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Monday, July 19, 2010

The Irish Settlement – Newport, New York – Part 2

Newport, New York was incorporated in 1857. It includes three churches, a grist mill, a saw mill, and several other historical buildings and residences. I find gristmills to be rather interesting. I know that they were common in Europe and carried over to the U.S. apparently peaking use in the 1840s. The term comes from the Old High German grist-grimmon. It means grain intended to be or that has been ground. It is a word that is also used in Old English from the Old Saxon grist-grimmon or gnashing of teeth. To have a gristmill, you need water to run the wheel. Based I what I have found about Newport, the West Canada Creek must have been that water source.

I bring up the mill because it helps me draw an even better picture in my mind of what this location may have looked like and been like in the early to mid 1800s. I have only been to two other gristmills. One of them is Gruene, Texas. It was a restaurant back in 1999. I have also been to the Old Bale Grist Mill State Historic Park in St. Helena. At that location, the mill is still functional and has milling demonstrations. Anyway, visiting a place like a gristmill is one way to get closer to what life might have been like in the 19th century.

Back to Newport……..The current village of Newport was purchased from a Daniel Campbell of New York City around 1788 by William, Ephraim, and Benjamin Bowen, of Newport, Rhode Island. I can’t seem to find who Campbell purchased it from though. In 1791, a Christopher Hawkins was the first permanent settler in the town but was evicted by Benjamin Bowen from his land. There were several other early settlers to the area previous to 1798 who obtained their land titles from the Commissioners of Forfeiture and from the Waltons, who had received a tract of 12,000 acres from the King in 1768. Maybe that answers my question as to where Campbell got the land.

It does sound like the Mohawk Indians were native to this area of upstate New York. I am still curious about the influence of the German names in this area. It would be interesting to know where these towns and the county got their names. The names certainly don’t sound British to me.

So even though Christopher Hawkins was evicted from Bowen’s land, he did not necessarily leave the area. He was originally from Providence, Rhode Island. I found a long interesting story online about Mr. Hawkins. Despite his eviction from Bowen’s land, he stuck around Newport, raised his family, and ended up in an elected position. The eviction story must have been just one big misunderstanding.

The Baptist church in Newport was the first church. My family is actually Roman Catholic so I have information to share about the Catholic churches in the area. Members of my family lines were definitely involved in the Church.

The population of the town of Newport in 1865 was 1,983. I am not sure how many people from the Irish Settlement made up that population but I am certain that they had their fair share.

To be continued…………..

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