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copy owned by 'neighbors' of the Smiths
and two important regional journalists

 

TURNER, Orsamus (1801-55). HISTORY OF THE PIONEER SETTLEMENT OF PHELPS AND GORHAM'S PURCHASE, and Morris' Reserve; Embracing the Counties of Monroe, Ontario, Livingston, Yates, Steuben, Most of Wayne and Allegany, and Parts of Orleans, Genesee and Wyoming. To Which is Added, A Supplement, or Extension of the Pioneer History of Monroe County. The Whole Preceded by Some Account of French and English Dominion—Border Wars of the Revolution—Indian Councils and Land Cessions—The Progress of Settlement Westward from the Valley of the Mohawk—Early Difficulties with the Indians—Our Immediate Predecessors the Senecas—with "A Glance at the Iroquois." By O. Turner, {Author of the "History of the Holland Purchase."} Rochester: Published by William Alling., 1851.

22½ cm. (binding 23¼ cm. = 9 inches tall). viii, [9]-624 pp.; two blank flyleaves at front and two at the back. COLLATED COMPLETE.

Original dark brown blind-stamped cloth; gilt-lettered spine. In very good condition. Some wear to spine caps without significant loss. A handsome and appealing copy of a popular historical source generally found elsewhere in rather sad condition.

 

 

$850

 

FIRST EDITION. Flake 9054; Howes T425; Sabin 97489.  Cited by Anderson, Backman, Bushman, Hill Quinn and everyone else. Mormon portion transcribed and analyzed by Dan Vogel, Early Mormon Documents Vol. 3 (SLC: Signature Books, 2000), pp. 46-54.

By far the nicest and most desirable copy I have owned of this classic work, it was ORIGINALLY OWNED BY TWO DIFFERENT MEN WHO ARE DISCUSSED IN THE BOOK ITSELF, MEN WHO BY FRONTIER STANDARDS WERE PRACTICALLY NEIGHBORS OF THE SMITHS:

SIGNED on the front flyleaf and title page by H. J. Redfield, then SIGNED AND INSCRIBED on the second flyleaf "To my brother L. H. Redfield, Aug. 8th 1852, H. J. Redfield."

 

The REDFIELDs lived a mile and a half west of the hamlet of Clifton Springs, in the town of Manchester, New York, approximately six miles southeast of the Smith Family farm. Turner discusses this family at some length, immediately before the discussion of Mormonism. Indeed, the Redfields and Smiths take up two thirds of the entire section devoted to Manchester. The father, Peleg Redfield, was a friend of Oliver Phelps in Connecticut, and was given his choice of any 200 acres he might want (in the New York Phelps and Gorham Purchase) in 1800 . . .

 

 

 

"The Journey," says a son of his, "was performed with a sleigh and a single span of horses. Besides the family, the sleigh was loaded with beds and bedding, and articles of household furniture. I shall never forget this, my first journey to the Genesee country, especially that portion of it west of Utica. The snow was three feet deep, and the horses tired and jaded by the cradle-holes, often refused to proceed farther with their load. I had the privilege of riding down hill, but mostly walked with my father, my mother driving the team."

Arriving at their new home, the Pioneer family found shelter with a new settler, "until the bark would peel in the spring," when a roof was put upon the body of the log house that Mr. Redfield had erected; openings made for a door and window, and bass-wood logs split for a floor. Here the family remained until autumn, when a double log house had been erected. [p. 210]

 

Here, one of the Redfield boys or historian Franklin Chase (see further below) has added a note on the page, in pencil: "Only one log house was ever erected."

 

"Mr. Redfield is now in his 80th year;" continues Turner (a younger Mr. Redfield or Mr. Chase correcting this in pencil to read, "90th year"),

his memory of early events, retentive, and his physical constitution remarkable for one of his years. He is the father of the Hon. Heman J. Redfield, of Batavia; of Lewis H. Redfield, the well known editor, publisher, and bookseller at Syracuse . . . "I could have made my location at Fort Hill, near Canandaigua," said the old gentleman to the author, "but a town was growing up there, and I feared its influence upon my boys." There are many Pioneer fathers who have lived to regret, that they had not been governed by the same prudent motive.

The Pioneer mother died in 1844, aged 80 years. It will appear incredible to the house keepers, and young mothers of the present day, when they are told, that Mrs. Redfield, in early years, when she had a family of six and seven children, performed all her ordinary house-work, milked her own cows; and carded, spun and wove, all the woolen and linen cloth that the family wore. But the old gentleman thinks it should be added, that he and the boys lightened her labor, by uniformily [sic] wearing buckskin breeches in the winter; though the mother had them to make. [pp. 210-11]

 

SUCH WERE THE MEN who owned and lightly annotated this very book which is now at hand.  Their father's own words appear next, in brief "Reminiscences of Peleg Redfield," pp. 211-12. He remembered sending his boys a mile through dangerous woods to school, using marked trees to find their way. The wolves were "a great nuisance," he added. "In winters, when hungry, they would collect together and prowl around the log dwellings; and if disappointed in securing any prey, their howling would startle even backwoodsmen." p. 211.

 

Mormon customers will not purchase this book for its discussion of the Redfields, intriguing though it may be. But in the treatment of this family, we can observe Orsamus Turner's careful attention to detail about people whom he clearly knew personally, including the future founder of Mormonism. Beyond this subject, the "Phelps & Gorham" is an indispensable source of detail about people who crossed paths with the earliest Latter-day Saints. It is to this book that I turn several times a month to identify the many obscure characters whose early letters and land deeds I obtain!

