Cayuga, he became the assistant of his maternal uncle, Benjamin Ledyard, Clerk of Cayuga County.
In June 1801, Christopher Morgan and Cornelius Cuyler opened a store on the south lawn of Mandell House. A year later they erected a large store building where the Catholic church now stands. In 1804, they dissolved partnership, Cuyler retaining the new store and Morgan returning to the first one. Except for this brief initial period, the Morgan Store was owned solely by Christopher Morgan and his descendants.
Nancy Barber, one of
Christopher Morgan's former pupils, came to Aurora in July 1805 and on July 15,
1805, she and Christopher Morgan were married. Evidently they first lived near
the store until his home, now Morgan House, was erected.
Christopher and Nancy Morgan had six children, all sons: Edwin Barber (1806-1881), Christopher (1808-1877), Henry (1810-1887), John (1812-1840), George (1815-1891), Richard (1818-1890).
The Morgan Store was a "general store," containing goods of all kinds liquid as well as dry, as shown by the following license.
We, the Commissioners of Excise for the Town of Scipio in the County of Cayuga, in pursuance of the Statute in that case made and provided, have permitted and by these presents do permit Christopher Morgan To Sell by Retail all kinds of Strong or Spiritous liquor under five gallons, provided the Same be not drank in any House, out House, Yeard, Garden of the Said Christopher Morgan from the date of these presents until the first Tuesday of May next, Given under our Hands and Seals at Scipio, the 6th May, 1807.
Elisha Durkee, Asa Harris, Barna. Smith.
In the latter part of 1810, a hogshead of "Jamaica Spirits," shipped to Christopher Morgan from New York, was tapped en route. On arrival, Daniel Avery, the Aurora gauger, found that the "wantage" was eleven gallons.
The following bill is for a peculiar combination of goods:
Albany, Feby. 20, 1810.
Mr. Christopher Morgan bet. of Barent G. Staats,
1 pipe, 4 qts., pro. Spanish Brandy, 127 glls. 9/10 62/8/10
1 piece Red Flannel 8/8/8
In 1810, Christopher Morgan employed Hezekiah Avery to build a
"Store... thirty feet by Twenty-two, the fraim to be of good white Oak timber to be planked with 1 1/2 inch planks, to be sided with clabbeards and completely enclosed with such sized windows and doors as the said Christopher shall direct, the inside to be finished off with shelves, counters, stairs, floors laid double, and sealed up to the first shelf, and the upper story to the plates; seller floor laid with ruff beards --- all work to be done in a workmanlike manner. The said Christopher is to find the planks and spikes and all the materials except the fraim; and beard the workmen while doing the work except while putting up the fraim and planking it - and to pay the said Hezekiah two hundred and twenty Dollars, one half cash, the other half out of the store in goods, and find two Gallons of Liquor for raising the fraim."
(signed) Hezekiah Avery
In erecting a building in those days, the frame for each part of the four sides was fastened together while lying on the ground with its foot on that part of the foundation on which it was to stand. Then a sufficient number of strong men and a sufficient amount of strong liquor were brought to bear on the problem of raising the frame. When the normal strength of the men had been properly augmented by that of the liquor, the frame went up like magic and was fastened in position by the carpenters.
This building, on the northwest corner of Farmer and Milton streets, south of Morgan House, was the Morgan Store for 19 years.
An "Inventory of Debts due Christopher Morgan, April 27, 1811" contains almost four hundred names of men owing various amounts which total $21,167.29.
The bill below shows that goods were brought to Aurora by water when feasible and that Montezuma was an early rival of Syracuse in salt production.
Montezuma, 8th May, 1813
Mr. Christopher Morgan Bout. of the Cavuga Manufacturing Compy.
2 Bbl. Salt 20/ $5.00
Boating 2/ .50
Mr. Elnathan Andrews informs me that you
were in want of 2 Bbl. Salt & agreeable to your request I have sent it you
by our boat. ... I think the quality of the Salt will fully answer your purpose.
I am Respectfully Your Obt. Servt.,
Thos. Lord, Supt. for the C. M. Co.
Edwin B. Morgan became a clerk in his father's store at the age of 13 and purchased the store from his father in May 1827 at the age of 21. In 1829 he began moving the Aurora business district from the foot of Dublin Hill to its present location by erecting the building that was the Morgan Store for 90 years.
The Steam Mill was a mill for only a brief period. Situated on the edge of the lake, it made a convenient warehouse both for shipping and receiving freight. It became an especially valuable part of the Morgan Store after the Erie Canal and other canals connecting it to. Lake Cayuga were completed, making a through water route from Aurora to New York City. In 1830, Edwin B. Morgan paid his father $4500 for the lot "including the stone building commonly called the 'Steam Mill.'"
In 1831, E. B. Morgan
took his brother, Henry, as a partner and in 1838, each of them sold a portion
of his interest to another brother, George. In 1850 George sold his part to the
youngest brother Richard, and the firm name became "Morgans." For some
time, E. B. Morgan had no active part in the store, and after 1850, Richard had
charge of the "inside trade" and Henry, the "outside trade,"
which included buying and shipping produce.
While E. B. Morgan was a
Representative in Washington, Richard wrote him frequently. Excerpts from some
of his letters follow.
Jan.18, 1854. I have never heen so lonely as the last week. Mr. Wells, Bogart, Young, Henry, and everyone.gone out of town except a few old money shavers - rain, mud, wind, with a fair prospect of thunder; but little to do, not even a game of whist to while away an evening with.
Feb. 2, 54. From the first of January we have kept our warehouse book in a way that we can tell what we are selling indoors and outdoors, which is quite satisfactory to me. ... If we could so arrange our prices as to have one uniform price and no variation, sell safe customers at 4 to 6 months credit and all loose, doubtful fellows for cash. ... it is my opinion that we should make more money and it would not require one half the capital to do business with.
... To pay 9 1/2, 10, 101/2 cents for calico and sell for 11 cents and give a years credit is a hard trade.
Feb.13, 54. You have backed me up in money matters... I am ready to take the goods on my own back and do the best I can. I am not afraid but what I can keep the trade up, live and pay my debts. I am willing to work all the time to do it. It would separate the store from all outside matters of every sort ... It would lessen my anxiety about grain and other matters.
April 12, 56. We are each of us (Henry and Richard) sailing under our own colors. ... We had $16000 worth of goods, 6000 outside - too many rags altogether. ... I am under great obligations to you for the pecuniary aid you have given me - in fact my very existence depends upon it.
Thus in 1856, the store and the "outside" buying, selling and shipping became separate enterprises. Henry soon developed wider interests and the warehouses were first leased and, finally, in 1867 they were sold to E. T. Brown & Co. The wooden "railroads" which connected the warehouse to the store were removed at that time.
In 1857, the following insurance was held on store, warehouses, etc.
Two story brick store.............................................................................$2000
Stone Warehouse (Steam Mill)................................................................1000
Railroads of wood from Brick Store to Stone and Wood Warehouses .. ..700
Richard Morgan purchased E. B. Morgan's interest in the stock in 1859. In 1863, Richard's son, Christopher B. Morgan, became his partner and the firm name was "R. Morgan & Son" until Richard's death in 1890.
The following is part of an article on Aurora published in 1867.
During the warm weather the most comfortable place in town is the well stocked store of R. Morgan & Son. Everything can be found here ... from a paper of pins up, and at reasonable prices. Just back of the entrance there hangs ... a large pair of horns ... They were obtained in Palermo, Sicily, by Henry Wells, Esq., and are those of the Sicily ox. They measure from tip to tip 5 feet, 3 inches and the length of each is feet 4, inches 4.
In 1870 Christopher B. Morgan became postmaster and the Aurora Post Office was in the Morgan Store for several years.
Edwin B. Morgan deeded the store building to Christopher B. Morgan in 1879 and also bequeathed it to him in 1881.. In his later years, Christopher B. Morgan moved away from Aurora and married a second time, leaving the store in charge of his son, Henry Morgan, until it burned early in 1919. On July 22, 1919, Christopher B. Morgan sold the lot containing the foundation of the store to N. Lansing Zabriskie, who on March 10, 1926, sold it to John Vanderipe. Vanderipe erected the present building for a coffee shop and dwelling, using the foundation and a part of the north wall of the old store. R. L. Zabriskie purchased it in 1929 and after leasing it a few years in connection with the Inn, he sold it in 1942 to W. Robert Clark for his grocery. After Mr. Clark's death, it was sold by his widow in 1970 to Wells College.
XIV. Boats on Lake Cayuga.
When Roswell Franklin came from Pennsylvania with his party of settlers in 1789, they traveled down Lake Seneca in some old boats left by Sullivan's army ten years earlier. After running the rapids of the outlet into Lake Cayuga, they came up the lake to the site of Aurora. Thus the first settlers of Cayuga County came by boat on Lake Cayuga. Two years later a merchant named Lightfoot brought a boat load of goods, including tea, coffee, crockery, hardware, dry goods, gunpowder, and whiskey, up the lake, trading them for bear, beaver, deer, fox, martin and otter pelts. He built a small store near the head of the lake and continued his trips until about 1803.
The first ferry across Lake Cayuga was established by John Harris in 1788 at Cayuga. This ferry was replaced twelve years later by Cayuga Bridge. By this time there were several other ferries across the lake, such as Kidder's Ferry, King's Ferry, etc. Since the lake is so wide at Aurora, there never was a ferry here even when this village was the seat of government of all of the land surrounding the lake. Most of the ferry boats were propelled by oars, but one at Union Springs, the R. B. Howland, used steam power.
On December 15, 1819, only twelve years after Fulton's Clermont made its trial trip on the Hudson, the Cayuga Steamboat Company was organized at Ithaca, and the decision was made to build a steamboat "to ply from one end to the other of Cayuga Lake." Oliver Phelps, a stockholder in the company, superintended the building of the boat and became its first captain. The keel was laid March 18, 1820, and the steamer, Enterprise, was launched May 4, 1820, "midst the huzzas of the people and the firing of cannon." The machinery for the Enterprise was made in Jersey City and brought to Ithaca overland by teams. The boat was 80 feet long, 30 feet wide, weighed 120 tons and had a 24-horsepower engine.
The maiden trip of the Enterprise occurred on June 1, 1820, with a party of 150 guests. The boat left Ithaca at 10 A.M., and reached Cayuga at 6 P.M. after making several stops including Aurora. The Ithaca Journal of June 7, 1820, contained the following announcement.
