The first permanent farm setting was at the south end of Seneca Lake and known as Salubria, and then Jefferson, Watkins, and finally Watkins Glen
Prior to Watkins Glen, that part of the land which Watkins and Flint acquired at the south end of Seneca Lake was given the name “Salubria” for its healthy state. Other maps call this place Catherine’s town, named after the last Iroquois sachem to reside in this setting as well as tribal members.
The occupancy history for the tract of land purchased by Watkins is as follows:
- Stage 1. Pre-1778 – Indigena – Seneca Tribe, Iroquois Nation
- Stage 2. 1778-1786 – Reduced or Modified Indigena due to battle between Sullivan’s Militia and original Iroquois settlers; only surviving members referred to as the Catherine Group; there were few if any Pioneers settled here until the Yapel, Dumon and Hinepaw parties managed to migrate to the region and permanently settle.
- Stage 3. 1788, 1789, 1790-1827 – Exploration and Pioneers, beginning with Yapel-Dumon-Hinepaw group, followed by Massachusetts Otsego settlers to the east.
- Stage 4. 1828 – Watkin’s Brother settles in what would later become Watkin’s Glen
Stage 1 – Indigena
The Watkins Glen section of New York is on the following quadrant pulled from lower left corner of the above map.
The initial inhabitants of this region are indigenous people. The map of this part of Watkin’s & Flint’s land illustrate land claims and settled regions along the creek flowing into the finger lakes from the south. Close the the river, a fort was established [“Ft. H” on the map]. The original Iroquois settlement location is the hamlet portrayed with the name Catherine’s town, names after the leader of the indigenous people.
This second map comes from a large map depicting the activities of General Sullivan’s team making his way into western New York by way of the Susquehanna River and then heading north towards the Great Lakes. This took place during the Revolutionary Way period from June 18th to October 3rd, 1779. This migration of armed forces took place in order to remove the Iroquois taking British side as well as any loyalists from Canada residing in or near this region. [See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sullivan_Expedition; the entire map is at http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~nycayuga/land/towns/index.html.%5D
Stage 1 in Sequent occupancy = the Longhouses of southern Seneca Lake, 1779
Stage 2 – Indigena and Salubria
[The following is from http://nytompki.org/Landmarks/landmarks_ch3.htm, accessed 2/2/2012]
The first white persons intending to become permanent settlers were the eleven men who left Kingston, on the Hudson River in April, 1788. With two Delaware Indians as guides, they started out to explore the wilderness west of the Susquehanna River. All knowledge they possessed of the locality towards which they directed their steps was derived from Indians who had hunted in the dense forests which covered the entire western part of the State, and those adventurers started upon a journey supposed to be full of peril and replete with dangers incident to travel in an unknown and unsettled region. Something over a month passed before the party returned to Kingston, having examined only the country embracing Cayuga and Seneca Lakes and a few miles in each direction around these waters. They made no selection of lands and came to no decision to ever return to the localities they had visited. In April, 1789, however, three of those who had traversed the country the previous year determined to return, and they finally settled upon a lot of 400 acres, extending east from Tioga street in the present city of Ithaca. Within the valley upon this tract clearings were found from which the hazel and thorn bushes had been removed by the Indians, and which had been cultivated by them. Within these clearings and upon this tract of 400 acres, Jacob YAPLE, Isaac DUMOND, and Peter HINEPAW settled. By them the clearings were at once put under cultivation; corn was planted and, leaving a younger brother of one of the party to care for the crops, these adventurous men returned east to fetch their families to the new homes amid the almost unbroken forest, which they reached in September following. They brought with them a few articles of necessary household furniture, some farming utensils, and hogs, sheep, cattle and horses. No better history of these men and their settlement here can be given than is to be found in a lecture delivered by Horace KING, one of the most brilliant young men ever resident in Ithaca, on the 5th of April, 1847, reprints of which are now somewhat rare. He said:
The Yaple family was composed of Jacob YAPLE, his wife and three children, and John YAPLE, a younger brother, aged about twenty years. The DUMOND family consisted of Isaac DUMOND, his wife and three children, and John DUMOND and his wife who had then been lately married. The HINEPAW family was comprised of Peter HINEPAW, his wife and five children, the oldest of whom was about twelve years of age. In all there were twenty individuals.
