Monday, March 7, 2016


By 1790, white settlers began to settle in the areas of higher elevations around what is presently Deansboro, because they felt it was healthier; the valley was considered a swamp hole. They settled at Paris Hill, then called South Settlement; Hanover was a dense forest at that time.  In 1795, the first settlers in Hanover, Isaac Miller (who became the first supervisor of the Town of Marshall ) and his wife Irene and their children, chose the hillside, fearing malaria in the lower valley, possibly due to the close proximity of the Oriskany Creek (called "Okrist" which means "river of nettles".) David Barton, ancestor of the present Bartons in Waterville and whose name was given to the Barton Hose Company in Deansboro arrived next. David Barton first settled in the west hills, on the farm now owned by the Bishopp family; but, because he inadvertently landed in Brothertown land, he was obliged to move, and he did so: to the east hills. The State paid him for the improvement (or, as it was called, betterments) of land lying outside the Native American claim, which in retrospect seems short-sighted. Therefore, the most important early "white" settlement in the Town of Marshall was Hanover in the east hills.

As stated, Hanover at that time was basically an unbroken forest; and clearing the land, making a home and a livelihood must have seemed like daunting tasks, especially since the settlers had just completed an exhausting  journey from Connecticut. But they had heard of the deep, rich, well-drained soil and the abundance of game, and had high hopes of seeing rich, rolling meadows of healthy crops and envisioned  many neighbors, which would eventually present the need for a church and a school.

On the settlers came, mainly from Massachusetts and Connecticut. Once the area became more inhabited, it was decided to organize a religious society. On October 22, 1797, the Hanover Society was formed, made up of Congregationalists of old Puritan stock. At that time, the Society held their meetings at private homes, but with so many families moving into the area, plans were made to erect a church. The first meeting to discuss the building of a meeting house was held at Phinney's Tavern on Peck's Corners. There was a dispute where the church should be: Peck's Corners or Hanover; Hanover won the day. Construction started in 1804 and by 1806 was completed and the building was occupied. The structure was built with square pews, which were sold at auction to the parishioners  to obtain money to defray building expenses. It was a large edifice and as many as 100 people worshipped there at one time.

The story goes that in the early 1800s, David Barton, Jr., a member of the Hanover Society, didn't feel than an unheated place of worship such as the first church, irreverently called "God's Barn," was such a good idea for older churchgoers, those in poor health, or children. In very cold weather, the minister preached in mittens, striped or huge fringed ones, and the ladies huddled over foot stoves, while the men shuffled their feet or rubbed their hands to keep warm. Mr. Barton proposed putting a stove in the church, which he would supply, amid much opposition. It was thought that "religious zeal" should be enough to keep the parishioners warm. However, despite the opposition, a Franklin stove was installed, and for once the members of the congregation, including the minister, were comfortable.

Around the same time, the Hanover Green, a tear-shaped plot of about half an acre was laid out "for military and training purposes."  The main highway from Waterville to Utica was through Hanover. Over the years, Hanover saw much growth. The Turkey Creek, which flows down the slopes of the east hills to the Oriskany Creek provided  plenty of water power for the many mills which had sprung up. There was a cheese factory, a furniture shop, a blacksmith shop, a distillery, and a tannery.

The first general store in town was opened by Isaac Miller, and the first hotel by Newman Gridley about 1813-1814. A cobbler went from house to house, selling hide to make shoes for the family from the leather. The resulting shoes were supposed to last two years; and if they fit, all well and good. If they didn't, they were still worn. Hanover also boasted the first post office in the Town of Marshall, in 1824 (early settlers had their mail brought to Hanover by a post rider who came once a week). The first postmaster was  Henry L. Hawley, who was in partnership with Eli Buckingham - they had a general store attached to the post office -who was also a skilled and capable physician, much loved in the area.

At first, there were three school districts near Hanover: one at Peck's Corner, one at Cowings Corners, and one in Hanover. After a while, the districts were consolidated, a two-story brick building was built on Hanover Green, and all the children attended there. It was called Hanover High School and sometimes the attendance numbered up to 100 children. Besides the basics of a good education, all children were taught manners and deportment, and girls were taught practical matters, which would come in handy when they married. Punishment was severe, and discipline rigid. Little attention was paid to the comfort of the students - the chairs were high so some smaller students' feet couldn't touch the floor - and they had to hold their tablets on the laps because there were no desks. However, much attention was paid to the pupil's moral development.

Hanover was an important, bustling community, and a great place to live, with its well-tilled land, pleasant houses, and magnificent view of the West Hills across and the Oriskany Creek valley below. However, in 1837, the Chenango Canal was built followed by the railroad along the canal route in 1867. Homesteaders saw that the soil in the so-called "Fever Valley" was just as fertile as that in the hills - witness the crops of the Brothertowns! - and realized there was plenty of water for their mills. The settlers began to understand that the canal, and then the railroad, offered them all kinds of opportunities for their businesses.  So they started settling in the lower regions.

Meanwhile, The Hanover Society - the Congregational Church - was suffering. A Presbyterian church was built in Waterville, and several families who lived in the south part of Hanover began to attend church there. Then, a Universalist church was built in Forge Hollow, which took many young people from Hanover's ranks; and finally the Methodist Church, which was built in Deansboro took all the congregation inclined towards Methodism. In 1841, the church was considered to be too large, and was torn down.  Another church was built on the same site; smaller, but still elegant with a tall spire. Then a final blow: the Congregational Church was erected in Deansboro, attracting more families from the Society. However, Meetings were still kept up, although it is reported that the entire Society could fit in a room 10-feet square. Little by little, the parishioners either passed away or moved, and the building stood empty, except for occasional services and school exhibitions. 

For a while, when it was determined that there should be a division of polling places, Hanover was Town of Marshall District #2 and voting was held in the church. However, after a few years, District #2 was changed to Waterville, and the building continued to decay. The trustees received permission to sell the building and use the proceeds for much needed improvements to the Hanover cemetery near the green, and the building was sold at public auction to Joseph Maxwell for $140.00 It was torn down around 1906 and moved to Mr. Maxwell's farm to be used as a barn.

The Post Office which was so much a part of the community closed, and was relocated in Deansboro. This also did away with the Post Rider, who left the mail at the doors of many people, and often did errands for the people. The last post master, John Collins, used to walk five miles to Waterville with the out-going mail and back to Hanover with the in-coming mail every day for 30 years. The mail is now delivered by rural delivery from Deansboro or Waterville.

The two story school in Hanover, of which the people of Hanover were justly proud, was abandoned as well when the merger took place and the children were bused to school in Waterville. The school was renovated and is now a private home.

Hanover is still there, but only a shadow of its former self.  Gone are the businesses and most of the homes, although some farms are still there and, of course, the green. But no one can take away the spectacular view over to the western hills to the valley below, and the mountains beyond. And, for many, nothing can take away the memories.

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