Town of Pulteney, New York
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Pulteney History

Emily Radigan, Pulteney Town Historian Emeritus

Part 1 ~ Part 2

In The Beginning

Pulteney is considered to be one of the nicest towns in Steuben County. Situated in the northeast corner of  the County, east by Keuka Lake and scenic Bluff Point,  bounded on the north by Jerusalem in Yates county, south by Urbana,  and west by a portion of Urbana and Prattsburgh  It is a small town only about 33.2 miles. At the outset it was much larger, however in 1813, a large portion of Pulteney was taken away to help form the town of Prattsburgh, and in 1843, another portion was taken away to form the town of Urbana.

The area was first surveyed in 1793, by William Bull when the town of Bath was being laid out by Charles Williamson agent for a group of English investors headed by Sir William Johnstone Pulteney, know as the “Pulteney Association”. The group purchased from Robert Morris, the financier of the American Revolution, a portion of the newly opened Indian Country known as the Genesee Lands (Phelps and Gorham Purchase) in 1790.

Pulteney was an unsettled wilderness during the American Revolution. Settlement did not begin in Pulteney until about ten or fifteen years after the war ended. It was after Major General John Sullivan’s campaign into the Genesee Lands against the Indians, that the settlers were attracted to the region. Many of Sullivan’s soldiers who found their way to Pulteney were veterans of his army. Soldiers who participated in the war were given at least 600 acres of land each, depending on their rank by Congress and the State of New York. These allotments were known as Military Tracts. Some of the soldiers sold their allotments for cash, others came to settle and work the land.

The pioneers came to Pulteney for various reasons; some for religious freedom, others to achieve conquest, but the compelling reason behind the migration was land. The first settlement was made in what is now known as Bully Hill in 1797 by John Van Camp and David Thompson, it is one of the most beautiful locations in the area. Standing on top of that hill on a clear day you can see a most spectacular panoramic view  for miles around.

Bully Hill is an unusual name, people have often wondered how it got it’s name. Charles Minnerly, a senior resident of Pulteney explains:
“As a young boy I often sat around the country store just to listen to the old folks tell their stories about the olden days. The place acquired the name Bully Hill, when Pulteney was still a frontier town. During pioneering days some very rough people settled there and every Saturday night they would go down to Hammondsport to do up the town. After a few drinks they would get rowdy and pick fights with the towns people. This did not sit well with the folks, hence they referred to the visitors as “Bullies on the Hill.”  And the name became legendary.”

Some of the pioneer settlers who came to Pulteney, when it was still a wilderness, and contributed to its  early development were:
Samuel Miller, G. F. Fitzsimmons, John Black, James and George Simms,  Henry Hoffman., Abraham Bennett,  Shadrock  Norris,  Samuel and Nathaniel Wallis, John Ellis,  William White,  James Daily,  and Erastus Glass. Harmon Emmons and Seth Pierce arrived in 1806, and in 1808 Elios and John Hopkins, Cornelius Launsbury, George Raymond, Thomas Hyatt and so many others too numerous to mention.

The settlers continued to arrive in Pulteney at a fast pace, by the year 1800 the population had grown to one hundred and thirty two residents.  Little settlements were formed throughout the hamlet and each settlement had its own name, often after the first settler or his former town.  Some settlements had a church, post office, store and often a mill.
Some of the names were:
Sodom – Harmonyville – Pulteney - Catawba – Gibson’s Landing - Guliksville – Boyds Point - Gloads Corners - South Pulteney – Bluff Port – Scuttsville - Elbois – Pine Grove

Because of the large influx of settlers it became necessary to form a separate division. The hamlet broke from Bath, and was officially formed on March 1, 1808, and named     Pulteney, in honor of Sir William Johnstone Pulteney, who died three years earlier in 1805.
In its early days Pulteney had three names Sodom, Harmonyville and Pulteney.
The pioneers named the center of town Sodom, and used the name extensively. The town was not officially named because the area still belonged to Bath.  Old Newspaper articles and diaries referred to the town as Sodom.

 Sodom became a very busy settlement, merchants of every description sold their wares. It has been said that whatever you needed could be had in Sodom, without leaving the town.  The town began to prosper and people seemed content.

When some affluent settlers began to arrive in the area, they found the name Sodom offensive and lost no time in having  the name changed. At some point they organized a town meeting and had the name changed from Sodom to Harmonyville. The resolution passed but it caused an uproar because many of the towns people objected to the change. They continued to call their town Sodom, even after Pulteney broke from Bath and was officially formed in 1808, and given the name Pulteney. Sodom was still used as late as 1891.

Following are some of the other names used in early Pulteney:
South Pulteney was also known as Bluff Port, it had its own little settlements and a hotel. It was a very active and intellectual little community. One of the settlements was called Scuttsville, in honor of a well to do settler and his family, who were instrumental in starting a mill there.  The community had their own Church, School, Store, Post Office, Mill, and later a Cheese Factory.  In time a family named Covell, took exception to the name Scuttsville, thinking that it was not high class enough. Their daughter, a school teacher named Lilly Covell, petitioned the proper authorities and had the name changed to “Elmbois” a French word meaning Elm Trees. She chose the name because at the time there were a lot of beautiful Elm Trees in the area.

Pine Grove, was also a very popular little community, and the home of the first Church built in South Pulteney, “The First Baptist Church.” It was a very popular and active church. The church was a wooden structure that burned to the ground three times, it was rebuilt  each time  at the  same location
Gulicksville, was located along the shoreline of Keuka Lake.  This settlement began in 1802, and had eight homes.   Years later the area became known as Boyd’s Landing. In 1855, a large grain warehouse was erected on the landing, and people came from the surrounding areas with grain to be sold. In many instances the settlers would start out the night before, because distances were long and the roads were poor. Very often they did not arrive at the landing until the afternoon of the following day to unload the grain

Catawba had a Post Office and a Wells Fargo Station. When steamboats came on the scene it became known as Gibson’s Landing named after George Gibson. Gibson’s Landing was one of the busiest locations in the area. George Gibson was also the owner of the famous Gibson House a gracious guest house, and was also involved in viticulture. He was one of the original members of the Lake Keuka Wine Co., later known as “White Top” on West Lake Road.  He built the winery himself, he gathered  the stones at Keuka Park, and  had the stones shipped  via the steamboat  to the sight of the winery were they were unloaded.

When the Town of Pulteney was officially formed in 1808, and given the name Pulteney, the name was spelled with one “e” Pultney. At some point the town father’s discovered that the name was misspelled, and they quickly made  a move to correct it.  In 1875, the residents voted to have it changed to correspond with Sir William Pulteney’s name using two e’s. In 1881 the government issued 16,000 circulars to all the Post Offices in the country, advising the corrected change to be “Pulteney.”

The first town meeting was held at the home of Jessie Waldo on the first day of March in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and eight. Present Robert Porter ESQ. Moderator meeting opened according to law:
Uriel Chapin, Supervisor
Aaron Bull, Town Clerk
Aaron Cook, Elias Hopkins & Nathaniel Wallis Assessors
Illiam P. Curtis, Collector
Salsbury Button & Daniel Bennett Overseers of the Poor
Samuel Hays, John Hopkins & Shadrock Norris Commissioners of Roads
Harmon Emmons & W. P. Curtis Constables
John Ellis, Mamaliel Loomis,  George Raymond, Cornnelius Lounsbury,
 and Josiah and Allis - Fence Viewers.


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