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Henry Birdsall’s mode of earning a living was from farming. The land that he had purchased was configured like the farms cut out of the Hudson Valley territory. That is, it was long and narrow, giving the owner access to the river for transportation, access to flat lands for growing crops, and lastly, having a large upland section that could be used for lumber or grazing.

A history of Henry’s Farming Property

This land was originally in the hands of the Oneida and Tuscarora native americans. Subsequent to the Treaty of 1785 it was divided into eight townships, one being Greene.  A tract of 15,360 acres was granted to Malachi Treat and William W. Morris and subdivided by their agent Charles Boulogne. A portion of this was sold to Madame d’Autremont and other refugees from the French Civil War.

Madame d’Autremont and a few others lived on the land for a few years. Boulogne died without filing a power of attorney that he had from Morris and Treat. The land sale was therefore voided.

These refugees subsequently moved on to Asylum near Wyalusing, PA.


Tallyrand visited the French Asylum and took one of d’Autremont’s sons with him as an aide. That son filed a suit to override the voided sale and won. The following is that petition to the French Courts.

International law stated that court decisions such as this in France were valid in the United States. The land was returned Madame d’Autremont.

A Chenango County lawyer, Peter B. Garnsey, purchased Madame d’Autremont’s portion of 300 acres. The deed states that these 300 acres could be selected from within a nine mile stretch southward along the east side of the Chenango River. Peter B. Garnsey sold a 100 acre section to Henry Birdsall. This 100 acres turned out to be approximately 170 acres and was not necessarily the property that Madame d’Autremont resided on during her short stay in Greene; 1792 – 1796. However it was most probably the property path:     d’Autremont to Garnsey to Birdsall.

(See Appendix G, “Property Specific Documents”)

Henry and his family made good use of the property. Some of the produce that they generated and the tools that they used in production were;

Rye and wheat at $5 per bushel, milk and cows valued at $13-$24 each, calves, a wind mill, dry casks for storage, hay at $  .25  per hundredweight, hay forks, potatoes at  $ .25 per bushel, grinding stones, plow shares (cast), vinegar and vinegar casks, round [spoke?] shaver, adz’, staple & ring [weaving or animal neuter device?], looms, harness, frowers[?],  iron wedges, corn, wagons, stored barrels of pork, tubs of lard, cedar storage barrels, and corn plows, hogs worth $7.80 each,  churns, tubs filled with butter, and brass kettles.

Henry also carried at least nine promissory notes which indicates that he also collected interest as a means of monitory production. Most of his notes were to family and neighbors making it apparent that he viewed this lending as a sign of support more than a main means of earning a living.

In addition to the above Henry also had two large quarries that were surely used for stone for the canal lock on his property and possibly for other nearby canal locks. In addition once the railroad was established Henry’s descendants had the opportunity to ship stone to  New York City. Upstate stone was in great demand for construction projects down state.

The canal also yielded other opportunities for earning a living. The construction of locks, bridges and culverts was accomplished by local people. Henry’s son-in-laws, Thomas Tew and Gloudy Hamilton were contracted by the Canal Board to build a sluice on Lock #34 and a wooden culvert over a stream. David D. Davis, one of Henry’s neighbors, constructed a sluice around Lock #29. Tew, Hamilton and Davis made $62.50, $464.00 and $139.28 respectively for these contracts. Henry [Jr.?] was paid $30 to move his barn. Fence moving/building was also a means of earning money. David D. Davis was paid $164.25 to build a new fence, Henry Birdsall was paid $133. 31 for his new fence and Gloudy Hamilton was paid $212.62 for a new fence. Chauncy Rogers, another of Henry’s son-in-laws, was paid workers wages to repair a dam at Chenango Forks. John Rogers was the contractor working on the dam which was owned by S. Rogers. Chauncy was probably paid $17 or $18 per month which was a dollar less than those working in Binghamton. This discrepancy in wages caused job walk-offs as disgusted workers returned to their fields for harvest.

Henry Birdsall is also listed in the Binghamton Library Names Card file as applying for the position of Lock-tender in Chenango Forks, possibly the lock on his property. This must have been Henry [Jr.] as Henry [Sr.] was deceased at this time. [There is no source for this information other than this note on a card.]

Benjamin Birdsall’s mode of earning a living was from various enterprises. There was a quarry on the west side of the Chenango River and several enterprises on the Genegantslet River. Due to Benjamin’s Last Will and Testament being missing we do not know the extent of real estate that he held. At that time real estate appeared in the will and personal property was recorded as an inventory. From the following it can be gathered that Benjamin did hold some real estate until his death but his personal property was quite meager.

Benjamin’s mode of production can be seen in the following summary of his personal property: One yoke of oxen (out on loan) worth $50, one looking glass worth $1, one bureau worth $7, one cow, one bed and bedding, one table, necessary clothing for the widow of the deceased properly given to the widow by statute.

                                    Debts due to Benjamin when he died:

1.   A lease for a clothing works and privileges on the Genegantslet River to Arron Dewey and Nicholas B Slater for 30 years, payable starting June 1828, and continuing until paid at the rate of $100 per year. Mortgage to be secured by building and machinery on the premises. Said mortgage clandestinely got into the hands of one Joseph Pixley who claimed he owned the property. {Due to this confusion} there remains due two installments of $100 each and 4 months besides interest and it remains the decision of the estate as to follow this claim which is doubtful as to collection.     $255

2.  A lease for a grist mill on the Genegantslet River to Joseph Pixley of Waterloo in Seneca County for the term of 2 years at a rate of $200 per annum.. Some amount was paid but the remainder is questionable as the circumstances of said Pixley is doubtful.   $266.50

3.  Benjamin Birdsall {late Junior} occupied the Mill House on the Genegantslet belonging to  the deceased from the spring of 1824 without written or verbal lease rather known as the annual rent of $200.   $800

{Said Benjamin Birdsall is notoriously insolvent & it is doubtful whether any part of this amount can be collected from him.}

4.   A judgment on Bond of Atty. entered upon April 1821 in favor of the deceased against Morris S. Birdsall for the amount of:  $238    Costs=$10

{It has been said that this judgment has been canceled by the deceased afore his death, also that the said Morris Birdsall is in doubtful circumstances and it is doubtful whether this amount can be collected.}

5.    Two notes against Nehemiah Walker of Smithville in Chenango County. These notes are now outlawed and said Walker has taken the benefits of insolvency and is now poor. The collection of any part of these notes is very doubtful.          Value = $0


Henry Birdsall appeared to have several modes of production: farming, quarrying, and miscellaneous fill-in activities. These activities were labor intensive and did not allow for leisure except during the dark hours of evening or bitter cold winter days. Even then, the emergencies of new farm animals being born and the feeding and watering of stock in the dead of winter must have kept Henry well occupied.

Benjamin Birdsall, as a man of enterprise, worked his businesses at day and most likely to have been required to work the social circuit evenings and weekends. Contacts and opportunities came about during those times of social intercourse. People had to get to know each other quite well to entrust their invested money in each other’s projects. I am sure that social gatherings, where the males gathered together, were also places where a person learned ‘where not’ to invest his money.

© Copyright – Waldo Tomosky