January 1991

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The First Conover

in Corning


Catherine Pierce

My great-great grandmother Sarah Whitmore descended from the Covenhoven family. That is a name that has been connected with Corning from its earliest days. A newspaper clipping from the Corning Leader of January 20, 1932, refers to an old newspaper clipping that had been found in a farmhouse in Caton and told of Peter Covenhoven who first came from Montgomery County, New York, in 1821 and settled in Corning in 1823. He bought a farm in Hornby and had lived there 64 years at the time the old newspaper report was written, when he was 85 years old. According to a biographical account in Clayton's History of Steuben County, Peter Covenhoven was born in 1803. That date and his age at the time of the interview would indicate a publication date for the old newspaper of 1888. Here are some excerpts from the account:

"What is now bustling, prosperous Corning, the most thriving village on the line of the Erie railroad, was, in 1820, a forest with a country road but little traveled, running through a wilderness of pine trees. One of the oldest residents of Corning or its vicinity and the earliest settler of the neighborhood is Peter Covenhoven, familiarly known as Uncle Peter Conover.… He is one of the old Knickerbockers, the name being a common one in New Jersey, where it is spelled Covenhoven but frequently abbreviated to Conover for the sake of euphony or a desire to conform with the tendency to modernize words… He came to Corning in the year 1821, and settled in what was the town of Painted Post, but which has since been cut up into six townships—Painted Post, Corning, Campbell, Erwin, Caton and Lindley. On coming to the vicinage of what is now Corning from Montgomery county Mr. Covenhoven first accepted a position under Loring Mallory to work by the month. He kept this for some time and then returned to Montgomery county. Coming back later he was re-engaged by Mallory who, in 1821, lived in a log house on the present site of Corning, where the road now turns to cross the river to go to Knoxville… In those days all the houses within a radius of a dozen miles might be counted on one's fingers… As Mr. Covenhoven recollects them, the houses standing in 1833 were three. On the edge of the woods approaching Mr. Mallory's stood the half log and frame occupied by James Corkins. It was the first house built on the site of the present village of Corning, but was destroyed some years ago. There was another house on the same side of the way as Mallory's known as Colonel McCollough's place… On the Corning side of the Chemung there was neither tavern nor store."
© 1991, Catherine Pierce
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