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
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.
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.