October 1988

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A History of



Kera Sauerbier Sprague

For history's sake we must say that Cohocton was established in 1805, but in reading the history of Steuben County, I find that pioneers traveled through here before this and, of course, there were the Indians who had settlements along the Conhocton River.

In 1794 Charles Williamson sent Joseph Biven to build a tavern and start a settlement at the "Twenty- Two-Mile Tree," on the Conhocton River. This was known to the early settlers as "Biven's Corners," and kept this name until a post office was started in 1825 and then it was changed to North Cohocton.

The settlement of the township was slow at first for there were many dangers and hardships. From this history written about Cohocton I read that there were many bears, bobcats, panthers, lynxes, wolves and rattlesnakes. Some stories have been told about the settlers of this county and their fights with some of these animals. Here is one of these stories:

"There were many rattlesnakes and to say that there were thousands of them in the Conhocton valley among the pines, would be speaking modestly. An old settler of this country was once journeying through the woods, and when night came, found himself in a district infested by rattlesnakes, numbers of which were twisting their tails in the bushes in great indignation. Fearful that if he lay on the ground he might wake up in the morning with his pockets full of snakes (for they are extremely free to snug up to sleepers on chilly nights, to enjoy the warmth of the human body), in which case, it would be a delicate thing to pull them out, he placed a pole across two crotched stakes, and slept on the pole. His slumbers were sound and refreshing. In the morning he found himself on his roost with no snakes in his pockets, and observed, moreover, that during his sleep, he had unconsciously turned over from his right side to his left."

Wolves, bears and panthers killed many of the settlers' animals but most of the time they could be driven off by the screams and frantic gestures of the house wife. Another story goes:

"Wolves seldom or never were provoked to resistance. The settler walking through the woods at dusk, was sometimes intercepted by a gang of these bush-pirates, whom hunger and the darkness emboldened to snarl and snap their teeth at his very heels; but a stone or a chunk of wood hurled at their heads was enough to make them bristle up and stand on the defensive. We hear of a bouncing damsel who attacked half a dozen of them with a whip, just as they had seized a pig, and put them to flight, too late, however, to save the life of the unhappy porker.

There were other troubles for the settlers of Cohocton "In 1812, the public mind was considerable agitated by the events of the war then in progress; and the inhabitants of this particular region had an additional element of disturbance in their very midst, for the Indians were still in the valley and some attempts were made to incite them to deeds of violence against the settlers. However, the storm of war passed without disaster to local interests, and the Indians were restrained by the determined attitude of the settlers. Soon after 1815 the last remnant of them withdrew from the valley and went to the state reservations."

The Conhocton valley was one of the best hunting grounds of the Indians, but when the forests were cut down, this caused the streams to dry up and most of the animals moved to other places or were killed by hunters. For many years there were no deer in Cohocton or this part of the state.

In the early days, many rafts of lumber and grain were sent down the Conhocton river from Atlanta and Cohocton.

Richard Hooker was the first settler in Cohocton. He built a log house on the road between Cohocton and North Cohocton in about 1791.

The first house that was built between Liberty (now Cohocton) and Avoca was built by Jonas Cleland in 1805. Other early settlers were Frederick Blood, Harvey Johnson, Alonzo Parks, James Woodard, Alvin Talbot, Albertus Larrowe, the Deusenberys, Job Briggs, Joseph Chamberlin, Joseph Shattuck and Deacon Horace Fowler.

Fowler had come to Cohocton from Guilford, Connecticut, in 1806. He moved into the Conhocton wilderness and built a log house on the spot where the municipal building now stands.

Abram Lent was the settler of Lent Hill. Charles Tripp settled on the four corners west of Cohocton and kept a hotel. This is how Trippnock got its name. Potter Hill is named for its first settler, Gideon Potter and John Brown gave Brown Hill its name.

The first school taught in town was taught by Sophia Trumbull in 1810 in a log dwelling built by Jonas Cleland and the second school was the one taught by Duty Waite in 1814 in the north end of the town.

These first schools were only log cabins, with desks nailed to the three walls. The students sat on crude benches and the heat came from a fireplace.

These were gradually replaced with frame structures, many of these are still standing today.

In 1820 the first frame school was built in front of the Maple View Cemetery. It is recorded that in 1830, it was voted that the district raise $2.00 to be spent on repairs to the school house. The wood to heat the school was let out on bid for 81 cents a cord. By l836 they were allowing $5.00 for repairs.

In 1838 a sum of $20.00 was raised through the State and town to purchase books for a library.

The old Union School was built in 1869 and stood where the park is today. This was a two story building with three rooms and a study hall down stairs and two rooms up. The teachers each taught three grades in one room and another teacher and the school principal taught the high school grades. Mary Larkin taught in this building and her wages were twenty five cents a week. It was from this Union School that the first diplomas were issued in 1884.

A brick school house was built on the same spot after the Union school had burned in 1889. Most of the folks of Cohocton remember the brick school. But with the growth, it did not prove adequate and in October, 1934, the new school was completed.

There have been many other things in Cohocton's history which should be remembered and a few of these are: the flood in 1936 and another in 1972; the fire of about the year, 1963, which burned the Naas warehouse and the one a few years ago that burned the Bishop and Babbin potato storage in Atlanta. There is much that goes into making the history of our town; its history is being made every day.

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