The "Enterprise" is connected with the line of stages from Newburgh to Buffalo, and thus furnishes to travelers from New York and others going west, one of the most expeditious and pleasant routes in the State. The stage runs from Newburgh to this village (Ithaca) in two days. Thus travelers may leave New York at five o'clock P.M. in the steamboat; the second day arrive at Ithaca; go on board the steamboat "Enterprise" the same night; receive good accommodations and rest in comfortable births (sic) during the passage; resume the stage next morning at Cayuga Bridge, and the same night arrive in Buffalo, making the whole route in three days! - one day sooner than it is performed by way of Albany.
In addition to being the builder and captain of the steamboat which ran from the head of the lake to Cayuga Bridge, Oliver Phelps also built a light draft-horse boat to operate between Cayuga Bridge and the Erie Canal at Montezuma. This boat had a paddle wheel run by horses walking on a treadmill. In The American Journal, July 3, 1822, it is described as follows:
This boat is a pleasing change from the monotonous movement of the canal boats to the more animated motion of the "American Water Coach," as the proprietor has very happily named it. The conveyance in this boat is pleasant and safe. It is handsomely fitted for the accommodations of twenty or thirty passengers. It reflects great credit on the projector and proprietor, and it is to be hoped that his enterprise will be justly appreciated and rewarded.
In 1827 the Cayuga Steamboat Co. was purchased by Richard Varick DeWitt and others associated with him. In 1828 DeWitt employed William Annesley of Albany to build a new boat, the Telemachus, at Ithaca. Annesley had devised a method of hull structure that he considered much stronger than types heretofore used. A severe test of his hull occurred at Aurora about 1838. When the Telemachus was near Aurora, a violent thunderstorm suddenly arose accompanied by one of the strongest gales ever experienced here. The northwest wind raised such high waves that the spray was thrown over the top of the Steam Mill which was a short distance south of the Aurora dock. The Telemachus was lashed to the outermost pier of the dock, but the pier was demolished. The boat was driven ashore and left "high and dry" when the gale subsided. When refloated, to the astonishment of all, the hull showed no effects of the great strain to which it had been subjected. It was only necessary to get up steam in order to continue the voyage.
Annesley also built the DeWitt Clinton in 1829 and the Simeon DeWitt in 1838, both at Ithaca. The Simeon DeWitt was named for the New York Surveyor General and the founder of Ithaca. It was 152 feet long, 42 feet wide, weighed 275 tons and had a 150-horsepower engine. The builder made his own test of the strength of the hull before launching by taking out all of the blocks from under the stern end for a distance of 70 feet, leaving almost half the hull without support. No deviation whatever in the lines of the hull could be detected.
Enos Buckbee was the first captain on each of these two boats. The DeWitt Clinton burned at Ithaca, October 9, 1844. The Simeon DeWitt was cut by ice and sank at Kidder's Ferry in November 1847, but was raised and continued in service for several years. It was finally dismantled and the hull made into a wharfboat.
Captain Timothy D. Wilcox came to Ithaca about 1840 and quickly became the leader in steamboating on Lake Cayuga. At the age of fifteen he began working on the Paragon, the third boat built by Robert Fulton. For the next twenty years he was on Long Island Sound boats, becoming captain of the Fulton in 1831. He began his career on Lake Cayuga as captain of the Simeon DeWitt in 1840. From 1845 to 1875 he built several steamboats at Ithaca, in all of which he owned the controlling interest.
The first boat built by Captain Wilcox was the Howland, which burned at Ithaca in 1853. Then followed the Forest City, 1848; Kate Morgan, 1850; Aurora, 1860; Sheldrake, Ino, T. D. Wilcox (renamed Ithaca) in the sixties; and Frontenac, 1870. The Kate Morgan was the first modern passenger steamboat on Lake Cayuga. It was named for the three year old daughter of Henry Morgan of Aurora and was the most popular and successful of all Lake Cayuga steamboats.
Among his wide and
varied investments, Edwin B. Morgan of Aurora also had a part in Lake Cayuga
steamboating. In 1866 Captain Wilcox offered to sell Morgan a one third interest
in all his boats. After exchanging a few letters, Capt. Wilcox came to see E. B.
Morgan on December 10 and the next day his son S. H. Wilcox, came to Aurora
and wrote an agreement for them, arranging the sale of one-third of the
steamboats Kate Morgan, Sheldrake, Aurora, and "the new steamboat now lying
at the steamboat landing in Ithaca," for $13,000. Morgan drove a hard
bargain; the sale included "all the tackle, furniture and apparel belonging
thereto - also one-third of all the tools and other articles of personal
property belonging to or in anywise appertaining to the steamboat property on
Cayuga Lake... together with one-third interest in and to all contracts and
agreements now held... in connection with the business of steam navigation on
said Cayuga Lake." For the next four years, profits were good.
For the first five years after Wells College opened, many of the students came by rail to Cayuga or Ithaca and on by steamboat to Aurora. The boats tried to keep running at least through December, but sometimes they had to lay up before Christmas vacation because of the ice and E. B. Morgan, N. L. Zabriskie and others would take the "Seminary ladies" to Cayuga or Ithaca in sleighs.
The Cayuga Lake Railroad Co., of which Henry Wells was the first president and Henry Morgan the second, paid E. B. Morgan and T. D. Wilcox $2000 on October 1, 1873 for any rights they might have along the east shore of Lake Cayuga that affected the railroad. After the railroad began operating between Ithaca and Cayuga in 1873, steamboating on the lake ceased to be so profitable. The accounts show this, but it is shown even more forcibly by the fact that on October 21, 1875, E. B. Morgan sold his third of the steamboats back to Capt. Wilcox for $8000.
The profits in Lake Cayuga steamboating for the years 1867-70 are misleading. During those four years, no new boats were built and those running needed no extensive repairs. On September 12, 1871, E. B. Morgan received the following note from Captain T. D. Wilcox:
I have had the Aurora and Ino on drydock and upon examination of the Kate Morgan, I am of opinion that she is hardly worth such extensive repairs as she needs to make her what she ought to be for future use. What do you think of the plan of taking out her engines and breaking her up? Please let me hear from you.
And so, after only 21 years of service, the Kate Morgan was replaced by the Frontenac, built in 1870. That same year, Capt. Wilcox wrote Col. Morgan that passenger fares would have to be reduced to compete with the Cayuga Lake Railroad.
Steamboats continued to make regular trips on Lake Cayuga until 1907. In 1905 one of the three, Frontenac, Mohawk, and Iroquois, left Cayuga for Ithaca daily at 9 A.M. and 3 :30 P.M. These boats were used by Wells College students for recreation rather than travel. Groups of students, usually accompanied by the Dean, went on excursions from Aurora to Cayuga and return.
Several young ladies of Aurora, including Misses Cornelia Avery, Lydia Avery, Pearl Barnes, Grace and Marion Doughty, Estelle Gifford, Marianne and Emily King, and Molly Somes, had planned to go to Cayuga Lake Park on the Frontenac July 27, 1907 for a picnic. They were all on the Aurora dock with lunch baskets filled at the time the boat was due. The Aurora baseball team was there also on its way to play Union Springs that afternoon. An extremely high wind was blowing directly on the shore. The Frontenac did not heed the frantic waving from the dock, but churned by with no attempt to turn in and land. Perhaps the captain remembered that the Frontenac's starboard wheel had been torn off in making a similar maneuver at Union Springs during a hard blow two years before.
Less than a half hour after passing Aurora, the Frontenac caught fire. An attempt was made to beach the boat about one mile south of Farley's Point, but it grounded while still quite a distance from the shore and burned to the water's edge. Everyone on board had to leap into the water and try to make his way to shore through the high waves. Seven persons were drowned.
Meanwhile, the Aurora young people, left stranded on the dock but not to be outdone, secured a hay wagon and started overland to Union Springs. On their way they were brought to a sudden realization of how fortunate it had been for them that the Frontenac had not stopped at Aurora when they met wagons carrying the bodies of those who had been drowned in the wreck of that ill-fated steamboat.
The burning of the Frontenac marked the end of passenger steamboating on Lake Cayuga. After 87 successful years, it ended with the worst disaster in its history.
After the Erie canal was completed in 1825, many side canals were constructed including the Cayuga and Seneca Canal which connected these two lakes with the Erie Canal at Montezuma. The Cayuga and Seneca Canal Co. was chartered April 20, 1815, but little work was done until the state took over the construction in 1825, paying the company $38,867.18 for its interests. The chief state engineer of the Cayuga and Seneca Canal was David Thomas of Aurora. This canal was completed in 1828 at a cost of $214,000. From Lake Cayuga to Montezuma, the canal was a channel east of and approximately parallel to the Seneca River.
After Lake Cayuga and the Erie Canal were connected, another important type of boat here was the canal freight boat. This was a long, narrow barge, covered with a heavy deck and pointed at both ends so it could move in either direction. On a canal, the boat was towed by a team of horses or mules walking along the towpath and kept to its course by a steering oar. On lakes and rivers, such as Lake Cayuga and the Hudson River, it usually was towed by steamboats.
Many canal boats from
various parts of the state came to Lake Cayuga. The chief route, however, over
which freight passed to and from Aurora was the Cayuga and Seneca Canal, the
Erie Canal and the Hudson River. The canal boat that carried much of the freight
to and from Aurora over this route for some years was the H. K. Miller. It was
owned originally by Captain Robert Cadmus of Sheldrake and J. J. Schenck of
Ovid. On October 30, 1861, the Schenck half was sold to the firm of Henry Morgan
& Allen Mosher which, after 1856, handled the "outside" trade of
the Morgan Store, for the sum of $1,400.
The photostat copy of the Aurora bill of lading for the trip of the H. K. Miller starting November 15, 1861, shows the kinds and amounts of produce shipped by various people and firms of Aurora. Morgan & Mosher sent more than 150 tons of grain in this one shipment.
On each return or "up" trip, the H. K. Miller brought merchandise from New York City, Troy, Albany, Syracuse, etc. to points along the route, but chiefly to Lake Cayuga.
After the third trip "down" which left Aurora on November 13, the boat was left at a dock in New York City for the winter and Capt. Cadmus and his two "hands" returned by train. The "Winter Dockage" cost was $16, and the "R. R. fare for 3 from New York," $21.60. Morgan & Mosher paid Captain Cadmus and his two hands $130 per month for "running the boat." The three 1861 trips required two and a half months for which Cadmus was paid $325. Divided into three parts, this was counted as an expense of $108.33 for each trip.
