Meredith Mallory                                

 

ome few people are so closely associated with places in what is now Yates County that it's a little surprising to find one of them somewhere else. Meredith Mallory, who spent his entire young life moving, built and lived in a house still standing on the Ridge Road near its intersection with Rte. 54, the old Dresden-Penn Yan Road, for more than 25 years. But he came with his brothers to Penn Yan in 1803 to find work as wheelwrights; Meredith bought a large 18-acre parcel east of Main Street from Abraham Wagener in 1808, apparently purely for speculative purposes. All his life he sought the main chance.

He was born in Connecticut, one of three boys in the family of Meredith Mallory Sr. and his wife Mary Burnham. The parents were among the people converted by the Public Universal Friend's teachings and determined to carve out a new life from the wilderness of the Genesee Country. The father's name is recorded in the Death Book of the Society of Universal Friends, and his wife followed the Friend to the New Jerusalem in 1789. She only got as far as the head of Seneca Lake, became acquainted with and married John Dow, the first settler of what is now Schuyler County. Dow was a wheelwright, and it seems clear that his energy and mechanical genius was transferred to his stepsons. The family settled at a place called "Culver's Tavern," now Watkins Glen; Dow was elected the first Supervisor of Reading, a Justice of the Peace and an associate Judge, and served in the Assembly at Albany for three terms.

It is said that when he made the long journey to the capital he hitched a horse raised on his own farm to a wagon he'd made with his own hands. His boots were made from leather he'd tanned himself from cattle he'd raised; and his clothes were the product of his own house as well. He prided himself on his independence and his practicality. He and his wife had two additional children, both daughters. About the time the youngest boy turned twenty-one, all three of them came to Penn Yan. This was about 1803; they were all still unmarried, and began a wheelwright's business on Main Street in a log building near where Joel Dorman's Old Red House stood.

John Mallory married Betsy Traver of Penn Yan. They went to Upper Canada (now the province of Ontario) soon afterward and when war came in 1812 he was pressed into British service for about six months before he escaped, leaving his farm and all he'd accumulated to be confiscated. For a brief time the family returned to Yates County, and then went to Ohio.

Ephraim Mallory married Ruth, the daughter of Stephen Whitaker of Benton. The couple settled on the south half of the farm he and Meredith purchased, and he died in 1813. He was regarded as a master of the wheelwright's trade (an important job in those days, when every family depended on wheeled vehicles to sustain life and prosperity). His early death left his widow with two small children; she remarried, to Jacob Vandeventer, and stayed in the neighborhood for the rest of her life.

Meredith was the middle boy of the three. He married Eleanor, daughter of Joshua Legg and with his brother Ephraim purchased the farm on the Ridge Road that was called the Mallory farm for decades; it later belonged to the Longwell family and others. Nowadays nearly the only sign of the house's great age is the small size of the window panes, big 12-over-12 sash in the plain wooden farmhouse.

He remained on this farm for eight years, then in association with Abraham Dox acquired an interest in the Hopeton Mills and ran it during that time. He returned to his farm, then eventually sold it to Henry Stark for $25 an acre, a price considered at the time to be completely exorbitant; Stark purchased the 250 acre farm all in one piece.

Mallory at once began to build his own merchant mills on the Outlet, the last of the dozen mill dams to be erected on that stream. He sold the mills to a New York City syndicate headed by Benjamin B. Beekman and went to Hammondsport, where he built another mill, one of the most amazing feats of engineering ever attempted in the region. The building is made of stone, seven stories high with a combination of three overshot and pitchback wheels, one over the other to create a fall of seventy feet. This allowed him to produce an enormous amount of power from a very small stream.

Needless to say he was very well known indeed in the area, and was elected to Congress in 1839 for the session of 1840-41.

During this period it seemed that Penn Yan would serve as the market and transshipping point for all of the area around Keuka Lake, and feed produce and manufactures north into the Erie Canal and world markets. Mallory bought a great deal of property along the Outlet, including its water rights, and about 60 acres in the area south of Penn Yan later known as "Dublin." He bought this in a single transaction and paid $10,000 for it. Then as otherwise, Mallory's vision exceeded reality by quite a margin; he never achieved a fortune in this country, though he certainly expended several lifetimes worth of energy and ambition. He finally went to Batavia, Illinois with his son-in-law John VanNortwick, a canal engineer of some note, where they built a dam, mills and machine shops that finally gave him the success he so ardently sought. He died in 1853, and his wife in the following year.

 


Mallory was associated with:

Land plots:

  His own 18-acre purchase
 Cornwell's 5-acre plot
 Cornwell's 3-acre plot

History:

  The turn of the century