December 24, 2003

Willow Glen

Willow Glen (map) is a place that's listed on some maps, but isn't exactly a destination. You can get weather reports for it, but it's not considered a place for purposes of things like the Draft Comprehensive Plan, where it's the eastern part of the "Route 13 Overlay". It's most easily identified as the area with the big cemetery.

Willow Glen seems to have peaked early, and was probably ahead of the Village of Dryden until about the 1820s, with mills, a tannery, and tight-knit community. George Goodrich tells some tales about it, exploring its economic development, the cemetery, and some strange stories about a buffalo and a Prophet.

Chapter XXX - Willow Glen

A stranger now passing through the quiet locality of our town which formerly was known as "Stickles's Corners" but latterly called by the more romantic name of "Willow Glen," upon looking about him would naturally inquire "Where are the willows and where is the glen?" for both are at present a little obscure. It is said, however, that over fifty years ago, when this name was first applied to the locality by one of its inhabitants, Miss Huldah Phillips, the banks of the little stream which flows down through the "Corners" from the hillside were lined with large willow trees, forming with them a glen which made the name very appropriate.

As we have already seen, the settlement of Willow Glen dates back as early as 1798, when three of the very earliest pioneer families of the town located there, and during all of the Pioneer Period it was a formidable rival of Dryden village. During that time, it contained a tannery upon what was afterwards the Phillips corner, a grist mill (one of the earliest in town), and two saw-mills (one of which was the earliest in town, being completed in 1802), upon Virgil Creek, two stores, two distilleries, one hotel, a blacksmith shop, an ashery and a large wagon shop, all constituting a good business equipment for a new country settlement. One by one these elements of business have disappeared, and all which now remains in that line is the old blacksmith shop, converted in these latter days into the factory and storehouse of Mosso's Tempering Compound, and the wagon shop across the way conducted by Andrew Simons. Willow Glen has always had and still maintains a good school, and with it is connected an incident which is still remembered by some of the oldest inhabitants, who were children when the events took place. It is the "Story of the Bison" and reads as follows:

On a certain autumnal Saturday afternoon about seventy-five or more years ago two men entered Willow Glen by the highway from the west, leading between them a wild, shaggy animal, a buffalo recently capured on the prairies, being the first one seen in this part of the country. They stopped at the hotel, then kept by William Wigton, in whose barn they exhibited the buffalo to those who would pay ten cents for the opportunity of seeing him. During the afternoon the school was let out - Saturday was a school day in those times - and some of the scholars had ten cents with which to purchase the privilege of seeing the exhibition, but many others did not, and as an inducement to the owners of the animal the older school boys proposed that those who could should pay, but that all of the school children should see the buffalo; but the proposition was not accepted and none of the scholars were admitted to the barn. As night approached, Mr.Wigton, who had overheard some plans among the boys, who were displeased with the rejection of their proposition, informed the proprietors that he would lock up the barn at night but he would not be responsible for what might happen to the buffalo. They replied that there was no danger that any one would molest the animal for it was all that they could do to manage him and no one else would venture to undertake it.

Matters were left in this way, but in the morning the barn doors were open and the buffalo was gone, no one knew where. There was a long watering trough which extended into the barn and some one during the night had drawn the plug, letting the water out so that he could enter the barn through the empty trough and unfasten the doors from within. The proprietors in vain spent the morning looking after the source of their income, but no track or trace of him could be found.

Early that morning Darius J. Clement, the old gentleman who died a few years ago in Dryden village, but who was then a boy living with his parents where John Card now resides, went out before it was fairly daylight to the barn to do the milking. He returned soon after saying to his parents that he believed the Evil One himself had taken possession of the barn, for such pawing and bellowing, by a large animal with short horns, a large shaggy head, fierce, glaring eyes and a long tail, he had never seen or heard of before. Mr. Clement, who was a very religious man, decided that the Sabbath was no time to investigate the matter and directed that nothing should be done with the animal until the next day. But the news began to be circulated that the buffalo was in the barn of Mr. Clement and the people from all around began to congregate so that by noon all the men and boys from the neighborhood were assembled, and Mr. Clement was very willing that the cause of the disturbance should be removed. Some of the boys, presumably the same who had brought him there in the night, readily undertook the task of removing him and in so doing they led him through a clearing in which a vicious bull was being pastured. No sooner did the bull see the intruder of something like his own species approaching than he came rushing toward them ready for a contest of supremacy. Those who then had charge of the buffalo were very willing to let go their hold, which they did, thereby having the fun of witnessing a Sunday bull fight. The result proved that the buffalo, with his short horns and wild, vigorous habits, was too much for his domesticated cousin, who was was compelled to recognize the superiority of the intruder. The fun being over the boys returned the buffalo to his owners, who went on their way sadder if not wiser men.