On October 22, 1861, during the second trip down, Captain Cadmus wrote Morgan & Mosher from Fultonville:
Sirs: The boat Miller is getting along slowly. We have been detained by crowds and waiting for teams all the way down. I now think we shall not get in York in time to unload this week. From what I can learn, we shall be hindered all the way down. According to the weigh lock, I have 194 tons 800 lbs. board. Please write me about the sale of the boat.
Yours, R. Cadmus.
Another letter written on an
up trip in September 1863 tells more of the vexatious uncertainties of canal
Mr. Mosher, Sir, We came up to the crowd last evening. From what I can learn, we shall be hindered some three or four days. I stopped at Fishkill and got the engine except the fly wheel that they could not get ready. They agreed to send it to York so that I could get it next trip. I have about 68 tons of freight, about 40 tons go to the Lake. I think it will more than pay my expenses up. I cannot even guess when I shall get home. You may expect us some time this fall.
Your, R. Cadmus.
In addition to steamers, canal boats and barges, there always have been many small boats on Lake Cayuga. The Indians had canoes; the pioneers, rowboats of various kinds; later, the sailboat became popular. Many of these small boats were used for pleasure.
REGATTA DAY AT AURORA.
The first sailboat of which we have a record, however, was not a pleasure craft. The schooner Betsy was built at Willets' Cove, a short distance south of Aurora, to transport supplies in the War of 1812. Christopher Morgan and others of Aurora and vicinity financed it. An account of a part of the cost of the schooner in the handwriting of Samuel Willets contains the names of fourteen workmen: Eleazer Carter, Henry and James Chase, Samuel Davis, Shepard Eastland, John Helman, David and Timothy Ingersoll, William Limbarker, Samuel Longstreet, Abraham MacDowell, Elias Reeves, Samuel and William Willets. Each man received 62 1/2 cents per day except Reeves who was paid $1. A man with a team was paid $1.50 per day. The
following are sample entries:
Oct.29, 1813, Elias Reeves, 3 days………………………………..$3.00
Nov. 1, 1813, Shepard Eastland, one day……………………………0.62 1/2
Jan.24, 1814, Wm. Willets, one day carting plank………………...1.50
Feb.19, 1814, Eleazer Carter and his team agoing for masts……… 2.00
In this account, the men worked 61 days; men with horse teams, 15 days; with oxen, 17 days. The total amount paid for wages was
$73.91 and for supplies, $80.
By 1840 almost every home on the lake shore had a private dock, with rowboats and, usually, a sailboat. Sailing increased in popularity until, finally, regularly scheduled races or regattas began to be held on the Finger Lakes, in each of which the swiftest boats from all nearby lakes would compete.
The first regatta on Lake Cayuga was held at Aurora, June 24, 1847. Aurora Bay is the widest part of Lake Cayuga and, therefore, the best place on this lake for sailboat racing. This regatta was planned by William H. Bogart and Henry Morgan. Bogart prepared the program and the poster which he had printed at Albany. The regatta was sponsored by the Aurora Boat Club and arranged for by the following committee: Henry Morgan, William R. Grinnell, Charles H. Richmond, William H. Bogart.
The unusual "no betting" feature of the Aurora Regatta was Bogart's idea. He stated it more fully in an announcement of the Regatta.
I have no fears of any evil to grow out of Regattas so long as they are kept free from bets and quarrels, and in the keeping and management of gentlemen who regard good fellowship as the first thing to be considered. The rules adopted by our Club, neither to make or in any wise to be party to any bet on the result, is of the highest use and importance to the future.
Seventeen sailboats were at Aurora for the Regatta on June 24, but only the following ten took part in the race: From Lake Seneca, The Cygnet; From Lake Skaneateles, The Experiment, Dr. Lord, Skaneateles; The Fashion, E. Furman, Skaneateles; The Jilt, Messrs. Potter, Skaneateles; From Lake Cayuga, The Cayuga; The Ellen Douglass, Henry Morgan, Aurora; Mary of the Lake; Mary Queen; The Quaker, Richard G. Smith, Aurora; Sa-go-ye-wat-ha (The Indian name of Red Jacket). In accordance with the rules, the boats in the race did not exceed twenty feet in length and were equipped with a single set of sails.
On the afternoon of the Regatta, there was almost no wind and the lake was "a sea of glass." Spectators, many with spyglasses, assembled on the docks, the piazzas of Aurora House, porches of residences and at various vantage points along the shore. At 2 P.M. the steamer, Simeon DeWitt, arrived from Cayuga on its regular schedule. In addition to a number of passengers, most of whom had come to the Regatta, many others boarded the steamer at the Aurora Dock (the total was estimated at 250) for a short trip across the lake and back to obtain a view of the scene from the lake.
At 3 P.M. the ten boats took their starting positions side by side. Although there was but little wind, the Club had stated that there would be "no postponement," so promptly at 3:30 P.M. the starting bugle sounded and the boats cast off. A stake boat had been anchored about three miles north of the starting line. Each boat was to sail around the stake boat and return. W. H. Bogart's sailboat Crystal was the judges' boat, anchored at the starting and finish line which was approximately opposite the Steam Mill.
On the way to the stake boat, the progress was very slow. The Quaker led, followed by Mary of the Lake and Ellen Douglass. As she neared the stake boat, the Ellen Douglass moved into second place, but during the turn, her jib gave way and fifteen minutes were lost in repairing it. Ordinarily so long a wait would have put the Ellen Douglass out of the race, but all others were moving so slowly that she soon was in second place again. The Quaker led all the way and crossed the finish line a few minutes ahead of the Ellen Douglass. The other boats were far behind and all resorted to oars after they saw that the first two places had been won.
The Quaker's owner, Richard G. Smith, had been a resident of Staten Island, but largely because of his fondness for sailing and Aurora's location on Lake Cayuga, he moved to Aurora and lived here several years. Since Henry Morgan's boat won second place, both prizes were won by residents of Aurora.
Following a well attended dinner at the Aurora House, trophies were presented to the two winners. The presentations were made by W. H. Bogart, who was widely known for his ability as an after-dinner speaker. Mr. Smith received the first prize, a coin silver cup appropriately engraved, and Mr. Morgan, the second, a flag with thirteen stripes and an eagle in the field.
The Regattas at Aurora were held annually for several years. In the "Fourth Annual Regatta," September 12, 1850, the Aurora Boat Club gave three prizes: first, "a superb silver salver"; second, "an elegant silver cake basket"; third "a beautiful silver cup." At this time, the maximum length' of a 'competing boat was extended to thirty feet.
Regattas at Aurora were discontinued during the Civil War and resumed afterward; a silver cup won by N. L. Zabriskie in the Aurora Regatta of August 7, 1868 was among Mrs. Zabriskie's mementos.
Bottom of page 53
EARLY HOUSES & PEOPLE.
XV. Fort House - Ckristopher Morgan House -
Riford House - Jedediah Morgan House.
Four houses in the village are of the same style of architecture and presumably designed by the same architect, though with different builders. They are the Fort House, the Christopher Morgan House, the Wood-Thompson-Mosher (now called Riford) House, and the Jedediah Morgan House.
The Fort House was begun in 1819 by Daniel Shepard (1771-1819), a lawyer who came from Connecticut to Aurora in 1793. He died before its completion and the house was finished in 1820 by his son, Charles. It was purchased by Peter Fort who came to Aurora in 1838.
Peter Fort, one of eleven children of Major Abraham Fort, was born November 27, 1783, in Poughkeepsie, New York, a descendant of Huguenots who spelled the name LeFort. In 1799 Peter moved to New York City and in 1809 to New Orleans, where he helped to organize a wholesale grocery firm, Fort & Co. In 1814 he joined Captain Bea's company of rifles (containing 63 men) under the command of General Andrew Jackson, and fought in the battle of New Orleans. He lived in the house in Aurora until his death in 1875 at the age of 92, and E. B. Morgan purchased the property in 1881 from his heirs for $5,000, presenting it to Wells College for a faculty residence. The house originally had a low railed porch or terrace across the front. About 1900 the present roofed porch was added over the protests of the resident, Professor Jasper W. Freley, who felt that it marred the architectural beauty of the house.
The Christopher Morgan House, on the west side of Main Street just north of Dublin Hill, was probably built about 1810. The north part was Christopher's residence; in 1925 N. L. Zabriskie, who inherited the house through his first wife, Louise Morgan, presented the property to Wells College. The house has been extensively remodelled and a second story added to the south half, to provide apartments for Wells faculty.
The Wood-Thompson-Mosher, now Riford House, once the home of Professor and Mrs. Hollcroft, is said to have been built by one of the older sons of Walter Wood, Isaac. About 1850 it was purchased from Ledra Wood's widow by Dr. Alexander Thompson, who was a son of Dr. John Thompson, a surgeon in the War of 1812 and later a resident of Sherwood. Before coming to Aurora, Dr. Alexander Thompson was a physician in New York City, where, during the cholera epidemic of 1832, he was closely associated with Townsend Harris. When Harris became our first Minister to Japan in 1856, one of his first acts was to send his friend the gingko tree now growing in front of the house (the first gingko sent to America from Japan). Dr. Thompson, an enthusiastic horticulturist, was president of the New York State Horticultural Society; his extensive lawn with its rare botanical collections, flower beds, and winding walks, was one of the chief attractions of Aurora.
Dr. Thompson was a charter trustee of Wells College, chairman of the committee which founded the First National Bank of Aurora in 1864, and in 1850 was made president of the Medical Society of the State of New York. He died in 1869 and Mrs. Thompson sold the property to Allen Mosher the following year. The Moshers had come early to the territory, settling in Poplar Ridge where so many members of the Society of Friends had their homes. Allen came to Aurora to go into the grain business with the Morgans but later joined the Bank where in 1872 he was made Cashier, and later, a Director. In 1871 he had Samuel D. Mandell build the rear portion of his house. In 1939 his heir, Mrs. May Mosher Powell Fairchild, sold the property to Mr. and Mrs. Hollcroft, who died in 1967. Their son Temple in 1969 sold to Lloyd Riford, then Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Wells, and he and his wife presented the house to the College.
