Town History from the Child’s Gazetteer of Jefferson County, N. Y.

pp. 638-645

RODMAN embraces No. 8, or “Orpheus,” of the “eleven towns.” It was formed from Adams, March 24, 1804, under the name of “Harrison,” and named in honor of Richard Harrison, one of the proprietors. Its present name, which it received April 6, 1808, was derived from Daniel Rodman, of Hudson, who served as clerk of the Assembly in 1808-09. By an act of February 12, 1808, township No. 9 was erected into a separate town under the name of Pinckney, and the county line so changed as to pass around that town instead of across it, throwing the town into Lewis County. The town is nearly square, measures a little more than six miles in length, and contains an area of 22,597 acres. It is bounded on the north by Watertown, on the east by Lewis County, on the south by Lorraine and Worth, and on the west by Adams.

The surface of the town is somewhat elevated, and more or less broken by hills along the water-courses, which run in deep gorges or channels. There are, also, several gulfs of great depth, and considerable width, and these aid in giving the town excellent drainage. The principal streams (sic) is the north branch of Sandy Creek, which enters the town near the northeast corner, and flows through it in a southwesterly direction, passing out near the center of its western line. Its principal tributary is the Gulf stream, which empties into it near the village of Rodman. In the southern part of the town is Fish Creek, and its tributaries, having a general westerly course. Some of these streams afford excellent water-power, and their distribution is so general that nearly every part of the town is thoroughly watered. Numerous springs also abound, which, together with the favorable condition of the soil, makes this an excellent grazing region. The principal industry is dairying, although the cultivation of grains is not unprofitable. The soil is loam, or sandy and clayey loam, and was originally covered with a fine growth of maple, beech, and other varieties of timber, groves of which have been preserved on the higher lands, while along the streams are belts of hemlock. Before the land was cleared the timber products were the principal sources of revenue, supplying many saw-mills, asheries, and tanneries. Dry Hill, in the northwestern part of the town, having an elevation of several hundred feet above the general level, contains indications of the existence of a series of fortifications, similar to those found in other portions of the county, evidences of occupancy of the territory by a prehistoric people.

At the first town meeting held in Rodman (then Harrison), at the house of Simeon Hunt, on March 5, 1805, the following officers were chosen: Thomas White, supervisor; George H. Thomas, clerk; Ozias H. Rawson, Cyrus H. Stone, William Rice, assessors; Jonathan Davis, Robert Stuart, poormasters; David Nickles, S. Hunt, Calvin Clifford, commissioners of highways; Peter Yandes, constables and collector; George H. Thomas, John Fassett, fence viewers; S. Hunt, poundmaster.

The following account is taken from Spafford’s Gazetteerof 1813: ---

“In 1810 there were 214 families and 1,281 souls. There were four grain-mills, six saw-mills, one fulling-mill, a carding machine, and three distilleries. There were no houses of worship, but meetings were held in four school-houses, and a minister of the Congregational order was settled in 1809.”

From the same author’s Gazetteer of 1824, we quote: ---

“In 1821 the population was 1,735; taxable property, $117,428; 7,890 acres of improved land; 2,308 cattle, 490 horses, 4,312 sheep; 17,11976 yards of cloth made in families. There were seven grist-mills, eight saw-mills, three fulling-mills, two carding machines, five distilleries, and six asheries.”

In 1880 Rodman had a population of 1,517. The town is located in the first school district of Jefferson County, and in 1888 had 13 school districts, of which one was joint, in which 24 teachers were employed 28 weeks or more. There were 317 scholars attending school, and the aggregate days attendance during the year was 27,582. The total value of school buildings and sites was $6,920, while the assessed valuation of all the districts was $594,722. The whole amount raised for school purposes was $2,978.32, $1,445.03 of which was received by local tax. S. Whitford Maxson was school commissoner.

RODMAN (p.o.) contains a Congregational and a Methodist Episcopal Church, seven stores, grist-mill, tannery, two blacksmith shops, wagon shop, a creamery, a neatly kept hotel, and about 35 dwellings. It is situated on Sandy Creek, in the east part of the town, and was once a thriving and busy center of trade for farmers. A large and flourishing academic school was once located here n quite an imposing building, the dome of which is now toppling to the ground.

ZOAR, or UNIONVILLE, as it is sometimes called, contains about a dozen dwellings and a cabinet shop. It was once the principal village in the town, and contained two stores and a hotel.

WEST RODMAN, on Sandy Creek, consists of a grist-mill, cheese factory, and several dwellings. At this place was once located a distillery, but it was long ago discontinued, and M. Slaughter’s grit-mill now occupies one end of the building.

