History of the Town of Coventry

by Oliver P. Judd


Sundries and Secret Societies

     The Masonic Lodge was formed in the early fifties. It increased to about sixty members and continued for many years. It is now disbanded. The Sons of Temperance at one time had a large society which flourished for a long time. Coventryville had a society of Good Templars for 32 years with about 40 members. It had also a society of Red Men with 97 members, was organized in 1895. It afterwards moved to Coventry and is now disbanded. There is at present a society of the National Protective Legion. The Grangers have a society here which has flourished rapidly in two years.

Agricultural Items

     Chenango county has been the banner county of the old Empire State for many years, according to the number of acres, in producing butter and cheese. Four counties have produced more, but they were all larger counties. In 1855 this county produced 3,990,564 pounds of butter, 1,212,544 pounds of cheese. Coventry came within one of being the banner town of the county according to the number of cows. Greene came first with 125 pounds to the cow. Coventry produced that year 250,270 pounds of butter, 6,510 pounds of cheese, 15,795 bushels of potatoes, 31,330 bushels of apples, 936 bushels of winter grain, 56,952 bushels of spring grain, 1,343 yards of domestic cloth. It has 534 horses, 1,771 working oxen and calves, 2,140 cows, 2, 272 sheep, 1,121 swine. It harvested 5,606 tons of hay.

Sundries in 1855

     Value of real estate, $464,715; personal property, $43,450, total $498,165. Population, male and females being equal, 842 each. Number of dwellings, 333; number of families, 357; freeholders, 214; school districts, 12; number of children taught, 740, average to district, 53 1-3.

Coventry Soldiers that Are Dead.

Soldiers of the Revolution.

     Joseph FAIRCHILD, SR., who served three years. Joseph FOOT, father of Apollos and Alanson, served seven years in the prime of his life and died at the ripe old age of 100 years, three months and twenty-one days. Joseph PIKE was an old Revolutionary soldier. Robert HAWKINS too old to bear arms in the Revolution, but served his country as a guard in the forts of the Patriots. Heth KELSEY, Oliver PACKARD, Record WILBER, David HODGE, Samuel PORTER, Benjamin JONES, Captain Jothan PARKER, Burrige MILES, Captain JOB YALE, Benjamin BENEDICT.

War of 1812

     Tracy ALLEN, Roger EDGERTON, Gilbert D. PHILLIPS, Ira S. BEARDSLEY, Gurdon JOHNSON, Matthew B. SMITH, Josiah BEARDSLEY.

Civil War

     Samuel S. SMITH, died April 16, 1867, aged 48 years. Martin V. SHAW, died Dec. 27, 1882, aged 45 years; was a member of Co. F. First N. Y. Vet. Calvary. Rev. Samuel A. STODDARD died Nov. 24, 1886, aged 51 years; was a member of Co. K. 24, N. Y. Calvary. Calvin WELLS, David SNELL, Bronson BEARDSLEY, John W. WILDER, Oscar E. FOOT, Oris TUBBS, John SPICER, Charles FINCH, Hezekiah KNICKERBOCKER, John SHAFFER, Stuart WYLIE.

     Doubtless there are many others buried in the cemeteries unknown to the writer. I mention those that I have found. During the Civil war, from 1861 to 1865, this town furnished 125 or more men to go as soldiers. Many never came back, some that did were injured for life. The first man to enlist was Nelson SPENCER. His brother Franklin following him under the first call, for three months volunteers. Frank was wounded at the first battle of Bull Run, came home, got well and enlisted again. Later in the war his brother Henry went also. No one can realize the privations and sufferings of a soldier in time of war but those that have been there and passed through and lived to return home, that know its costs are the most thankful for peace and we should all unite with them in thanksgiving for its blessing. The war cost this town many thousands of dollars in bounty and other expenses, which the town was wise to pay all up in a few years by taxes while farm produce was high.