The fourth house in this group, the Jedediah Morgan House, probably was built about 1810. Its first known occupant was Charles H. Morrell who was living there in 1814 while sheriff of Cayuga County. He purchased the house from Daniel Avery in 1816 and sold it to Jedediah Morgan September 12, 1822. He died in 1826, Mrs. Morgan died in 1854, and about 1860 the house was purchased by John Peter Nelson, whose wife, Cornelia M. Nelson, was Peter Fort's niece. After 1881, the house was rented to various Wells professors, as the Nelsons had moved to Auburn, and in 1901 Mrs. Nelson sold it to Professor and Mrs. Emil K. Winkler. In 1948, their daughter Elfrieda Winkler Lucas sold the house to Mr. and Mrs. Alfred E. Jones, Jr., then the Aurora druggists. Finally, on August 17, 1955, the Joneses sold the house to Wells College, and it is now a faculty residence. The house was repaired in 1957 and the front porch, which had been built across the tall pilasters many years before, was removed thus restoring the house more nearly to its original appearance.
An interesting story is told of the "tea room" attached to the south end of the Jedediah Morgan house. Professor Winkler, director of music at Wells for thirty-one years, was a native of Austria and a good friend to many noted musicians of the day. One of these, a frequent visitor to the Winkler home, was Fritz Kreisler, the famous Austrian violinist. During the period of unbridled inflation following World War I, many Austrians lost almost everything, and among these were some relatives of Professor Winkler. Kreisler was a guest in his home at the time and in discussing ways in which these relatives might be aided, Mrs. Winkler casually mentioned the possibility of building a tea room which they could manage. At once Kreisler exclaimed, "That's it!" and before anyone had time to discuss the proposition further, he rushed to the Aurora railroad station and sent a cable to the Winkler relatives to come at once. So the Winklers built the tea room. It was noted for its good food and for a short time was successful. The relatives, however, soon moved away and the Winklers began renting the tea room as an apartment. Its first occupant was Wells Professor Emily Hickman; its present one is Professor Emeritus Evelyn Clinton.
XVI. Taylor House and Wallcourt School.
Henry Morgan built Taylor House in 1838. Samuel D. Mandell says the builder was John Maurice, Jr., and everything about the house "built in the Colonial style" is out-size, probably designed to be viewed from the many boats which then plied Cayuga Lake. The two-storied dining room, designed by Russell Sturgis of New York City and modelled on a similar room in a Florentine palazzo, was built by Samuel D. Mandell in 1871.
Henry Morgan died in 1887. When the Main Building of the College was destroyed by fire in 1888, Mrs. Morgan (whose only surviving child, Kate Morgan Brookfield, had married and moved away) offered her rooms to the College. Students, who nicknamed the house "Tabard Inn," lived there as well as at the inn (which they nicknamed "The Wayside Inn"), and "in other village homes" until Main was ready again for occupancy in 1890.
When the preparatory division of the College was abolished in 1895, the house became a private preparatory school headed first by Miss Sarah Yawger of Union Springs. With her illness and death, Miss Anna Goldsmith, Wells Class of 1884, took over the school as principal in 1901, and a few years later bought the property from Henry Morgan's daughter, Mrs. Brookfield. She was very successful as the proprietor and changed the name first from Wells Preparatory School to Wells School. Later, when she expanded and built the red brick building to the north she named it Wallcourt, Miss Goldsmith's School for Girls. At that time, Taylor House was called Wallcourt and the new dormitory, Wallcourt Hall.
In 1913, Miss Goldsmith married William Taylor of Lyons, N.Y., a widower whose son was Myron C. Taylor. She divided her time between the school and her home in Lyons until William's death in 1918; she then returned to Aurora and was planning to build another building when she died, suddenly, in 1921. By the terms of her will, the school became the property of her sister, Miss Kate Goldsmith, who carried it on until 1928 when the school was closed.
On April 11, 1929, Myron C. Taylor gave the property to the Wells College Alumnae Association in his stepmother's memory, and the original house was re-named Anna Goldsmith Taylor Hall. For a short time, the first floor was used for the Alumnae Secretary's office and residence, with a few rooms set aside for alumnae and their guests. The rest of the building was used as a College dormitory, as was the building now known simply as Wallcourt.
In 1936, Henry Morgan's old home was designated the College president's house; its first occupant was William Ernest Weld who, disliking the name "Hall" asked that the house be called Taylor House. It was not until 1951 that it was renovated extensively, restoring the house to its former beauty while bringing its housekeeping facilities up-to-date.
XVII Lawyers - Politicians - Scientists.
On March 6, 1794, Aurora became the county seat of Onondaga County which originally contained the entire Military Tract. Some lawyers had moved to Aurora before this time, but more came very soon afterward. Many of the lots of the Military Tract, assigned to soldiers of the Revolution, had been sold and resold several times. Occasionally, unscrupulous speculators had sold the same land to more than one person. Litigation was the only process by which a clear title could be obtained.
The territory of the original Onondaga County now contains four counties and parts of four others. Aurora continued to be the county seat of Onondaga until the first county, Cayuga, was taken off in 1799. Aurora then became the county seat of Cayuga County. Seneca County was formed from Cayuga in 1804 and in the following year, the State Legislature chose Auburn for the county seat of Cayuga County. The county offices were not moved from Aurora to Auburn, however, until 1807.
The first practicing lawyer in Aurora was Silas Marsh who came not later than 1793. He was called "a brilliant counsellor" and remained here until 1806.
Walter Wood (1765-1827) studied law and was admitted to the bar in White Creek, Washington County. He moved to Aurora in 1794 and became Deputy Clerk of Onondaga County that year. He was the leader in the unsuccessful campaign to keep the county seat of Cayuga County at Aurora after the formation of Seneca County in 1804. To aid this campagn, he brought the Pace brothers here to establish their weekly newspaper, "The Aurora Gazette," in 1805 and also erected, largely at his own expense, a building for the county court house. He was Postmaster of Aurora (1795-1811) and First Judge of Cayuga County (1810-1817). He was also a distinguished lawyer under whose tutelage many young men received their training in the law.
Walter Wood first lived in a log house about one mile east of Aurora and had his office in Aurora in a small building near the site of the present King house; his later two-story residence is shown on the 1805 Howland Map of Aurora. He was a member of Scipio Lodge No.58, F. & A. M., Aurora, and the earliest known "traveling certificate" bearing the name of Scipio Lodge was issued to Walter Wood in 1798.
In 1811 Judge Wood moved to Montville, near Moravia, because he was so deeply chagrined by the transfer of the county seat of Cayuga County from Aurora to Auburn. There he built a large residence, a hotel, a scythe factory, a nail factory, a tannery, a store, a mill and a schoolhouse. He also assisted in building several other early schoolhouses in Cayuga County.
Walter Wood revealed his interest in education in other ways. He was a Charter Trustee of Cayuga Academy. He purchased a one hundred dollar Geneva College (now Hobart College) certificate giving him the right to send students to that institution. In his will he bequeathed one thousand dollars to Cayuga Academy, Aurora, as a permanent fund to be used to assist boys without adequate means to secure an education at the Academy. He did something for girls, too, as the following paragraph in his will shows: "And I do hereby agree that I will and my heirs shall stand and be seized of my Pew being number twenty-four in the Meeting house in Aurora which cost me two hundred and fifty dollars to and for the following uses to wit that the same be Exclusively used by such Females, as shall from time to time be attending a female School in said village of Aurora or females attending Cayuga Academy when no female School is Kept in said Village." The "female School" then in Aurora was the Friends' school, Brier Cliff, taught by Susannah Marriott.
At Montville, as at Aurora before 1811, several young men studied law in Wood's office. One of these was a future president of the United States, Millard Fillmore. In his autobiography, Fillmore tells of his associations with Judge Wood. (This is included to lay to rest the persistent belief that Fillmore lived and studied in Aurora.)
"My father sold his farm and removed to Montville, Cayuga County," (from Summerhill, Cayuga County, where Millard Fillmore was horn) "where Judge Walter Wood resided. He was a gentleman somewhat advanced in years and reputed to be very wealthy. He had farms and tenants scattered over several counties in the old Military Tract. He had a good library and was a man of remarkable energy and methodical business habits; and from his example and training I derived essential benefit, especially from his scrupulous punctuality."
Fillmore obtained release (1819) from his apprenticeship (wool carding) and taught school for two years, reading law books borrowed from Judge Wood's library during the winter and spending the summers in the Judge's law office in Montville. Because Fillmore accepted a case before Judge Wood thought he was ready (he was paid $3.00 to "pettifog" for a justice of the peace), they agreed to separate and the young man went to his parents' home in the Township of Aurora, Erie County, where he continued the study of law in Buffalo. He was admitted to the bar in 1823, held many public offices and became President when Zachary Taylor died in 1850. His autobiography reveals that it is due largely to Walter Wood that a native of Cayuga County became President of the United States.
When Walter Wood left Aurora for Montville, his son-in-law Eleazer Burnham became Postmaster. Burnham (1780-1867) was also Surrogate of Cayuga County, Collector of U. S. Internal Revenue, Member of the New York Assembly, and Presidential Elector in 1824 and 1856. In 1822 Postmaster Burnham was succeeded by Seneca Wood, who held office until 1828. For the first thirty-three years, therefore, the three Aurora Postmasters Were Walter Wood, his son-in-law, and his son.
Walter Wood died in 1827 leaving an estate valued at $500,000 and a will so involved that generations of lawyers worked for ninety-three years to complete its provisions. Of his six sons, Seneca, Isaac, and Thomas were lawyers. All three began the practice of law in Aurora and Isaac remained here all of his life. Walter Wood, his wife Paulina Mosher Wood, and all but one (who died in infancy in 1797) of their eleven children are buried in Oak Glen Cemetery, Aurora.
The youngest child, Charlotte Fidelia Wood Morgan (1806-1879) was the wife of Edwin Barber Morgan.
Seth Phelps (1751-1825) a captain in the Revolution, came to Aurora in 1791. As has been noted, he and his wife's nephew, John Walworth, purchased Scipio Lot 34 which contained all of Aurora between Sherwood Road and the Dean's Cottage at the College. Although not educated as a lawyer, he became the First Judge of Onondaga County serving until 1799 when Cayuga County was formed and was First Judge of that county until 1810.
Glen Cuyler (1775-1832) an older brother of the Aurora merchant Cornelius Cuyler came from Albany to Aurora in 1795 and practiced law here until his death. His ancestors were among the early settlers of Albany and three of them were mayors of that city before the Revolution. He was the first Surrogate of Cayuga County, serving from 1799 to 1811 and again from 1813 to 1815. He was one of the charter trustees of Cayuga Academy. He married Mary Ledyard, the oldest daughter of Benjamin Ledyard. Glen Cuyler was one of the seven men who signed the application to the State Legislature for the charter of the Bank of Auburn in 1817 (now the National Bank of Auburn). In 1819 he and his brother Cornelius donated part of the land on which the Auburn Theological Seminary was built.