TREMAINE’S CORNERS (p.o.) is located in the southern part of the town. It contains no business places but a postoffice and a cheese factory.

WHITESVILLE (East Rodman p. o.) is a little hamlet situated in the northeast part of the township on Sandy Creek, and contains a Methodist Episcopal Church, store, hotel, cheese factory, blacksmith shop, and wagon shop.

The Rodman grist-mill, located on Sandy Creek, in the village of Rodman, was first built by Nathan Strong about the year 1810, a few feet west of the present site. In 1850 the mill was purchased by M. Slaughter, thoroughly repaired and operated by him until 1861, at which time O. M. Cooley, now of Rochester, bought out Mr. Slaughter. The business was continued by Mr. Cooley until 1879, when he sold a one-half interest to his cousin, Egbert Cooley. They remained in partnership for one year and 10 months, when the property was destroyed by fire. The Rodman Milling Co., the present owners, then purchased the site and erected the present mill, which has three runs of stones, and is capable of grinding 250 bushels of grain daily. O. R. Porter, who has been employed in the mill for over 20 years, still has charge.

L. Washburn’s tannery, situated on Sandy Creek, in the village of Rodman, was built in 1840, by Joseph Brown. Three years thereafter Mr. Brown sold the property to Hiram Herring, who continued the business until his death, which occurred in 1881, when it passed into the hands of the Hiram Herring Tanning Company. This company had but a brief existence, for at the end of two years from the time the company was organized the present proprietor took possession of the property. The tannery at present turns out about 4,000 hide annually, and employs four hands.

C. C. Vroman’s creamery, located a little north of Rodman village, is fitted up with the De Laval centrifugal cream separators. The cylinders are capable of churning 300 pounds of butter at one time. During the season the number of pounds of milk averages about 1,840,000, and the number of pounds of butter made therefrom about 80,000, valued at $16,800.

The West Rodman cheese factory was built by A. R. Heath in 1870. It has the milk of 450 cows, aggregating about 1,2000,000 pounds annually. From this milk is made 120,000 pounds of cheese and 15,000 pounds of butter, the united value of which is about $13,000.

Mr. Oakman’s saw, shingle, and planing-mill is situated on Fish Creek, about a mile southwest of Rodman village, and was built by M. P. Wait in 1866. It has a capacity for turning out 5,000 feet of lumber daily, and 600,000 shingles annually.

E. L. Todd’s saw-mill, located on Sandy Creek, between Zoar and Whitesville, was built by Reuben Smith about 1840. At the present time it is but little used.

M. A. Fassett’s creamery, located on Sandy Creek, midway between Rodman and Whitesville, has the patronage of 400 cows, and receives about 1,066,000 pounds of milk annually, from which is manufactured about 47,000 pounds of butter, valued at $8,500.

Dunaway & Dickinson’s cheese factory, situated at East Rodman, receives the milk of 350 cows, aggregating about 900,000 pounds annually, from which is made 90,000 pounds of cheese, valued at $8,100.

The South Rodman cheese factory, located at Tremaine’s Corners, is owned by C. D. Hitchcock, and has a patronage of 296 cows, receives about 750,000 pounds of milk annually, and makes about 75,000 pounds of cheese, valued at $5,525.

Henry C. Spencer’s creamery, in the south part of the town, on road 55, has the patronage of 100 cows, receives about 216,000 pounds of milk annually, from which is manufactured 15,000 pounds of butter, valued at $3,150.

C. H. Vroman’s creamery, in the north part of the town, on road 1, is fitted up with approved apparatus, being built in 1886. It has the Blanchard butterworker and De Laval separators. The patronage of the factory is 450 cows, receives about 1,250,000 pounds of milk annually, from which is made 56,250 pounds of butter, valued at $11,812.

A. Miller’s cheese factory was built by O. G. Heaton in 1864. It has the patronage of 375 cows, receives about 810,000 pounds of milk annually, from which is made 81,000 pounds of cheese, valued at $6,075.

E. A. North’s saw-mill was built in 1869 by Marcus Inman. It is situated on the Gulf stream east of Rodman village, and is capable of sawing 200,000 feet of lumber annually.

M. G. Wilson’s cheese factory, located at Rodman village, was started in 1890. It has the capacity for handling the milk from 400 to 500 cows.


