JEFFERSON COUNTY, NEW YORK

HISTORY of the TOWN of WORTH

Visited by S. W. Durant & H. B. Peirce in 1878


In the old records, Worth is listed as town No. 2, of Boylston's Tract and was created from Lorraine, by an act of the Senate and Assembly on April 12, 1848. The name "Worth" was bestowed in honor of Gen. W. J. Worth, who became personally known in Jefferson County during the Patriot disturbances of 1838-40; his services in the Mexican war made him one of the most prominent soldiers on the American side.

Sandy Creek which flows through the area, created a number of tributaries, the principal ones being Chloe and Abijah Creeks named after Miss Chloe Wilcox and Abijah Gillet.

In order to make the proportions of the proprietors of the Black River Tract equal, the eastern portion of the town of Worth was divided among them. Harrison and Hoffman, 1283; Henderson, 649; Low, 1,576; William Constable, 947; and the remainder to Harrison and Hoffman, 22,004 acres.

In the northwestern part of the town, Daniel McCormick and Charles Smith made purchases which later became the center of the first settlement. Abel French, prominent in local affairs, was an agent of McCormick and Smith; he sought the survey services of Joseph Crary in November 1801 and May, 1802. Only part of the town was surveyed and lots created in a manner that caused several duplicate lot numbers to occur. Abel French was instrumental in the formation of the first settlement; while passing through Herkimer County from his home in Denmark, he convinced a company of citizens who resided in Litchfield, to purchase in common, large tracts of land in the town.

Timothy Greenly, Joseph Wilcox and Elihu Gillet were appointed a committee to visit the tract and report on the advisability of making a purchase. Their report was favorable and a contract was concluded on 22 July, in which the citizens agreed to pay French, as the representative of McCormick and Smith, $7,622 for the northwest quarter of the town. The tract was divided into lots. The committee members, in addition to those mentioned were: Asaph Case, Leonard Bullock, W. Flower, Eli Gillet, Lodwick Edwards, John Griswold, Ezekiel Chever, Phineas Rose, Joel Caulkins, Abram Ford, Nathan Matson, Asa Sweet, John Pinear, Phines Stevens, Elijah and David Richmond, John and William Sagas, John Houtailing and a few others, all of them from Herkimer County, but mostly natives of Connecticut.

Among the first settlers were Asaph Case and Leonard Bullock, who came in the fall of 1802 and settled on Lots 7 and 8. Bullock had three children: Electa, Alanson and Charlotte when he arrived and had nine more after his arrival. Of the twelve, eleven grew to maturity but four survived until 1878, being sons, Leonard and Hiram and two daughters, Juliette and Esther. Leonard Bullock was born in 1817 and stayed on his farm for 60 years. His house was built of logs with no floor, door or windows in any part of it. The roof was of hollow basswood logs, split and laid so that every alternate one formed a trough to carry away the water. A hanging blanket served as a door; the floor was tamped earth covered with leaves. Cooking was done in a large Dutch chimney.

A contemporary of Case and Bullock was Elisha Gillet. Of the Gillet family, David, George, Elihu, Alanson and Mrs. Leonard Bullock were residents in 1878.

In the year of 1803, Joseph Wilcox came by way of Redfield, and made the journey in March with an oxteam hitched to a sled. No roads or bridges existed so the guide was only blazed trees. When they arrived at Sandy Creek, swollen by rains, they were at a loss about how to cross but felled a tree across the stream, which created a footbridge. The loads were carried piece by piece to the opposite shore. Oxen were urged into the stream and had to swim, pulling the sled with them. Hogs had a bed cord tied around their necks and were piloted across. When the Wilcox family reached their home site, a log house with a puncheon floor, bark roof, and a sheet of oil paper was built. When the winds were high, some of the bark roof blew away and allowed snow to accumulate on the floor, sometimes for several inches. Those who woke up first had to shovel the snow away to allow those from the upper floor to descend. Sterling Wilcox, a son of Joseph, was fifteen when they settled and for 70 years lived near the original home.

When the War of 1812 erupted, many of the original Litchfield company who had settled in 1803, deserted their homes and returned to their native places. Several successive cold seasons followed the war and caused still others to depart. Those who stayed often had mortgage foreclosures to add to their hardships, and the foreclosures caused much of the land to revert to the proprietors.

In 1830, those who resided in Worth were: Joseph Wilcox and his son, Sterling; Daniel Wilcox, Asaph, Abel and John Case; E. West; John Russell; Chester Bushnell, Andrew W. Craig; John Wilson; Paul Pryor, Peter Wakefield; Joseph H. and Venus C. Rising; Joseph Totten; James Potter; Zadoc Hale; Henry, Erastus and Richard Lyon; Leonard and Alanson Bullock; Joel Overton; Boomer K. Charles; Lyman Jenks; William, Simeon and James Houghtailing; Eli, Elihu, David and George Gillet; Leonard Parker; Daniel and Joseph Caulkins and Nathan Matoon. Those who came in 1830 were: Albert S. Gillet, and his brother, Lorenzo P.

