The Otego Historical Society
A History of Otego
Chapter XII


Chapter XII
Briar Creek

THIS creek was settled early. Samuel Thomas and Elihu (?) Smead were among the first settlers. Ben Wheaton, whose name was closely connected with the creek's history before 1795, lived in log houses at different places-across the road from E. E. Trask's, on the knoll below schoolhouse No.3, and on the old Carr farm, now owned by Morgan Place. Wheaton's panther story need hardly be told, for it is so well known. Fallen asleep one day on the top of the range of hills south of the river, he was covered over with leaves by a panther, that fetched her young and then pounced upon not a man, but a log, that the wily old hunter had put into his place under the covering. From his vantage-point in a tree, Wheaton shot the panther and her young. Game became scarce as its haunts were encroached upon by settlers, and Wheaton moved to North Franklin.

William King, a Revolutionary soldier, settled, early, back in the woods on the north part of the farm recently purchased by William Hughston from William Brown. Between him and the river road once lived one of the Hornings. William Walden is said to have been the first settler on the place now owned and occupied by Lester D. Gillett.

Eighty years ago Jonathan Burdick was living on the place now owned and occupied by Edgar Southard. He had a small grist mill near L. Gardner's, which he ran only a few years when the dam gave way. About 1830 Abner Ferry moveo hither from the river road, and finally went west. He had no children.  

Elijah Ferry, brother of Abner, moved from the eastern part of the town to what is known as the old Ferry place, owned by the late Homer Birdsall, now occupied by Cassius M,. Ferry. He died down the river while rafting. His son Abner then moved from the Ed. Sutton farm on Wheaton creek to this place. Between 1834-44 Abner Ferry moved to Schenevus, renting the place for a few years to Elias Hinsdale. On notification of Ferry's return Hinsdale packed his goods, but on the last night of his stay here the house took fire, and his brother, Norman, was burned to death in trying to save some money from the flames. The Ferrys were from Connecticut.

The first settler on the place next below E. E. Trask's, now owned by Roland Trask, is said to have been Elijah Hinman.  

The William Trask place, now owned and occupied by his son, E. E. Trask, was early occupied by Benjamin Walden, who lived down in the lot, west of the present road. Barnard Hawks is said to have once lived here. Near the comer once lived Isaac Gates.  

The old Walden farm is the one owned formerly by Theodore Knapp, now Willard Knapp. Here, east on the old road, in 1810 lived old John Walden, who mysteriously disappeared in 1824. Stories were told of lights and spooks seen in his dooryard afterward.  

John, son of Timothy, Birdsall settled what is known as the David and Ira Birdsall farm, now owned and occupied by the former.

Truman Trask from Rhode Island settled early where Henry Heliker formerly lived, on the place now owned and occupied by George Bennett. Trask moved hither from the river road, just above the Day farm.

Nahum Smith moved from the river road about 1818 to the place owned and occupied formerly by Edward Smith, now by Carl Smith, son and grandson respectively.

Before 1813 Eben Warner was on the place now owned and occupied by Peter Vanlone. Others here have been Daniel Shepherd and, later, Bennett Chatfield of Connecticut. Michael Birdsall once owned this place.  

Isaac Brown, originally from Massachusetts, came, probably from the Butternuts, to the West Branch about 1800. About 1814 he bought the farm now owned and occupied by H. G. Brown, his grandson, and the place across the road now owned and occupied by Wesley Stillwell, from Daniel Knapp and William Potter. The next year he built a carding-machine and a fullingmill down by the creek, the old foundations of which were destroyed by a flood four years ago. The dam for the saw mill that he also built may still be seen. Brown is said to have learned the "art and mystery of the clothing business" from Phineas Cook. The present house was built about 1825. A store was once kept there on the corner.

The first schoolhouse is this district (No.3) was of logs. The present and third one was built by William Merithew. Two early teachers were Daniel Shepherd and Perry Angel.

The place now owned by Johnson Wilbur is the old Knapp farm. "Deacon" Daniel Knapp, a Revolutionary soldier, came from Taunton, Mass. about 1793, buying his farm in 1803 from Philip Merithew. In his later years Knapp lived in the village, just west of the Otsdawa. A later occupant of this farm was Simeon Castle, who was originally from Connecticut, and had seven sons. When Knapp first came to town he is said to have lived about forty rods above Brown's, east of the main creek road, where his son Aaron lived afterward.

Philip Merithew, a Revolutionary soldier, came from Rhode Island before 1800, and in 1803 bought his land from John Lawrence of New York. His father, Richard, had been an old sea captain, and his only son was William. The three lie buried under plain stones in the old yard near by, for they were Quakers. The old Merithew farm was later occupied by H. Doolittle, and is now owned by Legrand Castle. The house is one of the oldest on the creek.