Benjamin Wright made the first survey of this town in 1798, and in 1800 Joseph Crary made surveys. The town was divided into 56 lots of irregular size, which were generally subdivided into quarters, the original division being known as a great lot. Silas Stow, of Lowville, as the agent of Harrison & Hoffman, opened the town for settlement in 1801, the land being generally sold at $3.50 per acre. Anson and Ebenezer Moody, Jonathan, Noah, and Aaron Davis, Simeon Hunt, Benjamin Thomas, and William Rice came in in the spring and summer of 1801, built log houses, and made small clearings. Mrs. E. Moody joined her husband here in September of that year, and was the first white woman to settle in the town. A few months later she gave birth to a son, which was the first white child born in Rodman. The child was named Walter Harrison Moody, for one of the proprietors of the town, who promised 100 acres to the first-born child. The child died at the age of three years, which was the first death in the town, before having received the land; but Mr. Moody subsequently received a title to 50 acres.

In September, 1802, Timothy Greenly, from Litchfield, N. Y., purchased a large tract, aggregating 2,669˝, in the southeastern part of the town, and soon after located upon a portion of it, where he resided until his death, February 19, 1852. Thomas White, also from Litchfield, came in 1802, and settled on Sandy Creek, at what is now Whitesville. He moved west in 1810. Daniel Todd, from Connecticut, settled near White’s the same year. William Dodge came in in 1803, and settled on lot 13. Reuben Smith also settled on lot 13 the same year. He was an active man and built several mills. In 1804 William Rice erected a saw-mill at Rodman village, and in 1806 a grist-mill.

The books of the land-holders show the following additional names of those who contracted for land under date of December 1, 1804: Jesse Smith, Aaron Moody, Horace Townsend, Thomas White, Joseph Nickels, Arnold Stone, Nathan Whitman, Avery Wallsworth, Joseph Dana, Titus King, Noah Davis, Thadrick Case, Leonard Farewell, Joshua Finney, John Vaughan, and Leonard Barker. In 1805 Buell and Westcott, Nathan Freeman, Hawks and French, Pierce and Lampson, Wright, Mead, and others made purchases. Asa Cooley came in 1807, and the same year Abner Fuller settled on lot No. 1. From 1804 to 1810 the town settled very rapidly. In the western part of the town the Gateses were among the most prominent. Other well known settlers were Ziba Buell, Stephen Cook, Jesse Wright, John Butterfield, John Burton, Jacob Heath, Nathaniel Harrington, and Solomon, Joseph, and Job Priest. The town books show the following, besides those already mentioned, to have been active citizens of Rodman previous to 1811: Bazaleel Gleason, Roswell Blanchard, Luther Eastman, Peter Yandes, Beloved Rhodes, Cyrus H. Stone, Isiah Post, Calvin Clifford, George H. Thomas, Elijah Russell, Enoch Murray, Caleb Woodward, Zachariah Wallsworth, Epaphras Moody, Abel Loveland, Timothy Underwood, Abijah Kellogg, Stoddart Eastman, Nathaniel Tremaine, Greene Kellogg, Amariah Babbitt, Heman Swift, Titus King, Luther Woodworth, Barnard M. Warren, Aaron M. Loomis, Reuben Tremaine, Ebenezer Blackstone, John Hacket, James Wright, Lyman Lawrence, Thomas Harrington, Nathan Whitman, Winslow G. Tracy, William A. Flint, Daniel Field, Daniel Kinney, Harry Wagoner, John Burr, Samuel Ralph, Joseph Pratt, Alanson Cummings, Charles Parmeter, Alvin Buck, Ansel Brainard, Benoni Edwards, Samuel Kelsey, Return Russell, Philo Booth, James Glass, Asa Hill. In 1811 Willard M. Winslow settled in the town; in 1813, William Sill; and about the same time Abel Cole and Nathan Strong, all becoming prominent in the history of Rodman, the latter two having served as members of the legislature---Cole in 1818, and Strong in 1832. Cole was also a judge in 1815.

The first inn-keeper in the town was Simeon Hunt, who located his tavern at the mouth of Gulf stream, which was a prominent point along the Sandy Creek road, between Zoar and Whitesville. About a mile below Whitesville, Benjamin Sill kept a large frame hotel at an early day. This building was yet standing a few years ago, though not in use. Dry Hill at one time was considered of enough importance to have a store, which was conducted by Michael Heustis and John Priest. The building they occupied was afterwards utilized as a wood house by one of the thrifty residents.