     In the early days of this town, from 1800 to 1840, there were for some reason or another many who thought their supposed wrongs could not be settled only by law, and as the tongue was an unruly evil it set many of them going. The Justices of the Peace had considerable business to do; for often one would sue another for some small offence. The justice would plead with them to settle, but many times they would not, being determined to bring the case to the court. It would have to be a jury trial or else a justice case where three justices would set as judges to hear the evidence and render a decision. If the three agreed all the better, if not then two must agree in order to render a verdict. One of the most successful ones whose decisions were sustained by higher courts when appealed to was Zenas HUTCHINSON. He was Justice of the Peace for 24 years and the best read lawyer in the town. Many cases were brought before him and tried. In most cases his decisions were final, but very few appealing from it. He also had a large amount of writing to do, in drawing deeds, mortgages, contracts, notes and other business papers.

     In drawing contracts for leasing farms, or any other transaction, they wished to express in it, he would tell them to put in the contract every identical thing they had talked over and each agree to it in order that no loophole be left for trouble to jump through. Many people in those times did not have ready money to pay for things they wanted so thinking a better pay day would come they gave their notes; many of these were left with him to collect, in which he was successful. But as times have grown better and people have more money less of such things has to be done by Justices of the Peace. A few of the Justices of the Peace of this town were: Calvin BLAKESLEE, Daniel HAYES, Romeo WARREN, Bela SEYMOUR, James S. PARKER, Nelson HUNT and Charles PEARSALL. These all having finished their work here passed into the beyond from whence no traveler returns. The present ones are A. B. MINOR, D. N. HUNT, J. KELLEY, Warren SMITH and F. M. MANNING.


     Coventry has always been noted for its good teachers and district schools, and in the early days some very large ones. About 1815 it is thought that Zena HUTCHINSON taught at Coventryville. He had his mind and hands full as all teachers did in those days, there being a scarcity of books and but few alike many of the scholars had to recite along, which made extra work for the teachers. Then they had to take paper similar to our foolscap, make it into writing books, rule it, make their own pens out of goose quills and keep them in repair. Thus keeping the teaches at work most of the time. Many times when needed they heard their individual scholars recite before and after school hours, besides having to do many things that teachers of today know nothing about. How teachers managed so well in such small school houses with so many scholars is a mystery, for during that term he had 101 scholars, and many of them were grown up young men and young women. As time went on children began to decrease. In 1828 Susan HUNGERFORD taught in that district one term when many of the older scholars were at home, but 73 came to school. Teachers' wages in those days were magnificent, they received their board as they went from place to place around the district, and for five and one-half days teaching per week, one dollar and twenty-five cents, the highest price paid then for female teachers. She and her sister Marie both taught several years. Mr. Hutchinson also taught eighteen years. Some of the teachers that came later: Gideon MINOR, Harvey BEARDSLEY, Lucius MANWARREN, James S. PARKER, Ezra FOOT, Charles and Ida FAIRCHILD, Albert GRISWOLD, Napoleon ELLIOTT, John P. THORP, William, John and Ira D. MANNING, and many others both in the east and west part of the town that the writer does not call to memory.

