Lot 37

A Contract of Seventy-five Years Ago, printed in the Yates County Chronicle 22 July 1869:

ARTICLES OF AGREEMENT.-- Made the fourth day of August, in the year of our Lord, one thousand, seven hundred and ninety-four by and between Enoch Malin on the one part, and Lewis Birdsal on the other part. Witnesseth:--

That the said Mailin doth agree to build for the said Birdsal a Saw Mill and Floom on the north side of the outlet of the Crooked Lake, on a lot the said Birdsall bought of Robert Chissom, in the most convenient place for such a building. The said Malin is to have for building said Mill and Floom, fifty-five pounds, to be paid in the following manner, to-wit: One red cow, valued at eight pounds, being seven or eight years old, now owned by said Birdsall, to be paid immediately, and fifteen pounds in good wheat, at cash price, and one yoke of oxen, that the said Birdsal has now in his possession, at twenty-one pounds, to be paid to said Malin on the first day of October next, ensuing the date, said oxen to be delivered in good working order.—Said Mill and Floom is to be well constructed and well built, and the said Malin is to work upon the dam for said Mill, until the same is finished, at two shillings per day for himself, and five shillings perday for all his other hands. Said Malin is to have the Mill to run (or go) in three months from this date, and is to have all the prophets of said Mill, until he is paid for the whole of his labor on said Mill and Dam, and the said Birdsal is to board and lodge the said Malin and his hands, while working on said Mill and Dam, and also to do all the digging necessary for said Mill. And the said Birdsal is to find five gallons of whiskey for said Malin, while he is doing said work, and also to be at the expense of raising said Mill and Floom; and the said Birdsal is to find all the timber as it stands for said Mill and Dam, and to draw the same to the place of building when hewed and also to procure all the plank, for said Floom &c., and drawn them to said place of building by the time they are wanted, and also to procure the irons for said Mill, and have them at said place of building by the time said Malin needs them, or let the said Malin have the prophet of said Mill as many days after he gets the whole of his pay for building the same as he waits for said irons. Said Malin and his hands is to be boarded at the place where said Mill is to be built, while working on said Mill and Dam. In witness whereof we have hereunto set our hands and seals the day and year above first mentioned.


Executed in presence of


he boundary between the seventh and eighth towns in the first range ran nearly east and west, part of the way up the middle of the road between Hopeton and Canandaigua. The seventh town, like all its neighbors, was surveyed into lots so the land could be sold to individuals. Nowadays these are usually called Great Lots and are merely a surveying convention, making it easier to locate real estate from a description in a deed. They generally run about 270 acres, in a square shape about 90 rods on a side.

Of course here in the rolling stream-cut hill country, the lots were often not particularly square, or even regular; lot 37, which lay at the northwest corner of the seventh town, most of it between the town line and the Outlet, was as nearly square as any, and contained David Wagener's new millseat down in its extreme southeast corner.

In 1796 David Wagener decided to buy the highest millseat on the Outlet, which was a sawmill recently erected by Lewis Birdsall. Birdsall was the son of Benjamin Birdsall, one of the Lessees. The company had brought in many settlers from among the friends and relatives of its shareholders in Columbia County, and Lewis Birdsall was one of these.

A man named George Wheeler was another, who had drawn a number of lots in what is now Benton and acquired several more by purchase. One of these was Lot 37 in the 7th town (neither Milo nor Benton existed as yet, being still part of the district of Jerusalem, named by the Universal Friend and her followers). In 1791 Wheeler divided this lot into four quarters and gave them checker-board fashion to two of his sons-in-law, also from Columbia County, named Robert Chissom and James Scofield. Both men built houses on the northern part of their lands.

Chissom sold his southerly quarter to Lewis Birdsall, and Birdsall in turn sold it to David Wagener in 1796. At some point within a year or so Wagener acquired the two quarters that had belonged to James Scofield (no deed was ever recorded), leaving the northwest quarter to Chissom, who had built a cabin just north of the lone highway passing anywhere nearby, connecting the settlements in what is now the area around Dresden in Torrey with Canandaigua (more or less the modern Routes 54 and 364). Chissom’s cabin was enlarged and he ran a tavern for travelers, the first buildings in what is now Penn Yan.

Once David Wagener came in, an informal roadway came into being between the settlement at what is now Benton Center and the gristmill he built on the south bank of the Outlet in 1796. Wagener himself probably lived somewhere near the mill, most likely on the north bank near where the Knapp Hotel stands today, with his wife and younger children. His elder son Abraham had come up from Pennsylvania in 1792, and lived just north of the modern hamlet of Himrod.

David Wagener died in August 1799, at the age of only 47. He left land to each of his nine children, with the gristmill and his property south of the Outlet, plus the care of his mother and the home farm, to his younger son Melchoir. All that part of lot 37 north of the Outlet went to his elder son Abraham.