Thomas Mumford came to Aurora about 1795 and was Surrogate of Onondaga County from 1797 to 1799. He was one of the charter trustees of Cayuga Academy. He moved to Auburn sometime after 1807, was the first president of the Bank of Auburn, and served for three years. He died in 1830.
Joseph Lane Richardson (1776-1855) as a boy lived in the Pennsylvania home of his uncle, the father of David Thomas. About 1795 the two young men came to central New York together, and Joseph purchased a farm about two miles north of Aurora. He studied law with Judge Wood and was admitted to the bar in 1802. He moved to Auburn in 1806 and became the law partner of Enos T. Throop, later Governor of New York. After holding several responsible offices, Joseph Richardson was appointed First Judge of the Court of Common Pleas of Cayuga County in 1827 and was reappointed to this office by various governors for nineteen years.
Eleazer Burnham (1780-1867) came from Vermont to Aurora Sept.27, 1798. He studied law with Judge Wood, was admitted to the bar in 1804, became Wood's law partner that same year, and in 1807 married his second daughter Caroline Matilda. He was postmaster of Aurora, surrogate of Cayuga County, 1811-13 and 1815-20, and collector of U. S. internal revenue during the War of 1812. He was a member of the State Legislature in 1826. Miss Catharine Bacon, Wells '18, wrote the author about two portraits, one of Eleazer Burnham and one of his wife, which she had seen in an Albany exhibit. They were painted in 1826 by Ezra Ames, an Albany artist; the portrait of Burnham bears the inscription, "Eleazer Burnham (1780- ) Lawyer and Presidential Elector of Aurora, New York."
Charles Horton Morrell studied law at Morristown, New Jersey, with Judge Ford in the old Ford Mansion which had been Washington's headquarters during part of the Revolution. Morrell was presented by his father with a tract of land on the east shore of Lake Cayuga near Lake Ridge. In 1803 Charles Morrell made a visit to central New York to inspect his patrimony. He kept a diary during his trip which includes the following:
September 29. On our return from the north, we traveled on the east side of Cayuga Lake to Aurora. It is twenty-seven miles from Ceneva and twelve miles from the Bridge. This is called the capital of Cayuga County, although the courts are generally held at the Bridge.* Aurora is pleasantly situated upon descending ground on the margin of the lake. It contains thirty good houses, a postoffice, the county clerk's office, an academy and four or five stores. The land near Cayuga Bridge does not seem to be very good, but it is much better as you approach Aurora.
*Note. When Cayuga County was formed in 1799, the courts were held alternately at Cayuga Bridge and Aurora until 1804, after which all were held at Aurora.
Evidently Morrell was as favorably impressed with Aurora as his description indicates, for he came here to live soon afterward, the first occupant of the Jedediah Morgan house of whom we have a record. After selling his home to Morgan in 1822, Charles Morrell moved to his farm near Lake Ridge where he died in 1837.
Three of Walter Wood's sons studied law in their father's office and practiced law in Aurora: Seneca Wood (1791-1859); Isaac Wood (1791-1850); Thomas Wood (1793-1839). Seneca Wood was surrogate of Cayuga County in 1820-21. He moved to Rochester about 1840 and died there. Isaac and Thomas practiced law in Aurora all of their lives.
Benjamin Ledyard Cuyler (1797-1826), the oldest son of Glen Cuyler, was born in Aurora and educated at Cayuga Academy and Hamilton College. Cuyler studied law with his father and was admitted to the bar when only 22 years old. He practiced law in Aurora and was surrogate of Cayuga County from 1821 until his death in 1826. In 1821 Benjamin L. Cuyler and Louisa F. Morrell, daughter of Charles Morrell, were married in her father's home. Their son Theodore Ledyard Cuyler (1822-1909) was an eminent Presbyterian minister in Brooklyn.
Several lawyers, later prominent in County affairs, were in Aurora only briefly. They are mentioned here because, for one reason or another, they have Aurora connections.
Michael S. Myers (1801-1884), admitted to the bar in 1825, moved from Auburn to Aurora and became Glen Cuyler's law partner; when he was elected clerk of Cayuga County in 1828, he moved back to Auburn. David Wright (1806-1892) came to Aurora in 1826 from Pennsylvania and studied law with Seneca and Isaac Wood, practicing here for several years following his admission to the bar in 1832. Lewis Henry Morgan studied law in his office after graduating from Union College in 1840. Wright moved to Auburn about 1845 and be-came the law partner of the son of the Rev. Medad Pomeroy, Principal of Cayuga Academy from 1816-19. Alvah Worden practiced law in Aurora with Seneca and Isaac Wood for several years and married Lisette Miller, the daughter of Judge Elijah Miller who had studied law with Daniel Shepard from 1796-1799. Oliver Wood, distantly related to the Walter Wood family of Aurora, was born near Venice, Cayuga County. He practiced law in Aurora for several years, living in the Doughty house, and moved to Auburn about 1870. William Allen (1817-1881), from Ledyard, was admitted to the bar in 1837 and became David Wright's law partner that same year; he moved to Auburn where he was postmaster from 1861-1869. Thomas J. Bradford, the last practicing lawyer in Aurora, studied law here with N. L. Zabriskie, completed his course at Union College, was admitted to the bar in 1876, and moved to Auburn about 1890.
Christopher Morgan (1808-1877) the second son of Christopher Morgan (1777-1834) was born in Aurora. He attended Cayuga Academy and Yale University, Class of 1828. He began the study of law in Aurora with Seneca Wood and completed his studies in Auburn with Elijah Miller and William H. Seward. He practiced law in Aurora for several years in partnership with Ebenezer Arms, also a Yale graduate. In 1832 Christopher Morgan married Mary Pitney, a daughter of Dr. Joseph T. Pitney of Auburn. In November 1838 he was elected to Congress on the Whig ticket and was reelected in 1840, serving four years. In 1844 he moved to Auburn to enter the law firm of Seward and Blatchford. He was Secretary of State of New York for two terms, 1847-1851. The constitutional revisions approved in 1846 had made this office elective and Christopher Morgan thus became the first elected Secretary of State of New York, nominated for his first term in this office by Horace Greeley. As Superintendent of Public Schools, an office then included in that of Secretary of State, Christopher Morgan recommended and initiated the system of free public schools in the State of New York. He was Mayor of Auburn in 1860.
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Ebenezer white Arms (1805-1877), born in Greenfield, Massachusetts, graduated at Yale University and came to Aurora about 1834. He was the law partner of Christopher Morgan until the latter moved to Auburn in 1844. He married Lydia Avery, a daughter of Daniel Avery, in 1835. He was district attorney, 1847-50. In 1871 he gave by far the largest amount toward building and furnishing St. Paul's Episcopal Church.
Nicholas Lansing Zabriskie (1838-1926) was born in Flatbush, Long Island. He attended Erasmus Hall Academy and graduated at Union College in 1857. He studied law in the office of Lott, Murphy and Vanderbilt, Brooklyn, and completed his studies in Columbia University in 1861. He was admitted to the bar that same year and practiced law in Brooklyn until he moved to Aurora in 1867. In 1865 he married Louise F. Morgan (1836-1906) daughter of Edwin B. Morgan. He practiced law in Aurora until about 1880. N. L. Zabriskie became a member of the Board of Trustees of Wells College in 1876 and served fifty years, five years as secretary and forty-five years as chairman of the Board. The Zabriskie residence in Aurora, built in 1857 by Edwin B. Morgan, was the home of a Wells College trustee continually until 1960: Edwin B. Morgan, 1868-1881; N. L. Zabriskie, 1876-1926; Phoebe Munn Zabriskie (Mrs. N. L.), 1926-1960. Three Zabriskie sons lived in Aurora: Alonzo Morgan and Robert Lansing (sons of Louise Morgan and N. L. Zabriskie) and John Lansing (son of Phoebe Munn and N. L. Z.). The son of Robert Lansing, Robert Wells Zabriskie, owns a summer home built approximately on the site of the first white man's home in Aurora; the three sons of John Lansing Zabriskie and his second wife, Lesley Wead Zabriskie, live in or very near Aurora: Stephen Lansing, Stanley Wead, and Kenneth Wead. Following the death of his mother, John Zabriskie and his wife presented the beautiful house to Wells College in 1961.
Jonathan Richmond (1774-1853) came from Dartmouth, Massachusetts, to Aurora, May 15, 1792. He first lived with with his son-in-law, Jonathan Brownell, and later purchased the Franklin farm from Roswell Franklin, Jr. The former Franklin Tavern was his home until 1820 when he built Richmond House a short distance northwest of the intersection of Main Street and Sherwood Road. When the Alonzo Zabriskie House was built in 1903, Richmond House was moved to Wells Road. Jonathan Richmond was appointed paymaster of the Onondaga Militia April 2, 1796. He was under sheriff of Cayuga County in 1804-5, sheriff, 1808-12, and captain of a company of men over draft age who volunteered for service in the War of 1812. He was appointed U. S. Collector of Internal Revenue in 1817 by President Madison. In 1818 he was elected a Representative in the Sixteenth Congress. In June 1827, Governor DeWitt Clinton appointed him to improve Seneca River and drain the Cayuga Marshes at the foot of Cayuga Lake. After completing that task, he spent the remainder of his long life managing his farm.
In the early days, a pioneer scientist, David Thomas, lived in the vicinity of Aurora. Not only did he understand science but he could put his knowledge to practical use. He was born near Philadelphia in 1776 of Quaker parents. He attended school for a brief period and soon became greatly interested in mathematics. His interest spread to the other sciences and he read every scientific book he could find. Through his own efforts, he thus became well informed in mathematics, surveying, biology (especially botany), astronomy, geology, geography, medicine, physics, meteorology, pomology, and agriculture.
His cousin, Joseph Lane Richardson (1776-1853), lived in the Thomas home and the two boys grew up together. About 1795 they both came on horseback to this vicinity. Thomas returned to his parental home, married in 1801, and lived for four years in Lycoming County, Pennsylvania, but in 1805 he returned to this vicinity, bringing his family. He purchased a portion of the land about two miles north of Aurora on which Judge John Richardson had raised the first wheat grown in this area. Thomas gave his farm home the name, "Greatfield," a name that later became internationally known through his writings.
