Prior to and at
the time the Phelps and Gorham purchase was being created, a
group of former Connecticut residents who had some years before
settled in the Wyoming Valley in Pennsylvania were being
harassed by both the Indians and the Pernanites. Consequently,
they decided to leave the valley. John Swift and John Jenkins
were deputized to seek out a new location. John Swift had been a
private in General Sullivan’s expedition against the Indians in
the Finger Lakes region in 1779. John Jenkins had been a
surveyor for Phelps and Gorham. They recommended locating in the
District of Tolland in the Phelps Gorham purchase. It was
As a consequence, Swift and Jenkins returned to Canandaigua and
contracted to buy Township 12 in Ranges 2 and 3; an area six
miles wide (north to south) and 12 miles long (east to west).
Each township was 6 miles square, i.e. 6 miles by 6 miles.
Settlement of the area began in 1789 with the 1790 Federal
census listing four (4) families in Range 3, Town 12 (now Town
of Macedon). John Swift moved his family into Township 12, Range
2 (now Palmyra) in September, 1790.
Immigration began immediately. In November, 1791, a large party
arrived from Rhode Island coming by way of the military road.
April, 1792, found another large group coming from Long Island
by way of the Hudson River, Mohawk River, Oneida Lake, Seneca
River and finally Mud Creek. This party settled pretty much near
present day East Palmyra. Other settlers in the 1790-91 period
came from Massachusetts and Connecticut.
In March, 1789,
John Jenkins and four others were sleeping in a log hut, just to
the north of present day (1996) Swift’s Landing Park, when some
Tuscarora Indians stuck their guns through the chinks, fired,
killed one man and injured another. The dead man was buried on
an island in Ganargua Creek and the injured man was carried to
Vienna (now Phelps) for treatment with the help of Horatio Jones
of Geneva. The offending Indians were located and similarly
executed, probably Wayne County’s only Indian massacre.
Indian troubles were a constant worry of the early settlers
until the Pickering Treaty was signed in Canandaigua in 1794.
Prior to the execution of the treaty with the Indians, the good
people of Palmyra had begun the construction of a block house on
Wintergreen Hill. With the execution of the Pickering Treaty,
construction of the block house ceased and was never resumed.
A couple of firsts may be of interest: The first female child
born in Palmyra was Mary Wilcox and the first male child was Asa
Swift. The first church was a Congregation Association formed in
East Palmyra in 1793. One of the earliest visitors to our area
was Louis Phillipe (1773-1850) who became King of France. In
1796, he was entertained by the Durfee family on a farm in
The first town meeting recorded was held on the first Tuesday of
April, 1796 at which time John Swift was elected Supervisor.
Although what is now Palmyra was created by the Court of General
Sessions of Ontario County on January 16, 1789 apparently no
need was found for a formal organization until 1796
NOTE The census of 1800 show 986 inhabitants in the Town
of Palmyra. At the time of this first meeting was called;
Tolland was the name used. Since this name was not particularly
acceptable to the people, a meeting some time between March and
June, 1797 was called to change the name to impress the "school
marm". Daniel Sawyer proposed Palmyra after the Ancient Syrian
City (he had just studied history). This selection was accepted
and our town progressed from Swift’s Landing (unofficial) to
Tolland to Palmyra (however, for the first year, the town board
minutes spell it as Palmira). Interestingly, from 1796 through
1812 only two (2) constables were appointed to maintain order in
72 square miles of territory.
© 1998 Bob Lowe