Town of Smithfield, Madison County, New York
Note: In 1888, Levi Miller Jr. opened a cheese factory in the southwestern part (previously known as Tinker
Hollow) of the Town of Smithfield. He wanted a name for his business so he headed his monthly statements "Pleasant Valley."
The name then became a reference to that section of the town. It also includes a small part of the Town of Nelson. (From
Snipets Volume 4)
The following information was presented by Margaret Davis Brooks, written in 1943. Born January 19th, 1890, Mrs.
Brooks was born in the Town of Nelson, the oldest of six children of Hugh T. and Jennie (Jones) Davis. On March 10, 1909,
she became the wife of Fayette Brooks. They also had six children and spent their entire married life in Pleasant Valley. Margaret
died in the Town of Nelson on June 10, 1967.
Pleasant Valley was named by a Mr. Miller, a cheese maker. The factory stood at the foot of a small hill. The creek and
foundation are there yet. It was on the farm now owned by Earl Taylor. Mr. Miller wanted a name for his cheese factory so he
used Pleasant Valley to head the monthly statements for cheese checks. One farmer I knew kept milk checks all summer
before cashing them. Now we can't wait for the checks for two weeks. Times have changed; then there was no electricity, no
autos, no telephones, and no silk stockings.
This cheese factory was in operation in 1868 as my grandfather and grandmother Davis met Mr. Howell (the first
Welsh-speaking person they met in America) delivering his milk. It was a great rainy day and Sunday pastime to go to the cheese
factory to eat cheese curd. It was rubbery and hard to digest. Of course, no one paid any attention to vitamins in those days.
The school house was built of logs and it stood across the road from where the one now stands. This one was built on
the foundation of the log school and moved across to the present site about 1859. The records of the old school and district
(began as District No. 11 and was later changed to No. 5) begin in 1813. Their school meetings were conducted very
businesslike. Instead of chairman, they called the man Moderator. School was kept for three months in the winter and four
months in the summer. Teachers were a "Miss" Sarah Dorrance, Dexter Brown, and a "Miss" Snow. Wages were from $27 to
$33 per term. Each child had to furnish 1/4 to 1/2 cord wood and then they started buying wood. Some bought as little as
50 cents per cord. Orrin Brooks delivered 10 cord at one time at 5 shillings per cord or 62 1/2 (cd). The man chosen to start
fires had to get them started at "sun up." He received the ashes for compensation. There were 70 children who attended this
one-room school during one winter term.In 1816 a Mrs. Patience Stone taught at 9 shillings per week. In 1814 Olive Adams
taught for $1.25 per week. The teachers boarded round, going from home to home, staying with each family the length of time
according to the number of children therein. When they adjourned a meeting, they said: "Let this meeting be dissolved."
The school house was sold at auction and now the children go to Morrisville. Ernest Davenport bought the school house for a
Another spot of interest was the saw mill. They sawed all our lumber and made cheese boxes for our factory as well as
some others. Also there was a cider press. There was a large mill pond and plenty of fish used to run in the creek that fed the
pond. The William Whipple place is now owned by Clarence Hoffman. In the upper farm of Lawrence Brooks was the
pleasant home of the Battey family. The house burned about 30 years ago. Mr. Battey was a lover of trees, always setting
them out, mostly fruit trees. He kept bees and dug out several fish ponds, which he stocked with carp. He used to say, "When
cooking carp, grease an elm plank and fasten the fish to it. Roast in front of an open fire. When fish is cooked, throw it into the
fire and eat the plank." In 1900, Mr. Battey was the instigator of having the telephone line put through. He had an improvised
phone between his two farms. He also lived on the Claude Johnson farm. He raised berries and small fruit. He owned the farm
that is now owned by Marlon Ginney. There he put a water wheel in the creek by the house, which pumped the water to
supply a bathroom, etc. He had a very inventive mind which he inherited from an uncle, Andrew Hart. This uncle used to drive
a horse-drawn bus from Morrisville to the station, and he put in a little heating system. Everyone thought the man unbalanced,
but it is such minds that have figured out all these new, modern inventions. Down the road from the Battey place is the Liberty
Hall farm, which has been in the family 100 years. His grand-daughter and great grandson, Mrs. Howard and Clifford, are now
At one time there were five Haight brothers living in this neighborhood. Burt Haight lived on the Seneca Cady farm, now
owned by Orrin Brooks. Dan Haight lived on the Lawrence Brooks farm. Earl Haight lived on the levi Miller farm or Earl Taylor's
tenant house. John worked for his brother Dan, and Leonard Haight worked for Mrs. Howard and her mother, Mrs. Hall. There
were no sons so the name is done.
There were three Hecox families. Austin Hecox lived on the Hoffman farm. Austin met a tragic death. He fell from the
roof of the barn to the basement of a cement-floor silo. He weighed over 200 pounds and the force of the fall drove his hips
into his body, and his feet were crushed to jelly--he lived five hours. James Hecox lived on the Lawrence Brooks farm. John
Hecox, followed by his son Charles (father of Lina Strong), lived where Melvin Ginney now lives. Charles hecox used to do
custom threshing, drawing the separator with oxen. He then used a portable steam engine, then a locomotive steam engine,
a gasoline engine, and finally, a tractor. Austin Hecox made butter and churned it with a tread mill. Charles Hecox did custom
grinding also and made wheat and graham flour. Mrs. Austin Hecox organized our reading Circle in 1901.
Harrison Elmer's house is gone, the second one on that foundation. The first was burned. Ed Judd owns the land. Above
that, Earl Taylor's family has lived for a number of years. They always raised a good many sheep. Hence, this section is called
Then about 1900 the rural mail route was started. Some were doubtful about its coming. It seemed impossible to have mail
delivered every day; but with exceptions of bad storms, it has been arriving every day since. It was then that we started the
daily paper. before that we took the semi-weekly and had to go to Peterboro to get it. William Campbell was the first carrier.
For entertainment young people had house parties with dancing and games. We went to the school picnic at Madison
Lake or Chittenango Falls with 10 cents to spend. There were oyster suppers and sometimes a medicine show in winter. The
show gave prizes for the prettiest girl in town. There were no car rides, movies, public dances, basketball, baseball, or bowling.
(We are living in an era of entertainment.) We had no cocktail bars, thank God. We did have saloons, but none of our mothers
or nice young daughters were seen there. Just the old sots hung out. When I pass these heavily curtained, dim-lighted booths,
I pray once again to have a place where our fine young ladies will not be ashamed to go.
We used to have a neighborhood butchering. I have seen 21 dressed hogs hanging in the Maple trees at Ray Davis'.
In those olden days, we visited neighbors more, attended church more, and sang and played at home more. As a rule,
whether young or old, we were contented with our lot.
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