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Orson Walbridge

Orson Walbridge, The writer of this biography was born on the 14th day of September, 1809, at the town of Burlington, Otsego County, New York was a son of Stephen and Eunice Walbridge, lived with his parents at Burlington until June, 1819, when they removed to Springwater, N.Y. Arrived at Springwater the 30th day of June, and went to live on the west hill, on lot No. 113, which is now known as the Edward Totten farm; attended school at the old log school house where the house known as the liberty pole school house now is; worked on the farm summers and attended school in the winter; assisted some in clearing the land which was mostly woods when we went there; cleared about fifty acres in the six years we were there, after which my father removed to the Valley on to the farm now owned by R. H. Wiley and where his hop yard now is; continued to live with my parents; worked on the farm in the summer and attended district school some in the winter for three or four years longer; made my home with my parents until the spring of 1831, when they moved on to the east bill near Tabor's Corners, at which time I left and provided a home for myself in the Valley.

In the summer of 1829 I commenced to work at the carpenter and joiner trade, and assisted in building a store for Z. B. Grover, on the corner where Morris & Grover's store now stands. The next season worked some at the trade, a part of the time at Dansville, for Jabes and Sedley Sill, on the paper mill being built by them; in the fall engaged in the business of butchering and peddling meat, in company with Solomon K. Lawrence. In the spring of 1831 was elected a constable for the town of Springwater, and was kept quite busy, this being the last year of the law of imprisonment for debt, the law having been repealed to take effect on the first day of March, 1832; and as the merchants and others having outstanding debts were suing and trying to collect and making it lively times for justices and constables, but not very profitable, as the fees were not more than half what they are now. On the 5th day of June, 1831, I was married to Eliza Frost, daughter of Jonathan Frost. She was born in the town of Hartford, Washington County, N. Y., on the 30th day of January, 1809. She came to Springwater with her parents in the fall of 1830. We lived in the Valley until the fall of 1832. On the second day of September, 1832, our first child was born, a daughter.

She died when but a few days old. On the first day of November, 1832, we removed up south of the Valley, near where the fish ponds now are, built a log house to live in, and commenced to build a saw mill for Thos. L. Spafard; worked through the winter and started the mill in the spring; employed Samuel Culver to oversee the mill work, and worked with him myself, which was the first of my working at millwright work. I assisted in running the mill the first season, and in the fall rented it for one year, and run it on my own account. About the first of April, 1834, the mill took fire and burned off the upper story, and I was forced to rebuild, and as I could not find a millwright that I could employ, I was compelled to be my own boss, and in a little over two weeks we had the mill in running order again. On the first day of October, 1834, we moved back to the Valley, which has been my home ever since, except a few times going away to do a short job of work.

