Saturday, December 29, 2007

Welcome in the New Year

It is almost time to say goodby to 2007 and welcome in 2008. Our ancestors would be amazed at the changes to our town!
Scipio continues to look to the future by such actions as working towards finding out if wind energy is a potential resource for our town. Wind energy really is nothing new; most of the homes in Scipio were using a windmill well into the 1930's and 40's. I remember ours still stood on Wyckoff Road into the 1950's.
"Living off the grid" was the norm, since the grid did not come to Scipio until about the early 1940's. An early bill features a picture of Reddy Kilowatt and a cost of $2.50 for a month's service for a house on the then Lake Road - now Wyckoff Road.
And electricity meant that the old hand pump wells could be replaced by a cistern or a dug well. To just turn on a faucet and draw the water you needed instead of pumping and bringing pails full to the house must have been a huge improvement and timesaver.
What New Year's resolution will you make for 2008? I resolve to continue to look at Scipio's past, and share what I learn through this Blog as well as at the Town Hall. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Holiday Wish List

My mother used to say "If wishes were horses, we all would ride." Meant to stop my daydreaming, I still think that is a marvelous thought and so much nicer than "wake up and smell the coffee" as we might say now.
Every family historian or genealogy explorer has a wish list, and I am no different despite my mother's warnings. I think most of us know about EBAY, but there are lots of other interesting websites out there.
Some of the best places to make those dreams come true are bookstores that sell originals or reproductions of old histories, maps and family genealogies.
One of my favorite spots is to look for a variety of items, and often they have a sale. I also like, and it's hard to beat to search for the best price for an old book on the open market.
If you want to look for interesting books about a locality or publish a little local history book yourself, try
Take a look around, you may discover some other sites and find that book you never even knew you really wanted. Happy hunting!

Famous Firsts for Scipio

I've been working on a timeline for Scipio. As part of that, I have begun to compile a list of "firsts" for our town. Today I thought I'd like to share some of them.
Our first settler was Henry Watkins. In 1790, he settled near what is today Scipioville.
The first house was a log cabin built by the same Henry Watkins, also in 1790.
In March of 1791, Henry's 3 sons, 2 daughters and presumably his wife, arrived to become the first family of Scipio.
On June 25, 1793, daughter Betsey Watkins married William Allen, for our first marriage. William was the son of Gideon Allen, cousin of Ethan Allen of Green Mountain fame.
The wedding must have been performed by a circuit rider, as the first preacher I could find for Scipio was Elder David Irish in 1794.
The first child born was Betsey Durkee, on 12/5/1790. She was the child of Elisha Durkee.
More of these another day!

Saturday, December 8, 2007

The Special Veteran's 1890 Census Reprise

I'm going to see if transcribing the 1890 census into a Word document allows me to post it here. I tried in Excell but that did not work out. There are four pages, I've transcribed one so far. It is actually for the Town of Venice, our neighbor and at one time part of Scipio. It contains the name of one of my great-grandfathers, Frederick A. Peckham. I'm not too satisfied with how it appears, but for now it will have to do. Let me know what you think:

Page No. ____ Eleventh Census of the United States
Supervisor’s District No. ____ SPECIAL SCHEDULE
Persons who served in the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps of the United States during the war of the rebellion (who are survivors), and widows of such persons, in Venice, County of Cayuga, State of New York, enumerated in June, 1890.

House No. Family No. Name of Survivor Rank Co. Regt. Or Vessel

27. 283 248 Frederick A. Peckham Private I 111th NY Inf.
28. 312 329 John Grinnell Private I 111th NY Inf.
29. 329 317 Edward W. Stark Private A 10 NY Cav.
30. 332 332 John Jones Private I 9 NY Artill.
31. 348 366 Elbert A. Peck Private H 2nd NY Cav.
32. 372 391 Thad Bryant Private A 1 C-?- Inf.
33. 381 400 Nelson Mason Private I 111th NY Inf.
34. 392 412 George W. R--?-- Private E 9th NY Artill.
35. 393 413 Aaron R. McCourter Private F 3rd NY Artill.
36. 354 414 Almi-?- Foot Private B 103? NY Inf.
37. 306 323 Ira S. Smith (U.S.) Pol