"Gold Bible - Mormonism," pp. 212-17. Turner knew Joseph Smith when they were both young in Palmyra. As a printer's devil, Turner describes how he would occasionally ink the face of a "meddling inquisitive lounger-but afterwards Prophet . . ." p. 214. Did you know that Joseph Smith was once an active vocal participant in Methodist meetings in Palmyra (contrary to the impression one might obtain from the story of the First Vision)? Why did he stroll into town each week from the farm? Young Orsamus was there, and provides classic early details in this important rare source. ". . . he used to help us solve some portentous questions of moral or political ethics, in our juvenile debating club," Turner recalled of young Joseph, ". . . and subsequently, after catching a spark of Methodism in the camp meeting, away down in the woods, on the Vienna road, he was a very passable exhorter in evening meetings." (p. 214)

 

PROVENANCE:

1) Hon. Heman J. REDFIELD, Batavia, New York (see p. 211)

2) Lewis H. REDFIELD (ca. 1792-1882), Syracuse, New York (newspaper editor, publisher, bookseller, p. 211)

3) Franklin H[enry]. CHASE (1864-1940), Syracuse, New York (newspaper editor, historian, book collector)

On the inside front cover is the bookplate of Mr. Chase,

. . . well-known Syracuse journalist and historian, . . . son of . . . Van Buren Chase . . . [who] spent sixty-two years in the service of the "Syracuse Journal," and was in charge of the composing room of the newspaper during most of that time. Franklin Henry Chase . . . entered the composing room of the"Syracuse Journal" in 1880, having reached his sixteenth year. . . . Mr. Chase worked on the copy desk, covered news in the upper courts, served as dramatic editor of the paper and for thirteen years edited the tri-weekly "Journal." During this period, his short stories and articles frequently appeared in other publications. . . . In latter years he spent much time abroad as foreign correspondent for the "Journal" in thirty-five countries . . . The history of Syracuse and the section of which it is a part was one of his greatest interests. He was a recognized authority on this subject, author of several thousand historical articles and of . . . [several] published volumes . . . Since 1895 he had been secretary of the Onondaga Historical Association and since 1919 had served as city historian of Syracuse . . . Collecting books and early prints was his favorite hobby. [Central New York, An Inland Empire, Vol. 4 (NY: Lewis Historical Pub. Co., Inc., [1941]), pp. 386-7 (emphasis added)]

Mr. Chase, in his own work, Syracuse and its Environs; A History, Vol. 2 (NY & Chicago: Lewis Hist. Pub. Co., 1924), had the following to say about the man who owned this very volume now offered here, before he owned it himself. In a section sub-titled, "Why Newspaper Men Moved to Syracuse," he even obliges us with an explanation of why the previous owner had not stayed in Wayne County:

It was practically decided in 1829 that Syracuse was to be the principal place of Central new York. It if had not been so decided it is exceedingly doubtful if such keen newspaper men as Lewis H. Redfield and Vivus W. Smith would have moved their newspapers to Syracuse. . . . Mr. Redfield frankly told his readers in the Onondaga "Register" of April 22, 1829, that he was moving to Syracuse not only for the good of the newspaper, but for his own good. . . .
. . . . .
  
Now, this Lewis H. Redfield was the pioneer printer and publisher of Onondaga who lasted. Thurlow Weed, the great editor, had been apprentice printer and editor—there were no reporters—in this same Onondaga, but he sought other pastures. Mr. Redfield had learned his trade at Canandaigua, and he was looking for a prospect when he located in Onondaga. His printing office outfit cost him $1,400, and with only one apprentice as an assistant, he ended the first year free from debt.

. . . In the first issue of the Onondaga "Register" and Syracuse "Gazette" on May 6, 1829, Mr. Redfield called attention to the fact that it was published in the handsome new brick building opposite the Syracuse House. That building was upon the site of the present Gridley Building, and was upon the bank of the canal at Salina Street.

   Mr. Redfield had a bookstore with his printing office at the [Onondaga] Hollow, and, when he retired from the newspaper business in 1832, he continued his book business in Syracuse for twelve years longer. He was a city builder with an eye out for the finer things of life. It was he who brought out Lewis Gaylord Clark and Wyllis Gaylord clark, both of whom achieved literary fame in the Knickerbocker Circle. Mr. Redfield was the village president in 1834, and it was to his efforts in the main that Syracuse now has Forman Park, where the Redfield Memorial is located. He died July 14, 1882, at the age of ninety, never ceasing to take pride in the fact that he was a practical printer, and upon the shaft which marks his grave in Oakwood [Cemetery], there is the inscription which he prepared himself: "Lewis H. Redfield, printer—a worn and battered form gone to be recast more beautiful and perfect." [Chase, pp. 657-8. View of Syracuse, ca. 1840, from John W[arner]. Barber and Henry Howe, Historical Collections of the State of New York . . . (NY: Published for the Authors, By S. Tuttle, 1841), p. 395. I believe the brick building mentioned above would be the one just left of the center of the image.]

Onondaga, New York, is a southern suburb of Syracuse (just northwest of your present bookseller's home), where Mrs. Solomon Spaulding once kept her late husband's famous manuscript in a house which still stands, I am told, to the present day. It is by no means unlikely that Mr. Redfield would have been acquainted with another very prominent Syracuse citizen, John Farnham Boynton (died 1890), one of Joseph Smith's original twelve apostles, 1835. For additional particulars about Redfield's printing career, see Milton W. Hamilton, The Country Printer, New York State, 1785-1830 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1936), p. 293, mentioning that Redfield was also a presidential elector in 1872.

 

 

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