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Earlville, New York
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Earlville - Past, Present, Future.
Historical and Prophetic Sketch Being Prepared by Mr. John R. Parsons.
John R. Parsons Historical Writings Revisited
The Chenango Canal - Part I
With the year 1800 as a center and for a few years before and after there was a very marked migration from
Massachusetts and Connecticut into the Chenango Valley. A group of about four young men would come through
with an ox team in the winter season bringing a sleigh load of supplies. Some kind of shelter would be thrown together
until their united effort produced a log house. Thus they worked until each had his farm and a log house upon it with
an open spot ready for cultivation. In such a group in 1792 came to what is now the Borden and the Dr. Hall certified
milk farms (2006, this farm is located Northeast of the village of Earlville on Borden Rd.), John Wells, Abner Nash, John
Muir, and Patrick W. Shields. They brought two oxen, two cows, and two hogs. These migrations had to be made in
the winter so as to cross the Hudson River on the ice. The route followed was the Mohawk Valley to Whitesboro then
by marked trees south to the Chenango River. I am told the Indian name, "Chenango" means "beautiful river".
My grandfather, John Parsons, came in such a group in 1797 and with him a Felt, a Collins, and a Billings. My great
grandfather, Jacob Reese, came to the Handsome Brook valley in 1795 and selected his farm about three miles
southeast of Earlville.
When the little homes were completed the oxen were killed, the salted meat packed in a hollow log and buried for
future use. With gun in hand and pack on the back the return home was made on foot just before winter came. The
home-coming was joyous with the much anticipated weddings, then with more oxen and sleigh loads of supplies
together with some on horseback, these young couples came West to their new life, in their new homes in a new
They had one and only one thing to occupy their attention and that was WORK. It was
"Work when the day grows brighter,
Work through the morning hours,
Work in the growing sun,
Work mid springing flowers,
Work till the last beam fadeth,
Work till man's work was done."
Large families were raised and these in turn went west and again west. Within the year I have been in touch with
great grand children of Noah Wood (He took up W.C. Crouch farm on the west river road-JR Parsons' note. Today,
this would be Madison Rte. 14, the back, west river road to Hamilton, NY)), who are from coast to coast of the United
States as well as in the Philippine Islands and China.
There were Indians a plenty in those days but for the most part they were friendly. As the white men grew in
number the Indians gradually withdrew and there are no traditions about any serious clashes with them in this vicinity.
Mrs. Esther Bresee remembers several yearly visitations from a bunch of Oneida Indians who camped near the swamp
upon the Deacon Ira Crain farm (Now Lisle Wells' place-JR Parsons' note. Today this would be in the area of Crain
Lake, North of the Village of Earlville, NY). Among them was called "Old Abe". When his companions went away he
always remained. He would husk corn and do light work for the neighbors and was by them allowed to roll up in his
blanket and sleep by the kitchen fire in cold weather. In return for this he made bows, arrows, and other toys for the
children who in time came to like the old man. When the weather was suitable he hunted, fished, and trapped. He
always introduced himself by saying "Me good Injun," and so he really was.
The boyhood home of Jesse Wilcox of this village was about half a mile from Old Abe's camp and Mr. Wilcox
frequently visited him there and treated the old man to many a pitcher of cider from his father's cellar. Mr. Wilcox
treasured for years a bow and arrow made by Old Abe. He was the last native Indian to live in this valley and died in
the Chenango County Home in Preston in the early sixties (1860s).
Another Chenango Valley Indian of quite another type was Abe Antone. His life span was between the years 1750
and 1823. He was counted a bad Indian and was generally feared by the early settlers. He confessed to having
committed four brutal and cold-blooded murders, and others were charged to him. The husband of his daughter, Mary
Antone, was won away from Mary by another and more comely young squaw. Mary killed her rival by stabbing her
with a knife. This was done on the Lewis Close farm on the west river road north of Earlville. Mary was convicted in
the white man's court and hung at Peterboro. The principle evidence against her was given by a half-breed Indian
named John Jacobs. Abe Antone openly vowed vengeance on Jacobs and many years later, stabbed him to death
with his left hand while apparently giving Jacobs a friendly greeting with right hand. Abe was convicted according to
the white man's law and hung at Morrisville on Sept. 12, 1823. A great concourse of people witnessed the public
execution among which were a large number of Indians. Fear was expressed that there would be an uprising but
nothing of the kind took place.
With more settlers there came more travel and in time roads were cut through the woods so that it was easier to get to
the Mohawk Valley.
After much agitation, surveying and re-surveying, in 1836 that greatest of all engineering feats of that day, the
Chenango Canal was opened between Utica and Binghamton. As one looks today at the six great reservoirs of stored
water a few miles north and northwest from Earlville with their great dams of stone and earth together with the miles of
miniature canals or feeders to convey this water to the summit level between Hamilton and Bouckville, it can be truly
pronounced a wonderful piece of engineering. The building of the railroad was a bit of boy's play when compared to
it. The horse-drawn dirt scraper, the tip cart and the wheelbarrow used in its construction are insignificant implements
alongside of the steam shovels, tram cars and concrete mixers of today. Still its cost was only $23,000 per mile. This
present summer the State of New York is paying $41,000 per mile for the building of 56 miles of new State highway.
(To be continued)
Early Earlville Map
Showing the route of the Chenango Canal through the Village of Earlville.
Bentley Ave. in Earlville is paved over the bed of the canal.