Date of Enlistment Date of Discharge Length of Service in
Yrs. Mos. Days

27. 14 Aug.. 1863 14 Feb. 1864 = = =
28. 16 Aug. 1862 16 June 1863 = = =
29. 10 Apr. 1861 19 July 1865 = = =
30. 15 Nov. 1861 28 Sept. 1865 = = =
31. 08 Sept. 1864 05 June 1865 = = =
32. 18 Apr. 1861 28 June 1861 = 02 10
33. 20 Aug. 1862 Blank Here - sg = = =
34. 1863 25 July 1865 = = =
35. 23 Aug. 1864 17 Jan. 1865 = = =
36. 09 Aug. 1862 04 Jan. 1865 = = =
37. Nothing Entered Here – sg

Post Ofice Address Disability Incurred Comments

27. Poplar Ridge Varicose Veins X
28. Poplar Ridge Wounded X
29. Ledyard Wound in Arm & ? ? X
30. Ledyard X X X
31. Ledyard X X
32. Genoa Deafness X
33. Ledyard X X
34. Venice Center Stomach and Hand X
35. Venice Center X X
36. Venice Center None X
37. Venice, Cayuga County, NY

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Value of a Dollar in the Civil War

I did some checking online after I wrote the last comments about each Civil War volunteer getting $50, raised by taxation ordered at the 1862 Scipio Town Meeting.
A dollar in 1862 has about the same value as $20 in 2005.
In other words, the same volunteers would now receive $1,000.00.
Not a huge amount, but enough to have significance to the volunteers and their families and to recognize the sacrifices made.

Available Records at Town Hall in Scipio

From time to time, I plan to publish lists of documents and records available in Scipio.
Besides our growing "History Corner" we have been fortunate in preserving some of our earlier record books. My favorite is probably the Book of Records for the Town of Scipio of annual town meetings, begun in 1794. Someone neatly crossed out "Onondaga County" and wrote in "Cayuga County" when that change occurred! That book itself has a lot of information and a lot of names, so may be a source to verify one of your ancestors actually resided here at a particular point in time.
We have a Book for Recording of Strays for 1803 - 1894.
There is a Book for Recording Elections in the Town of Scipio; the first entry was made for 1801. The book has consecutive years through 1832, and entries for 1840 - 43.
The Town Meeting book first mentions a resolution to secure a place to hold elections in 1887. In 1890, two election districts were created. If you check the blog below for Election Day, you'll find out where the two districts held their elections.
At the 1862 Town Meeting, a resolution was passed to raise by tax enough to pay every volunteer $50. The 1863 and 1864 Meetings also addressed paying Civil War volunteers.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Town of Scipio place names

Anyone from Scipio can probably tell you what are currently the 3 main place names: Scipio Center, Scipioville and Sherwood. But there used to be lots more place names. If you are over 50, you probably recognize a few of these that are still used locally today:
Merrifield, Bolt's Corners, Mapleton, Mosher's Corners and Pope's Corners, also known as Frog's Patent.
A Patent is a term used for a specific area of land owned by someone; the land is then distributed or sold to others as in the Mohawk Valley the Burnetsfield Patent named after an early Governor.
To continue about Frog's Patent,as you might guess in the Spring mating season, the frogs and peepers were busily trying to outtalk each other and were so loud that the folks living on or near the corner of Wyckoff and Center Roads referred to it as Frog's Patent!
I took a look through the 1914 assessment book, and found a few other places that I am not familiar with. Do you know where any of them were? There was Botsford's Corners, Covey's Corners, Kinsella's Crossing, Chase's Corners just to name a few.
Let me know if you could find any of these today!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Gift from Cayuga-Owasco Lakes Historical Society

The Town of Scipio recently received a copy of the reprinted Leslie L. Luther book Moravia and Its Past from the Cayuga-Owasco Lakes Historical Society.
Mr. Luther was appointed the Historian in Moravia in 1946, and the book was begun in 1966. The reprint has a full name index, making it very easy to search for your ancestors!
There is a section in the book about the Town of Scipio, including Scipio Center, Scipioville and Sherwood. The book tells about our early settlers in the 1790's. Henry Watkins came first, settling about 1/2 mile south of Scipioville on Ridge Road. Some of the others mentioned are the Tracy brothers (Captain Alanson and Gilbert); Gideon Allen (cousin of Ethan Allen and his Green Mountain Boys); School Commissioner George Peckham and Dr. Emily Howland. There is also a listing of Scipio veterans of the Revolutionary War and their burial places compiled from the researches of Ms. Flora Daniels.
You can visit the Society in Moravia or at their website at as they have lots more information on Scipio and our families, being an adjacent town.

