THE province of the historian is to gather the threads of the past ere they elude forever his grasp,, and weave them into a harmonious web to which the art preservative may give immortality. Therefore, he who would rescue from fast-gathering oblivion the deeds of a community, and send them on to futurity in an imperishable record, should deliver a "plain, unvarnished tale,"
Nor set down aught in malice."
In such a spirit have the compilers of the following pages approached the work of detailing the history of the four counties embodied herein, and trust they have been fairly faithful to the task imposed.
The design of the work embodying the four counties of Tioga, Tompkins, Chemung, and Schuyler, the peers of any within the boundaries of the Empire State, was adopted, after much deliberation, as the one best adapted to produce a satisfactory record and avoid repetition. Tioga, the original county, and, next to Ontario, the pioneer organization carved out of Montgomery,---the prolific mother of counties for nearly half a century,---included the greater part of our territory within its limits. Three thousand square miles was its first grand domain, from which six counties have been wholly or in part erected. The interests of all have centered in that old primary municipality, and its history, for a time, is that of the four counties which we have under consideration. This common interest we have endeavored to trace under the general history of the four counties, and in that of Tioga. We have glanced at the discovery of the Western Continent by the Norsemen and subsequent explorers; have given a brief history of the rise and decline of the celebrated league of the Iroquois Indians, who inhabited this section prior to the advent of the white settler. A chapter is devoted to land titles, giving a succinct account of the various Indian treaties, and the subsequent conflicting claims to territory within the present boundaries of this State. The geology of the four counties is next presented, followed by a history of the various railroads and canals, closing with an elaborate history of Tioga, Tompkins, Chemung, and Schuyler in the war of the rebellion. Next, in the general arrangement, follows an exhaustive history of the four counties, with all their varied interests, presented in a concise and, we trust, pleasing manner. It has been our honest endeavor to trace the history of the development of this section from that period when it was in the undisputed possession of the red man to the present, and to place before the reader an authentic narrative of its rise and progress to the prominent position it now occupies among the counties of the State.
That such an undertaking is attended with no little difficulty, and vexation none will deny. The aged pioneer relates events of the early settlements, while his neighbor sketches the same events with totally different outlines. Man’s memory is ever at fault, while Time paints a different picture upon every mind. With these the historian has to contend; and while it has been our aim to compile an accurate history, were it devoid of all inaccuracies then perfection would have been attained which the writers had not the faintest conception of, and which Lord Macaulay once said never could be reached.
From colonial and other documents in the State archives, from county, town, and village records, family manuscripts, printed publications, and innumerable private sources of information, we have endeavored to produce a history which should prove accurate, instructive, and in every respect worthy of the counties represented. How well we have succeeded in our task a generous public, jealous of its reputation and honor, of its traditions and memories, of its defeats and triumphs, must now be the judge.
The following volumes were consulted in the preparation of this history: Morgan’s "League of the Iroquois"; Schoolcraft’s "Notes on the Iroquois," and "American Indians"; Stone’s "Life of Brant," Life of Red Jacket," and "Life of Sir William Johnson"; Lossing’s "Field-Book of the Revolution"; Thatcher’s "American Revolution"’ Barber’s "History of New York"; "Documentary History of New York;" Williams’ Register; Hammond’s "Political History of New York"; Spafford’s Gazetteer, 1813; French’s Gazetteer, 1860; session laws, State statutes, State and national census reports, adjutant-generals’ reports, muster-in rolls, muster-out rolls, and innumerable pamphlets. We desire to acknowledge our sincere thanks to each and every one who has assisted us in the compilation of the work, and would cheerfully make personal mention of each, but it is impracticable, as the number reaches up among the thousands.
D. H. H.
Elmira, N. Y., Oct. 8, 1878