Families have their own quirks and personalities. I wonder how much of this comes from the area they settle in and how much they shape the tenor of the area. When I bought my house I was told that the family I was buying it from had built it several generations back. They were, I was told, one of the founding families of the area and the house and yard I was buying had served as the first itinerate church during the conception of the town. They claimed this house was one of the very first ever built in the area, and they had started it all.
I decided to take a look and see what I could find out about the family that had so shaped the town, built the house and brought religion to this small hamlet. My facts did not quite match their description. Maybe they did not really know the truth. No matter, I loved the house and the yard and would have bought it regardless of the history or perceived history of the place. In fact the property did not come to the previous owner’s family until 1911, well after the founding of the village, the township and the county.
I purchased the house from a relation of Mary F. Jones. Looking at the deed to the house I discovered the first registered owner, though likely not truly the first owner of the property was Martha S. E. Van Horn. Intrigued, I decided to take a look at the people involved with this house and looked into the history of the town, the founding fathers, etc. I discovered some interesting family connections, searched through several of the small, mostly forgotten cemeteries in town and discovered that the town of Catharine, Schuyler NY, as recently as 1879, held several small villages and thriving industries.
For those of you who may be unfamiliar with the Finger Lakes region of New York, Schuyler County New York is a small, mostly rural county. It is the second smallest/ least populated county in New York, and as such, a fairly poor county, with a median family income (2000 Census) of $36,010. It is contiguous to Tompkins (County seat-Ithaca), Chemung (County seat-Elmira), Seneca (County seat-Waterloo), and Yates (County seat-Penn Yan). The County seat and best known village in Schuyler is Watkins Glen, home of the beautiful Watkins Glen State Park and The world famous Watkins Glen Race track, which draws auto race fans by the thousands each year. It is a beautiful part of the country and well worth a visit if you are a history buff, a genealogist or anyone who loves nature, photography and camping. The county has several natural water falls, several small village and town parks in addition to the state park, sits on the banks of Seneca Lake and also houses the smaller Cayuta Lake, nestled in the town of Catharine.
Before the revolutionary war the Finger Lakes were populated entirely by Iroquois tribes. It was the Clinton –Sullivan Campaign, launched by General George Washington to annihilate the natives who aligned with the British forces that brought European colonists to the Finger Lakes area. In 1778-1779 General Sullivan forced his march through the Finger Lakes, blazing trails where none had existed, burning villages, destroying crops and capturing horses and livestock. American soldiers destroyed nearly 50 Iroquois villages, adjacent croplands and winter stores. Surviving natives were forced to take refuge in British held Niagara.
Nestled in the Valley now known as Montour Falls- Schuyler County, was a large native village known as Catharine’s town. Catharine Montour was the de facto leader of the tribe after the death in battle of her chieftain husband. American soldiers describing their passage through Catherine’s town marveled at the abundance of orchards, crops and the marvelous horses, raised and bred at that site for trade with other villages along Seneca Lake. Catherine’s town was the preeminent supplier of horses to the Seneca tribes. The soldiers lay waist to the land, killed the horses and burned the crops and orchards. They made their way through present day Watkins Glen, along the lake and continued their attack on tribes living in present day Hector. For more on the Clinton-Sullivan campaign I have included the following link http://sullivanclinton.com/.
Following the war many of the men, having fallen in love with this area desired to move back and settle the land for themselves. The first permanent settlements were established in Schuyler County as follow; Town of Montour 1788; Hector 1790; Dix 1797; Cayuta, Reading and Tyrone, 1798; Catharine 1799 and Orange in 1802. (http://www.schuylerhistory.org/Schuyler_County_Townships.pdf)
Schuyler County as we know it today was not established in its own right until
1854. Prior to that the land that now makes up Schuyler County belonged to Tompkins, Chemung and Steuben counties. (This information will help you should you be looking for a relative living in this area prior to 1854) The eight towns that presently make up the county are; Catharine established in 1798; Hector 1802; Reading 1806; Tyrone 1822; Cayuta 1824; Dix 1835; Orange 1836; and Montour, 1860. Watkins Glen is the county seat, established in 1877 after a protracted legal battle with Montour.