Willow Glen, as well as the northwest corner of the township, claims a share in the invention of the power threshing machine, an inventive genius by the name of Miller having there developed one of the first threshing machines ever seen, which, with subsequent improvements, has revolutionized that part of the farmer's labor.

We have as yet failed to secure very satisfactory notes of the pioneer families of Willow Glen. Of the first three families to locate there in 1798, so far as we have been able to learn, the Clausons have no descendants now residing in the town, while Ezekiel Sanford and David Foote are the ancestors of quite a number of the present inhabitants. John Southworth, whose father, Thomas Southworth, came to Willow Glen in 1806, will be the subject of a separate chapter. Joshua Phillips, who owned and perhaps built the tannery on the now vacant corner of Willow Glen, was early a prominent citizen, being a Member of Assembly from this county in 1820 and a supervisor of the town in 1839. He came to Dryden from Nassau, Rensselaer county, about 1806, or, as some say, in 1811, and was a major in the State Militia. His wife, whom he married in Rensselaer county, was Huldah Bramhall, a very estimable wife and mother. They had no daughters, but twelve sons, one of whom, Archibald, now resides on the former homestead of his father-in-law, Peter Mulks, near Slaterville, and another, Albert, who married into the Twogood family, is still living at Merton, Waukesha county, Wis., 91 years of age, with another brother, Henry, whose age is 80. Among the others was George W. Phillips, who was once prominent in business in Dryden village. Joseph Bramhall, a brother of Mrs. Phillips, was a carpenter and early resident of Willow Glen, leaving children who still perpetuate from him the name of Bramhall. He was an assessor of the town at the time of his death, which resulted from consumption. His widow afterwards married Israel Hart and became the mother of Chas. I. Hart, of Dryden. We have already mentioned Elias W. Cady as a prominent citizen in public affairs, Member of Assembly, supervisor and first president of the Dryden Agricultural Society, who died in 1883 at the age of ninety-one years. He came here from Columbia county in 1816, and also married into the Bramhall family. His oldest son, Oliver, recently died, but his youngest son, Charles Cady, of Auburn, N.Y., and daughters, Rebecca A. (Dwight), Harriet S. (Ferguson), and Mary Cady, all of Dryden village, are still living. His daughter Sarah (Wilson) died, leaving numerous descendants now residing in the town. Aaron Foster was not a pioneer of Dryden, but settled here in 1829 upon the farm which he sold to Joseph McGraw, where, for a number of years, he operated the lumber and grist mills of Willow Glen, there still being no grist mill in Dryden village, and later he removed to the village. His daughter was the wife of Geo. D. Pratt and his son, A. H. Foster, of Superior, Wis., was one of our guests at the Centennial Celebration.

Aaron Lacy, from New Jersey, settled on the Stickles corner in 1799. His only surviving child, John R. Lacy, afterwards lived and died on the corner still held by his family one mile north of Dryden village.

Willow Glen has had no churches, but the barn of Elias W. Cady afforded the Presbyterian society accomodations for preaching and communion service before their building was finished in Dryden village.

