Wagener moved onto what he called his “most unpromising inheritance” on
New Year’s Day, 1800, into what is said to have been the first frame building
within the village’s modern boundaries.
At that time Robert
Chissom still had his tavern on the Canandaigua road, James Scofield’s house
on the bank of the brook (near of the modern Lake View Cemetery) still stood,
though not inhabited by him; John Dorman’s log house stood farther down
as-yet-unnamed Main Street, and evidently those of a few others, scattered
up and down Jacob’s Brook.
Wagener’s house fronted
on Main Street, on the east side about opposite where Chapel Street now
comes in. I have never seen a description of it, and it burned in 1841,
before photography could have shown what it looked like. It was large enough
to have served as an inn (or tavern) for many of the intervening years,
so it was probably two stories or at least a story and a half, probably
with a wide front porch under the slope of the roof, Pennsylvania-fashion.
He would have been able to secure framing lumber and clapboard from his
father’s sawmill, which was part of his inheritance.
He described the land
as marshy (like the land at the foot of the other lakes) and covered with
scrub pine. In those days land that wouldn’t grow big trees was considered
no good for farming, but Wagener undertook to farm it, and a few years later
after his mother died he built another, grander house downstreet; he always
described himself as a farmer, and like other farmers in the area (some
elsewhere in the village) he had an extensive apple orchard. He became the
new settlement's first postmaster in 1801 -- the post office was called
"Jerusalem" -- and was appointed Justice of the Peace in 1808.
He held this office for 26 years, and was nearly always called "Squire
Wagener" even afterward.
He built his own gristmill
in 1801, directly opposite his father's mill which was being run by his
younger brother to support their mother. The mill that stands on the north
bank now was built by Wagener in 1824 after a fire destroyed the first one,
and is one of the few buildings associated with him that still stand, another
being the house he died in after his return from Bluff Point.
Wagener began to sell
off parcels in the upper part of lot 37 soon after he moved in. In 1805
and again in 1806 he sold land totaling about 24 acres to his cousin Rachel
Supplee’s husband Morris F. Sheppard; two parcels in addition to the one
his father sold in 1799 to John Dorman, in 1804 and 1807, totaling six acres;
18 acres to the wheelwright Meredith Mallory in 1807. He is said to have
donated the two-acre parcel on the west side of Main Street where the county
buildings now stand in 1823; the deed shows a consideration of $5000. During
the 1820s some small store lots were sold on both sides of Main Street,
and another large group of house lots, some of which were further subdivided
by the new owners.
In 1836 he sold all
that was left of his Penn Yan property, including the mills and his farm,
which stretched from the Outlet north as far as Elm Street on the west side of
Main. This cost a group of investors led by John Sloan the then-enormous
sum of $25,000. Wagener had just finished his house at the tip of Bluff
Point, and went there to live with his second wife Joanna. He returned to
Penn Yan in 1844, and is shown on the 1850 census living with a housekeeper
in the stone house at the top of Court Street where he died in 1854. Joanna
was at that time residing also in Penn Yan, with their son George Wagener
who was then the County sheriff. The sheriff’s residence then (and in actual
fact for more than a century after that) was located in the jail.
Wagener was born in
Norrington township, Montgomery Co., Pa., on 29 November 1774. He came to
the Genesee Country with his father, but returned to Montgomery County to
marry Mary Castner in May of 1796, at North Wales, Pa. The pair came back
up to what was then still part of the town of Jerusalem on horseback; they
returned for a visit in 1806 and again made the trip on horseback, carrying
one of their children.
Their original residence
was on a farm north of the hamlet of Himrod. They moved into Penn Yan after
his father's death and his wife died there in 1811, after bearing him seven
children: David in 1797, Samuel in 1799, Jacob in 1801, William in 1803,
Mary C. in 1805, Charles in 1807 and George in 1809. All died young or single
except David, Mary and Charles.
Wagener remarried a
few months after the death of his first wife, to Joanna Norris Edmondson,
a young widow of Philadelphia. She bore him six additional children: Abraham
N. in 1812, George in 1814, Annette, Henrietta, Henry N. and Henrietta Joanna.
The two elder daughters died as children, but the three boys and his youngest
daughter survived him.