There were several small villages scattered throughout Schuyler county that have been lost to time including Decker’s town and Havana in Montour and Catharine and Alpine in Catharine township. Decker’s town and Havana were swept away to become part of Montour Falls and the village of Catharine, once a prosperous area coexisting with neighboring Odessa, is all but forgotten these days. Where once there stood two churches, one Methodist Episcopal and one Protestant Episcopal, a general store, two blacksmith-shops, two wagon shops, one tannery, a public school, a post-office and an active cemetery, as recently as 1879, there remains one active church, the Protestant Episcopal, numerous farms, one recently added dairy and a small convenience store, and a youth theater located in the former Methodist church, the first church /church building established in the county in 1809. The village of Catharine is now a part of the village of Odessa.
The village of Alpine remains today, marked by a sign indicating its location on county route 11 off of route 224 between alpine junction and Odessa. Once a part of Tompkins county, Alpine was a thriving community of about 300 individuals. As recently as 1879 Alpine boasted the following commerce; two general stores, one grocery store, a hotel, two meat markets, three blacksmiths, two wagon-shops, a cabinet-shop, a pump-manufactory, two shoe-shops, one tin-shop, one grist-mill, one saw-mill, one planing-mill, one Baptist church and a Methodist Episcopal Society, a public school, two resident physicians, one undertaker, and a resident minister of the gospel (http://genealogytrails.com/ny/schuyler/1879history9.html). Today Alpine sits off the beaten path, a small, tired little town filled with homes but without commerce. Find a grave.com lists a cemetery in Alpine NY but does not provide map directions and I have yet to locate it. Residents of Alpine, like most of Schuyler county, rely on the village of Watkins Glen, or the small cities of Ithaca or Elmira and it’s several suburbs, to meet their commercial and employment needs.
The village of Odessa, in 1879, co-existing with its neighbors in Alpine and Catharine also had a thriving commercial trade. At that time Odessa boasted the following active business; one general, one grocery, and one drug-store, one millinery establishment, two blacksmith shops, one wagon-shop, one grist-mill, and three sawmills (at the place or close by), one planing-mill, a hotel, three churches,-one each of the Methodist Episcopal, Free-Will Baptist, and Wesleyan Methodist denominations, -a public school, two resident physicians, three ministers of the gospel, and one justice of the peace. At the center of town was the small community cemetery known as the Catlin-Odessa cemetery. The population at that time was about 300. (In April of 1911 the Catlin-Odessa cemetery was moved to make room for the village hall. The stones and bodies were relocated to the Laurel Hill cemetery on county route 10 in Odessa.) One has to wonder at the loss and change that has occurred over the past 136 years.
The town of Catharine was settled by pioneers coming from Connecticut. As stated above, they were men who had fought in or been hired by men who fought in the Clinton-Sullivan campaign of 1778-79. They were predominately men with vision who knew the fertile soils and understood the potential bounties of the area so rich in wildlife, forests, and lakes, streams, fish, etc. The Johnson settlement encompassed what is now the village of Odessa, including the former village of Catharine. John Mitchell laid the first claim in 1799 and was quickly followed by; Josiah Hinman, from Trumbull, Fairfield Co., Conn., David Beardsley, from the same county in Connecticut, having come West by way of Geneva
In 1800 the following settlers arrived to stake their claim in the town; Samuel Winton, from Fairfield Co., Conn, Solomon Booth, John Coe and Ichabod Meeker, from Fairfield County Conn, and Simeon Lovell, who was the first blacksmith in town, and noted as an excellent workman.
In 1804, Isaac Lyon came in from Fairfield Co., As did John Stiles. John died shortly after arriving, at the house of David Beardsley. In 1806, Lemuel Shelton, and William H. Prince, from Dutchess Co., N.Y. James Osterhout came in 1811, from Ulster Co., N.Y. ,Zachary A. Lewis came in 1812. Eli Beardsley settled on lot No. 21, in 1812. Eaton Agard came in from Litchfield Co., Conn., in 1813,. Mr. Agard was justice of the peace from 1837 to 1855; supervisor in 1846-47, and at one time an associate judge of the county. He died Oct. 7, 1863. Barnabas Miller came in 1814 from East Hampton, L. I., He died in February, 1872.
In 1824, Phineas Catlin, Esq., son of Judge Phineas Catlin for whom the cemetery mentioned above was named. Rev. J. W. Nevins was ordained a minister of the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1829, and in 1837 was stationed in the town. Dr. Van Veckten arrived at Johnson's Settlement in 1830-31, and practiced medicine there for many years. He was one of the earliest physicians in that part of the town.