The inhabitants have suffered somewhat from religious fanatics, the first visitation being from a band of some fifty "Pilgrims", as they called themselves, who came from Vermont in 1818, and are thus described by the "Old Man in the Clouds:" "When they moved in they had several wagons, some of which were drawn by four horses. One team carried the large tent beneath which the entire family was housed in all kinds of weather. The name of their Prophet was Thaddeus Cummins, a very stout, healthy, and well-proportioned man, with sandy hair, and about thirty-five years of age. The name of the woman whom he brought as his wife was Lucy. A priest also accompanied the Prophet, whose name was Joseph Ball. There were some two or three brothers by the name of Slack; the rest of the company was made up of the off-scourings of wretched humanity. When the Prophet and his followers arrived near the residence of David Foote they pitched their tent and rested over night, but moved the next day into the woods then on the Stickles farm, where they remained a week, when they again moved upon the north bank of Fall Creek near the former residence of Jacob Updike. Here this singular people remained for six weeks, practicing all kinds of deviltry upon themselves and the people in the neighborhood. They had no beds, but slept in nests of straw, each sex in common with the other, they having no belief in or respect for the marriage ceremony. They did not believe in beds, chairs, or tables. They stood up to eat and sucked food through a goose quill, and could not be persuaded to eat in any other way. They wore large white cloths upon their backs, which, as they said, were marks for the Devil to shoot at. Their antipathy against the Devil was very great and every morning early they might be heard howling and yelling like a parcel of wolves for two miles around, driving the Devil out of their camp."

When they left town they went to an island in the Mississippi river, unfortunately inducing some Dryden and more Lansing people to follow them, where they finally disbanded. They should not be confused with the "Taylorites," who flourished here later and some of whom afterward joined the Shakers.

There is perhaps no better index of the degree of thrift and refinement which exists in a community than the condition of its graveyards. The principal burial place now used by the people of Dryden at large is the Willow Glen Cemetery, located very near the center of the town, the Green Hill Cemetery in Dryden village being patronized more exclusively by the residents of that village. Both are laid out and maintained in a manner indicative of the prosperity and intellectual culture of the people of the township. The former, which we now consider, has been especially fortunate in its financial management and the devotion which its officers and friends have shown in its development. It already has a surplus fund of over three thousand dollars, invested at interest, and this surplus has been for the past few years rapidly increasing from the sale of lots. The interest from this money, with such contributions as are added to it, enables the officers to keep its beautiful grounds, consisting of about thirteen acres, in excellent condition, and for a country burying ground it has few rivals either in the natural beauty and extent of its grounds or in the good taste exhibited in its adornment.

The older section was used as a burial place early in the century, some inscriptions recording deaths as early as 1816, and in this section the remains of Judge Ellis and Esquire McElheny, whose deaths occurred in 1846 and 1836, and Aaron Lacy, the original owner, who died and was buried there in 1826, were deposited before the present extension of its territory was contemplated. But in 1864 the friends of the enterprise perfected an organization, and subscribed, as a fund for purchasing additional ground, about one thousand dollars, which was contributed by the following inhabitants.

Wm. Hanford,$100Samuel Rowland,100
Geo. A. Ellis,100Thos. Jameson, Sr.,100
Mrs. Olive Lewis,50Jonathan Rowland,50
Huldah Stickles,50Geo. Hanford,50
Anson Stickles,50Zephaniah Lupton,50
Fred Hanford,50Artemas Smiley,75
Amos Lewis,50John R. Lacy50
Darius J. Clement,50

All these sums have since been repaid by the sale of lots or in other ways so that the society is now entirely out of debt with the surplus above indicated and considerable territory still available for the sale of lots. The principal officers at present are, Moses Rowland, president; Theron Johnson, treasurer; Geo. E. Hanford, secretary.

Goodrich, George B. The Centennial History of the Town of Dryden, 1797-1897. Dryden: Dryden Herald Steam Printing House, 1898. Reprinted 1993 by the Dryden Historical Society. Pages 116-121.

(The Dryden Historical Society, which sells this book, may be reached at 607-844-9209.)

Posted by simon at December 24, 2003 8:40 AM in
Note on photos


Joyce Oxley said:

My maternal grandparents, Rufus Pratt (1871-1934) and wife Ruth Clement Pratt are buried at Willow Glenn Cemetery along with my mother, Arra Taylor Pratt Nagy. It has always been my understanding that my mother was born in the white house on March 15, 1920(still occupied) adjacent to the cemetery and the land the cemetery is on was in fact once owned and farmed by my grandfather. At some point he opened the "first" putt-putt course and a small food stand. If there is any information relative to this, I would appreciate your contacting me.

Thank you,
Joyce Oxley