This is the first story in a three-part series highlighting the Nightingale family of Marcellus.
The remnants of the dam are still there, hidden by the scrub that has grown up over the years, some of the massive blocks settling to the bottom of the creek and looking only a little different from the other rocks in the creek. They are touchstones that revive memories of a time past, changes that have come and gone and a family that has continued its business in the same place since 1888 where once there was a dam.
In 1848, Marcellus was a mill town, serving the needs of the surrounding countryside. Lumber mills, feed mills, eventually, paper and woolen mills clustered around the valuable resource of Nine Mile Creek. While there were some industries such as the woolen mills that catered the world outside of the area, most entrepreneurs established their business to meet the needs of their neighbors. It was a time when the telegraph was still a modern innovation and railroads were in their infancy. It was an era of foot travel, horse and buggy conveyances and opportunity.
In that year, Henry and Charlotte Nightingale along with their three children and all of their worldly possessions embarked on a seventeen week ocean voyage from a small village in Worcestershire England to land in the port of New York. It was a journey that would culminate in the establishment of a name and a family that has served the Marcellus community continually since the latter half of the 19th Century. This family had faith in the American Dream.
They settled first in Columbus, a village in Chenango County. The United States' census from 1850 describes Henry as a farmer and his oldest son, William as a farm laborer. By 1860 Henry and his brood had moved to Onondaga County, the family history locating their home as the farm on Slate Hill Road now occupied by Thompsons Auto Repair. As the years passed and the children grew into adulthood, the eldest son, William branched out and built a sawmill and cider press on Nine Mile Creek where it crosses the Cherry Valley Turnpike, somewhere between the Valley Inn and the Patchwork Plus Quilt shop.