The length of time occupied in their journey from Kingston hither, in the light of rapid traveling of this day, seems incredible. A month was consumed in reaching the point where the village of Owego is now situated, and from thence to Ithaca nineteen days. But a reference to the route pursued and to the manner of traveling explains it. From Kingston they crossed to the eastern branch of the Delaware, reaching it at Middletown, the southeastern township of Delaware County; there they constructed canoes, in which they descended the river to a little below the fork; then they crossed to the Susquehanna, and again making canoes, descended that river to Owego. Between that place and Ithaca there was no road of any description—unless a well-beaten Indian foot-path might be considered one—and therefore they were compelled to clear the way before them in order to journey onward. Having arrived at their place of destination, they immediately proceeded in their preparations for permanently remaining. In a short time three log cabins were erected, and the respective families took possession of their dwellings. The first built, which was occupied by HINEPAW, was situated on the Cascadilla Creek near the mill at the crossing of the stream by Linn street; the second occupied by YAPLE was on East State street where Jacob M . McCORMICK‘s house stands [now—1894— occupied by Miss Bell COWDRY]; and the third occupied by DUMOND was near the same spot.
The only settlements within hailing distance were at Owego, where three families had settled the year previous; at Newtown, where two or three families had located and at a point some four miles north of Cayuga lake, on its outlet, where there were also two or three families.
It must not be supposed that the pioneers had no communication with older settlements at the east. Acquaintances were moved to engage in the same enterprise of finding homes, and subduing and cultivating the land to fertility. Those imbued with this desire in their search for attractive locations, of course traveled routes leading, as far as possible, where friends might be found, and such were warmly welcomed at all times. They brought information from the east, and on their return carried word back from those who had made homes amid the primeval forest. Encouraged by reports received, other families began preparations for removal to this locality, and thus a current of emigration commenced to flow in this direction, which soon attained large proportions and aided materially in opening up and populating the area covered by the present county of Tompkins.
It was only natural that those who first reached here and made their future homes, should have felt enthusiastic as to the climate, soil and every element necessary to make a settlement desirable; and their reports induced a large number of persons from the east, relatives or friends of those who had gone before, as well as others, to move to the head of Cayuga Lake, the present site of Ithaca city, and also to surrounding neighborhoods within the present bounds of Tompkins county. (Further settlements on the site of Ithaca are noted in the history of the village and city in later pages of this work.)
Six years after the first settlement at Ithaca, in the year 1795, Capt. David RICH came from Western Massachusetts and settled in Caroline, and in the same year the widow of Francis EARSLEY, with ten children, emigrated to the same locality from Roxbury, Essex county, New Jersey.
In contemporary (and Benjamin Rush-like) medical geography and anthropology terms, the wilderness setting of western New York was about to undergo significant change. The cohabitation of this region would transition from indigenous culture to one of Euro-American culture. This resulted in a modification of some of the land use traditions. Whereas Native American groups were fairly well established in terms of plant gathering, fishing and local hunting practices, these stresses upon the local environment would change and even lessen slightly for a while as the numbers of families residing in the local setting decreased significantly to under two dozen, a significant change from the much larger tribal and even Iroquois nation populations that once were abundant in this region.
The map of Sullivan’s expedition, if the figures drawns upon it are accurate, suggest there was a fairly large tribal setting established in what is now Watkins Glen at the south end of Seneca Lake. Much further to the south there were possibly some dwelling set up for military posts, but in general, local landuse patterns were predominantly Native American in origin. There was an exceptionally large harvesting of sizable trees for the production of longhouses, dug-out canoes and other wood-based cultural necessities required about the region. All of these dwellings would be destroyed by the end of the Sullivan massacre in 1778.
In his essay ” An Account of the Progress of Population, Agriculture, Manners and Government in Pennsylvania . . . “, dated December 6, 1786, and published in Memoirs of the Literary and Philosophical Society of Manchester (vol. 3, pp. 183-197), Benjamin Rush defines his interpretation of life and health in relation to the expanding borders of the very young United States. He defines several levels of population development in the rural country, not quite a measure of progress and civilization, but this essay was really more about what the new settlers and their supporters residing in the mother countries of Europe believed in. No indigenous population is included in Rush’s view of “progress” and the idea of sequential occupants.