His skill in the use of hands and brain was continually in demand. In 1812 during an epidemic called the "cold plague," he treated a large number of his stricken neighbors. Although this disease was often fatal, every one of his patients recovered. He also discovered, by experimenting on himself, that an alkali (he used pearlash or potassium subearbonate, similar to baking soda) was helpful in relieving indigestion and colds. A woman pioneer related that when she needed buttons for a suit she was making for her husband, David Thomas made some for her by pouring melted lead into a mold he had whittled out of wood. He was often consulted by farmers on all kinds of agricultural problems.
David Thomas was religious, and at the same time, liberal in his views. He was often chosen clerk in the Friends' meetings he attended. Some of the minutes in his clear handwriting have been preserved. He became a member of Scipio Lodge No.58, F. & A. M., Aurora, on October 27, 1806, the first meeting held in the Masonic Hall built that year by the Lodge.
He did his best to discourage the widespread superstitious beliefs of his day. When a large basswood tree on his farm was split by lightning into strips about the size of fence rails, he sawed them into proper lengths and used them to build a fence, although some of his neighbors had told him that dire consequences would follow the use of material thus prepared by "an agent from the clouds." He published an article in which he cited many instances to show that the prevalent belief that certain things should be done in the "light" and others in the "dark" of the moon had no justification.
Jonathan Swan, also a Friend, came from Oneida County to Aurora in 1809 and opened a store, continuing in business until his death in 1834. He purchased the Seth Phelps house east of Court Street. when Henry Wells lived there in 1850, it was called the Jonathan Swan house.
On May 21, 1816, David Thomas and Jonathan Swan started on a journey to "the western country," Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana. They traveled in a light wagon drawn by two horses and were away more than two months. Thomas kept a diary which was published at Auburn in 1819 by David Rumsey. The leather bound book of 320 pages is now a collector's item. The complete title is, "Travels through the Western Country, Including Notices of the Natural History, Topography, Commerce, Antiquities, Agriculture and Manufacture, with a Map of the Western Country now Settling." The book is all that the title implies, a mine of information, chiefly scientific, and a superb example of detailed observation and accurate reporting.
The book is all the more valuable to us because he compared what he saw elsewhere with what he had observed in Cayuga County. He found that roads were usually much worse than those in New York. On the other hand, contrary to what he had been told by New Yorkers, he found that grains, grasses, fruits, and vegetables were growing as well there as here.
Governor DeWitt Clinton purchased twelve copies of Thomas' book to give his friends. The Governor was so impressed by the scientific ability of its author that he appointed him chief of the engineers who were to construct the Erie Canal between Buffalo and Rochester. As Chief Engineer, David Thomas had entire charge of this portion of the Erie Canal until its completion. Between Rochester and Lock-port, the elevation of the land is about the same. It was important, therefore, that the level be correctly run so that the walls would be everywhere at the proper height to contain the water. He ran two separate sets of levels for this sixty mile stretch and, at the end, they differed by only a fraction of an inch.
After completing the western portion of the Erie Canal, he was Chief Engineer of the Cayuga and Seneca Canal and of the Welland Canal in Canada for the first year of its construction. Later the Pennsylvania Canal Board asked Governor Clinton to recommend the best engineer he knew. He recommended David Thomas. The Board appointed him Chief Engineer of Pennsylvania and invited him to name his own salary, but he declined the appointment because of the illness of his wife. At Governor Clinton's request, David Thomas instructed his son, George W. Clinton, in scientific subjects for several years.
During the last thirty years of his life, David Thomas was interested chiefly in the culture of flowers and fruit. Many botanists came to see his collection of native, rare flowers. He liked to tell how he secured one from the woods in the middle of the night during a change of horses of the stage in which he was traveling. He had previously marked its position while it was in bloom. His many contributions to the press were highly valued and assisted materially in arousing public interest in flower and fruit culture. Largely through his influence, the Aurora Horticultural Society, of which he was president for several years, was organized, and a flower show began to be held in Aurora each year. He belonged to many U.S. scientific organizations and was an honorary member of the Literary and Philosophical Society of New York. He was also a member of horticultural societies of London and Paris.
He was an uncompromising opponent of slavery. In a letter to Edwin B. Morgan, then a member of Congress, dated, "Greatfield, 2 mo., 3, 1854," he wrote, "We were not merely pleased with thy outspoken letter (opposing pending pro-slavery legislation) to the Committee in New York, we rejoiced over it. In days past we were mortified that a native of this county (Millard Fillmore) had been false to Freedom in approving the Fugitive Slave Act, but now our pride is rekindled."
In 1854 David Thomas sold Greatfield and moved to Union Springs to live with his son, J.J. Thomas. He died there in November 1859, at the age of 83. The following quotation is from an address by Dr. Kennecott of Illinois, President of the North American Fruit Growers' Association: "I would fain speak of David Thomas, our first President and Father of Horticulture in the West. His life has been as blameless as a child's and his usefulness commensurate with his lengthened years and the powers of a god-like mind. His history is written in the hearts of the lovers of science and on the long line of New York's first great work of internal improvement."
THE AVERY FAMILY IN AURORA
In 1793, Daniel Avery first came to Aurora from Groton, Connecticut, probably with his relative Benjamin Ledyard. He went back to Groton and returned in 1795 with his mother Deborah, his first wife Lydia, his brothers Elias, Dudley, and Isaac. A large Avery party must have come at least as far as Auburn together --- his cousins David, Hezekiah, Ebenezer, and Benjamin were among the group. Daniel and Elias remained, but Dudley and Isaac moved away after living here several years. Dudley eventually lived in Louisiana, on Avery Island (during the Civil War a prime source of salt for the Confederate troops, now a famous bird sanctuary and the home of the McIlhenny family which developed Tabasco Sauce).
Daniel Avery owned the Patrick Tavern while Aurora was the county seat of Cayuga County and for several years thereafter. Later he lived on his 1243 - acre farm at Paine's Creek. The Aurora Averys are descended from him and his third wife, Freelove Mitchell Avery.
Daniel was the first member of Congress from Aurora. On January 26, 1810, at Ithaca, he was nominated by Republican delegates of the Fourteenth Congressional District composed of Cayuga, Seneca, Steuben, and Tioga counties. His opponent was John Harris of Cayuga, also a Republican, who had been elected to the Tenth Congress four years before. John Harris, the first settler at Cayuga, was an ancestor of Harris McIntosh, Wells College trustee. Daniel Avery was elected to the Twelfth and reelected to the Thirteenth Congress. Of the 18 New York representatives, he alone voted to declare war on Great Britain. He also served in the Fourteenth Congress, to complete the term of Enos T. Throop who had resigned. He was a commissioner of the New York State Land Office for twenty years.
One of Daniel and Freelove Avery's daughters (Maria) was the second wife of the Reverend William Washington Howard, the first president of Wells College. Their son James (1825-1864) was the grandfather of James (1881-1970) who was twice Supervisor for the Town of Ledyard (1913-1917; 1938-1959) and postmaster of Aurora from 1922-1933; and of William Byron (1886-1973), Superintendent of Buildings and Grounds at Wells College from 1925-1959, and long time chairman of the Republican Committee for the Town of Ledyard. Of Daniel and Freelove's many descendants, the following still live in Aurora: Cornelia Abby (Avery) Ward; Emily Avery King; James Avery, Jr., Superintendent of Buildings and Grounds at Wells College since 1959 and one of his sons, Phillips Avery; Jane Baldwin (Avery) Ayers, Executive Secretary of the Wells Alumnae Association since 1963, and one of her sons, Avery Tarleton Ayers; Baldwin Cuthell Avery, former Mayor of Aurora, and one of his daughters, Cynthia Baldwin Avery-Rogers.
JEDEDIAH AND LEWIS HENRY MORGAN
Jedediah Morgan is best known as the father of Lewis Henry Morgan who in turn is best known as "the father of American anthropology." Jedediah Morgan, however, was himself a successful leader in his community and well deserves recognition in his own right.
Jedediah Morgan (1774-1826) and Christopher Morgan (1777-1834) both came to Aurora from Groton, Connecticut. Both are descendants of James Morgan (1607-1685) a Welshman who sailed to Boston from Bristol in 1636.
James Morgan's son, John (1645-1712), married Rachel Dymond. Their first child, John (1667-1746), was the great-grandfather of Jedediah Morgan. Their second child, William (1693-1749) was the great-grandfather of Christopher Morgan. (*) Thus Jedediah Morgan and Christopher Morgan were third half-cousins. Even more, they were lifelong personal friends.
(*) The following is a pencil note in the margin ---- (1645-1712) John Morgan later married Elizabeth (Jones) Willams, a widow.
Jedediah Morgan was also a descendant of Elder William Brewster, the religious leader of the Pilgrim colony, who came over on the Mayflower in 1620.
Thomas Morgan (1742-1815) married Sarah Leeds (1744-1832) in 1764. Their fifth child Jedediah was born March 14, 1774 in Groton, Connecticut.
In 1792 Thomas Morgan with his wife, his three unmarried sons, Ephraim, Jedediah, and William Leeds, and his youngest daughter, Polly, moved from North Groton, Connecticut to a farm about three miles south of Aurora, New York. This homestead farm was in Lot 79 of the Military Township of Scipio and contained about 120 acres. Since 1823 this farm has been in the township of Ledyard.
In November 1797, Thomas Morgan gave his son Jedediah 100 acres in Scipio Lot 99. Jedediah Morgan and Amanda M. Stanton (1777-1811) were married in 1798 and lived on this farm for a few years.
He and his family moved back to the homestead to live with his parents after the death of their two unmarried children. Very probably the first home of Thomas Morgan was a log house, as were all known houses in this vicinity in 1792. Soon after 1803, Thomas and Jedediah built the frame house which was the home of these two and their descendants for sixty years. It will be called the Thomas Morgan house.
The Thomas Morgan house, still standing, is of New England rectangular style with two windows on each side of the front entrance and five windows across the front in the second story. It originally stood facing the road (now Route 90), near a well a short distance south of the present house (currently owned by Mr. and Mrs. Donald Irving) which was built by William Jedediah Morgan (1828-1898) the son of William Leeds Morgan (1804-1830). Jedediah Morgan bequeathed the homestead to William Jedediah. When W. J. Morgan built this house in the early sixties, the Thomas Morgan House was moved back to its present position and used as a horse barn. It is still standing in 1976. This is the house in which Lewis Henry Morgan was born.
Five children were born to Jedediah and Amanda Morgan. Amanda died July 8, 1811 and the following January Jedediah married Mrs. Harriet Teele Smith, widow of George Smith. She bore him eight children. Of his thirteen children, three are of particular interest to this history: Amos, b. 1806; Alfred b. 1816; and Lewis (Henry) b. 1818.
