Dorman family illustrates a fairly common migration pattern to this part
of central New York, that of New Engalnders, particularly from Connecticut,
who went to Pennsylvania and then came up the Susquehanna into the Finger
Lakes, following Sullivan's old route.
Dorman was born in
or near New Haven, Connecticut, in 1762. He married Sybil Gilbert there
and the couple then did as couples and families did all over New England
after the Revolution: they left. As Connecticut then claimed land in northeastern
Pennsylvania, a great many of them went there and settled along the banks
of the wide and unpredictable river.
Dorman and David Wagener
met during this period, and about the time Wagener moved from the Friends'
Settlement to Penn Yan in 1796, he recruited Dorman to join him. Dorman
was a physician, and Wagener's invitation is a strong clue that he intended
to start a settlement there, not just another millsite. He gave the doctor
an acre of ground on the east side of what became Main Street, and as soon
as the street was laid out in 1799 Dorman added another four acres. Later
on he added other parcels, including one on the west side that later became
the site of Penn Yan Academy.
The first acre was
as mentioned on the east side of the street, where now is the block between
the Seneca Street and East Elm Street intersections. This lot sloped off
rather quickly down to Jacob's Brook, and Dorman dug a log basement into
this bank, with a second story elevated above street level. This two-story
log house for some years was the home for Dr. Dorman and his wife, and their
Dorman's second dwelling
was a frame structure built about the turn of the 19th century. It stood
about where the old firehouse stood before it burned, on the east side of
Main Street below the Community Bank. It was a one-story building with a
very steep angle to the rafters. It was so long and broad on the ground
that it afforded plenty of room, and was painted a bright Spanish red. It
was always referred to as "The Red House," and survived until
the late 1860s when it was lost in a fire. The family's apple orchard stretched
along Main Street to where No. 165 now stands.
Meanwhile the old log
house became a distillery, operated by the doctor and his sons. They used
an old-fashioned copper boiler, which nevertheless did its part in the local
economy, which depended strongly on turning bulky grain into more valuable
and much more easy to transport whisky.
The Dormans' children
were: Aaron Gilbert Dorman, born in Connecticut and married to Experience
Youngs of Milo; Joel married Olivia Lawrence; Elizabeth married Melchoir
Wagener and died in 1805; Susan married Robert Miller; and Betsy married
Josiah Nichols of Milo Center.
John Dorman and his
wife Sybil are both buried in Lake View Cemetery, in the Free Ground near
the Wageners, the Sheppards and other early settlers. His will of 1824 is
interesting to the historian because it shows which land he still had, and
where he lived. The deeds showing his land transactions are also interesting,
as they show a sojourn of some years in Canada that goes otherwise unmentioned
in public sources.