The first movements towards the settlement of Western New York date back to about the close of the Revolutionary war. Up to this time the whole of this part of the state was included in the indefinite Indian domain. After peace was established the thoughts of the people turned towards the development and improvement of the vast territory of which they were in possession. As Western New York lay next in the line of advance to the westward, which has been going on up to the present time, and as stories of its fertility and beauty had been carried home by the soldiers of Sullivan’s army, who had been through this part of the state, it was but natural that settlers should have been attracted in this direction.
After attention had been drawn to the value of this large extent of country, it became necessary before permanent settlements could be made that the titles to the land should be established. The following in regard to the matter we condense from the History of Livingston County:
At the close of the war, claims were established by Massachusetts under the Colonial patents to the right of the soil of a large portion of Western New York, and were confirmed by a commission appointed by the two governments, which met at Hartford, Conn. Dec. 16, 1786, and which, while it reserved the right of sovereignty conceded to Massachusetts the right to pre-empt the soil from the native Indians, all that tract lying west of a line, known as the PREEMPTION LINE, which extending north from the south-east corner of Steuben county, through Geneva to Sodus Bay except a tract a mile wide along the Niagara river and an adjoining tract east of that line, known as the Boston Ten Towns. This agreement was sanctioned by Congress in 1787.
April 1, 1788, Oliver Phelps and Nathaniel Gorham purchased of Massachusetts, in the interest of on association of capitalists, its pre-emption right to the lands in this state, estimated to comprise 6,000,000 to 8,000,000 acres; the consideration being 800,000 to be paid in three annual installments in the depreciated securities of that state. Failing to meet their obligations Messrs. Phelps and Gorham surrendered all that part of the tract lying to the west of the Genesee River, which reverted to the state of Massachusetts.
The Indian title to the tract retained was extinguished at a treaty held at Buffalo Creek, July 8, 1788, the Senecas receiving in consideration the inconsiderable sum of $5,000, one-half of which was paid in cash and the other half in goods, and a perpetual annuity of $500.
In 1787 Phelps and Gorham sold to Robert Morris of Philadelphia 1,200,000 acres of the purchase. The next year Morris sold the whole tract to a company of London capitalists, of which Sir William Pultney was a member. This tract which embraced the present counties of Ontario, Yates and Steuben, and large portions of Wayne, Monroe, Schuyler, Allegany, Chenango and Livingston counties, has since been known as the Pultney estate.
In 1789, the year after the extinguishment of the Indian title to their purchase, Phelps and Gorham commenced a settlement and opened a land office at Canandaigua and in 1789 had completed the survey of their land into lots, generally six miles square. The tract was divided into seven ranges, numbered from east to west, and extending from the Pennsylvania line to Lake Ontario. These ranges were six miles apart, and the squares they formed were designated townships and were numbered in ranges from south to north. The survey was made by Col. Hugh Maxwell in the years 1788 and ‘89.
The Town of Springwater comprises township number seven in the fifth range (except a half-mile strip on the east side) and the east half of township number seven in the sixth range. The following are field notes from the survey of Springwater, furnished us by D. B. Waite, of Canadice:
As Springwater has a strip 160 rods wide taken from its east edge and added to Naples, the notes on the east line cannot be given, and as a strip three miles wide was taken from Sparta and added to Springwater on the west, the west line cannot be given, but the south and the north lines, and also the township line between the old towns of Naples and Sparta are here carefully copied from the manuscript notes of Col.Maxwell.
North Line: “August 25, 1789. Began the line between No. 7 and No. 8 in the 5th Range at a small mountain oak which is the east line, running west, the 1st mile is 160 rods down a steep hill,*(This is the N. E. corner of the present town of Springwater) the growth is mountain and black oak, and chestnut, the soil hard and dry. 126 rods on a better soil-the growth black and white oak, mountain oak, chestnut, maple, basswood etc., to a handsome brook running northward, the rest of the mile is good. 2nd mile began to rise the hill and in 40 rods it grew very steep-the growth is oak, chestnut, whitewood etc., the mile brought me to the top of the hill. 3rd mile a gradual descent to the west-the growth is oak, chestnut etc. The land is good. 4th mile 48 rods to a brook running southerly and 206 rods to another. The growth of timber in this mile and the land is such as the last mile and chiefly descends to the west but not very steep. 5th mile 240 rods to a small brook running southward, the mile is chiefly descending to the westward, and is pretty good land. The timber is heavy chestnut and oak mixed with some white pine, maple, beech etc. 6th mile 60 rods to a small brook running northerly, then over a hemlock ridge to a handsome stream running northward. The corner is a large hemlock*(This is the N. E. corner of the old town of Sparta). Proceeding on west between No. 7 and No. 8 in the 6th Range. 1st mile, 34 rods to a swamp, and 20 rods to the stream running northward, 26 rods to the upland, up a steep hill, hemlock about 20 rods, then a mixture of oak, chestnut, beech and maple, basswood, walnut etc., about 180 rods - still rising, timber principally white pine, 20 rods brought me to the top of the hill, then a gradual descent to the west, timber still pine. 2nd mile descending to the west 240 rods - timber oak, pine etc., brought me to a sunken swamp brook running northerly, then flat land 60 rods to a handsome brook running northerly. Flat land good. 3rd mile rising land 100 rods and descending south - timber oak, etc., under wood very thick. Descending to the westward, timber as before 160 rods brought me to a brook running south - Beech, maple, basswood, ash etc. Crossed a brook a number of times.*(This is the NW corner of the present town of Springwater.)”