New York and Erie Railroad

     This company was organized in July, 1833. The act authorizing the road was passed April 24, 1832. The first preliminary survey was made in 1832 by Dewitt CLINTON, Jr., by order of the government. In 1834 the governor appointed Benjamin WRIGHT to survey the route, who assisted by James SEYMOUR and Chas. ELLIOTT, begun the survey May 23, and finished the same year. In 1835 the company was organized and forty miles were put under contract. In 1836 the comptroller of New York State was directed to issue $3,000,000 State stock to aid in constructing the road. In 1836 the State released its lien on the road and authorized the original stockholders to surrender two shares of old stock and receive one share of the new. April 8, 1845, a branch was allowed to be built form Chester to Newburgh, nineteen miles. The road was opened as follows: From Pierpoint to Goshen, September 22, 1841; to Middletown, June 7, 1843; to Port Jervis, June 6, 1848; to Binghamton, December 28, 1848; to Owego June 1, 1849; to Elmira October, 1849; to Corning, January 1, 1850; and to Dunkirk, May 14, 1851. Distance form New York to Deposit one hundred and sixty-two miles. The mention of this railroad is given here because it has connection with a plank road that was built from Deposit through the different towns to Coventry. Deposit being the nearest railroad station then to Coventry and the other towns along the road. A plank road was built from Deposit to Vallonia Springs, half way to Coventry, and as that was the most feasible way to get to the railroad from Coventry, on such a grade was no doubt the reason it was built. A company was organized consisting of the leading business men and farmers along the line from Vallonia Springs to Coventry. It was called a stock company, each one taking as much stock as they desired. It was built mostly in the year 1851 and finished in the spring of 1852, the last plank being laid in the town of Coventry and was built in sections by contractors. It has been told to the writer that in order to have it go where it does by the homes of Loren and Leonard PORTER, instead of over the route where the company wished it to be built, they and their families would build one-half mile of the road without any cost to the company. This they did although it was not known whether the company furnished the plank or not. There was a four horse stage that run each way and met the Deposit stage at Vallonia Springs, carrying mail and passengers. In 1852 they took off the four-horse stage, and run two horses for three years, then a one horse stage for four years. It was used as a toll road for seven or more years. Owing to the cost of repairs amounting to more than the tolls, it was sold to the towns for $300, who removed the plank and make a turnpike road of it. Before the railroad was built to Deposit all of the merchants' goods had to be drawn from Catskill by teams or shipped up the Hudson river to Albany, thence on the York and Erie canal to Utica, thence down the Chenango valley canal to Greene, then hauled to Coventry by teams. All the butter, cheese, pork, beef, wool and all other farm produce had to be shipped away with the same conveyance, which would now be called slow freight.

