VESTAL was formed from Union, January 23, 1823. 1 It is the south-west corner town of the County, and covers an area of 22,982 acres, of which, in 1865, according to the census of that year, 12,746, were improved. The surface formation resembles that of Union, though the relative position of hills and vales is reversed. The south is hilly, while the north part is covered by the intervale of the Susquehanna. The soil is of a good quality. The fine slaty loam on the hills, which are cultivated to their summits, and the deep rich alluvium of the valleys adapt it both to grain culture and grazing. It is watered principally by the Big Choconut and Tracy creeks, which flow north, the former through the central and the latter through the western part of the town, and empty into the Susquehanna River, which forms the north border of the town.
In 1870 the population of the town was 2,221. During the year ending Sept. 30, 1871, there were seventeen school districts and the same number of teachers employed. The number of children of school age was 774; the number attending school, 629; the average attendance, 303; the amount expended for school purposes, $3,899; and the value of school houses and sites, $6,490.
VESTAL, (p. v.) situated near to and east of the mouth of Big Choconut Creek, contains one church, one store, a wagon shop and about twenty-five houses.
VESTAL CENTER (p. v.) is situated on the Big Choconut Creek, a little south of the center of the town, and four miles east of Tracy Creek village.
TRACY CREEK, (p. v.) situated on the creek whose name it bears, west of the center of the town, and six miles south-west of Vestal, is a thriving village containing one church, (M. E.) and another (R. M.) which is in process of erection, a saw mill, 2 a planing mill, a wagon shop, a cooper shop, two blacksmith shops, one harness shop, two shoe shops, a tannery, a store and about thirty houses.
The tannery of which Messrs. J. & W. Clark are proprietors, located in this town, about two miles south of Union village, contains thirty-six vats and four leaches, consumes six hundred cords of hemlock bark, gives employment to thirteen men and has facilities for tanning one hundred thousand sheep skins. The motive power is furnished by a thirty-five-horse power engine.
This section of country is not known to have been trod by the foot of a white man previous to Gen. Sullivan's expedition against the Indians of this State in 1779. 3 It remained in its pristine wildness until 1785, in which year the settlement of the town was commenced by Col. Samuel Seymour, who located in the extreme north-west corner, and Daniel Seymour, his brother. Major David Barney came down the river from Cooperstown, in a canoe, with a large family of children. The canoe upset while they were on the way, but the children were saved. Daniel Price and Ruggles Winchel settled about four miles back from the main road. Two year later, in 1787, Col. Asa Camp, an emigrant from Columbia county, settled on the LaGrange homestead, where he lived several years. Col. Camp served during the Revolution, in the capacity of Sergeant, with bravery and distinction, though the military title by which he was known was acquired in after life. He witnessed the execution of the ill-starred Maj. Andre, whose grave he helped to dig. John Mersereau settled about three-fourths of a mile above the bridge at Union in 1792, but soon moved across the river into Union, as stated in the history of that town. John LaGrange settled at an early day, though the precise date is not known. He came, when quite young, from Elizabethtown, N. J., and purchased lands of his uncle, Judge Mersereau, opposite to whom he settled. 4 John Fairbrother came in 1796, and settled about a mile south of Vestal Center. That part of the country, says his son, who is now in his 78th year, was wild and inhabited only by Indians and wild beasts. Choconut Creek abounded with panthers. Mr. Fairbrother dug the first cellar in Binghamton. He was from England and his son, our informant, was born on the ocean, he being two years old when his father came here. Stephen Platt settled near Vestal in 1800. Wm. Potts settled near the bridge at Union in 1803; and Wm. Garrison the first settler on Tracy Creek, settled about two miles below Tracy Creek village.
The first inn was kept by Samuel Coe, in 1791; the first grist mill was built by R. Winchell, in 1786; and the first school was taught by John Boutch, in 1793.
The Methodist at Vestal was the first Church organization in the town.
The First Reformed Methodist Church, located near Tracy Creek village, was organized with twenty members, about 1820, by Rev. Winthrop Collins, its first pastor. Previous to its organization meetings were held by Elder Buckley of Apalachin Creek, Tioga Co., and others of this denomination, which resulted in the formation of this Society. The church edifice, which will seat 400 persons, was erected in 1832, at a cost of $1,000, which is one-half the present value of Church property. It has been several times repaired. There are sixty-eight members, who are ministered to by Rev. Henry Cole.
The Baptist Church at Vestal Center was organized with twenty-one members, by Rev. James Clark, Dec. 16, 1834. The first pastor was Rev. Charles G. Swan; the present one is Rev. John Phelps. The number of members is fifty-nine. The house of worship was erected in 1853, at a cost of $2,000. It will seat 200 persons. The Church property is valued at $5,000.
The First Reformed Methodist Church, at Tracy Creek, was organized with thirteen members, by Joseph Chidester, in 1841, in which year the first church edifice, with a capacity to seat 200 persons, was erected at a cost of $500. The first pastor was Elder Lake; the present one is Elder Cole. There are 100 members. The Church property is valued at $200.
The Reformed Methodist Church, at Tracy Creek, was organized Dec. 30, 1860, by Rev. Daniel D. Brown, its first pastor. The first house of worship was erected in 1870. A new one is in process of erection, which is to be completed in October, 1872. There are forty-eight members. The pastor is Rev. Henry Cole.
The M. E. Church of Tracy Creek was organized with twenty-five members in March, 1871, and its house of worship, which will seat 200 persons, was completed in December of the same year, at a cost of $2,500, which is the present value of Church property. Rev. S. W. Lindsley was the first pastor; Rev. J. D. Bloodgood is the present one. The number of members has not increased.