Before 1813 the northern part of the present town of Catharine, about two-thirds of its area, remained in the hands of non-resident owners. A few small openings had been made, generally by girdling the trees, in the neighborhood of Cayuta Lake, mostly by hunters and trappers. It is reported that the earliest trapper in the area around Cayuta Lake was a man by the name of Paulding. It is believed he was the first white man living within the present limits of the town.
In 1800 Isaac Buckalew made a girdling about half a mile southwest from the lake on lot 44; It lay on the line of the Indian trail passing from the head of the Seneca to the head of Cayuga Lake, which ran on the west side of the lake. The Buckalew clearing was for many years a well-known landmark in "the seven-mile woods," lying between the north settlement in Catharine and the Harvey settlement in Hector. Its identity is now effaced by the removal of the surrounding woods.
About 1803, James Smith made an opening on the east side of the lake, he was killed about 1816 by the accidental discharge of his rifle. His two sons, William and Hooker Smith, long resided near Cayutaville, and left numerous descendants. Smith Valley, in Hector, derives its name from the sons of James Smith, who were half-brothers of Hooker and William Smith. Garrard Smith also settled at an early day on the east side of the lake. He was drowned in the lake in 1815, and was buried on the point, which, in commemoration of him, is still called "Garret's Point". He said that he had visited the lake in 1779 while acting as a scout for Sullivan's army.
About 1812, Sylvanus A. Beeman commenced a clearing on lot 35, In 1813, ___ Connor occupied a cabin near the lake, and In July, 1813, Samuel and Joseph Lawrence, sons of Jonathan Lawrence, one of the partners in the Watkins and Flint Purchase, and who had inherited from the father the principal part of the northeast section of township No. 3 in that purchase, constituting about half of the present town of Catharine, having determined to fix their residence on the west side of Cayuta Lake, contracted with the late Samuel Winton, of Johnson's Settlement, to erect houses for them, to be completed within the following year. In the fulfillment of this contract the late David Beardsley and Elijah S. Hinman afterwards became partners.
In 1816 a settlement was begun on Oak Hill, situated directly south of the lake; Titus F. Mix having contracted to buy land from Samuel and Joseph Lawrence for the following men; Samuel F. Mix, David Olmstead, Jr., Coleman Olmstead, Richard Wilcox, David Olmstead, Sr.,
In 1815 settlements were begun about one mile west from the lake, in the valley of the east branch of Catlin's Mill Creek, extending up that valley to the south line of Hector, and westerly along that line. Early settlers included; Elijah and David Sturdevant ,Jonathan Sturdevant,,; John and Henry Chapman, __ Sackett, __ Mead,; Abijah Wakeman,; and Isaac Ganung,.
The firsts in the new town of Catharine were as follow:
The first birth in the town was that of Charles, son of John Mitchell, in 1801.
The first marriage was that in which the high contracting parties were Samuel Winton and Alice Hinman.
The first death was that of Abel Peet, in 1800. Lewis Beardsley was killed by the falling of a tree, in 1802.
The first store was kept by Elijah Booth, on the farm subsequently owned and occupied by Barnabas Miller, in 1800.
The first school was taught by Abraham Garry
The first church society organized was the Methodist Episcopal in 1805. This was the first in Schuyler County.
The first sawmill was erected by Isaac Swartwood for Robert C. Johnson, in 1799 at Odessa.
The first gristmill was built by David Beardsley, John Coe and Robert C. Johnson in 1801; also located at Odessa.
The first road was laid out June 1, 1799 from George Mills' to Phineas Catlin's; the record being signed by John W. Watkins and Phineas Catlin, Overseers of Highways.
Many of these names are familiar to anyone living in Schuyler county New York. Many of the families still reside in the local area. Streets, buildings and organizations are named for them. As I mentioned earlier, I started this research project when looking into the history of my house. In my search I stumbled across many of the above mentioned families. In my search of the local cemeteries I “met them” in person. In too many cases their graves are forgotten, the stones unreadable, broken and left to recede into the ground.
The genealogies of the founding fathers extend from England in the 1600’s as far away as Mexico, Texas and California and many states in between. The next several posts will contain pictures of the Catharine cemetery as it looks today and the Coe cemetery along with the lineage of the former owners of this house, the Jones family, the Van Horn family and through them, many of the founding families in the town of Catharine. Where available I will also try to include some biographical information. This is a very involved project. I hope you will find the information interesting and useful.
