is now the town of Milo was
one of those ceded to the Lessees (as the combined New York-Niagara speculators
were called). It included most of what was the seventh
six-mile-square township carved out of the wilderness north of the
Pennsylvania line, in the
first range west of the Pre-emption line.
To this was added some
of the land east of the Old Pre-emption Line where a number of very early
settlers had moved from New England, Pennsylvania
and northern New Jersey. The
earliest of these were followers of the Public Universal Friend, or Jemima
Wilkinson, the first American-born woman to found a religious movement.
The Friend began her
ministry in her native Rhode Island,
extended it in to Connecticut
and later to the Philadelphia
area of Pennsylvania. Among
her adherents from the latter place was a prosperous Montgomery
County farmer named David Wagener,
who arrived in the Genesee Country in 1791 and built the first public house
in western New York near the
site of the Friendís Mill on the outlet of the Crooked
Lake (which was what Keuka
Lake was called up until the 1860s).
Wagener had been promised
a millsite in the new settlement, and bought into the ownership
of the Friendís Mill, but at the same time looked elsewhere along the stream
for a site of his own. He found one far upstream of the others on the Outlet,
where a man named Lewis Birdsall was building a sawmill.
When the First Census
was taken in 1790, the population in all of western New York was only a
few over 1000; however, this count left out several hundred persons who
then resided east of the Pre-emption Line. The largest settlement in the
whole area west of Seneca Lake was the Friends' Settlement at City Hill,
with a population of somewhat more than 300.
By the time Wagener
made his purchase in 1796, the district of Jerusalem had been formed out
of the seventh and eighth towns in the first range, with the lands adjacent
that lay east of the Old Pre-emption Line; and the seventh town in the second
range. The district of Canandaigua still included the eighth towns in the
second and third ranges, and the seventh town in the third range. These
all lay in Ontario County, which was organized in 1789.
In 1797 Jerusalem became
a town, which under New York law was a subdivision of the county, and a
rather powerful unit of local government, particularly in rural areas. The
first town meeting, held in April 1798, was held at Lawrence Townsend's
public house, in what is today Benton. Most of the jurors, highway overseers,
fence viewers and other officials of the town lived in Benton and Milo,
not in modern Jerusalem, which as yet had very few inhabitants. The largest
concentrated settlement in the town was probably Benton Center, though Hopeton
and Milo Center would have been rather close rivals. And then there was
Penn Yan, a place with no name and not many prospects, and hardly any inhabitants.
By the end of the eighteenth century, the place had exactly two landowners.