History of the Hathaway Farm and Farmhouse
HISTORY of the HATHAWAY FARM and FARMHOUSE
In 1786, an enterprising young man by the name of Jesse Dickinson, who lived in New Jersey and had seen the fine logs for ship masts that were rafted down the Delaware River, decided to get into the lumbering business. So he purchased several hundred acres of land in Delaware County at the confluence of Trout Creek and the Delaware River. In that same year, with his family, livestock and several assistants, he traveled up the Hudson River to Catskill and then went cross-country by Indian paths through dense forests to settle on the land he had purchased at Trout Creek. Jesse found the country thickly covered with stately white pines and was so pleased that he made plans for improvements, laid out a town in regular squares and called it Dickinson City.
The following year, 1787, Jesse went back to Philadelphia to obtain men and materials to carry out his plans. A number of men, intrigued by his account of the new country, agreed to migrate to Dickinson City. Among that number was a young man just 16 years of age, JACOB HATHAWAY. And so it was that Jacob Hathaway, a native of Morristown, New Jersey, became the first Hathaway to live in Delaware County.
We digress here to explain the unfortunate fate of Jesse Dickinson’s development project. It seems he had exalted notions of the prospective growth of his new purchase. He laid out streets and built a sawmill, a gristmill, several dwellings and even a large town hall. But his lots were not selling and his building expenditures exceeded his income from lumber sales. Jesse was eventually forced to surrender his property to the mortgagors, and in 1796 he went back to Philadelphia and never returned. Shortly thereafter, an investor by the name of Benjamin Cannon bought the former Dickinson estate and continued its expansion into a viable community. In honor of this man who had done so much to rescue Dickinson City, the name was changed to Cannonsville. (We should also add that in the late 1950s, sad and grievous as it was, the town of Cannonsville was buried beneath the waters of the Cannonsville Reservoir.)
We now get back to Jacob Hathaway. After being employed by Jesse Dickinson for some time, Jacob purchased a tract of land along the Delaware River just east of Dickinson City and near the present-day village of Stilesville. His brother-in-law, Alex Crawford, owned adjacent land, so the two brothers-in-law built a double plank house where their families lived for many years. They engaged in the lumbering business, sending many log rafts down the Delaware River to Philadelphia. Jacob and Alex were long remembered for building a well-known saw mill on their property. When the river was low, the mill did not cut lumber very fast, so for as long as it existed it was called the “Slow and Easy Mill.”
Jacob enrolled in the Delaware County Militia as a major on August 23, 1803. He apparently enjoyed the title of Major and used it for the remainder of his life. In fact, his gravestone at Oakwood Cemetery in Stilesville reads “Maj. Jacob Hathaway.” Jacob married Lydia Lowry, one of the founding members of the Cannonsville Presbyterian Church, and they had eleven children. Their third child was BENJAMIN HATHAWAY who was born on February 22, 1810.
Benjamin Hathaway regularly attended a one-room schoolhouse while assisting his father with farm work and lumbering. When he came of age, Benjamin acquired some nearby wooded acreage and adopted his father’s occupation of lumbering and farming. Over a period of twenty years, Benjamin piloted many log rafts down the Delaware River from Deposit to the Philadelphia market, and in so doing he gained considerable wealth. (Incidentally, the town of Deposit acquired its name from the fact that logs were “deposited” there to await the higher waters needed to float them down the river.) In 1828 Benjamin married Elizabeth Case, always called “Betsy,” and they had six children: Edwin, Harriet, Amasa, Lydia, Robert and Sarah.
In 1850, at age 40, Benjamin acquired 730 acres of land at the headwaters of Sands Creek by purchasing a number of adjoining properties (450 acres of this land are included in the present Kingswood Campsite property.) The only dwelling on his new land was a log house on the hill above the pond (see History of Stone Foundation), certainly not large enough for a family of eight. Therefore, Benjamin lumbered his new property while residing at his nearby farm. Within a short time sufficient land had been cleared to accommodate some farming, and in the mid-1850s Benjamin built the farmhouse that we still enjoy today. Shortly thereafter, he built a huge barn. (That barn was destroyed by fire in 1932 and was replaced in 1933 with the present smaller structure by Benjamin’s grandson-in-law, Edward Seymour. But we can visualize the immense size of the original barn by observing part of the former foundation below the barn and the earthen ramp at the back.)
Benjamin’s life was visited by sorrow in 1856 when Betsy, his wife for 28 years, died at only 50 years of age. But he somehow managed his loss and three years later married Sibyl Blake, a lady from Coventry, NY.