Thursday, November 22, 2007


As a Town Historian and amateur genealogist, I spend a lot of time researching people, places and things that are no longer here. As fascinating as that is, today is a day to put all that aside and spend some time with the relatives who are still around! I am thankful for the opportunity to do so.
Have a great Thanksgiving and remember to spend some time with your elderly relatives, they have lots of stories to share.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Sherwood and the National Register

Exciting news! For about two years, a concerted effort has been made to place the hamlet of Sherwood on the National Register as a historical district as well as the State Register. Yesterday, I received a letter from NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and Sherwood is to be considered by the State Review Board for nomination to these Registers at its next meeting. Comments need to be submitted by December 12, 2007.
Sherwood is being considered for these Registers based on its history of involvement in abolitionism, the Underground Railroad and women's rights. Extensive research and commitment of time by a few dedicated folks have brought this event about.
For more information about the National and State Registers and what affect being listed has on a district, you can access the NYS Office above at

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Cayuga County Directory of Towns

We received a gift from a Scipio resident a few months ago. It is a copy of the D. M. Osborne & Company Cayuga County Directory of Towns for 1897 - 1898. It tells us that the highway distance from Scipio Centre to Auburn is 10.2 miles. And just think, today there are only two stoplights on the way!
We also discovered that the total acreage in Scipio is 22,079 acres.
There are 3 pages of names listed for Scipio, along with the number of acres that person owned at that time. It is interesting to note that many of the names are still here in Scipio today. Names such as Buckhout, Body, Bancroft, Gulliver, Howland of course with total acreage of 349; Letchworth, Otis, Wood, Wyant and Young are still in our telephone book.
Please stop by the Scipio Town Hall and take a look in the Directory for your ancestors!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Civl War Veterans of Scipio and Cayuga County

I think on Veterans Day it is fitting to remember to say thank you to those who have served their country throughout history. Many sacrifices are made, so we can enjoy our freedom.

Here is an excerpt from a letter written by my great-grandfather James Hitchcock in 1910, detailing the Civil War service of himself and his brothers:

In the spring of 1851 the Hitchcocks moved to Aurora the family consisting of the father, mother, and six sons: Thomas E., Richard, Frederick F., James B., George, and Alfred A., the youngest being two years and the oldest 16 years.

Three of the brothers enlisted and fought on the Union side in the war of the Rebellion. Frederick enlisted in the old 19th NY Vol. Inf. organized in Cayuga County – was with the regiment during its two years of service and “Veteranized” in the 3rd Seward Artillery, also a Cayuga County organization. He was with his regiment at the Battle of Newbern (sp.), NC.

Richard enlisted in the 75th NY Vol. Inf. in 1861. This regiment was organized at Auburn NY and was made up mostly of Cayuga County boys. He was discharged on account of blindness. Soon after the regiment reached the front he reenlisted in the 22nd NY Vol. Cavalry and was with Sheridan at Cedar Creek.

James B. enlisted in the 44th “Peoples Ellsworth” Regiment N.Y. Vol. Infantry, organized at Albany NY in August 1861 and made up of volunteers from all parts of the state. He was with the Army of the Potomac during the whole of his three years and two months service, was with McClellan during the seven days fight in the Revioisan (spelling unclear – possibly Revisionist) Campaign; was wounded by a buckshot in the breast at the Battle of Hanover Courthouse. At the battle of Malvern Hall, VA a minie ball passed through his left thigh and another broke his leg just below the knee upon the field and during the battle. He was promoted for “Gallant and Meritorious Conduct in the face of the enemy.” Was with his regiment at the Battle of Fredericksburg or Maryes Heights on that fateful 13th 14th and 15th day of December 1862. Was at the Battle of Gettysburg. Was all through the Wilderness Campaign and at the siege of Petersburgh VA, receiving his discharge as Quartermaster a short time before the final surrender of Lee’s army at Appomattox.

Four of the brothers are now living. Thomas E Hitchcock, the oldest, is a practicing dentist in the city of Syracuse. Frederick F. is a dealer in furniture etc. and still (1910) living at Aurora. Alfred Albert is a farmer living in the immediate vicinity of Aurora and James Benton is a farmer and justice of the peace living in the adjoining town of Scipio.

N.B. from sg: Further information may be found on these men and and many of our other Cayuga County veterans and their Civil War service in the book “Cayuga In The Field” by the Hall brothers of Cayuga County. Also in Nash, Eugene A.'s History of the Forty-Fourth Regiment, New York Volunteer Infantry, in the Civil War, 1861-1865. Chicago: R.R. Donnelly & Sons, 1911.