Amos Morgan, the fifth child of Jedediah, was the grandfather of William Fellowes Morgan (1860-1943) who in 1878 at the age of seventeen, accompanied his great uncle, Lewis Henry Morgan, on a scientific expedition in Colorado and New Mexico and presented a highly commended paper to the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
William Fellowes Morgan was a leader in business and philanthropy and also continued his scientific interest as shown by the fact that he was a member of the A. A. A. S. for sixty-five years. He was an alumnus and a trustee of Columbia University, a trustee of Wells College for twenty-six years and Chairman of the Board for thirteen years. His daughter Pauline, Mrs. Cleveland E. Dodge (Wells 1916) was a trustee of Wells College for 45 years (1923-1967).
Jedediah's eighth child, Alfred Gray, married Rachel Grant, a cousin of President Grant. Early in 1850 he went to California, purchased one seventh of a quartz gold mine for $10,000, and became president of the mining company. The Morgan Mine, as it came to be called, yielded $2,800,000 in gold in twenty-two months. The unparalleled richness of this mine led to its seizure by a band of several hundred ruffians who drove away the owners and took possession. Morgan died at Sacramento, California in 1860 before the company by process of law finally recovered the mine.
Jedediali's ninth child was christened "Lewis Morgan." Lewis, himself, added the middle name "Henry" when he was nineteen years old. About 1841, four years before he moved from Aurora to Rochester, he became interested in the Indian research that made him famous. He was elected a trustee of Wells College on Inauguration Day, July 23, 1868, to replace the charter trustee, William Earl Dodge (1805-1883) who had resigned. Lewis Henry Morgan was the first elected trustee of Wells College.
A patent on a plow was granted to Jedediah Morgan and John Harris October 11, 1814. In 1816 they put a blast furnace into operation to make cast iron plow parts.
Jedediah Morgan was also one of the leading Masons of Aurora.
On September 12, 1822, Mr. Morgan purchased from Charles H. Morrell the house later known as the Jedediah Morgan House and moved with his large family to Aurora. His son, William Leeds Morgan remained on the homestead, three miles south of Aurora.
As a politician Jedediah Morgan was a local leader in the Republican (now the Democratic) party. He held several minor offices in this vicinity and on April 7, 1823, he became the first supervisor of the newly erected Town of Ledyard, Cayuga County. He was nominated for state senator from the seventh district of the State of New York by the Republican party in 1823 and was elected in November of that year. On March 10, 1824, he voted in the Senate with the minority in favor of allowing the people of the state to elect the presidential electors. Also on April 7, 1824, he was one of three who refused to join in the party vote to remove DeWitt Clinton from the office of Canal Commissioner. He was reelected senator in Nov. 1825.
Jedediah Morgan did not live to complete his second term as senator. He died December 10, 1826, at the age of 52.
His will shows that he had been successful in farming and business. He appointed his wife executrix and the two executors, "my friend, Christopher Morgan" and "my son, William Leeds Morgan." He bequeathed the home in Aurora to his wife and directed his executors to keep his wife, minor children, and mother in funds from the proceeds of the estate. He gave his oldest son Jedediah Stanton Morgan the farm in lot 56 on which he was then living, and to William Leeds Morgan, the homestead farm in lot 79. He left other farms aggregating about 500 acres with herds of cattle, flocks of sheep and many horses to his executors to hold in trust for his family. The executors were directed to use as much of the income from the estate as needed for the continued support of the family and finally to distribute the property to the children as each became of age in accordance with detailed instructions in the will. In his will he also stated that if any dispute should ever arise between any member of the family and the executors, "my friend, Jonathan Richmond," was to be the referee.
When Jedediah Morgan died, he had nine minor children whose ages ranged from less than one year to twenty years. He also directed in his will that his wife's son by her first marriage, George Smith, and her niece, Julia Seymour, should be treated as his own children until they became of age or married. He specifically provided that all were to live in their Aurora home, "free of all charge, in sickness and in health," and that all were to receive "a common English education." By this he evidently meant that they should attend Cayuga Academy, and all of them did.
One son, Harry, died in 1838. Jedediah's wife, Harriet, lived to see all of the other children grow to maturity, marry and receive their shares of the inheritance. The most eminent son, Lewis Henry Morgan, moved to Rochester in 1845, but came back every summer to visit his mother as long as she lived. Harriet Morgan died April 8, 1854. She, Jedediah, and their son, Harry, are buried side by side in Oak Glen Cemetery, Aurora.
XVIII. Henry Wells and Wells College.
The old Steam Mill is a landmark of great historical interest to the entire country, to the Village of Aurora, and to Wells College. The first receipt book of the Morgan Store after its purchase by E. B. Morgan, covering the years, 1827-1832, contains two receipts. The first of these is as follows:
Rec. Aurora, 5 May 1832 of E. B. & H. M., Seventeen hundred & fifty Bushel of Wheat as estimated, for J.H. Beach & Co.
(signed) Henry Wells
The second receipt for the same amount of wheat is also signed by Henry Wells and is dated May 8, 1832. It appears that Henry Wells could take only half of the wheat in the Steam Mill on May 5 and returned three days later for the other half. At this time, he was a purchasing agent for J. H. Beach & Co., Port Byron, N. Y., proprietors of the largest flour mill in central New York. He was twenty-six years of age and it is highly probable that this was his first visit to Aurora.
When his boat landed at Aurora on May 5, 1832, to load the wheat, Henry Wells stepped ashore on the threshold of the Steam Mill, and there he met Edwin B. Morgan and Henry Morgan, both, very probably, for the first time. E. B. Morgan was to become his best friend, business associate, adviser in founding Wells College, and a generous contributor to its endowment and later development; Henry Morgan was to become a trustee and benefactor.
Henry Wells, born December 12, 1805 at Thetford, Vermont, the son of a minister with a large family, had to make his own way at an early age. His father, Shipley Wells, moved from Vermont to Seneca County, New York, in 1814. At the age of sixteen, Henry became an apprentice to a firm of shoemakers and tanners in Palmyra, but did not complete his apprenticeship. He was a shoemaker in Port Byron, Cayuga County, for three years. At about the age of twenty, he married Sarah Daggett of Palmyra. Having tried several occupations with little success, he finally found one for which he was fitted - shipping freight on the Erie Canal. When William F. Harnden, pioneer of the express business, extended his business from Boston and New York to Albany in 1841, he decided that Henry Wells was the man he needed. Having been appointed Harnden's Albany agent, Wells suggested extending the express line to Buffalo only to receive a negative reply. Undiscouraged, Wells at once interested George Pomeroy and Crawford Livingston in his plans and started an express to Buffalo for which he himself was the messenger during the first eighteen months. Within two years, another enterprising young man, William G. Fargo, became Wells' partner in extending the express business to Cleveland and Chicago. Soon after, Wells sold his interest in the Buffalo-Chicago line and moved to New York City. He continued to be identified with the New York to Buffalo branch and also established an express line to Europe.
A rival express line from New York to Buffalo was organized, chiefly by John Butterfield. In 1850, three express companies, the two rivals operating between New York and Buffalo and the one between Buffalo and Chicago, were combined to form the American Express Company with Henry Wells its first president.
Another event in the life of Henry Wells happened in 1850 --- he moved with his family from New York City to Aurora to a large house that stood on the east side of Court Street in the middle of what is now Cherry Avenue. This house burned May 18, 1851, and he began planning his new home immediately.
His choice of a location for his home could scarcely have turned out better either for him or for Wells College. It was part of a farm, just south of Aurora, formerly owned by John Morgan, one of the six sons of Christopher Morgan. Henry Wells purchased thirty-eight acres of this farm, a strip of land beginning at Cayuga Lake and running eastward north of the ravine. He named his estate Glen Park and located his residence on the north side of Glen Park Ravine.
The following description of Glen Park is taken from a prospectus written in 1875. "The house is of Tuscan villa architecture - the outer walls are of blue limestone, the inner of brick with a chamber between, rendering them impervious to dampness and making the rooms cool in summer and warm in winter. The partitions of the main building are of brick from the foundations upward. The halls and rooms are spacious and sunny, commanding charming views from each window."
On the newel at the bottom of the circular staircase in Glen Park is a silver plate engraved as follows: “C.N. Otis, Architect; N. H. McGrath, Builder. Erected A.D., 1852." This circular staircase is one of Glen Park's unique features. Miss Annie MeGreevey, Mr. Mandell's housekeeper for many years, tells the story of its building. Samuel D. Mandell (1829-1917), educated as an architect, began his career away from Aurora. Early in 1852 his father wrote him that there would be plenty of work in Aurora and that he should come home. Mandell arrived just before Glen Park was completed. The architect had left the well for the circular staircase, but had postponed building it because he was not sure how best to do it. When he heard that Man-dell had returned, he asked him to construct the staircase. The circular staircase in Glen Park, therefore, was the first work that Mandell did in Aurora. Afterward he was the architect of the first Wells College building, the three churches, and several residences including that of Edwin B. Morgan.
In addition to his residence, Henry Wells built two houses for his servants, a horse barn, a carriage house and a large circular green house. The coachman was Patrick Gray whose house, Gray Cottage, belongs to the College and was moved across Wells Road from the site of the Anna Adams Piutti Health Center. The lawn was beautifully landscaped with carefully trimmed box hedges and two fountains, a large one on the terrace west of the residence and the smaller dolphin fountain at the entrance. He had a private dock on the Lake, near which he built a small brick house enclosing an engine to pump water from the Lake to a large reservoir on the hill, from which the water flowed in pipes to the house, greenhouse, and fountains.
When Henry Wells came to Aurora, his family consisted of his wife and three children: Charles, Mary, and Oscar. The two older children were both married at Aurora in 1851. Charles married Louisa Burnham, daughter of Eleazer Burnham of Aurora. Mary married James H. Welles. Henry Wells' first wife died in 1859 and he married Mary Prentiss in Boston in 1861.
Early in 1866, Henry Wells began making definite plans for his College. On April 13, he and E. B. Morgan walked around in the field south of Glen Park Ravine and chose the site of the first building. The original name chosen by Henry Wells was Glen Park Institute. He later changed it to Glen Park Seminary and then to Wells Seminary. The cornerstone was laid in July, 1866 and Wells Seminary opened in September, 1868. The final change of the name to Wells College occurred in 1870.
