History of the settlement of Steuben County, New York

The collection of the following annals was undertaken at the request of the publishers of this volume. While of course it was not expected that the general public would feel any interest in the subject of the work, it was yet believed that to the citizens of Steuben County a chronicle of its settlement would possess some value. The task was entered upon, not without mis-givings that the historic materials to be found in a backwoods county, destitute of colonial and revolutionary reminiscence, and possessing an antiquity of at most seventy years beyond which there was nothing even to be guessed at, would prove rather scanty; and, while it cannot be pretended that the vein has been found richer than it promised, it is nevertheless hoped that something of interest to citizens of the county has been rescued from the forgetfulness into which the annals of the settlement were fast passing.

All the facts set forth in the pages ensuing, except those for which credit is given to other sources, were collected by the Editor of the volume, by personal inquiry in most cases, from the surviving pioneers of the county. He has been unable to enrich his collection by any ancient documentary matter letters, diaries or memoranda. The early history of the county rested in the memory of the few pioneers who are living, and in the traditions handed down by those who are departed. The appearance of Mr. O. Turner's timely History of "Phelps and Gorham's Purchase," after this work was prepared for the press, has enabled the editor to correct the results of his own inquiries in several important instances.

Those whose memory extends to the period of the settlement, will find this but an unsatisfactory chronicle of the old time. Individuals who merit notice as early settlers of the county have probably been passed over unnoticed; many facts of interest and importance have doubtless escaped the researches of the editor, and serious inaccuracies will undoubtedly be discovered in the statements recorded. A fair degree of diligence in searching for facts, and a sincere desire to preserve honorable among those who shall hereafter inhabit this county, the memory of those plain, hardy and free-hearted men who first broke into its original wilderness and by the work of their own hands began to make it what ft how is, are all that can be offered in extenuation of the meagreness of the results of the editor's labors. The collection should have been made twenty years ago. Many pioneers of note men of adventure, of observation and of rare powers of narration, have gone from among the living since that time. Much of valuable and entertaining reminiscence has perished with them.

 

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Steuben County occupies the summit and eastern slope of that ridge which divides the waters of Seneca Lake that flow to the Susquehanna, from those that enter the Genesee. The course of this ridge is northeast and southwest; its breadth from base to base is from forty to fifty miles; the elevation of the eastern base is about nine hundred feet, and that of the western base (the valley of the Genesee,) nearly eighteen hundred feet above tide water; while the highest intervening uplands attain an elevation of twenty-five hundred feet above the same level. The summit of the ridge follows the curve of the Genesee at the distance of about ten miles from that river. The streams flowing down the brief western slope are, therefore, but inconsiderable creeks, while the waters collected from the other side supply the channels of three rivers, the Tioga, the Canisteo and the Conhocton, which uniting form the Chemung, and add essentially to the power of the noble Susquehanna. The region composing this dividing range is an intricate hill country, consisting of rolling and irregular uplands, intersected by deep river valleys, by the beds of several lakes, and by the crooked ravines worn by innumerable creeks. Few rocks are presented at the surface of the ground, and the whole land was originally covered with a dense forest as well the almost perpendicular hill sides, as the valleys and uplands. The river valleys are bounded by abrupt walls from two hundred to eight hundred feet high, which sometimes confine the streams within gorges of a few rods in width, sometimes grant a mile, and sometimes at the meeting of transverse alleys enclose a plain of several miles in circuit.