Town Fair

     The first town fair ever held in Chenango county was held in the village of Coventry in the autumn of 1855. The most energetic and successful people of the town believed it would be nice and pleasant to bring together the produce of the farm and show each other, free of cost, the things they were able to produce here in Coventry. Accordingly on a certain day they came together and the writer well remembers it. It was a beautiful Autumn day in October, bringing with them corn husked and on the stalk, grain threshed and in the bundle, vegetables of many kinds, horses, oxen, hogs, sheep, poultry, etc. The ladies also bringing them their work. It was an open fair held on the church green west and south of the Baptist church. The stock was shown in a lot on the south side of the road. The people were so well pleased with their pleasant and profitable gathering that they decided to hold another fair the next year, 1856, at Coventryville, which they did with a like enjoyable occasion, being more encouraged than ever to let people see what they could raise. It was said that Charles FAIRCHILD took the first premium on his steers, they being the best broke. The near years, 1857, an agricultural society was organized. Wm. KALES was president, Merit S. PARKER was secretary and Lucius MANWARRING marshal. The writer fails to recall the names of the other officers. In the autumn of 1857, the society leased a number of acres of land of Luman MILES, just south of the school house in the south west of the village. Around this they built a board fence. Mr. DORT came from Harpursville with his pile driver and drove the chestnut posts. On these were spiked 2 by 4 pieces running lengthwise and then boards eight feet high were nailed thereto. It made a durable fence which withstood the weather for over 20 years. The ground was prepared, a floral hall was built, pens were made for stock, a driving track was made and eating stands were put up where the hungry public could be fed. The fair that year was a very large one for the times, farmers and others taking a lively interest therein. People came from far and near to enjoy a good time and they had it. That year the ladies had a driving contest with one and two horses. Mrs. Thomas TIFFT took the first on driving two horses; Mrs. Fred BUNNELL first, and Eunice PARKER second, on single horse. Fred Bunnell also drove "Morgan Tiger" and exhibited him as an extra broke horse. The fair was held after this for several years, and was called the best town fair in the county, with varying scenes of interest and enjoyment up to 1864, when it closed. One year the Sons of Malta appeared, about 40 men on horseback, masked and dressed in odd costumes. They rode around the track followed by Andrew ROCKWELL masked and dressed like an Indian with colored feathers on his head. He rode on a donkey and gave exhibitions, showing how the Indians jump on and off their ponies and shoot game with their bows and arrows. The company also publicly initiated one of their members on a platform. From that descending into a tub of water was an inclined plank. Blindfolded they pushed the candidate down the incline and he went splashing into the water, which furnished lots of fun for the spectators. Another year there was a drawing contest to see whose oxen could draw the most. Three yoke, one owned by Ben FOOT, one by Scoville PARKER, and another by Bella SEYMOUR, were hitched to a stone boat loaded with stone. Mr. Seymour's oxen were light, Mr. Parker's weighted over 3,000 pounds, and Mr. Foot's 2, 800. Another year they had a walking match and a yellow horse owned by Charles HINMAN took the first prize. It is believed that Frank GRISWOLD' s horse took second. During some of the years there were contests of the best broke steers. Charles FAIRCHILD had some there in 1857 which were well broken, but did not receive the first prize because George JULIAND, had two pair there that were broken and driven by Hiram FOWLER. They were large, well matched, handsome and well broke and they of course took first prize. Farmers in those days were raising many Devonshire cattle, red beauties they were, and many of them were seen at the fairs, from calves to cows and oxen. There were some common grade and some short horned Durham cattle exhibited also. There were many exhibits of sheep and lambs, long wooled ones took the lead. In August, 1860, John S. TARBELL, proprietor of the Franklin house, Montrose, Pa., sent a horse to Andrew ROCKWELL and Douglas to break it of the habit of switching and kicking when hitched to a wagon. In sixteen days from the time they took him they exhibited him before the Susquehanna County Agricultural society hitched to a sulky, also at the Pennsylvania State fair and New York State fair, as well as at several county fairs during the fall of 1860. Only a few of the many incidents of these fairs have been given, but we will call them ended and say a few words about Messrs. Rockwell and Hurlburt, it being a most fitting place. Soon after they gave their horse exhibits here and at the fairs in 1860, they bought two more horses, one named "Star," the other a milk white horse named "Mazeppa," and broke them the same as they did the first one. With these and a few men they started on the road travelling from place to place giving a school at each place. They taught the young men how to break colts to drive and horses of their bad habits. They gave to each one their book, "A Practical Treatise on Horse Breaking" and taught them privately how to do it for which they received from each student $5. HOBBS Brothers of Nineveh made them a wagon for which they received a large price, in which they made their trips. In 1868, they left their home for the last time and started on their western journey giving schools from here to California. Wishing to go farther, they took passage on an ocean steamer for either Oregon or Washington. During the voyage the ship was struck by another ship and sunk with all on board. The Pacific was their tomb in which they were quietly layed to rest; there to peacefully sleep till the resurrection morn.

War of the Rebellion

     At a special town meeting, held September 5, 1862, 131 votes were cast for and 30 against a proposition to raise by tax $1,500 to pay to each of thirty volunteers the sum of $50 as a bounty for enlisting, the men so enlisted to apply on the quota of the town under the call for 600,000 men. March 4, 1863 the board of town auditors issued three bonds for this amount and the expense connected therewith, the first to Apollos FOOT for $550, at six per cent, payable January 1, 1864; the second to R. CHANDLER, for $546. 24 at six per cent., $246.24 payable January 1, 1864, $300 payable Jan. 1, 1865, and the third to T. D. PORTER, for $450, at six per cent., payable Jan. 1, 1865. At a special meeting Jan. 2, 1864, 49 votes were cast for and 4 against a resolution to pay $323 to each person enlisted and applied on the quota of the town (21 men) under the call for 300,000 men. E. A. PHILLIPS, James S. PARKER and Daniel BEECHER were appointed a committee to draft the necessary papers and report the most feasible way of obtaining the money. On the recommendation of the committee the officers consisting of the board of town auditors were instructed to issue and sell the bonds, in the sums of $50 to $500. James M. PHILLIPS and S. F. ALLIS were appointed a committee to act with the board. To carry out provisions of this resolution bonds bearing seven per cent interest were issued as follows: 17 four years' bonds $100 each $1,700.00; 17 three years' bonds $100 each 1,700.00; 16 two years' bonds $100 each 1,600.00; 2 years' bonds $50 100.00; 15 one year bonds $100 1,500.00; 4 one year bonds $50 200.00 = $6,800.00 71 revenue stamps at 10c each 7.10= $6,807.10