South Line: “September 2, 1789. Set off from a large maple tree which is the corner of No. 6 and 7 in the 4th and 5th ranges and run on west between No. 6 and 7 in the 5th range. 1st mile 80 rods to a small brook, and 20 rods to a path leading East and West which appears to be much trod-40 rods to the foot of the hill-the land is good. *(20 rods up this hill will be to the SE corner of the present town of Springwater.) 100 rods tip the hill, which is steep and the rest of the mile is thin white pine land and the undergrowth thick. 2nd mile 66 rods on lands descending to the west through thin white pine and thick undergrowth brought to a brook running southward, then rising along steep bill, then descending to the west In white pine, oak and chestnut. but the undergrowth very thick the last part. 3d mile 270 rods to a good brook running southerly-the growth and undergrowth like the last mile. The land is uneven and dry and mixed with hemlock. 4th mile 250 rods to a good brook running southerly-this mile is uneven and broken and steep-considerable hemlock mixed with white pine, oak and chestnut. 5th mile 80 rods to a small brook-the land descending to the west- then up a steep hill and 208 rods to another, both running south. The land in this mile is middling good with considerable white pine, chestnut etc. 6th mile 80 rods descending to the west over pretty good land brought me to a most excellent piece of land with a gentle tilt to the west through which runs a small brook, and 60 rods in the good land is an Indian path which appears to be considerably trodden of late. The corner is a large hemlock tree marked NVI on the south, and NVII on the north side. *(This is the S. E. Corner of the old town of Sparta.) Proceeding west between No. 7 and No. 8 in the 6th Range. 1st mile 84 rods to a swamp, and 20 rods to the stream running northward, 26 rods to the upland, up a steep hill, hemlock about 20 rods, then a mixture of oak, chestnut, beech and maple, basswood, walnut etc., about 180 rods-still rising, timber principally white pine, 20 rods brought me to the top of the hill, then a gradual descent to the west, timber still pine. 2nd mile descending to the west 240 rods-timber oak, pine etc., brought me to a sunken swamp brook running northerly, then flat land 60 rods to a handsome brook running northerly. Flat land good. 3d mile rising land 100 rods and descending south-timber oak, etc., under wood very thick. Descending to the westward, timber as before 160 rods brought me to a brook running south-Beech, maple, basswood, ash etc. Crossed a brook a number of times. *(This is the NW corner of the present town of Springwater.)”
October 19, 1789. Set off from the hemlock which is the corner of No. 7 and 8 in the 5th and 6th ranges, running south between Nos. 7 in the 5th and 6th ranges. 1st mile through very wet land or rather swampy-the growth is pine, ash, elm etc. with much alder brush. 2nd mile through rather dryer land but of an exceedingly good quality-the growth elm, basswood, maple etc. The line crosses the large brook that leads to the Hemlock Lake, a great many times. 3d mile a gradual ascent, the land is exceedingly good-the growth is heavy elm, ash, maple, beech, basswood etc. 4th mile 84 rods to a brook running westward, 88 rods to another. The mile is good land rising as we went on south. The growth is pretty heavy of elm, ash, beech, oak etc. The mile came out at a brook. 5th mile 140 rods to a brook running westward, and 60 rods to a path leading east and west, 80 rods to a swamp which continued to the end of the mile, with some small hemlock patches.
The mile is heavy timbered with the common sorts mixed with some hemlock. 6th mile 144 rods to a clean brook. The greatest part of the mile is through thick hemlock and cedar swampy land. The corner is a large hemlock marked NYI on the south side, end NVII on the north.
After the survey was completed settlements were speedily begun at various points in the tract, principally at Geneva, Sodus, Bath and the Friends settlement at the outlet of Crooked Lake, and in 1790 the population of the state west of the old Pre-emption Line had increased to 1,047, only 51 of whom were west of the west line of the Phelps and Gorham purchase.
The attempts at settlement were attended with great difficulty, as there was no access to the country but by the Indian paths, and the nearest settlement was about 100 miles distant. The Allegheny Mountains, then never passed, lay on the south, and Lake Ontario to the north; to the west was a boundless forest. The first settlements in Livingston County were made in the Genesee country as early as 1759, by Mary Jemison. The first important settlement made in the county after the extinguishment of the Indian title in 1788, was that of John H. and George Jones, who like Mary Jemison had been held in captivity by the Indians. They are located in the present town of Leicester.
Up to the time of 1792 the tide of emigration had been from the north-eastern states, but in the summer of that year Chas. Williamson, agent for the Pultney estate, visited the tract and put in execution a plan he had formed for its improvement by opening communications with Philadelphia and Baltimore by means of a road across the Alleghenies. The route came by the way of Williamsport. The opening of this route which came up the Cohocton valley put a new impetus to settlement for it tempted many in Pennsylvania to explore the Genesee lands who previous to that time had not given it a thought. Williamson became agent of the Pultney estate in 1792. His first effort to establish a settlement was at the mouth of the Canaseraga creek, which was not very successful.
The above mentioned route which came up the Cohocton River ran through this town, and was undoubtedly the first road made in Springwater. Its course after leaving the Cohocton River in the south-east part of the town was down the east hill, thence across the upper end of the valley and up the west hill, passing near where the cemetery now is. It was known as the “Old Bath Road”.