Because I know that what you are really eager for are names and dates to help you with your personal search I am adding the names of persons originally buried in the Catlin-Odessa Cemetery. If you find a loved one on the list you will find their marker now in the Laurel Hill cemetery, as mentioned above. Happy hunting.
The Catlin - Odessa cemetery was, according to Mrs. Cleaver, located where the Odessa Town Hall now stands. It was established some time after Phineas Catlin purchased the land and mapped out the village in 1824. There was a discussion of removal of the cemetery in 1875, but nothing was done about it until Apr. 1911, when the building of the Town Hall was planned, and the removal was completed. The stones were placed in the northwest corner of Laurel Hill Cemetery -- and so these names are usually included in the readings of Laurel Hill. Mrs. Cleaver wrote that the markings on the stones were somewhat obliterated, and the names and dates were hard to obtain, so there may be errors. Mrs. Clever obtained the information for Louis Catlin of Odessa. We hope to update this later.
ADAMY Rhoda (probably dau of Ebenezer & Elizabeth Adamy)
ARCHER Lyman B. d. Oct 1849 aged ?
BEERS Sarah, wife of Wakeman d. 1859
BEERS Wakeman b. Mar 20,1788, d. Apr 23,1861
BUCHANAN wife of Solomon; dau of Hiram Brown, d. Jul 20,1855, aged 24
BUEL Ezra d. Jun 20,1850, aged 50
BULKLEY Aaron d. Aug 23,1870, aged 68
BULKLEY Ebenezer b. Jan 22,1770, d. Apr 20,1830
BULKLEY Hannah, wife of Ebenezer d. 1848 aged 88
BULKLEY John, son of Ebenezer d. Sep 6,1826, aged 21
BULKLEY Mary, wife of Aaron d. Jul 22,1880, aged 70
BULKLEY Moses, son of Ebenezer d. Aug 18,1826, aged 23
DARLING Dr. Jarvis d. Dec 26,1853, aged 58
DARLING Lucy, wife of Samuel d. Jun 18, 1836, aged 73
DAVIS Huldah, wife of Nathaniel d. Jul 23,1826, aged 58
DAVIS Ebenezer, son/John & Lucinda,d. 1840, aged 2
DAVIS Nathaniel d. Aug 26,1826 aged 62
DAVIS Sarah, dau/John & Lucinda d. Oct 13,1843, aged 7
EUMANS Andrew, son/Morris & Mary d. 1860, aged ??
FOSTER Adelia, dau/John & Laura d. 1827, aged 26 days
FOSTER Laura, wife of John d. 1831, aged ??
FOSTER Samuel d. Aug 11,1826, aged 26
GANOUNG Jonathan d. Jan 24,1861, aged 55(?)
GRAVES Mary, wife of Bela d. Jul 18,1831, aged 23
dau of Robert & Diana Howard
GREEN Letilla d. Sep 12,1840, aged ??
HOWARD Arly Jane, dau/Robert & Diana, d. Oct 22,1837,aged 20
JOHNSON John A.
JOHNSON Sarah, wife of John d. Jun 18,1874, aged 76
KING Daniel, son/Jehiel & Mary d. 1863, aged 10
MILLER Gurdin d. Aug 1818 aged ??
MISNER Mary B., dau/Henry & Sarah d. 1853
MORGAN Edwin M. d. 1870
MORGAN George d. Jan 19,1875
MORGAN George W., son/Chas. & Kate d. Jan 18,1871, aged 4mo
MORGAN John O. d. 1851
MORGAN Sarah J. date not readable
NELSON Minnie M., dau/A.& B. d. Aug 18,1860, aged 29
OGDEN Jane Elizabeth, wife/Samuel d. Nov 27,1870
PORTER Polly d. Jan 18,1847
SEAMAN Margaret, wife/Chauncey d. Mar 20,1837, aged 27
SEAMAN Mary, dau of Chauncey d. Mar 8,1837
SHELDON Melissa d. May 26,1860
THOMAS Daniel J., son/Wm. & C.J. d. Aug 10,1863, aged 19mo
UPDIKE Almira M. d. Jul 28,1842
UPDIKE Minnie d. Aug 18,1869