is usually called the MacKellar house, though the lot is actually one of
the oldest in the village, and was carved out of Morris F. Sheppard's second
purchase in 1812, long before the MacKellars ever owned it or lived in the
The original deed for
this property was from Sheppard to Keziah Sabin, who was the widow of Asa
Sabin of Jerusalem. The Sabins were among a group of related families who
came from farther east into the Genesee Country in the 1790s and settled
in an area not too far west of the present village limits that was commonly
called Sabintown. Keziah's husband died in 1802 and eventually she had to
sell their farm to pay off his debts. She had several daughters who moved
into "town" with her, and the 1810 census shows her already living
in Penn Yan. Presumably the 1812 sale of land by Sheppard gave her title
to property she was already inhabiting.
The interesting thing
about this sale is that there was already a log house on the land, as demonstrated
by reference to the deed. The only log house known to have been in this
area was Sheppard's first residence, which was a double log house he built
immediately after his arrival about 1801; he lived in one side and ran his
tannery business from the other side. The tannery itself was on Jacob's
Brook, and a lane led from it up to Main Street. There is some evidence
that present Mill Street was once a short distance farther north than it
is now, and this further strengthens the hypothesis that Keziah Sabin was
living in Sheppard's original log house. At some point about the time he
sold this lot to her, Sheppard built a frame house on land he owned across
Main Street. This structure was usually called the "yellow house"
and stood on the lot now occupied by 346 Main Street.
William Babcock bought
the lots along Main Street north and south of Keziah Sabin's land in 1814.
By 1824, when the location of Jackson and Mill Streets was settled, Babcock
sold part of this lot to John Norcott, who also owned the lot to the south
where #341 now stands; and Keziah Sabin occupied the lot where #337is now.
Norcott sold all his holdings here to Isaac Whitaker of Benton in 1829,
at a substantial profit. There's no deed showing who Whitaker sold to, but
in 1833 Maria Pierce added a little piece of #341 to land she already owned
here at #343. Maria was the daughter of Keziah Sabin, and was married to
Frederick Spooner Pierce, son of Abner Pierce, the blacksmith who owned
at one time most of the land across Main Street.
In 1837 Maria was married
to a second husband, Pierce having died in the meantime. Her new husband
was the lawyer David Briggs Prosser, who sold this lot to Charles Newell
for $450. It was at this time pretty much the same size and location as
it is today, with 60 feet of frontage on Main Street, and running 100 feet
back. On the north were lands of Joseph Ketchum, and on the south lands
of Morris Earle.
This same lot passed
through several other hands over the next 30 years. There must have been
a house on the land, probably bigger than Keziah Sabin's double log cabin,
but no doubt smaller than the house that's there now. Cleveland described
it in 1874 as a small white cottage. It belonged then to Peter K. Deyo,
whose parents had lived in Benton for decades, or rather to his daughter
Roberta, to whom he sold it in 1869.
Cleveland also said
that the cottage had once been the residence of William Lilly, an early
merchant in Penn Yan and Geneva who was related by marriage to the Dey family.
Morris F. Sheppard had sold a parcel behind those fronting here on Main
Street to John Dey in 1816. Dey owned the so-called Kashong farm in northeast
Benton, where the Seneca village of the same name had stood before its destruction
in 1779 by General John Sullivan's men. Nearby was the grave of Tesmoines,
a Cayuga chieftain whose two daughters conveyed by grant to their husbands
the lands of the father. Part of the house still standing on this farm was
built by one of Tesmoines' sons-in-law, Dominic deBartsch, in 1787, and
the rest by Benjamin Barton in 1795.
Deyo bought the original
lot in 1864 and within five years had added four adjacent lots, so it extended
all the way through to Jackson Street and behind a number of adjacent Main
Street houses. Roberta W. Deyo sold it to Hannah Conley of Potter for $1300;
Mrs. Conley sold it in 1890 to Charles Nugent, who probably built the present
house soon afterward. He sold it in 1898 to James A. Mackellar, who with
his mother owned a great deal of property in the immediate neighborhood.
Presumably this is why the it is called the Mackellar House in the Historic