In the Village, North Western
In 1789 Asa Beckwith Sr. and his son Asa Jr. purchased 550 acres on the east and west sides of the Mohawk River in what is now the Town of Western. The Beckwiths, apparently the first white settlers, built a log house on their property which was the first dwelling in the town. The house was completed in 1798 and remained an occupied dwelling until it was taken down in the early 1970s. The boundaries of the Town of Western were established in 1797 from the original Town of Steuben which encompassed a very large area. The name Western came from the fact that this town was the western portion of the original township.
As more land was cleared and more residents arrived, farmers raised and produced more than they needed for the family consumption. Cheesemaking was the answer for surplus milk. It is not clear who started the first cheese factory in Western but David Brill built the second one in 1830 in North Western. Farmers took the milk to the factory where it was weighed and made into Limburger and Cheddar Cheese. At one time there were 36 cheese factories in the town. With the advent of refrigerated trucks, cheesemaking in the town disappeared by mid-1950.
Main Street in Western
The early schools of the town were among the best, for the period, in the country. Probably the first school in the town was on the top of the hill bordering on the river by what was then the William Piper property. It was dedicated in 1802. Tuition was paid for in grain and labor. The last school in Westernville was a brick building of colonial design built in 1941 on the corner of Route 46 and Gifford Hill Road. The land was formerly the property of General William Floyd.
Since the nearest shopping center in 1790 was Fort Stanwix or Rome, the shopping trips were few and far between. George Brayton and Jonathan Swan ran the first store. Since it was the only store at the time, the settlers were dependent on him to supply the basic raw materials like sugar, molasses, and salt. No doubt many of the transactions did not involve money. As time went on stores sprang up in many areas of the town. Thomas R. Reese's store in Westernville was one of the largest ones. It was a general store, selling almost any-thing needed from groceries and notions to cloth, shoes, dishes and hardware. It burned in 1918.
Before 1908 there was a thriving village in the southwestern part of the town. This village was Delta, a lovely community consisting of over 100 homes on very fertile land. When the State of New York was building the Barge Canal, Delta Dam was constructed across the Mohawk River to help maintain the water level in the canal reservoir.
Gaylord Jones drove the stage from Rome to North Western about 1900
So it was that the Delta village and the fertile farms were doomed for extinction. The buildings were dismantled. Many of the residents relocated in Rome and other nearby towns. The dam was completed January 28, 1912. Water began to cover the condemned land later that year. There began talk of turning this wasteland into a park in 1950. The Lake Delta State Park was finally opened in 1968. The facilities include a boat launch site, a large sandy beach with bathhouses, parking for 300 cars, large picnic areas, and a campground.
There were several small businesses during the 19th century that were active for a while but have since completely disappeared. There was a shoe peg factory and a limestone quarry at Frenchville. There were sawmills, tanneries, and woodworking shops in various parts of the town. Other industries were the Olney & Floyd Canning Factories at Delta and Westernville. They provided a market for the farmers who raised cash crops such as: peas, beans, corn and pumpkin. The canning factory provided work for all ages of the labor force the year around. Another canning factory located below the William F. Pillmore farm was operated by Mr. Pillmore.
The Town of Western changed as time went on. In the beginning the dairy farms were small, occupying practically all the land of the town outside of the villages and forest slopes. Now the dairy farms are larger and fewer. The small dairy farm has all but disappeared. The social side of life in Western includes three churches, a Boy Scout Troop, 4-H Club,
General William Floyd House in Westernville
Senior Citizens Club, American Legion, Fireman's Auxiliary, Home Demonstration Unit and Home Bureau. A very active Volunteer Fire Company was founded in 1945.
The General William Floyd House celebrated its 195th anniversary in 1998. General Floyd settled in Westernville in 1803 and died there in 1821 at age 87.
This National Landmark was visited by an organization known as the Descendants of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence, in 1985. Among the guests were descendants of such notables as Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Adams, Robert Morris, and of course, General William Floyd.
The Town of Western remains a town of traditions... of people proud to be who they are and where they live.