In the cornerstone was sealed, in a copper box: 1. A piece of the first log cabin, built by Roswell Franklin, and a piece of stump used by him as a mortar for grinding grain. 2. A complete set of U.S. coins and two Confederate notes. 3. Copy of the pamphlet, Sketch of the Rise, Progress and Present Condition of the Express System, a paper read before the American Geographical and Statistical Society February 4, 1864, by Henry Wells. 4. A copy of the July 19, 1866 issue of The Rochester Democrat.
During the entire period of his residence in Aurora until the year Wells College opened, Henry Wells was President of the American Express Company. In 1867 the Merchants Union Express Company was organized, largely by Auburn business men, and the American Express Company lost heavily in the resulting price war. In 1868 the two companies were merged and Henry Wells retired as president. Wells, Fargo & Co., which had bought out the Holladay Overland State Line in 1866, also suffered large losses when the first railroad was completed to the west coast in 1869, much sooner than had been expected.
The losses sustained by the two great companies he had helped create and build reduced the personal fortune of Henry Wells. He paid the entire initial cost of Wells College, about $200,000, but this expenditure, added to his losses, reduced his income substantially. The late Miss Edith P. Morgan told the author that in an attempt to recoup his losses he invested heavily in Southern Pacific stock and that in the financial recession of 1873 he lost most of his remaining capital.
His losses evidently were so large that in 1875 he offered to sell his home, Glen Park, for $35,000. Failing to sell his estate, he borrowed $15,000 from the Mutual Life Insurance Company of New York City, giving them a mortgage, dated June 13, 1876, on the entire 38 acres containing his home.
During his later years, the chief interest of Henry Wells was in the College he had founded. His home was always open to students and faculty. Almost every day he walked across the bridge to the College and his home was a "way station" for students going downtown. On Friday evenings, the students regularly dined with him and Mrs. Wells at Glen Park.
On December 10, 1878, Henry Wells died two days before his 73rd birthday. He was buried in Oak Glen Cemetery, Aurora.
Glen Park, with its 38 acres and all buildings, was taken over by the Mutual Life Insurance Company of New York City by foreclosure of the mortgage. Mrs. Wells could no longer live in her former home and moved away, living part of the time in Skaneateles and part in Boston until her death in 1908 at the age of 79.
The insurance company rented Glen Park to various families while attempting to sell it. Beginning in 1902 it was rented by the College to house the senior class. At this time the company's price was $17,500, exactly half the price Henry Wells had asked for it a quarter of a century before.
The estate was purchased in 1905 by the Wells College Alumnae Association and presented to Wells College. Mrs. Henry Wells, then 76 years old, wrote that she was very happy that her former home was now a part of the College.
Soon after acquiring Glen Park, the College built an addition on the north side of the east wing, raised the roof of that wing and added dormer windows to provide a third story, making the founder's home a student dormitory.
Henry Wells had intended to leave his College a liberal endowment. To his great disappointment, his losses made this impossible. His friend, Edwin B. Morgan, however, in 1871 gave Wells College $100,000 to begin its endowment fund. Although E. B. Morgan did not pay any of the initial cost of the College, he is called the co-founder because he was consulted by Henry Wells from the first, because of the above gift and many later gifts, and because, after the death of Henry Wells, his personal interest in his friend's College was as great as if it were his own.
The Main Building, built by Henry Wells in 1868, served as administration building and dormitory, containing class rooms, dining room, library, infirmary, and chapel. It was destroyed by fire in 1888 and was replaced in 1890 by the present Main Building. In 1879, the year following Henry Wells' death, Co-founder Morgan built Morgan Hall in honor of his wife, Charlotte Wood Morgan. It was restored after a fire in 1925.
The other buildings existing on campus in 1976 are listed here in chronological order: Office Building (originally a laundry and, because of the two fires mentioned above, now the oldest building on campus), 1879-80, gift of E. B. Morgan; Pettibone House, started as a private residence in 1859 by George Pettibone, finished in 1866, and and given to the College by Henry Wells in 1875; Helen Fairchild Smith Hall, built as gymnasium, the gift of alumnae and friends to honor Dean Smith on her retirement in 1905 (swimming pool added in 1911, the gift of alumnae and students) ; Zabriskie Hall, 1905, gift of Mr. and Mrs. N. L. Zabriskie; Dining Hall, 1909, adjoining Main Building; Frances Folsom Cleveland Library, 1911, gift of Carnegie Foundation, named in honor of Frances Folsom Cleveland, Wells '85, widow of U. S. President Grover Cleveland; Dean's Cottage, 1930; Macmillan Hall, 1933, named in honor of President Kerr Duncan Macmillan; Weld House, 1948, named in honor of President Emeritus William Ernest Weld; Student Union, 1957; Helen Phelps Leach House, 1960, gift of Mr. and Mrs. William B. Leach, Jr. (Helen Phelps '25), named in her honor; Anna Adams Piutti Health Center, 1962, named in memory of Mrs. Max Piutti '77, Dean 1905-1923; Dodge House, 1966, named in honor of Pauline Morgan Dodge '16; Louis Jefferson Long Library, 1968, named in honor of President Long; the Fine Arts Center, 1974, comprising the Campbell Arts Building and Barler Hall of Music, named in honor of Henrietta Titzel Campbell '12 (Mrs. Robert D.) and Alice Barler '06. The music hall contains the Augustus Condon Barler Recital Hall, given by Miss Barler in memory of her father.
In its 108th year, Wells has appointed, as its 13th President, the first woman, Frances Tarlton Farenthold. It should be noted, however, that the first full-time President was Edward S. Frisbee (1875-1894) and that, in the first seven years of the College's life, the Lady Principals, Mary M. Carter (1869-1873) and Jane E. Johnson (1873-1875) actually served as Acting President.
The title "Lady Principal" was changed to "Dean" during the thirty-year term of Helen Fairchild Smith (1875-1905). The Office of Dean was concerned with both academic and social affairs and was held by the following: Anna Adams Piutti (Mrs. Max), Wells '77 (1905-1923); Katharine Lummis (1923-1928); Mabel M. Roys (Mrs. Charles K.) (1928-1935) ; Katharine Louise McElroy (1935-1937); Evelyn Carroll Rusk (Mrs. William S.), Wells '20, (1937-1951).
In 1951, the academic and social affairs were separated under the jurisdiction of Dean of the College and Dean of Students.
The first President of Wells College, William Washington Howard (1868-1869), was pastor of the Presbyterian Church of Aurora and served only one year. The second, Samuel Ireneus Prime (1869-1873), lived in New York City and was in Aurora only at Commencement. Thomas Campbell Strong (1873-1875) was also pastor of the Presbyterian Church.
The Presidents from 1875-1975 were the following: Edward S. Frisbee (1875-1894); William Everett Waters (1894-1900); Jasper Warren Freley (Acting 1900-1904); George Morgan Ward (1904 -1911); Kerr Duncan Macmillan (1913-1936); William Ernest Weld (1936-1946); Richard Leighton Greene (1946-1950); Louis Jefferson Long (1951-1969); John Delane Wilson (1969-1975).
BOOKS AND PRINTED MATERIAL
Auburn Theological Seminary. General Biographical Catalogue of Auburn Theological Seminary, 1818-1918. Auburn, N.Y.: Auburn Seminary Press, 1918.
Centennial Committee of St. Patrick's Church, Aurora, N. Y., 1974. "A Brief Account of the Catholic Church in Aurora." One mimeographed sheet.
Child, Hamilton, comp. Gazetteer and Business Directory of Cayuga County, N. Y., for 1867-8. Syracuse: 1868.
Collar, The Rev. Thomas J. "Sketches of the History of St. Paul's Parish, Aurora." Printed leaflets stapled together.
Heffernan, the Rev. Bernard L. Some Cross-Bearers of the Finger Lakes Region. Chicago: J. Anderson Pub. Co.,1925.
Hollcroft, Temple R. "An Historical Sketch of Henry Wells and His Home; Designed as a Souvenir of the Centennial Open House Tendered by Some Young Ladies of Wells College Presently Living in Glen Park. January 25 and 26, 1953." Five page folder.
Storke, Elliot G. History of Cayuga County, New York, 1789-1879. Auburn: 1879.
Bogart, Elizabeth R. Diaries, 1856, 1885, 1893, 1900. Ms, Wells College Library, Aurora, New York.
Bogart, William H. Diaries, 1870, 1876. Ms, Wells College Library, Aurora, N. Y.
Hall, Benjamin F. "Genealogical and Biographical Sketch of the Late Honorable Elijah Miller." ca. 1877. Ms, Elijah Miller Papers, University of Rochester Library, Rochester, N. Y. Xerox copy at Wells College Library, Aurora, N. Y. Ms, 1965.
Hollcroft, Temple R. "History of Wells College." Wells College Library.
Maloney, John J. "History of Aurora Houses." 1950? Ms, in possession of Ledyard, N.Y. Town Historian. Xerox copies owned by Mrs. Samuel H. Ayers and Mrs. Edward Kabelac.
Maloney, Martin, Sr. Account books from April 18,
1853-Sept. 16, 1882. Selected items, copied and epitomized, by Temple R.
Hollcroft, May-June 1957. Ms, location unknown, 1976.
Maloney, Martin, Sr. Account books from April 18, 1853-Sept. 16, 1882. Selected items, copied and epitomized, by Temple R. Hollcroft, May-June 1957. Ms, location unknown, 1976.
Mandell, Samuel D. "History of Aurora Houses." 1906. Ms, owned by Anne Leffingwell, Aurora, N. Y. Xerox and transcript copies owned also by Mrs. Samuel H. Ayers and Mrs. Edward Kabelac.
Miller, Elijah. Autobiography. Ms, location unknown, possibly Seward House? Transcript typed copy in the Seymour Library, Auburn, N.Y.
Morgan, Edwin B. Diaries, 1862-1881. Ms, Edwin Barber Morgan Papers, Wells College Library, Aurora, N.Y.
Shepard, Charles E. "A Genealogical Record of the Shepard, Williams, and Cuyler Families of Aurora, N. Y. including an Autobiography Written for his Children, by Charles E. Shepard (1801-1891) of Aurora, N. Y. Written in 1847 and 1848." Ms, Local History and Genealogy Division, Syracuse Public Library. Xerox of typescript in possession of Wells College Library, Aurora, N. Y., Mrs. Samuel H. Ayers and Mrs. Edward Kabelac.
Thomas, Mrs. Henry G. Letter, dated Sept.13, 1975. Mrs. Thomas is a Ledyard, Paine, Phelps, Avery descendant and on the book committee of the genealogy department of the W. C. Bradley Memorial Library, Columbus, Ga.