Uncle Enos In Cortland
By H. U. Johnson
Note: Enos Bacon was born in New Jersey, 1802, and died in 1888. He is buried in the Christian Church Cemetery. H. U. Johnson was listed in the 1860 Census as 30 years old and a teacher. The following account is reprinted from the Lake Shore Home Magazine, December, 1884.
More than twenty years had elapsed since we closed the door of the old academy at Leroy, said good-bye to the grand set of young people who for two years had gathered about us in the pleasant associations of the school room, and assumed the responsibilities of another field of labor. Summers had come and gone and though we had seldom been permitted to re-visit our old friends, we had heard marvelous tales of growth and improvement in the miniature village of which we held pleasant memories.
Hence, when after the lapse of years we again found ourselves threading its streets (in 1884), we were somewhat prepared for the changes which we saw. Streets had been opened where were waving fields; churches had sprung up, studded on every side by pleasant homes; a fine spacious school structure stood where we had assisted a farmer to reap his harvest; the dear old academy had been removed from its honored site and metamorphosed into a mart of trade, and the few whom we met who had mingled with us in it were dignified and matronly.
During an hour of rather aimless wandering, other than for hand-shaking andgreetings, we chanced upon a landmark - a moving one it's true - dear old "Uncle Enos," or to the more precise, Enos Bacon, Esquire, who stood, or rather walked, a monument of the past.
To our query, "How d'ye do, Uncle Enos?" he gave a moment ofious half-uncertain gaze, and then broke forth:
"Why, Professor, is that you? Why, why, why! How is your wife? How is the boy? How is the girl? Have you seen my wife? Why, my, my! Come along, come along" saying which he seized our hand in a palm that never was extended in coldness, and led us away to see "my wife," "Aunt Elizabeth," one of those grand "aunties" whose presence in our land is one of its choicest blessings.
Once seated within his home, this octogenarian "uncle" continued for a time to pour forth his surprise at our visit, and that "the boy" he had so often dangled should be a bearded man, and "the girl" a woman grown. Then, as if recovering himself, he added, "No more surprising, however, than that 'Baconsburg' as you knew it should be the Cortland of to-day."
This was our opportunity, and we seized upon it be saying, "Well, Uncle Enos, you have been a long time hereabouts; suppose you tell us something of early days and your experiences."
"A long time here? Why,yes! I'm an old man, eighty-two past and my father, Samuel Bacon, came to Warren with his family in 1807, and I attended school in the old log school-house on the banks of the Mahoning just across from the park, where the teachers, if they did nothing else, flogged like blazes.
"In 1816 father traded his little farm for a mill property near here and at once removed his family to a house he had erected, and Baconsburg was a factum. Why, other persons had come to Bazetta and settled before but it was for our family to found the village. Edward Schofield had settled down south a little way in 1804. He was a kind of Daniel Boone, but could preach and pray, and the people finally sent him to the legislature.
"We soon had for neighbors John Budd, Henry K. Hulse, John Pruden, Joshua Oatley, and others, and in 1811 the David family came in. Why, I can't tell you much about those times, only what I heard them tell, but they had a hard time of it. Warren had got a little start, but Vernon was the place. These points were reached for years by means of bridle paths through the forests.
"When the War of 1812 came, every man in the settlement was called out just at the period of the harvest season. To lose their scanty crops was a trial, but their country called, and the call must be heeded. Then was exhibited in becoming style the spirit embodied in a song of more recent days, beginning thus: "Take your gun and go, John/ Yes, take your gun and go;/ For Ruth can drive the oxen, John,/ And I can use the hoe.
"... Those women took their babies, and babies were not rare birds then, and placed them in the shade beside the field, and cut and gathered the crops, women as they were, before the men came home from the war. Why, I'd like to see the woman that would do such a thing now.
"Wild game was plenty, and bears and wolves gave the settlers much trouble, but for a time they apprehended more from the Indians, who frequently passed their cabins decorated in well-laid stripes of war paint.
"A party of these redskins created no little excitement at one time, owing to a peculiar combination of circumstances. They had come down the Mosquito Creek on a hunting expedition, and encamped on the west side. Being without bread, one of their number came across to the house of Mr. William Davis to negotiate for some bread, bringing with him a large knife to give in exchange. Mr. Davis was absent, and his good wife became very much frightened at the earnest gesticulations and flourishings of the knife on the part of the Indian in his vain endeavors to make his desires known. Immediately on his departure she gathered together her children and, fleeing to the home of Mr. Bacon (Enos' father) gave the alarm. The men soon gathered with their fire arms and prepared for a descent upon their savage invaders. As night was upon them it was thought best to move cautiously. Now it so happened that a new arrival had been expected in one of the families of the little settlement some distance north and it had been agreed that when the joyous event occurred a gun should be fired at the homestead and repeated from cabin to cabin, thus heralding to all the glad tidings as soon as possible. As fortune would have it, the glad Mecca father found it necessary to fire just as this particular time, and then it was bang, bang, bang, all along the line, which made our valorous fathers think their neighbors were already in deadly conflict with the foe. Hastening toward the camp, they perceived nought but peaceful signs and an explanation soon revealed the innocent errand of their visitants and the settlers returned to enjoy in story the deeds of this brief and bloodless campaign. Mrs. Davis and her children remained through the night, and henceforth our house was known as 'Fort Bacon.'
"Why, I could tell you a great many things if I only had time to think, and I must tell you a yarn they used to get off at the expense of the Bacons.
