April 1993

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History of Bath

for the First Fifty Years


Ansel J. McCall

Historical Address, June 6, 1893
Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI, Part VII, Part VIII

Part IV

The first comers were not romancers, but stern workers who braced themselves for the toils and privations before them. Thomas Rees, Jr., the surveyor, with his corps of assistants, commenced at once to plot the village, locate the streets and squares, and number the lots, while Cameron and his helpers, after clearing the ground and making rustic cabins in which to shelter themselves, proceeded to erect a log building on the south side of Pulteney Square, of sufficient capacity for the accommodation of Captain Williamson's family and the transaction of his official business. On the north side of Morris street, about twenty rods west of the Square, they next erected a log structure for John Metcalf's hostelry. James Henderson, the millwright, sought out a mill site on the Conhocton River, now owned by John Baker and occupied by his flour-mill, and with his crew commenced building a saw-mill to furnish boards for floors, doors and roofs for the new land office, hotel and other structures being put up. It was the first saw-mill in the town, and was completed on the 25th of August. These were stirring times. Everyman was working with a will. The axes of scores of choppers resounded in unison, and the boom of the falling pines echoed from mountain to hill. The shouts of the ox-drivers and the "heave-yo" of the house builders made merry music. Captain Williamson in a few days was on the ground in person, superintending operations and cheering the faint-hearted by his presence and stirring words. All was life and activity where he showed himself.

It would seem, from a memorandum in Captain Williamson's account book, that his family arrived in Bath from Northumberland about the 10th day of July, and were duly installed in the log palace prepared for them. Some other families occupied rude cabins in the neighborhood. James Rees, of Philadelphia, had been placed in charge as chief clerk in the land office, and Metcalf's grand hotel had flung its gay banners to the breeze, and their were nightly gathered roystering woodsmen to recount their labors and forget their toils in deep potations. Even then whiskey was plenty; and their fare was coarse. The same account book shows that the chief supplies purchased were pork, flour and corn meal. True, there was an abundance of game in the forest and fish in the river, but the workmen were too busy to take them. Charles Cameron, in 1848, in referring to his expedition, states, among other things, "We suffered from hunger and sickness a great deal. I am now the only survivor of those merry Scotch and Irish boys who used to be so happy together." Turner, in his history of the Phelps and Gorham Purchase, adds, "These pioneers had a distinct view of the elephant Provisions failed and they were at one time three days without food; as they cleared away the forest, and fever and ague, as it was wont to do, walked into the opening, and the newcomers were soon freezing, shaking and then burning with fever in their hastily constructed cabins."

Cameron's Party

It is greatly to be regretted that Mr. Cameron did not give us the names of his associates and something of their personal history. Old letters and account books render it quite certain that the following named persons were of the party, viz: Andrew Smith (known as "Muckle Andrew," from his size and strength), the grandfather of John L. Smith, now occupying part of the ancestral estate three miles below this village; William McCartney, the first settler in Dansville, and one of its most prominent citizens; Hector McKenzie, who removed to the West Indies about 1802, and there died; Henry Tower, the builder of the mills at Alloway, a large dealer in produce, once a merchant in Elmira, where he entertained Louis Phillipe and his brother—these four were young men from the neighborhood of Williamson's home near Balgray, Scotland; Thomas Corbett, the first settler at Mud Creek; Thomas Rees, Jr., the surveyor who surveyed and made a plot of the village, which is the standard now in use; Alexander Ewing, who subsequently settled at Mt. Morris, and had a daughter who married John H. Jones, of that place; William Ewing, a surveyor, who later removed to Ohio, and became the progenitor of a distinguished family of that State; John Metcalf, the first innkeeper, the father of John Metcalf, who served for years as county clerk, and Thomas Metcalf, a former merchant and innkeeper in Bath; James Henderson, the millwright, later a prominent citizen of Ontario county; Samuel Doyle, a Revolutionary soldier, the great-grandfather of Miss Nancy Smith, of this village; his brother-in-law, Joseph Arbour, Richard Armour, John Scott, Charles McClure, Peter Loop, Mr. Upton, Benjamin Patterson, the hunter, and Joseph Bivens, who kept the first inn at Bloods, now Atlanta—most of these were Scotch-Irishmen from the west branch.

We have reason to believe that the following named persons, or some of them, were also of the party, as they were here during the summer of 1793, their names appear on Captain Williamson's books and they had been residents on the west branch in the neighborhood of Northumberland: Hector McKay, William Lemon, Samuel Ewing, John Ewart, Samuel Ewart, George More, George Baittie, Francis Conway, William Carol, Robert Biggers, the tanner, who in 1793 purchased thirteen acres lying on the south side of Morris street, west of the cemetery, where he erected a tannery (some years ago Jared Thompson discovered the remains of tan vats in the edge of the swamp, but there was no one living who could remember the tanner or his works); Obadiah Osborn, the mill builder, who subsequently purchased a farm in Addison; George McCullough, a blacksmith, who became the purchaser of the mills below Corning, and died in that town; Robert Hunter, the schoolmaster; Jacob Glendening, Andrew Shearer, Dr. Schott, Gottleib Dougherty and one Paul.

Historical Address of Ansel J. McCall, June 6, 1893,
published in The Centennial of Bath, New York 1793-1893,
reprinted by the Steuben County Historical Society 1992
Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI, Part VII, Part VIII
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