The first attempt to build a sawmill was made by Leonard Bullock about 1808, but a land foreclosure forced him to postpone the finish and it was never completed. In 1810, Joshua Miles built a saw and gristmill under one roof on Sandy Creek. He ran the mills for five or six years and then sold it to Timothy Greenly, who sold them to Abner Rising. Before the mill was operational, settlers had to carry their grain to Adams or Whitesville, a trip of two days.

Joseph Wilcox and Green Kellogg built a sawmill about 1816. In 1856 a company was formed to get a grist mill operational. Pealer and Fox built the mill in 1860. In 1857, a sawmill was built below the first mill by Abel Case. It later passed to A. S. Gillet and the capacity in fair water was 10,000 board feet per day.

The Gardner brothers built a mill on the site of an old wood turning operation about 1850. Known as the Tucker Mill it passed to a Mr. Spear. Then in that neighborhood, Henry Prouty built a very good sawmill about 1863 which also had a shingle machine. The Worth Center Mill was built by E. Cornell around 1862. Other mills that were built on the Abijah Creek were by William Houghtailing and J. M. Ackley; one was destroyed by fire and the other fell into disuse.

In 1867 a cheese factory was built at Worthville by a stock company that was comprised of Leonard Bullock, Levi Wilcox, C. C. Moore, B. B. Brown and J. H. Rising, who operated it for about a year and then sold it to Abel Bigford who then leased it to A. McNeal. Lucius Mandigould started a similar factory in 1870 but it was discontinued after a short time.

The first district school in Worth was taught in Asaph Case's barn in 1807 and its teacher was Mrs. Nobles. Her husband died and she moved west. A total of ten or twelve pupils from the Case, Russell and other families comprised her student body. During the winter of 1808, Ruel Canfield taught a school in a part of Timothy Greenly's house in Rodman. Miss Betsey Bugbee taught a school in a log house a few years later, which became District 2. Her transportation to the school was by ox team, hitched to a sled. A. S. Gillet taught a small school for a number of years about 1830.

Elisha Sweet was one of the first burials in the town. Because the old cemetery had poor drainage, a more favorable location was selected on Lot. No. 8 for a cemetery.

At Worth Centre, a hamlet of a dozen buildings, settlement was made in 1850 by E. Cornell. His house was as primitive as those built 50 years previously. A small store was opened about 1874 by Cornell and a post office with daily mail from Adams via Worthville was established. Ezra Cornell was the postmaster but he also manufactured and sold lumber.

Worthville, formerly known as Wilcox's Corners, had a population of about 100 persons. A store was opened there in 1849 by Lorenzo P. Gillet, and a part of it was used for a tavern. Another storehouse was built in 1865 down the street by Henry L. Porter but it passed to George D. Macomber in 1871.

Blacksmith shops were around early by Canfield, Elihu Gillet and Engelbert West, all prior to 1810. Richard Lyon followed as did Albert Harrington.

In 1805 Joseph Wilcox, a Connecticut native, emigrated to Worth. There was only one other family in town. He purchased 150 acres of wild land, built a house and moved in with his family - a wife and six children. His wife died at 76 years and he at 88.

Sterling Wilcox, the son, was born in 1791 and was 86 in 1878. He married in 1818 to Sarah Smith of Lorraine and became the father of six children - Lydia, Philura, Levi, Caroline, Gilbert and Charles. Mrs. Sarah Wilcox died on 22 March 1867 at 67 years.

Levi Wilcox was born 26 November 1825, and married Miss Mary Fox, in 1847. They had two children - Emma G. and Gilbert H. Gilbert H. married Miss Eva M. Brown and they lived with his parents.

Leonard Bullock, who was a very early settler of Worth, came from Rhode Island to Oneida County and from there to Worth, in 1802. He bought his tract of land and built a log shanty and cleared some of the land. He married Miss Bathsheba Hancock and at the time of settlement they had two children. The total number of children by this couple was twelve, four sons and eight daughters. All grew to maturity except one son who died as an infant. Leonard lived to 55 years, and died in 1828. His wife survived to the age of 82 and died in 1860. Son, Leonard, was the next to the youngest of the 12 children and was born 3 Jan. 1817. He was a farmer at heart and eventually bought out the other heirs of the old homestead. When he was 20, he married Miss Martha Gillet of Worth, who was the daughter of Elihu Gillet, another early settler of Worth. They had three children - Emily L, Levi S. and Leonard C. Levi died at ten years. Both Leonard and Emily married.

This ends the earliest history of Worth.


Information transcribed and contributed by volunteer M. Sapienza. © 2015.



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