Rush’s view of the migration and settlement behaviors was no doubt a synopsis of commonplace philosophy and beliefs for the time. Therefore, it is perhaps no coincidence to the point that some of his recommendations were adhered to so strongly by the first western New York settlers, as if they read an instructional pamphlet or book on such matters. The first settlers to make their way from Kingston to the Watkins and Flint Land Purchase in western New York left in April, a recommendation made in Rush’s 1786 writings in the following:
Even though “the first settler” was indigenous in origins, Rush’s statement about these first Euro-American people defines the most important features of the physical world setting at this time in the wilderness. This description also enables us to envision the life the first three families in western New York must have experienced, along with their physical and mental health status, and their prosperity and productivity during the first year or two.
In terms of medical topography and climatology, the surface of this land or the landschaft had everything to do with how easy a life one could live in this wilderness setting. There were forested regions in this future part of the state of New York, but there was also a large area with fairly level lands extending for tens if not hundred of miles. The lengthy finger lakes made it easy for the winds from the north to continue their long course southward from the frigid temperature of the arctic zone of earth, into the coldest part of the mush healthier temperate zone according to the contemporary medical geographers for this period in American history. Unlike the coastal states and their oceanside regions east of the Adirondacks, this nearest portion of the midwest bore the Allegheny Plateau residing high above the ocean surface, lacking the winds from the southeast, bearing periodic clusters of southwesterly winds, and for the most part suffering from the colder, more precipitation bearing winds from the north, the winds and potential for arctic disease patterns first generated in Canada’s southern most frigid regions.
This lake effect as we refer to it today was clearly recognized, defined and related to health and disease as early as this period in American medical history. In just a few years this natural behavior of the elements would even lead landowner Watkins to invent and propose his new theory for a new form of spotted fever unique to this region–Lake Fever (reviewed in much more detail elsewhere).
Rush’s next type of population (pp. 185-7) resides in the wilderness setting he refers to as follows:
According to Rush, a fairly “uncivilized” group of settlers resided here during the period in history for the development of any rural setting. Churches may be present, but the local residents individuals are unaccustomed to regular attending mass. Such an individual is still self-supporting, less dependent on the government for defining his and her paths in life, but are fortunate enough to have the time and opportunities to develop a homestead and farm setting that is more than adequate in size for supporting later family members once they grow up and allow other relatives to migrate into the region.
Rush’s third type of person and family to settle the rural setting is defined as follows:
Associated with population expansion is the development of transportation routes. Transportation was the primary factor defining the progress of disease in this portion of New York. Whereas during the earliest years of a given setting’s history transportation tended to be very slow, only 20 miles per day given the right weather, during these early settlement years of western New York, a little less of these same limitations existed at times. The passing of a stage or wagon through the region on occasion was not unusual. Were there a store or mercantile business set up, this update in transportation would have followed beginning on the first day.
This form of progress meant that if an individual left for a trip just before a predetermined disease onset, such as exposure to some suffering from dysentery, influenza, consumption during its contagious stages, small pox, or any of several forms of fever, the traveller could die and never complete the journey back to civilization. By staying in such a primitive non-social, non-urban setting, the exposure and suffering of diseases that require direct human contact are rare and uneventful, remaining within the four walls of the isolated abode. Diseases that can be dispersed by such natural elements as water, wind, and animals migration, like the very local spotted fever or some forms of the plague, are with time likely to make their way into the new communal setting. If the setting itself has a new geology or ecology, new diseases only found in the settlement region might also erupt as well. As the numbers of houses increase, the towns grow, filth and smell a common feature of certain occupational settings, more diseases will arrive, turning the most primitive environmental health setting into a semi-developed less healthier communal setting, and from there into a more infectious, contagion-ridden crowded and occupationally related fetid, unsanitary setting. Such concepts would make anyone familiar with Benjamin Rush or had similar experiences as Rush, would determine that like the place being occupied, diseases progress and develop over time. Were it not for the option for rural, everyone could die a young age the most wilderness-inspired settlers would conclude.