"We did well in the mills for a time. Sometimes one and sometimes another of us attended the grist mill. The story went that when Moses, my brother, was there and I came along, I'd inquire, 'Moses, have you tolled the grist?' Of course he would say he had, but for fear he had been forgetful, I would insist on subjecting it to an additional one, and this was always sure to be supplemented by father's coming in and treating the matter with me just as I had done with my brother. Now that the milling business has passed into the hands of the Post Brothers the old story has become measurably obsolete and they are the men who are enriching themselves by the double use of the 'tolling dish' to guard against each other's carelessness.
"Did you say you wished to know something about the first school? Why, that was kept in a little cabin down in the valley of Walnut Creek some time before we came to town. They cut out portions of the logs and pasted in pieces of paper dipped in hot bear's oil to admit the light. There were pins inserted in other logs on which slabs rested for desks and seats; and the structure was warmed from a log wood fire in a great open fireplace. Here one Samuel Tanner taught the first school, and his name was no misnomer of the way in which he occupied his time. Afterwards a new house was built higher on the bank. In this John Brown's widow, then Elizabeth Franklin, taught at 75 cents a week and took her pay in store goods.
"She taught young people, men and women, grown, their letters. We hadn't anything but district schools until 1853 or '54 when the academy was built. Of that we were very proud.
"I remember just as well when King and Braden and yourself (H.U. Johnson) taught, and what numbers of stalwart young men and women it brought together; but then it had its day, and now we have a grand graded school which you must go up arid see. You'll not find any of our old scholars there, but maybe you can pick out some of their babies.
"We used to have pretty rough times for meetings. There was no church in the township of Bazetta until about 1820, when a log meeting house was put south of the village. Here David Abell, like many of his neighbors, used to come barefoot. He led the choir with great gusto. There was no organ, but the congregation, the men in their tow trousers and the women in home-made garb, sang "Coronation," and other hallelujah meters.
"We had no church in the burg until some years later, when this Baptist society was merged into a Disciple organization and a new church was built. Now you see we have four right in town. These, with our school and the GAZETTE, give us a pretty fair showing for morality, education, and intelligence.
"Speaking of those old-time meetings calls up some very familiar forms. Fathers Oatley and Rowlee and Calvin Smith were boanerges among the worshipers, and Anna Davis and Sophia Oatley were patterns for their side. Disciple as I am, and believing in water as I do, I can never go back on the record some of those old enthusiastic shouters made.
"It was pretty hard getting around in those early times, when roads were few andpoor. I went to Ashtabula in 1820,1 think, and stood on the deck of the Walk-In-The-Water, the first steamboat ever built on Lake Erie. That made me a wonderful youngman for the times. Why 'Enos Bacon has been clear to Ashtabula' became almost proverbial.
"When, somewhere in the fifties, we got a plank road to Warren, we thought ourselves all o.k. and began to put on airs; and when you put down the slab sidewalk around the academy in '58 Baconsburg was nobby indeed; but when oil was struck in Mecca in 1860, and when, a little later, the 'Nypano' was built, then the little town as you knew it shed its pinfeathers and plumed itself for flight under the more euphonious name of Cortland. You see how it is; all these stores and everything else. Why, now I think of it, strange as it may seem, poor old man as I am, I was the first merchant in town.
"It was a long time ago -1829 - that 'Bacon's Store' was flung to the breeze in rude letters. It was a little room, and tin pails and bed cord and loaf sugar were hung from the joists above, whilst the shelves and counter were disposed in a way that would make a now-a-days customer laugh. But things were in style then, for young Enos was rerecognized as a man of style. Pardon an old man's vanity.
" Why, I had almost forgotten that Mecca oil. We used to go to the springs and pools of water more than fifty years ago and skim it off to grease our boots. It was not wonder then, but it became a marvel when they began to bore for it, and men almost went wild in their excitement; and it has made our adjoining town famous all over the world.
"But there goes the mail train, and that reminds me that the first post office in town was on the west side of the creek, and the mail was carried through from Warren to Jefferson by a man on foot."
The weight of years was overcoming the old gentleman's enthusiasm and a call to dinner from "Aunt Elizabeth" was opportune. After a hearty meal and a pleasant general chat, we left the hale old couple, resolved to present Cortland as Uncle Enos had told it to us....
Business as Usual
"The Bacon family continued through the years to be not only Cortland's most prominent citizens but leaders in business as well.
"H. G. Bacon, son of Enos, bought out his partner's interest in the grocery business in 1872 and continued the operation himself. He was a member of the town council for years after its incorporation. He built two more stores and three residences within the village limits.
"I. H. and M. C. Post were also among the early settlers. These brothers operated a flour mill located in the southeast part of the village where Walnut Run was dammed and the mill was operated by water wheel power and steam. They also had a steam operated saw mill near there which was a flourishing enterprise. It is thought that this business was located where Brookside Inn now stands." (Note: where the Old Mill is located in 1995.)
"A cheese factory, the Diamond Cheese Factory, was built by David Everett in 1875. It had a capacity of 10 boxes of cheese per day, and was the largest factory in Bazetta Township. The milk was brought in by farmers from the area to the factory.
"Among other businesses best remembered in the village during the past century were the Parsons Handle Factory, located about at the corner of Erie and Pearl Streets; the Pence Cannery, located on the corner of Gates and Erie Streets; and a tube factory. All three of these businesses were said to have closed down sometime between 1918 and 1920.
"On High Street, Seth Hake had a buggy shop while Martin Thumm ran a horseshoeing shop on Main Street near what is now 148 West Main.
"There were also two livery stables, Sperry's on Erie Street and Weldey Rood livery stable on a location behind what is now Biggins, Inc . " ( Ainsley & Sons Heating in 1995).
Written for the Warren Tribune by Jean Mercer, 1969.