     At a special meeting held April 11, 1864, it was decided by a vote of 32 to 4 to authorize the board to pay such sums as they deemed necessary, not to exceed $500 each to the requisite number of volunteers to fill the quota of the town under the call for 200,000 men; and on that day the board issued bonds numbered from 72 to 78 both inclusive amounting to $2,200, and April 25, 1864, a like number from 79 to 85 in like amount bearing seven per cent interest and payable January 1, 1865. At a special meeting held August 2, 1864, 127 votes were cast for and 38 against a resolution authorizing the board to pay such sums as they deemed necessary, not to exceed $500 to each volunteer credited on the quota of the town under the call for 500,000 men, and the same provision was extended to persons who might be drafted under the call. At a special meeting held August 22, 1864, it was resolved to extend the same provision to persons furnishing substitutes under that call. At a special meeting held Sept. 10, 1864, it was resolved by a vote of 128 to 24, to so amend the latter resolution as to pay to each person furnishing an acceptable substitute the sum actually paid to each substitute deducting all bounties received by the principal from the government not to exceed $1,000; to authorize the board, if they in their judgment deemed necessary to pay, not to exceed $1,000, to each volunteer required to fill the quota under that call; and to receive the resolution to pay $500 to drafted men. Pursuant to these resolutions the board issued Aug. 29, 1864, twelve bonds, amounting to $3,150 payable Jan. 1, 1865; and Sept. 19, 1864, 54 bonds amounting to $24,490, payable $10,780, in 1865, $11,410 in 1866, $1,200 in 1867, and $1,100 in 1868. At a special meeting held Dec. 31, 1864, it was resolved by a vote of 131 to 36 to pay each volunteer credited on the quota of the town under the call for 300,000 men a sum not to exceed $600 for one year's men; $800 for two years' men, and $1,000 for three years' men. The same provision was extended to persons furnishing substitutes, but they were in no case to be paid a greater sum than was actually paid for each substitute. Pursuant to this resolution bonds were issued as follows: January 9, 1865, bonds 67to 78, both inclusive, amounting to $3,150, payable, $900 in 1866, $1,350, in 1867, and $900 in 1868; January 18, 1865, bonds was 79 to 96, both inclusive, amounting to $7,638.50, payable $1,600 in 1866, $2,138.50; in 1867, $2,700; in 1868, and $1,200 in 1869. January 26, 1865, bonds was 97 to 109, both inclusive, amounting to $6,850, payable $1,050 in 1866; $4,800 in 1867 and $500 in 1868; and Feb. 14, 1865, bonds was 110 to 114, both inclusive, amounting to $1,467.50, payable $1,300 in 1867 and $167.50 in 1866. As we have just been writing about the Civil war we think it would be very appropriate to put in a poem written by Mrs. Cordelia BEARDSLEY WILDER, in the time of the war of the rebellion.

Say, Must Our Country Perish?

Say, must our country perish
With all that's true and brave,
The arm of right and freedom,
Be powerless to save?
Must we fling down our banner,
To worthless traitors' yield?
Our heroes lie unhonored
Upon the battlefield?
Hark! Hark! There comes an answer,
That's pealing loud and long;
We go to join our brothers
Three hundred thousand strong.
We yet will save our country,
We know we can, we must;
We'll take the traitors' banner,
And trail it in the dust.
"Twill be a tearful parting
To bid loved ones adieu
But they will bravely cheer us
And tell us to be true.
Our country shall not perish
Our hopes shall not be crushed,
For God will surely bless us,
And aid the cause that's just.
Oh, 'tis a fearful struggle,
A nation's blood to spill,
But the Union, now, forever!-
Oh, yes! We'll surely conquer
The traitors; they must yield
And we will bear in triumph
Our banner from the field.

End Chapter VIII pg 61-68 (This is 1st Chapter VIII)

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