The Geographical Sequent Occupance Theory
Rush’s rendering of population change is very much complemented and improved upon by the sequent occupance theory defined in the late 1800s. Like Rush’s motives for reviewing this topic, this new geographers’ theory was defined in attempts to explain political, governmental, transportation, industrial and economic change. The focus of most of the writers of this researcher was one the old settlements as region in relation to current regional settings built upon the same land. A complete interpretation of each region was developed, with much of this theory based on the changes that took place within the Illinois-Great Lakes part of this country. Between 1800 and 1895, this was where in just a century Chicago grew from Fort Dearborn to a sizable and economically important urban setting.
Its various travel routes into the city setting intersected with many of the major transcontinental routes then developed, if not directly then at least indirectly and usually just one node away from the remaining primary transportation routes.
So too did its routes of travel, its types of settlers and industries, and its value to the main establishment of the United States, the various governmental employees and entrepreneurs and their heavily invested industries.
Where previous only indigenous groups once survived, in the more recent decades their local presence, their cultural presence had greatly diminished and had turned into a small self-sustaining setting, first made extinct by the Sullivan Expedition when the American Army made its way to this part of New York, and secondly by the two migrations of these first two groups of families from the Kingston part of New York.
The new lands were untouched by western civilization, significantly modified by indigenous groups, but now in a state of ecological recovery following its first human ecology based modification.
The first settlement of three families totaling twenty individuals can be put into perspective in terms of their health when we consider the local climatology and meteorology for the time, along with local wind patterns, geology, hydrology and ecology, and then add the more contemporary sequent occupancy method of understanding this region’s overall medical geography.
The following figures depicting human occupancy steps or sequences for a given setting come from Alfred Meyer’s work.
According to Meyer’s version of the sequent occupancy model, Rush’s interpretation of the first phase in development would best fit into the Pioneer’s Stage or Stage 2, preceded by the indigenous lifestyle. In my model of Sequent Occupancy derived from my thesis, I term this period in history the Explorers/Indigenous Stage. It includes sub-periods of time when there is indigenous isolation followed by explorers visual and at times auditory communications impact, followed by indirect and direct disease related periods of contact. As the different intercultural barriers are broken, such as by sharing foods, potables, living, cleaning and manufactory or resource production habits, more avenues develop for the resulting interactions to define causes for disease such as interpersonal direct and/or intimate contact, direct contact due to occupational traditions and habits, interpersonal contact by way of shared foodways and utilities use.
The major defining feature of Pioneer settings is the establishment of a semi-permanent homestead. For some indigenous groups this phase in social evolution has already taken place, making it likely that proximity and crowding will possibly have some form of mental and physical impacts on the people residing in this manner. This is also a period with a much more likelihood of giving way to sanitation problems, and thus new diseases related to this new public health problem. We expect for example this type of environment to be much more susceptible to infectious diseases requiring fairly direct human contact, like small pox or measles infection and the development of pseudo-epidemic disease patterns, cases appearing in clusters, although not necessarily continuing their spread to new territories due to distances between the different population settings. The spread of small pox to the Cree for example, a process than began in Mexico in a warm temperate to tropical disease setting, took several years to reach settlements Canada located next to the coldest parts of the temperate zone and even within the warmest parts of the Frigid Zone.
More than likely, the first three families to settle this territory ultimately evolved into this form of social setting, maturing just before a member of the Watkins finally decided to move the the proposed town setting around 1824. The migration of the fairly well-endowed landowner of this region marks the beginning of stage 3 in the local regional sequent occupancy development. This migration was the goal of the original purchasers of this property, and their presence in this environment qualifies this region as an example of Rush’s third period in social development.
Putting the above into perspective, we can use this ideology to define the medical history of the first settlement of Salubria and the village that developed decades later.
There are several books typical of domestic settings during this period in American history. Prior to 1806, nearly all of these books were published in another country. Many historians accept the locally famous book, Shadrach Ricketson’s medical book, as perhaps the first American penned and published book of medicine. The circulation of this book was restricted for the most part to the New York Hudson Valley and neighboring states (which included Kingston, the home town of the first settlers), in particular those with well established merchants who were also book distributors, or within a Quaker community setting, and perhaps within the New England-Mid-Atlantic states setting where colleges and medical schooling existed. Needless to say, such settings were very rare for the first decade or two of United States medical history. Also across the river was town of Mt. Lebanon, the second most popular place for mineral springs, climate and topography based cures next to the Ballston-Saratoga area. Its resident, Drs. Moses Younglove would have certainly had influences upon the pastoral ways of interpreting these lands in western New York.
