Delaware County NY Genealogy and History Site

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New York State

a 1999 summary

by Nancy Rutenber, June 26, 2001

Most of the Tacoma lands were in the Pinefield or Rapalje Patent of some 30,000 acres granted in the 1770's by the English colonial government and reassigned after the Revolution by the State of New York. This patent was surveyed in 1791 by William Cockburn and son and laid out into lots of 200 acres each which were then sold by William Banyar, an Albany attorney, through a local land agent.

While some lots in the patent were sold before 1800 including in the town of Tompkins around Trout Creek, lots in the Tacoma area did not sell until after 1830. However, this area was settled in or by the 1840's. Some of the settlers came from Roxbury / Margaretville, the Cooperstown area, and nearby settled farms.

A.M. Rutenber wrote in 1935 that one group in the mid-1800's "...traveled with oxen through virgin forest until they came to a valley on the headwaters of one branch of the Delaware river. Finding it well watered they established their homes on the hillsides and set to work to clear the land."

An early road opening up the area nearby was finished by 1807 and ran through Trout Creek. Roads were built where needed, changed in route and/or abandoned over time. Early roads were often poor and travel slow. In 1935 a new macadam road suiting cars and trucks was completed through Tacoma connecting with other roads at Trout Creek and Sidney Center.

Over time, farm boundaries and occupancy changed. However, many families resided in the area over generations. For example, the current Olmsted farm was purchased by an Austin ancestor in 1843 who settled there in 1846. Rutenbers resided on three area farms over five generations starting with William Rutenber, Jr. and his wife Nancy who moved to the area about 1846 and purchased the farm they were on in late 1849. James Hull purchased his farm in 1857 which then went down through the family to Browns then Bartzs, who still live there.

There are two known family cemeteries. One was on Hillside Retreat farm on the Cummings road just off C.R. 27 where there were 7 burials 1849-1877 from the Rutenber - Mains - Graham families. The other is on the Austin/Olmsted farm with 10 burials from 1872-1935.

The primary occupations were agricultural. In 1855 the town of Masonville had 370 horses, 1703 WORKING oxen and calves, 1291 cows, 3599 sheep, 567 swine, and produced 124,252 pounds of butter, 6171 pounds of cheese, and about 4500 tons of hay. Bushels of spring grain, potatoes, apples, and winter grain were also reported (in decreasing amounts). While the numbers would probably be one-tenth or smaller in just the Tacoma area, the proportions are apt to be quite similar. By 1869 the main livelihood was dairying supplemented by such businesses as hop growing, grain raising, stock raising, and wool growing.

There were also some trades and manufacturing. A cooper shop was run by William Rutenber and son William by 1850 through at least 1855. As coopers, they would have made barrels, wooden milk churns, etc. By 1856 Austins operated a blacksmith shop. The shop had personal use only in the later years and was torn down in 1934 for the new road. Also by 1856 there was an area sawmill on a hill near the schoolhouse. Later, there were various sawmills near Austins, including one in 1912. Another sawmill was operated over the hill from Arthur Rutenber's barn in the early 1900's.

The Tacoma creamery was open by at least 1891 on a stream near the schoolhouse and was owned by William A. Gifford (along with one at East Masonville). George E. Beakes who built a large creamery in Sidney Center also bought a large interest in both. Milk was brought twice a day in horse-drawn tanks after milking so it could be separated while warm and the cream made into butter. The manufactured butter was stored in the large house cellar at the Austin place and sold twice a year to the City. The basement (judging from the remaining foundation) was only about 10 to 13 feet on each side. However, the capacity was nearly as large as the East Masonville Creamery which was reported in 1895 to be eleven thousand pounds a day. The Tacoma creamery was closed before 1909.

At first, there were local milk plants in Trout Creek, Rock Royal, East Masonville and Sidney Center. The milk may have been transported over to Sidney Center where it could be hauled to markets by the railroad. It is not clear where Tacoma milk was shipped during the next thirty years. There are indications, though, that it may have gone first to East Masonville and later to Trout Creek.

In 1938 the unused Rock Royal milk plant (below Trout Creek) was purchased by dairymen from S.S. Brown and the Rock Royal Cooperative formed. Cans were marked with the farm number for identification and truck return. The cooperative replaced the Rock Royal plant January 1964 by a new plant in Trout Creek. After many dairy farms went out of business (especially because of land taken by Cannonsville Reservoir) and bulk tanks increased in use, the Trout Creek plant closed in 1971. Milk is now shipped in bulk out of the area for processing.

In recent years the primary use of the land has started to change from agriculture to recreation. As an early example, the Sidney Center Rod and Gun Club moved from Couse Hill to land by Lake Cecil in the early 1950's. In 1985 the club moved back to Couse Hill and built new facilities on meadow land at the top of Couse Hill.

By 1864 the area post office was at Masonville. Later, residents drove three or so miles to get their mail at Trout Creek, which settlement was listed as the post office for Tacoma folks by 1880. Tacoma's first known local name was Maple Grove (used by 1887) after a large maple grove where the schoolhouse was built. (Around 1882-85 persons living in the Tacoma area were still listed on church rolls as residing in East Masonville.) After a creamery was built, people wanted a post office but found there were other Maple Groves in New York State, so they called the area Tacoma instead.

