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
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.