In terms of wide-spread popularity, aside from Ricketson’s book, there was the very famous work on Domestic Medicine by William Buchan. This underwent periodic updatings since its first publications when the New York region was still colonial. It was a very common purchase in the United States, especially by families bearing British support. The following is from the edition of this book close to the time when the first settlers were establishing their homesteading practices in the western New York tracts. The diseases noted by Buchan are for the most part the best documented conditions and diagnoses of the time. A certain percentage of these diseases were considered to be mostly of personal family history and temperament origin. Those of either environmental or population density origin are highlighted in yellow.
(For an electronic rendering of Buchan’s book go to http://www.americanrevolution.org/medicine/medicine.html)
Endemic versus Epidemic Disease
There are two types of diseases to consider according to Buchan–endemic and epidemic–which he defined as follows:
Epidemic is from the Greek for ‘on the people’ (epi + demos), endemic from the Greek for ‘within the people’.
Whenever a new place is discovered and settled during the early post-colonial period of American history, it is typical for observations to be made detailing not only the natural resources potential for the region, but also its medical geography, climatology and topography.
New regions can be associated with new disease patterns, due in part to latitude changes but also topographically generated precipitation, barometric, humidity, temperature pattern, and windflow changes. Epidemic diseases are those introduced into a population setting, usually by another individual passing through or moving into the region. Endemic diseases are related to where somebody chose to reside. Epidemic diseases are related to the demography of that place that an individual or family chooses to reside.
One of the best examples of a condition that around 1800 defined the place where a person decided to live is consumption. Although at times there are a number of diseases that could be related to consumption, if the patient and physician wait long enough into the newly acquired condition, and continue to observe the changes the body goes through, the typical doctor should be able to differentiate consumption (or tuberculosis) from the other common lung or chest related diseases including asthma, pleurisy, bastard pleurisy, and even pneumonia. It would not be unusual for a physician trained in medicine before and during the war to walk away from the Revolution with the ideology that pleurisy is just and early step to the disease progression process, as is the case for other common lung related problems like the cough, dyspnea, chest pains during breathing, pneumonia, or the excessive discharge of sputum. Each of these could be related to asthma, pleurisy or bastard pleurisy.
Another easily diagnosed disease for this time was pleurisy. The following medical conditions or events have been linked to this common disease (these are listed from high likelihood for onset to very low or none).
- Infection from a fungus or parasite
- Infection from a virus
- Infection from a bacterium related to pneumonia
- Infection from mycobacterium or tuberculosis
- Exposure-related mesothelioma linked to occupational lung disease hazards (stone or mineral dust, smoke, etc.)
- Chest injuries
- Rheumatism-related autoimmune disease
- Familial Mediterranean fever, an inherited condition that often causes fever and swelling in the abdomen or lung
- Pulmonary embolism, a blood clot in the blood vessels that go into the lungs
- High blood pressure
- Lung cancer and lymphoma
- Other lung diseases like Cystic Fibrosis, sarcoidosis, lymphangioleiomyomatosis
- Aortic dissection
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Heart surgery, especially coronary artery bypass grafting
Due to the nature of medical and disease history, the most likely causes for pleurisy during this period of time in American history are the infectious diseases. Diseases common to older aged individual were fairly infrequent if not rare due to average lifespan during this period in American history.
Whereas twenty years earlier, the common colonial medical belief was that one disease could progress to the next (Theophilus Borden’s Vitalism philosophy/theory), by 1800 this notion of the single cause for disease based on solidism (see my essay on Joseph Hamilton of Hudson, NY as an example of a “hybrid” medical thinker of the post-colonial period) and the infection of one organ system after another by way of blood (humoural) flow had been pretty much eliminated from the professional medical journal writings. To an old-timer migrating into Western New York, this belief system may have remained alive as a traditional cultural belief system. But if most of the western New York settlers and/or family leaders were post-war educated, the new ideology was believed in–disease was a consequence mainly of personal body and decisions related to using that body, in relation to how well that body is adapted to and prepared for exposure to the many elements of nature. Your body, your family history, your mind, your temperament set up your fate when it came to mental and temperamental medical conditions, mostly of an epidemical nature. Your body, family history, temperament and adaptive skills defined how many and what kinds of endemical disease patterns influenced your health.
