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Some Early Settlers of Canaan Township

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Canaan Township was one of the original townships established in 1798 and several townships had been carved out of that extensive area before South Canaan Township was created in 1852. This new township contained the old settlement along Middle Creek where John Shaffer, a native of Germany who had first settled in Orange County, NY, located in 1783 with his wife and son. His second son, Moses, was the first child to be born in the township. Adam Wagner, of Pennsylvania German extraction, came from Maryland to the Middle Creek area about 1783 and first moved into a sugar house built of logs and covered with bark on the farm that was later owned by Edgar Wells.

Henry Curtis, also from Germany, arrived there in 1804. He had come to America during the Revolutionary War and served three years in the Continental Army. He married Marilla Swingle, the daughter of Hans Ulrich Swingle, and they had two children - Jeremiah, also known as Hans, and Mary.

Han Ulrich Swingle, also from Germany, settled in the western part of the township about a year before Henry Curtis and raised a family of six sons and four daughters. The Curtis and Swingle families had many children and have a long line of descendants who still call Wayne County home.

The first grist mill in the township was a small hand-mill that served the neighbors in the vicinity of Han Ulrich Swingle’s farm. The mill was only about three feet in diameter with a hard quartz stone that was turned by a hand crank. It took two men nearly a day to grind a single bag of corn into meal. About 1800 John Shaffer built a regular grist mill that ground superior meal in much less time.

In 1835 John Jessup and Gabriel Howell erected a carding machine on Middle Creek not far from the old mill. It was small but provided yarn to make blankets that met the need of the community. As new owners took over many improvements were made and by 1886 when Matthew Mitchell of Rhinebeck, NY purchased the plant it had three carding machines, one jack, one hundred twenty spindles, two hand looms and one picker. Mitchell also added a dye-house to the operation. Both steam and water were used to supply power.

The first, and only, post office was established at South Canaan Corners, also known as Learch’s Corners, in 1837 with John Jessup as the first postmaster. The tiny hamlet of Canaan Corners was the location of the churches, a, hotel and store. The first store was opened by a man named Buland. P. W. Learch moved from Easton in 1836 and built the hotel.

The first religious services in the township were held at the home of Hans Ulrich Swingle who was a Lutheran. Out of these early meetings at the Swingle farm, a German Reformed Congregation was established. As early as 1810 Father Owens, a Methodist preacher, visited the community about once a month. The German Reformed and Methodist congregations merged into the Methodist Protestant Church in 1823 under the leadership of Rev. Joseph Barlow. The meetings were first held in the schoolhouse until a church was erected in 1831 at a cost of $1,000. At first the church was used by the Methodist Protestant and Methodist Episcopal denominations. A Methodist Episcopal Church was erected at South Canaan Corners about 1855 under the direction of Rev. Elias B. Adair. A Free Methodist class was formed in 1865 and their church was built in 1871 about a mile west of South Canaan Corners.

Isaac Plant was killed by the Gravity cars at Plane No. 9 in 1866. Along with Asa Stanton, he was a noted hunter and was said to have killed nine deer in one day.