Newstead and Pioneer Life
Excerpts from "The Town of Newstead Septquicentennial 1823-1998"
The Town of Newstead has been a part of several counties and towns before it became the town as we now know it.
In 1772, the present Erie County was part of Albany County From 1772 to 1789 it was part of Tryon County which, in 1784, was changed to Montgomery County. In 1789, and until 1802, it was part of the Town of Northampton in Ontario County.
From 1802 to 1804 the Town of Newstead was part of the Town of Batavia, Genesee County. It extended west to New Amsterdam or the name the setters preferred, Buffalo
Asa Ransom planted a few crops about his tavern in Pine Grove (now Clarence), according to Johnson's Centennial History of Erie County:
T. S. Hopkins and Otis Ingalls also cleared a piece of land on the edge of Newstead and raised the first wheat grown in Newstead upon it. When the wheat was ready for grinding, Mr. Hopkins took it to Street's mill at Chippewa (in Canada). He went with three yoke of oxen by way of Black Rock (now a part of Buffalo), the whole population of which then consisted of an Irishman named O'Neil who kept the ferry. The ferriage each way was $2.50 and the trip must have taken at least four days. Most of the early settlers purchased lands on the Buffalo Road. Among them we find the names of John and Samuel Hill and William Deshay.
The First Election
In 1802 Peter Vandeventer, a Dutchman undoubtedly, judging from his name, built a tavern on the Rob Roy farm on Route 5. "At that little log tavern on the first day of March 1803 occurred the first town meeting of the Holland Purchase," wrote the author of the Centennial History. In 1802 Newstead was part of the Town of Batavia, Genesee County. The Vandeventer tavern was midway between the settlements of Batavia and Buffalo. Peter Vandeventer was a candidate for supervisor and was opposed by Jonathan Bemis of Batavia. The candidates were placed side by side facing south. Voters were Instructed to take their places to the right of Vandeventer if they wished to vote for him or to the left of Bemis if he was their choice. Seventy four lined up to the right of Vandeventer and seventy on the side of Bemis. Vandeventer was, therefore, declared elected.
We know by the number who attended the Town Meeting there were approximately one hundred forty-four families in the township, since nearly every family was represented.
Settling the Land
The people who came to western New York were usually very poor and Ellicott constantly advised the Land Company to sell the land for little or no down payment. From one to two hundred acres of land was often sold for as little as $5 down.
The first work the new owner had to do was to clear a spot of land for a home. As soon as a place large enough was cleared, the logs were used to build a cabin. All the neighbors turned out to the "bee" and assisted. A cabin sixteen feet square with one window and a floor was considered very fine. There were but a few frame houses in the entire area and they were in New Amsterdam (Buffalo).
A piece of land was cleared after the cabin was built so that the settler might raise corn and wheat, as well as potatoes and vegetables. Three or four acres were usually cleared the first year. Neighbors helped each other, and logging bees as well as house raising bees were popular. Getting together to share work relieved the loneliness of the early settler. Three men could "log" an acre a day. Logs were placed in several heaps and burned. The men became blackened with soot and worked fast and furiously to get as much done as possible. Oxen pulled the logs down to the pile to be burned.
The next important work for the settler was to build a fence At the first town meeting of every town in the Purchase, an ordinance was passed that horses and "horned cattle" could roam about freely, but hogs had to be in an enclosure. Sheep were usually put inside the fence also to protect them from wolves. The fences were sometimes of brush, but the best fence was a rail fence made of split logs. This type of fence has practically disappeared, in favor of the fine wire fences of today.
The clothing the settlers wore was sometimes patched so much, one could hardly recognize the original material.
A store was opened by Archibald Clark near the Vandeventer tavern and other newcomers began to build log houses in the neighborhood. The Archibald Clark store was located on the corner of Cummings Road and Main Road. A post office was also located in the little colony, mail coming by stagecoach from New England, Albany and points west as well as other directions. Clark went on to become the first Post Master in Clarence in about 1811. In 1812 he was elected the first State Senator from Erie County and served until 1816.