A blog about a first-time house owner learning to maintain his backyard, and thoughts about nature, science, history, and life.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Freeville History - Origins

I promised some history on this blog.  As some say, there’s no history better than local history.  So here’s a little bit about the origins and early history of my town (current population: 523).

My town began as a mill site.  With Fall Creek (the creek adjoining my property) and Virgil Creek, there’s plenty of flowing water to go around.  The first documented white settler was a Revolutionary War veteran named Daniel White.  He built a cabin about ½ mile downstream of my property in 1798, and followed this with a dam and a grist mill.  Other settlers moved to the area, but the town really started to blossom when a widow named Rhoda Willey moved to a location along Virgil Creek in 1815.  With her came four sons and three daughters, including the enterprising Samuel, who owned “a sawmill on Virgil Creek, the White Gristmill and a sawmill behind that on Fall Creek, a hotel (later known as Shaver’s), the first store just west of the hotel (near the northeast portion of the lower four corners), and a blacksmith shop, and he had farming and dairy interests.”

The first “big business” to be established in the town was a large mill built upstream of Daniel White’s original mill by his son, John, in 1833.  Incredibly successful, the mill employed up to 40 people.  Its staple was Teco pancake flour, which was shipped around the country until after World War I.  The mill finally closed in the 1930s, presumably a casualty of the Great Depression.  Though the mill is gone (with a park in its approximate old location), the dam remains.
This information was taken from my town’s website.  I’ll link to it once I’ve finished posting about the history of the town over the next few weeks.

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