The most prevalent diseases for the region with an environmental or geographic causality are the various fevers, influenza, and dysentery. Yellow fever is unexpected, but spotted fever would not be unusual, depending on its definition (see other essay on Salubria for more on this). The topography sets the stage for the development of asthmatic problems, and perhaps allergic rhinitis (which the settlers would have either linked to asthma or to the influenza and the common cold). During its first years, the settlement in this region had only about 20 settlers, including family members of all age ranges. The children would be susceptible to measles and the killer small pox, but this problem was probably short lived if at all. Only newly born children were most susceptible to this infection, assuming the others were already exposed to these two highly infectious diseases. This unusual stage in communal population health development and change also suggests that the most infectious diseases requiring direct person-to-person contact would have taken their course during a very short time, with no more potential victims to worry about. Likewise, measles, mumps, croup, rose fever (roseola) would be present, but only on occasion, and then behaving mostly as epidemics.
The endemic disease patterns are those recurring from one year to the next, fever was the most common of these, in various forms and patterns, but other diseases known today to be infectious could have been a constant problem, such as the various forms of animalcule and microorganismal pleurisy just defined. Likewise for such common maladies as ascites and chancres or the different forms of “tumors” and “cancer.”
Occupational disease hazards were the most prevalent causes for mortality. Accidental injuries, especially those leading to infection and the development of a putrid, morbid flesh would be a major concern of most of the outdoors workers. In years of severe drought, or severe swarms of pests, the lack of water would give way to lack of adequate food supply and such diseases due to undernutrition such as scurvy and goitre. One form of St. Anthony’s Fire is common to farming settings due to its cause, the infection of wheat by ergot.
Domestication of former wilderness territory was the goal of this colony established in western New York, and so livestock diseases also had to be tended to in this part of New York. Climate itself had its impact on these animals, but a number of livestock diseases this region might have introduced to the farming industry would have been based solely on the local plant ecology–due to excessive grazing and foraging by livestock, and gathering and baling by farmers, of plants that were poisonous to livestock. From a Connecticut article published around this time in the Medical Repository, we know this is the case based on the authors notes about cattle becoming ill whenever they wandered over to new grazing territories. he himself notes their deaths due to neurological manifestations including giddiness, inability to walk and hind legs paralysis had to be due to some local “poison”, as he terms it [this is to be covered on another page, need article citation].
The goals of the individuals settling this new territory were severalfold. Their purpose for settling in this “previously unoccupied” (according to common, colonial and state law) part of the State had to do with land claims. Presumably this region remained half-wild, half-domesticated for years to come due to its low population count and its period of development in American history. The first settler to finally remove to this area was the brother of one of the two original purchasers of the land claim. He removed to this region in 1824, until which time it remained a Stage 2 (Pioneer) type of living setting. According to Rush, these original settlers and their lack of a solid church-centered community made them more like his Stage 2 settlement than his stage 3 settlement. By 1824, this changed. According to Rush’s philosophy, Watkins was the first educated individual to move into this region and therefore the first sign of developmental success.
The following is an article penned by Watkins about how to settle a place as remote as his western New York property and how to make the necessary accomodations needed to becoem a farmer. This was published in the following:
Like his in-laws in the Livingston Family, Watkins was very utilitarian when it came to making full use of our natural resources. He illustrates this by his description of the floor for his green house, which makes use of large amounts of tanning bark industry waste, probably the bark from either Eastern Hemlock, Chestnut Oak and some other Oak tree. The ecology of these arboreal species may have prevented potential settlers from accomplishing this part of his instruction in the prairie and grasslands of central western New York.
The village was incorporated with the name “Jefferson,” in 1842, renamed Watkins. The name was changed to Watkins Glen in 1926.