Alexander Austin was appointed postmaster at Tacoma May 26, 1891. (He was also elected justice of the peace by 1902.) By July 1891 a local stage between Sidney Center and Trout Creek went by Tacoma. Mail was handled in Alex's farmhouse in a small room with an outside door. In the beginning mail was taken in a locked box to the creamery and distributed by the superintendent to the farmers as they brought their milk. Later the mail was placed in sacks at the post office and delivered by mail carrier. Starting at least by November 1, 1929, the post office at Tacoma was served with locked pouches by rural carrier #2 out of Sidney Center. Before 1934, Alexander's grandson, Lynn Olmsted, was named postmaster. The Tacoma post office was officially discontinued November 30, 1934 with mail then going through the Sidney Center post office on a star route (now R.R.1).

"After a time a schoolhouse was built near a large maple grove ...." This town of Masonville District No. 13 schoolhouse was erected 1848 and in use through June 1941 with 41 pupils. However, aggregate statistics were reported for district 13 by 1846. In 1941 19 school districts centralized. The same year four Tacoma pupils finished eighth grade. (One of them had studied three years of work in two to avoid being the only one in district school the following year.) (A school bus picked up students in the area the following school year 1941/42.) When another family with school-age children moved into the area in 1940 (or soon after), tuition was at first paid for the children to go to district school in Trout Creek until they could go instead to Sidney Center.

May 14, 1946 it was voted at the Dist. 13 school meeting to sell the school. June 13 two area men measured the school land. The Tacoma school was sold June 15, 1946 for $600 and misc. goods for $15.95. The area is now part of the Sidney school district (which includes the elementary school at Sidney Center).

The Tacoma frame wood school building (18 by 24 feet on a 40 foot square site) was painted white and had brackets under the eaves. In 1848, the year it was erected, there were no privies or desks reported. In 1856 the building had in its one room a seat on three sides next to the writing tables and two low seats through the middle with a single blackboard. Air was obtained by letting down the top sash and the place was warmed by a stove. By 1887 there were separate privies for the sexes.

For the 1861-1862 school year $81.25 was paid in wages, $2.51 for libraries, $9 for repairing and insuring the schoolhouse, and $6 for fuel and building fires. For the 1887-1888 school year the wage per week was $3 the fall term, $4.50 the winter term, and $3.50 the spring term. In 1901-1902 the first teacher earned $160 for 99 days and the second $70 for 49 days. A contract signed in May 1936 for 38 weeks allowed for 3 weeks unpaid vacation and $25 a week paid every 30 days with 4% taken out for retirement.

In the early 1900's, it was noted wood was split in the unheated hall leaving marks in the floor (which remained after the school was converted into a home in 1951.) Lighting came from the windows and "kerosene lamps held by brackets on the walls." Water was carried from a nearby spring in a galvanized pail (or when not accessible, from a nearby home) and drunk from a single dipper. The school was heated by a pot-bellied wood stove on which food could be warmed in a tin quart pail for a hot lunch. The school had a chalkboard, a recitation bench, a high painted ceiling, a bell, and a large high cupboard in the rear.

The elected trustee (or a school board) hired the teacher. District school ran through the 8th grade and examinations had to be passed for entry into high school. With no high schools in the township and slower transportation than now, rural students needed to board out to attend high school. High school was often considered as higher education.

Church life reached the Tacoma area before 1852. The "Masonville" circuit of the Methodist Episcopal Church was formed in 1852 with Masonville, Groat Settlement (later called Whitman), East Masonville and Tacoma. (Masonville, also called Masonville Corners, built its first Methodist church building in 1851.) Masonville came from the Bainbridge Circuit while the other three points (including Tacoma) came from the Cannonsville Circuit.

Local town history tells that out of the Methodist Episcopal church at Masonville "has been formed churches at ... Tacoma, which have drawn from the strength of the parent society." During the pastorate 1887-90 of C.B. Personeus there was a large revival with 141 probationers received 1887-88 in the circuit. He also baptized adults and youths in 1888 at Maple Grove (later called Tacoma) by sprinkling as did J.H. Taylor later in 1890 and 1892.

The Tacoma area had its own "class", led by a local person. Methodist class meetings were held "for social and religious worship, for instruction, encouragement, and admonition." The 1882 class started with at least 30 members. More members were added, with over 50 registered at one time. Around 1889 the class met at 3 pm on the Sabbath.

Methodist work at Tacoma is reported to have ceased about 1893. Area Methodist church rolls note that Samuel Finch, a local farmer, was received January 28, 1894 from the Baptist Church, was a "Locle Preacher" and then (re)joined the Baptist church in Trout Creek. Many of the Tacoma folks were removed by letter to Trout Creek in March 1894. (However, the Trout Creek Methodist church closed after 1921 by the mid 1900's and the Methodist church in Masonville closed in the early 1920's. The East Masonville charge then joined with Sidney Center until ca. 1932.)

At least in later years, church services were held in the Tacoma school building. Rev. Samuel E. Carr, a Baptist, is remembered by a person who was in the area around 1914-1916 to have preached about six times during that time (staying over night). It was reported S. E. Carr, with his wife & daughter, came from Walton by train, preached Sunday pm and returned home after also preaching at Trout Creek. Mr. Carr was blinded and had "memorized thousands of Bible verses." He also officiated at a Tacoma home funeral in 1919.

The Delaware County REA Electric Cooperative which was formed during WW II turned electricity on in many Tacoma farms in 1945, though preparations started in 1941.

Telephone service came in the 1950's. The Walton telephone line was extended to the Lake Cecil corner near the former schoolhouse. The neighborhood the other way went on the Chenango & Unadilla line (which includes Sidney Center). The local work on both lines was apparently done in late 1953 and early 1954.

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