The first school in town was taught in the summer of 1803, in Anson Moody’s barn, by Miss M. Nobles. A number of log school-houses were erected the next year, which were used until they gave place to a better class of buildings. In 1840 the citizens of Rodman, at a cost of $1,200, which was raised by subscriptions, built a seminary, which was given the name of Rodman Union Seminary. After a number of years of prosperity the seminary ran into a decline and was finally discontinued, the building being occupied by the public school for a time, when the property finally reverted to the heirs of Nathan Strong.



The first religious services in the town, it is said, were conducted in the summer of 1802, by Rev. Mr. Woodward, a missionary, who on a week day preached to a small audience at the cabin of Anson Moody.

Rodman Congregational Church, located at Rodman village, was organized September 22, 1805, by Rev. William Lazelle, a missionary, and at its organization consisted of the following members: Nathaniel Nichols, Reuben Tremaine, Aaron Loomis, Nathaniel Crook, David Coy, Laura Tremaine, Sally Loomis, and David Bishop. In July, 1806, Mr. Lazelle received into membership of the church Jesse Wright, Lydia Wright, William Dodge, Lydia Dodge, Martin Standlif, and Olive Standlif, the whole number of members at this time being 14. This was really the pioneer church in all this region. The church in Adams was formed in 1804, but no minister was permanently settled there until 1811, and in Watertown no minister was located until 1814, when the people of that town united with those of Rutland in the support of the clergyman. The first regular pastor of this church was Rev. David Spear, who preached his first sermon in Rodman on the second Sunday of August, 1808, was installed as pastor September 13, 1809, and continued in the pastorate of the church, with the exception of two years in Smithville, two in Rutland, and two in Denmark, for more than 55 years. Previous to Mr. Spear’s ministry Rev. Mr. Priddle and Rev. Mr. Vale labored here, but the exact time of their services cannot now be ascertained. For 10 years after its organization the church was without an edifice, and its meetings were held in school-houses in winter and in barns in warm weather. The first church building, a wooden structure, was erected in 1815. It was 38 feet wide and 50 feet long, and its spire was about 85 feet high. For a number of years it was used without any means of warming, except as individuals brought their own foot-stoves. In 1851 the present house of worship was erected, and in 1877 received extensive repairs, the whole cost aggregating about $7,000. It will comfortably seat 350 persons, and is now valued, including grounds and other church property, at $8,000. In 1854 a chapel was erected in the rear of the church at a cost of several hundred dollars. The church now has a membership of 115, under the pastoral charge of Rev. Charles A. Redgrave. The Sunday-school has a membership of 120, with an average attendance of 85.

The First Methodist Episcopal Church of Rodman and Whitesville villages has a house of worship in each village. A class was organized in 1804, the members being Anson and Epaphras Moody, John Fassett, Richard Dye, Alpheus Nichols, Thomas White, Peter Yandes, and Ebenezer Blackstone, Rev. Isaac Puffer, George Gary, Elisha Wheeler, Lewis Whitcomb, and Giles and John Dempster preached in a log school-house, and being driven out held services in John Fassett’s kitchen, midway between Rodman and Whitesville. In 1829 the several classes in town were organized into a circuit. The first Methodist meeting in Rodman village was held in 1847, by Rev. Elisha Wheeler, in an old red school-house which stood on the site of the present school building. The same year a subscription was raised, ground purchased of W. D. Allport, and the frame of a church erected. This church was completed in 1849, and dedicated by Bishop Jones. The first class consisted of John P. Billings, Alanson Kinney and wife, C. D. Moffitt and wife, James Brown and wife, and Mrs. Thomas Field, the first named of whom is still living. The first Sunday-school was organized in 1847, with John P. Billings as superintendent. The first regular pastor of the church in this town, of which we have record, was Rev. Alexander Erwin, who was located here in 1821. The first house of worship was erected in 1829, of wood, without steeple or paint. The present church building in Whitesville was erected in 1858, at a cost of $2,500. It will comfortably seat 180 persons, and is now valued, including grounds, etc., at about $3,000. The Sunday-school in Whitesville was organized in 1857, and O. D. Hill was the first superintendent. The present house of worship in Rodman will comfortably seat 270 persons cost about $3,500, and is valued, including grounds, etc., at about $4,000. In 1876-77 this church received extensive repairs, and was rededicated by Bishop Peck. The present membership of the two churches is 160, under the pastoral charge of Rev. C. E. Miller. The Sunday-school has 157 members and 28 officers and teachers, with J. P. Billings, of Rodman, and John B. Edwards, of Whitesville, superintendents.

Note: The family sketches followed. These are presented on Nan Dixon's NYGenWeb site for Jefferson County, N. Y.

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