The village of Watkins was named after its founder, Dr. Samuel Watkins, a native of England; and was included in the Watkins and Flint purchase. This tract of 350,000 acres was obtained from the State in 1794, by John W. Watkins and Royal R. Flint, representing a syndicate of prominent men, and covered a large tract of country around the head of Seneca Lake.
Dr. Watkins succeeded to the title of his elder brother’s estate at his death, and became the owner of 25,000 acres of land. He came to this locality to reside in the year 1828, where he found only a small hamlet, of between two and three hundred inhabitants. The first settlement having been made in 1788, nine years after the Sullivan expedition, he named it Salubria, a most appropriate name in view of the climatic conditions. He built the Jefferson House, Glen National Bank building, together with several residences; mapped and laid out the village, presented it with a public park, and had it incorporated April 11, 1842, under the name of Jefferson.
He married Miss Cynthia A. Cass, an intelligent and well-educated lady of this village, and died in 1851, aged 80 years, leaving to his widow under his will nearly all of his estate. She subsequently married the late Judge George G. Freer, who came to Jefferson from Ithaca in 1851, and at her death made him her principal legatee. Through his influence the name of the village was changed, in 1852, from Jefferson to Watkins, as a fitting tribute to the memory of its founder. He did much for the progress and prosperity of the village, obtaining a new charter in 1861, organized the first bank, and was the leading spirit in establishing the county seat permanently at Watkins in 1868; also, mainly instrumental in the erection of the main building now occupied by the “Glen Springs, ” and, in connection with the Hon. John Magee, presented Glenwood Cemetery (over 22 acres) to the village; he also donated the site for the school house, together with the land whereon the Schuyler County buildings are located. He died in 1878, aged 69 years, having ever been a munificent friend and patron of his adopted home.
Within the limits of Dr. Watkins’ domain, he reposed for many years, in silence and solitude, at the now-famous Watkins Glen. The stream that formed it was originally rated as a mill site, and from the number located thereon, in early times, was known for many years as Mill Creek, but with the passing of the industries connected therewith, and its opening as a summer resort, the name it now bears (“Glen Creek”) was bestowed upon it.
The location of the village is partly on a rocky hill sparsely covered with soil, and a flat, composed of sand and gravel, that has been washed down from the surrounding hills, filling up the deep gorge, a mile wide and three miles long, that was once the continuance of Seneca Lake, and in the center of which a depth of 1,200 feet has failed to find the rock. The stream issuing from the rocky portals of the Glen has had its share in bringing down the material that has filled up this immense cavity, and geologists have estimated that more than 30,000 years have been required in its formation. Through many years the deposits in the valley caused the stream to shift from time to time, north, south or east, wherever the land was lowest, and when Dr. Watkins erected saw and flouring mills within the rocky walls of the amphitheater, he opened for it a new channel half a mile long, due east from the mouth of the gorge, for the more direct flow of its waters. This is its present course, but even now, with the limited amount of silt brought down in times of freshets, dredging has to be resorted to every few years to keep it within bounds.
There is no doubt but that in ancient times it must have had a large population of aborigines, as many relics, exhumed in making excavations for cellars, sewers, etc., go to prove; but nothing in the form of a name seems to have survived.
Montour Falls, three miles south, is the site of “Catherinestown,” the only Indian village mentioned in the annals of Sullivan’s expedition as being at the head of the Lake, which they passed on the highlands east of the valley. Catherine Montour was Queen of the Senecas, whose power was destroyed by this expedition.
In 1863, the idea of unsealing this mysterious “book of nature,” and opening its successive pages to the eyes of the “outer world,” was conceived by M. Ells, a resident of Watkins, who deserves great credit for the measures he took to carry out his plan — by the construction of staircases, pathways, railings, bridges, and a miniature chalet, called the “Evergreen,” perched on a shelf of rock near the north end of the present suspension bridge (which connects the banks of the gorge at the site of the old Glen Mountain House), and by announcing, through the press of the surrounding country, that on and after the 4th of July, 1863, Watkins Glen would be open as a summer resort for visitors, and a claimant for a share of the favors annually bestowed upon Niagara Falls, Saratoga Springs, White Mountains, Thousand Islands, Mammoth Cave, etc.