Do you have a Veteran in your family with a story to share? Post a comment to the BLOG.

Veteran's Special Census Removed

I have removed the special 1890 Veteran's Census from the BLOG today for a couple of reasons. I need to place them out on the Web, then create a link so anyone who wants can access them. The smaller versions I had on here were too small to read, and anything larger would take a long time to download.
The majority of Scipio residents have dial-up service. Without a high speed connection, adding images directly to the BLOG makes it take so long to download that folks won't use it as much.
Meanwhile, anyone wth a subscription to Ancestry (see the link below) can search the census records by their Civil War ancestor's name and likely find the record themselves.
I'd also be glad to look for your relative on my copy of the census, just add a comment or contact me through the BLOG.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Military Tract in central NYS

The Town of Scipio was formed on February 6, 1796. It originally was a part of our neighboring Onondaga County until March 8, 1799, when it became a part of Cayuga County.
Scipio is part of an area known as the Military Tract; this was a vast area of about 1.75 million acres located in the heartland of Central NY. Lands purchased by the State from the Onondaga Indian Nation in 1788 and from the Cayuga Nation in 1789 were surveyed into 28 Military Tract Townships to satisfy the claims of veterans of the Revolutionary War, who had been promised acreage as an inducement to enlist in the New York regiments. Townships contained 60,000 acres of land, and were mapped and subdivided into 600 acre lots consecutively numbered from one upward.
Scipio, named for the Roman General, became Township number 12. Our eastern border is Owasco Lake, one of the lovely Finger Lakes of central New York State.
The Town of Ledyard, bordered on the west by Cayuga Lake, was formed off from Scipio January 30, 1823.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Vital Records for Scipio Center

We get lots of requests for vital records from folks researching their family history. A grant-funded project completed in Cayuga County a few years ago has made it easier to provide copies of those important documents.
Most of the vital records available at the Scipio Town Hall begin in 1847. Birth and death records end in 1850, then start again in 1882. Marriage records end in 1865, then begin again in 1882.
There are some gaps after that through the present day, but we are always glad to look and see what might be available.
Another set of records that are often overlooked are burial permits. Other than a handful from 1905, our earliest burial permit is from April of 1936.

Sunday, November 4, 2007


With Election Day just around the corner, I thought it would be interesting to look back say 100 years, and see where people cast their votes in Scipio.
There are lots of interesting tidbits in the Book of Records for the Town of Scipio, started in 1794. An entry in 1912 shows the Town Board contracted for McCormick's Hall at Scipioville with Mrs. Virginia McCormick for $17 yearly, to use the Hall as the place for registration and the polling place for the second district.
At the same time, the Town Board designated Snyder's Hall in Scipio Center for the first district, and for all other town purposes including caucuses and justice court, for $35 yearly from John Snyder.


We received a nice packet of information about some early Scipio settlers (Scipioans? Scipioites?) Elisha and Hannah Durkee. Elisha came to Scipio in 1791, settling a quarter mile north of Bolt's Corners. In 1798, Elisha was Scipio Town Clerk and in 1810, our Supervisor.
There is a Society of Genealogy of Durkee, Inc., and they sent us the information that will be on display in our History Corner next week for any curious descendants!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Census Images Feedback

When I posted the 4 census images to the Scipio Blog, I deliberately sized them down so those of us with dial-up service wouldn't have the customary long wait for the full-size images to download. However, when I checked out enlarging the images by doing a cut and paste they were blurry and not readable.
I will do some research and correct this issue soon, but wanted you all to know I am aware of it.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Census Pages Added

It's a rainy Sunday afternoon, so I decided to update this blog. I added the 4 pages of the special 1890 Census of Survivors of the War of the Rebellion that cover the Town of Scipio. My great-grandfather James B. Hitchcock, for example, is listed.
The Census gives the Veteran's name, rank and serial number. :)
It also gives their Regiment, dates of enlistment and discharge, and lists any injuries or conditions. Pretty informative and definitely interesting!
This census would supply just the information you need if you wanted to join an organization such as Daughters (or Sons) of Union Veterans. I'll provide a link to those websites in the near future but if you don't want to wait you can always "Google it!"

All for now...Sandie

Friday, October 26, 2007

Scipio Center History

Welcome to the new blog about Scipio Center, a town in Cayuga County, NY!
I am the Historian, and want to find a way to hear from folks and get some information out there on a regular basis about Scipio. Let me know if you read this, and what you'd like to read about. Anything you'd like me to research?