By 1860, Benjamin had disposed of his earlier properties and had developed his new land into a successful lumbering and farming business. To provide some perception as to the scope of Benjamin’s farming operation, we list the following numbers that he gave to a census taker from the U. S. Department of Agriculture in 1865:
Acres plowed 5
Tons of hay 75
Bushels of oats 60
Bushels of potatoes 40
Bushels of apples 30
Beef cattle 15
Milk cows 29
Killed for beef 1
Pounds of butter 3,000
Pigs slaughtered 5
Pounds of pork 1,200
Pounds of wool shorn 33
Value of poultry ($) 10
Some comments: (1) Benjamin owned 730 acres of which only 220 were cleared. So with 510 acres still in forest, we can be sure he was also harvesting timber. (2) 75 tons of hay is impressive. Before baling machines, this would have required grueling labor to get that hay in the barn. (3) 3,000 pounds of butter is also impressive. Benjamin did not sell milk, but instead churned it into butter that was readily salable, and the curds and whey would have been fed to the pigs. (4) Benjamin would obviously have had considerable income from sales of potatoes, apples, beef cattle, butter, pork, wool and lumber.
In 1865, Benjamin suffered another tragic loss. His oldest son, Edwin, had been living with his family for several years in the log house on the hill above the pond (see History of the Stone Foundation). Caught up in the fervor of the Civil War, Edwin had enlisted in the 144th Regiment, New York State Volunteers in 1862. Near the end of the war, he was wounded by gunshot in his left leg during a skirmish on James Island, near Charleston, SC. His leg was amputated at the post hospital on Folly Island, SC and, as a consequence of the amputation, Edwin died on February 12, 1865 and was buried on Folly Island in an unmarked grave.
Succession of Ownership
For a period of 110 years, four generations of the Hathaway family owned and operated the farm during the years noted:
Benjamin Hathaway 1850-1899
Amasa J. Hathaway 1899-1911
Gertrude Hathaway 1911-1925
Edward Seymour 1925-1948
Robert Seymour 1948-1959
New York Conference of the UMC 1959 – present
Benjamin Hathaway – As explained earlier, it was Benjamin who purchased the original 730-acre tract of land and developed it into a successful lumbering and farming operation. In his latter years he sold 280 acres, leaving him with 450 acres in 1895. The Biographical Review of 1895 is quoted as follows:
“Mr. and Mrs. Hathaway are earnest, active members of the Presbyterian Church, in which organization their influence for good is universally felt. Mr. Hathaway was an anti-slavery man and co-worker with Gerrit Smith; and he now votes with the Prohibition Party, a firm supporter of its platform and an ardent laborer for the cause of temperance. During his long residence in the town of Tompkins, Mr. Hathaway has been most fortunate in making many warm friends, whose companionship is one of the chief comforts of his declining years. He is an upright, public-spirited man; and the great respect in which he is held by all gives testimony to his strong and noble character.” (The Gerrit Smith mentioned above was, during the mid-1800s, a nationally known philanthropist, social reformer, prohibitionist, abolitionist and three times an unsuccessful candidate for President of the United States.)
In 1893, when he was 83 years old, Benjamin Hathaway organized a family reunion at his farm. That was the beginning of an Annual Reunion, always at the Hathaway farm, that became a tradition for the next 48 years. Officers were regularly elected, meetings conducted, formal engraved invitations were mailed and hundreds of Hathaway descendants gathered at the farm every August. The last Annual Reunion was held in 1941, after which they were discontinued due to gasoline rationing and never organized again.
Benjamin Hathaway died at his farmhouse on December 16,1899 at 89 years of age. His funeral, attended by a multitude, was held at the Cannonsville Presbyterian Church where he had been one of the organizers of that church in 1831. He was elected elder in 1848 and held that office for 50 years.
Amasa J. Hathaway – Upon Benjamin’s death in 1899, his son Amasa, then age 64, inherited the farm. Amasa was 15 years old when his father bought the land in 1850, so he had labored with his father from the beginning to lumber, improve and farm the land. In fact, Amasa eventually worked the farm for 61 years – longer than any other family member.
In 1861, Amasa married Mary Minor, a young lady from Coventry, NY. There was a family connection here in that Mary was a niece of Amasa’s stepmother, Sibyl (Benjamin’s second wife). Amasa and Mary had six children: Gertrude, Frances, Katherine, Frederick, Isabelle and Arthur, all born at the farmhouse. Shortly after the birth of their third child in 1866, Amasa, Mary and their three daughters moved into the log house above the pond and lived there for several years (see History of the Stone Foundation).
Like his father, Amasa also suffered his full share of sorrow. His first son, Frederick, died in 1880 at age 3 as the result of an accident. The following brief mention appeared in the Deposit Courier-Journal on June 17, 1880: “Last week, a three-year-old son of Amasa J. Hathaway, living on Sands Creek, near Cannonsville, was killed while at play. A log rolled over him.” Then just two years later in 1882, after 21 years of marriage, his wife Mary died at only 43 years of age. Amasa never remarried.