In the same year and from the same party the lot next above, No. 124 Morris patent, was bought by "Captain" Levi Austin, who had come from Stockbridge, Mass. about 1792. He was a blacksmith, and his shop stood near the corner of the roads. He sold fifty acres by the creek to Isaiah Blanchard, a Scotch blacksmith, who had come from Rhode Island to Otsego county in 1806. The latter sold his property to the Shepherds, and moved to Sand Hill. In his later years Austin lived with Philip Merithew, who is said to have been his comrade in the Revolution. He died on the E. E. Trask place.

Robert Potter is said to have come by ox-team and sled with Philip Merithew from Rhode Island. In 1803 he bought for $155 one hundred acres from Levi Austin. Here he lived his life and was followed by his son Robert. The place is now owned and occupied by Eugene Moore.

Simeon Bliss of Connecticut was an early settler on the place owned and occupied formerly by G. A. Barton, later by W. F. Ward, now by George Belden. He sold the place to Stephen Waite.

It has been said that John Vermilyea, the Revolutionary soldier, moved from the river road to live at the top of the pitch below the creamery, where he finally became insane. The property was early owned by William, brother of Robert Potter. He reserved twenty-five acres here from his land for his wife Olive, and disappeared to Pennsylvania. With her lived her sister, who after the death of her first husband, John S. Vermilyea, married an Aris.

In 1821 part of the place now owned and occupied by J. L. Goldsmith and the next place above were sold by Oliver H. Everett, a resident owner, to Nathan Birdsall and William Shepherd.

The latter had the Goldsmith place, and was followed by his son Augustus. Across the creek once lived john Morehouse, and in the immediate vicinity, Christopher Green.  

The place now owned and occupied by Edward Wyman was originally two places. About eighty years ago Elias Burdick lived on the lower part, which was bought by Jonas Wyman in 1831. Benjamin Vermilyea, a very early settler, bought the upper part from Stephen Scott in 1809, and conveyed it to john S. Vermilyea fifteen years later. This part was bought by William, son of Jonas, Wyman, and the two places were joined The Vermilyeas were Dutch, and probably from Putnam county.

The farm now owned and occupied by Leslie Smith was early settled by Bateman Walden, who sold, all or a part, to Bates Finch. The place later passed into the hands of Thomas Truman, a Quaker. Truman probably came here from Albany county. He was a descendant of a Thomas Truman, who came from England to Rhode Island over one hundred sixty years ago.

Edward and Solomon Fuller once lived on the place now owned and occupied by George Haines.

Ninety years ago Isaac Benedict was the wealthiest man in town. He is described as "a large, stout man, who built much good stone wall." He owned the next two places, which are now both owned by Morgan Place. He sold the lower one, known later as the William Arnold place, to John Sheldon. His son George sold the upper one to Ed. Carr in 1834; the next occupant was James Emmons, who had married a daughter of George Carr. Above the cemetery, land for which was given by Benedict, about 1820 was built the so-called "Benedict Academy," which was a schoolhouse about 20x30 feet and of rough boards. Here in 1821 Phineas Emmons, a graduate of Yale, taught thirty pupils. This Emmons lived in a log house on the top of Emmons Hill, and was an eccentric man. He is said to have been the first one to bring white daisies into this region, scattering the seeds over the hills.

Edmond P. Emmons of Rhode Island was an early settler on the place where Ezra Brown formerly lived, which is now owned and occupied by James A. Waite. His crippled brother, Arthur, lived near by, on the old cross-road, east of the schoolhouse. The latter was deprived of his lands by the owners, moved to Puckerhuddle, and was followed on the place by Calvin Fuller, whose brother, Isaiah, built a comb-factory somewhere on the creek about 1820. Fuller sold the place to a Bushnell in 1827, and moved to Flax Island. Farther to east on this old road on the place owned formerly by George Utter, later by David Hurd, now by Morgan Place, lived Elias Hinsdale, who came from Connecticut about 1814. He was a blacksmith, and his anvil is at H. G. Brown's. Whenever there was occasion to go to town, he and a rundlet rode the pony together, but coming back they sometimes parted company.

James Wait, originally from Dartmouth, Massachusetts, came from Saratoga county in the winter of 1807-8, and lived for a short time on the Peace place. He is said to have next settled in a little clearing made by John Fisk, and here, east of the main creek road and some distance below the comer, he built his log house. This Fisk substituted for him in the War of 1812. The house later occupied by his son Eben, and recently by the latter's widow, Elizabeth, was built by him about 1828. When Calvin Fuller first came from Rheoboth, Massachusetts in the summer of 1819, he settled about one-quarter of a mile north of this house, in the town of Butternuts, with Joseph Pearce and Benjamin Soden, neighbors on the east and west respectively. The Fuller family boarded with john Keysor until their log house was finished. Calvin Fuller had eight children.

Before 1800 Joseph Pearce, probably from Rhode Island, had settled on the next farm, adjoining Butternuts. He was an agent for Gouldsbrow Banyar. His neighbor on the north, over the line, was Peter Farnum, a Connecticut Yankee.

Benjamin Soden was an English Quaker, who moved from the river road to the place now owned by R. G. Cornell and occupied by Fred Scramling, in the town of Butternuts. He bought the place from the original settlers, john and Elisha Fisk from Connecticut.