Seneca County map 1821

If you are like me, you really enjoy reading this newspaper’s columns on the happenings 10, 20, etc. years ago. Well, in this article I am going to share some noteworthy events in Seneca County 200 years ago, mostly compiled on index cards by former Seneca County Historian Betty Auten. Where necessary, I have added information to help the reader understand Auten’s index card wording.

In 1821, New Hudson (present Waterloo village north of the Seneca River) had a population of 500, with two flouring mills, an oil mill, two fulling mills (for processing cloth), one trip-hammer operation, one air furnace company, one distillery, seven stores, six public houses (hotels/restaurants), five physicians, six lawyers and about 100 buildings. There were about 12 houses on William Street, which at that time was known as Back Street.

Businesses dotted downtown Waterloo 200 years ago. A flouring mill was located on the eastern part of Main Street. On the opposite side of the street, on the bank of the mill race, was the Charles Swift store. At the four corners in the village center there were two stores — one was run by Richard P. Hunt and John Rice owned the other. In Skoi-Yase (the present village of Waterloo south of the Seneca River) there was a dry goods store, a flour and grist mill owned by John Watkins. At the southern end of the bridge, there was a grist mill built by Samuel Bear.

In 1821, the general state elections began on the last Tuesday of April. The new state constitution designated that starting in 1822 general elections would begin on the first Monday in November.

That same year, work on the first canal with locks on the Seneca River between Seneca and Cayuga lakes was completed. New York state contributed $21,000 toward this project, initiated by the Seneca Lock Navigation Company. This new canal waterway allowed the passage of boats through parts of the natural stream of the Seneca River and then through locks where there were rapids, such as in Seneca Falls, and to deal with the approximate 64-foot change in elevation between the lake levels of Seneca and Cayuga lakes. The canal locks were rather crude, with wooden lock gates that were operated by hand. Boats navigated the canal route through the use of pike poles — not by mules or horses traversing a towpath beside the canal.

The U.S. Census of 1820 showed that Seneca County had a population of 23,619. That total could be broken down by towns as follows: Junius, 5,113; Romulus, 3,698; Covert, 3,439; Fayette, 2,869; and Ovid, 2,654.

In 1821, Joseph Moody took over operation of the first store established in Junius in 1808 by Philander Woodworth. Moody was from Ireland and gave the little hamlet the name Dublin.

In 1821, Joseph H. Hull was teaching a second term of grammar school at the Ovid Court House. Also in Ovid Dr. Archelaus Gates arrived as a new physician, relieving the growing workload of Dr. Jesse Tewksbury, who had been practicing there since 1815.

On March 21, 1821, the Rev. Aaron D. Lane was ordained and installed as the first pastor at the Presbyterian Church in Waterloo. He served there for 15 years.

On March 24, 1821, Seneca County Sheriff Thomas Armstrong of Wolcott (yes, Wolcott was part of Seneca County at that time) appointed Stephen Watkins of Fayette as a deputy. On April 7, 1821, Sheriff Armstrong appointed Jehiel P. Parsons of Junius as a deputy.

On April 22, 1821, the Rev. Diedrich Willers preached his first sermon at Christ Reformed Church of Bearytown (the present hamlet of Fayette). He served as pastor there for 60 years and eight months, until Jan. 1, 1882.

Stores & steamboatsWhile talking about Bearytown, in 1821 the first store there was run by Charles Hoskins. He later moved to Seneca Falls.

In 1821, Seneca Falls had its first “department store,” owned by Sidney Monroe. The first general and grocery store was owned by Gen. Senter M. Giddins. The first saddle and harness store there was owned by Jedediah Coleman.

Starting on June 1, 1821 steam navigation began on Cayuga Lake, between Bridgeport and Ithaca. The steamboat “The Enterprise” enabled passengers from Ithaca and other areas along Cayuga Lake to connect with stagecoaches heading west on the Genesee Road, or with the portions of the Erie Canal between Rochester and Utica that were completed that year.

Starting on May 1, 1821, there began an intriguing series of appointments of deputy county clerk. On that date, County Clerk John Maynard appointed Elial Scudder as deputy clerk. On Aug. 27, however, Maynard revoked that appointment and soon named Charles Williams as deputy clerk. Then, on Oct. 3, 1821, Maynard revoked the appointment of Charles Williams and reappointed Elial Scudder as the deputy county clerk. So far in my research, I haven’t been able to find an explanation for this revolving door in appointments.

In the town of Covert on Aug. 6, 1821, Peter Wilson was unloading a fowling piece (a shotgun for shooting birds or small animals) when the gun fired. The charge killed his sister Ann, age 17.

On Aug. 20, Charles Woodruff and Henry Shankwiler, who were overseers of the poor in the town of Fayette, certified that Peter Huff had agreed to free a slave named Dinah Huff, who was between 36 and 45 years of age.

On Dec. 25, 1821, the first issue of the Waterloo Republican newspaper was published by Babe Drake. The newspaper office was located opposite the courthouse.

These events illustrate how the young Seneca County was growing in terms of population and economic activity, as well as dealing with some things that would not happen today. Isn’t history interesting?

Gable is the Seneca County historian.

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