A peculiar thing worth mentioning about Amasa’s children is that only one, Gertrude, produced offspring. Frances, Katherine and Isabelle never married, and Arthur married but had no children.
Amasa died on April 22, 1911, and his obituary in the Deposit Courier-Journal of April 26 read as follows: “Amasa Hathaway, one of the most respected citizens in the town of Tompkins, died after an illness of a few months’ duration at the Hathaway homestead near Kelsey April 22, aged 76 years. The funeral was largely attended at his late home today. Interment is in the Cannonsville Cemetery.” (In the late 1950s, prior to construction of the Cannonsville Reservoir, Amasa’s remains were reinterred in Riverview Cemetery, Hancock, NY.)
Gertrude Hathaway – After Amasa died, his daughter Gertrude became the next owner of the farm. Gertrude had married a neighbor, Edward Seymour, in 1887 and they had six children: Mary, Edward, Robert, Charles, Phoebe and Clarke. Right after Benjamin passed away, Edward, Gertrude and five children moved into the farmhouse with Amasa’s family. There were then twelve people living in the farmhouse, and as if that wasn’t enough, Gertrude delivered another child three years later.
We want to mention here that Benjamin’s second wife, Sibyl, lived until 1921, at which time she was 98 years old. For 22 years from the time of Benjamin’s death, Sibyl had lived in the farmhouse and, much to their credit, was cared for by both Amasa and Gertrude.
The succession of the farm to Gertrude was quite logical for these reasons: (1) Gertrude was the oldest child and, as we said above, the only descendant who had children, (2) her only living brother, Arthur, had married and moved years ago to Iowa, and (3) Gertrude and Edward Seymour had been working the farm with Amasa over the past twelve years.
As explained earlier, after Benjamin’s original barn was destroyed by fire in 1932, it was Edward Seymour and his son, Clarke, who built the new barn in 1933 that still exists today.
Gertrude passed away in 1925 at only 63 years of age. She had lived in the farmhouse for her entire life, longer than any other family member. But in spite of the hardship and with the help of his sons, Edward Seymour continued to run the farm for the next 23 years until his death in 1948 at age 90.
Robert Seymour – Well before Edward Seymour died at age 90, farming operations at the Hathaway place had been seriously reduced due to lack of labor, and Edward’s sons had farming interests elsewhere. In fact, census records show that Clarke was the only son living at the farm as early as 1920. When Edward Seymour died in 1948, the only son who had an interest in the farm was Robert, then age 54, who purchased the farm by paying a fair share to his siblings.
Robert lived at the farm for the next eleven years doing little more than subsistence farming. On September 16, 1959, at age 64 and in poor health, he sold the farm to the New York Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. Robert Seymour died four months later, so he never lived to enjoy the proceeds of the sale.
Development of Kingswood
In 1958, the New York Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church received, as a gift from a Dr. Lester L. Woolsey, a deed to a tract of woodland adjacent to the Hathaway farm. It was quickly decided to pursue the idea of developing this property into a youth camp. An outside consultant was engaged to make a planning survey of the property and his report was encouraging except for the lack of water sources. The timing was perfect because Robert Seymour had decided to sell the Hathaway farm, which of course included a pond and the upper reaches of Sands Creek. A sales agreement was concluded and the Hathaway farm, consisting of 450 acres, was deeded to the New York Annual Conference on September 16, 1959. The new property, totaling 766 acres, was named Kingswood after the town in England where John Wesley began field preaching and where he also started a school.
A master plan was developed, and in 1960 more than 250 volunteers from many churches visited the camp and devoted untold hours of work to develop rustic campsites. The following year, 1961, many church groups again visited the camp to work on improvements of camping, housing and sanitary facilities. And during five summer weeks of planned activities, 83 youths and 23 adults stayed at Kingswood, many living in makeshift shelters.
Over the ensuing years, following carefully developed plans, the grounds, accommodations and activities have been remarkably maintained, improved and expanded. Today we have ten weeks of activities every summer at Kingswood where retreat ministries, adult and youth groups and individual families enjoy a wide variety of outdoor experiences. And thus we are blessed with this wonderful legacy to Benjamin Hathaway, to the New York Conference founders of 50 years ago and to the hundreds of volunteers who made all of this possible.
Quoted from the N.Y. Annual Conference Journal:
1974 – Cases can be sited where campers have learned through first-hand experience the power of love in action.
By Frank Hathaway
S. Census Records
1895 Biographical Review by Biographical Review Publishing Company, Boston, MA
The History of Delaware County, 1797-1880 by W. W. Munsell
The History of Cannonsville, 1890 by Mrs. Hester Lane Miles
Agricultural Statistics by the National Agricultural Statistics Service, U. S. Department of Agriculture
New York Conference Yearbook and Minutes, 1958-1963