John Dorman                                      

he 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 five children.

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.


Dorman was associated with:

Land plots:

First one-acre lot

Second lot, four acres

Third lot, two acres

Fourth lot, four acres

Fifth lot, five acres