After this I continued to work at carpenter, joiner and millwright work for many years. On the 12th day of February, 1837, our second child was born, Eunice S. Walbridge, who is now living with me in the same house in which she was born. In the spring of 1839, I took a job of building a meeting house for the Christian church on east hill; went up there and built the house and came back in the fall to where I now am. In the spring of 1839, I was elected one of the commissioners of highways of Springwater with Green Waite and Harvey Morley, and served as such for that year. In the spring of 1840, 1 took the job to build the Presbyterian church in the Valley and built it during that summer, and continued to work at the trade as I received calls. In June, 1842, I went to Burns, Allegany County, N.Y., and put up a church frame for the Little John Presbyterians. On the 30th day of June, 1842, our third child was born, a son, George H. Walbridge, who died on the 26th day of September, 1847. In the spring of 18, I got the "Michigan fever," or a desire to go West and see what I could see; so in April I went up to Hilladale, Mich., and stopped and worked there for a spell, then went to Jonesville and put up the Episcopal church at that place, ,after which I came home about the last of August and was soon taken down with malarial or Michigan fever, and came near to death's door, but was spared for that time, as my work was not all done. Between 1840 and 1850, 1 was elected commissioner of highways of Springwater for five years in succession, and served the town as such whether good or bad, I leave the people to decide. About this time worked mostly at millwright work. In 1847 assisted in building a steam saw mill for Gilbert and Scribner, in the town of Ossian, Allegany County, and a house for Christopher Ford, where Mrs. Barber Eldridge now lives. In 1848 built over the old grist mill for Thos. M. Fowler, where Wm. Brewer's south mill is. In 1849, helped to remove the old Fowler mill from the big gull over on the Cohocton stream, and built it up again where the East Springwater grist mill now is. In 1850 built a saw mill for Fowler near the grist mill. Also built a saw mill for Dr. John B. Norton where Wm. H. Norton now lives. In 1851 built an addition to the Fowler mill in the Valley, which was burned the winter following; and in the spring of 1852, D. H. Grover and myself took the contract to build a large mill with three runs of stone, for Thomas M. Fowler at the place where the old mill was burned, which job lasted us all summer. In the spring of 1853 I took a job in company with D. H. Grover to build a grist mill for Waterbury & Head on Neil's Creek, Steuben County; also a saw mill for Salmon Waterbury on the same creek, and an addition with one run of stones to the grist mill at Liberty Corners for D. H. Wilcox, all of which we completed in seven months time. In the summer of 1854 I built a saw mill for Ithial Nickson on Twelve Mile Creek, Steuben County, which was all the mill work I did that summer, I will now go hack a little. In the spring of 1851, at the town meeting for Springwater, the people saw fit to elect me a justice of the peace of said town, to fill a vacancy, so that I commenced to do business as such justice immediately, and as the railroad was being built through this town it made business quite lively, as fights and other troubles among the workmen were very frequent and they were in the habit of calling for legal help to settle their troubles. One important event I will mention. On the night of the first of January, 1852, the Irish had a dance at the house where Frank Doughty now lives, and as they had some trouble with outsiders, and seeing a number of persons coming towards the building some one in the house fired into the company, and Edwin Barnes was killed, and Wm. Totten, D. G. Smith and others were wounded with shot. I issued warrants and over twenty of the Irish were arrested, examined and sent to jail, but the person that did the shooting could not be identified, and they were all discharged. Had they allowed Rodney Messer to have blown up the house with a keg of powder, as he wanted to, I think they might have got the right one. After this I continued to hold the office of justice until the first of January, 1862, and worked some at my trade and did such official business as I was called on to do. At the election in November 1855, I was elected session justice for Livingston County, and served as such for the year 1856. Now this brings to mind the officers of this judicial district. The justices of the Supreme Court were Thomas A. Johnson, of Conning; Henry Welles, of Penn Yan; E. Darwin Smith, of Rochester; the others name I do not now recall. The county judge was George Hastings, of Mt. Morris; and David Gray, of Livonia, was the other session justice. They have all finished their labors and gone to their reward and I alone am left to tell the story. I will mention some of the prominent lawyers that have passed away that were then in the habit of attending court at Geneseo: Orlando and Truman Hastings, of Rochester; Adolphus Skinner, of Batavia; Luther C. Peck, of Nunda; Martin drover, of Angelica; Benjamin Harwood, of Dansville; Reuben P Wisner, of Mt. Morris; Wm. H Kelsey, Amos A. Handa, Scott Lord, of Geneseo; Harvey J Wood, of Lima; John Wilkinson and Joseph Smith, of Dansville. They are all dead, and there are but few now that I can call to mind living. I will mention a few that were then active lawyers and are still engaged in their profession: James Wood, A. J. Abbott, Solomon Hubbard, John A. Van Derlip, James Adams and Hon. Edwin A. Nash were then young lawyers and were about commencing business. But to return to myself; I continued to work at my trade and do justice business until the fall of 1858, when I was taken with sciatic rheumatism, and was confined to my house all winter, and was not able to do any work, except to attend my garden, until the spring of 1860, when I had so far recovered as to be able to commence working at my trade; and having a call from the trustees of the Universalist society at Liberty Corners, I went and assisted them in putting up a church frame, and then D. H. Grover and myself finished the church for them, which took the most of the summer. In the spring of 1861, I was elected supervisor of Springwater, which was the time of the commencement of the war of the Rebellion, and we had lively times in filling the calls of the President for volunteers, and raising bounties to get them to enlist; but we had very good success in finding troops, and as time passed along until the winter of 1862, I was again attacked with rheumatism, and was confined to my house for a long time. At the town meeting in the spring of 1862, I was again elected supervisor without opposition, though at the time I was confined to my bed by sickness. At the meeting of the board of supervisor that year I was chosen chairman of the board, and served them as such during the year. Though suffering some from rheumatism. At the town meeting for 1868, Thomas M. Fowler was elected supervisor, and I did not hold any town office for that year. In the spring of 1864, 1 was elected a constable and collector of the town and collected one of the large taxes during the war. In the spring of 1865, I was again elected supervisor of the town, and served at the close of the war. The next year Albert M. Withington took my place as supervisor, and I was again a free man without being a servant of the people or holding any town office. But as time passed on to the spring of 1868, I was again elected a justice of the Peace of the town, which office I have held the most of the time since, and excepting two short vacancies, and am now holding said office, which term will expire on the last day of December next. Having got through with giving my official history I will now go back to 1871. This year I helped erect the Advent Christian church in Springwater, which was about the last I did at such kind of work, though I have worked some at the trade since. On the fifth day of December 1871, my wife died with typhoid pneumonia after we had lived together just forty years and six months to a day, having been married on the fifth day of June, 1831, and since then I have been living with my daughter as house keeper where I am now and where I have lived for over fifty years, and in the same house where my daughter was born. and having gone through with this lengthy though brief description of myself and family, I will close by giving my most sincere and devout thanks and praise to God for his mercy and goodness towards me in sparing my life to a good old age, and for the many mercies and blessings he has daily bestowed upon me as well as to my friends, citizens of Springwater, for the many favors and benefits they have freely bestowed upon me, and my prayer is that God will reward them if I am not able to do so.

Source: Early History of the Town of Springwater, Livingston County, New York, by Orson Walbridge, 1887

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