Where is Pewtown?

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The area around the intersection of Honness Lane and Snyder Hill Rd. , at Pine Tree Road, is -was- Pewtown. In the "Origin of Names Places in Tompkins Co., written by Glenn Norris, is the information that Pewtown was a landmark and meeting place for area settlers of the early days. The name came from William PEW, one man in a caravan of pioneers who came from New Jersey in 1801, and who first began to farm and develop that area. With William were five sons, all of whom served in the War of 1812, and one of whom, Joseph, was elected a highway commissioner at the first Town of Ithaca meeting in April 1821.

Much of the reference material about Pewtown used for this story was prepared by Jennie Williams COMFORT in pursuit of family history. Many of the details are to be found in genealogical history entitled "Early Germans of New Jersey" by T.F. Chambers which involves four counties in the Northwestern part of that state, Hunterdon, Warren, Morris and Sussex.

One William PEW was the first actual settler to have purchased land, 136 acres, between places called Pleasant Grove and Stephensburg. It was bought from a Thomas SCHOOLEY in 1773 in an area known as Schooley's Mountain.
" Why the elder William Pew settled among the (New Jersey) Germans is unknown," Mrs. Comfort had written, " for traditions of the family claim the Pews to be of English descent from people of wealth......." Intermarriage with the German families is the most likely explanation.

The William PEW who guided his family to Tompkins County was a grandson of the other and was born near Schooley's Mountain in Washington Township, Morris County on March 29, 1752. He served as a private in the Revolution, and Married Hannah LACEY.

When he left New Jersey, it was not with the intention to seek a place to resettle. He was going to visit uncles in Canada. Hannah refused to undertake the trip unless the whole family could go. Not only were the five sons and one daughter in the party, but there was the wife of the oldest son, John, and their little boy.

There was riding in a sleigh on this journey, and stopped at a tavern on Ellis Hollow Rd. to rest, one night. The owner of the Tavern tried to sell his house and land to Pew, who declined. The travelers had not progressed very far beyond the tavern when they were forced to stop while Anna, Pew's daughter-in-law and wife of John, gave birth to her second child, a little girl who was named Margaret. While the New Jersey group waited, the tavern owner, who had learned about the delay, dropped by - not by accident. This time he was able to convince William PEW to buy his property. William and Hannah bought 600 acres on or near the Catskill Turnpike (Rt. 79) and gave each son a farm. The head of this family, Old William, died in 1818 and was buried in East Lawn Cemetery, (Once known as Pewtown Grave Yard) Hannah, a lady of Irish extraction and great vigor, lived to be 102 years of age and remained active most of her days.

The lone daughter of William and Hannah, Lizabeth, married Mautias HONNESS and they had 12 children. One, a daughter named Hannah, married Henry MERIAN and they had eight children. One was a daughter named Charlotte, who married a George WILLIAMS. Mrs. Charlotte WILLIAMS died when her baby daughter, Jennie, was four months old.

Our thanks to Mrs. Benjamin HONNESS of Etna, who owned the genealogical material prepared by the late Jennie Williams COMFORT, for the loan of her notes which were used in the preparation of this article. [Article taken from, Ithaca Journal Nov. 8, 1969 - Glance Backwards- by Barbara Bell-Journal Staff writer]


A name given to a locality on the so-called Pine Tree Road at the junction of the Snyder Hill Road. William PEW came from New Jersey into this county with a caravan of settlers in 1801. He had a large family and they settled at what was called Pewtown. His five sons went to the front in the War of 1812 and all returned. The name was commonly used in early times because Pewtown was a landmark and meeting place for settlers in the vicinity. After the original settlers had passed away, Pewtown's meaning began to fade into the folklore of the county.
[Taken from the: The Origin of Place Names in Tompkins County, by W. Glenn Norris T]

The Beginnings - The PEW Family

The area now known as East Ithaca or East Lawn was once called "Pewtown" in honor of one of East Hill's first families. William and Hannah PEW left their home in northern New Jersey with their children and grandchildren in 1800, planning to visit relatives in Upper Canada and perhaps move there. On their way they stopped at a tavern on Ellis Hollow Road, the owner of which attempted to sell them his property, between Cascadilla Creek and the Catskill Turnpike. The PEW'S refused and moved on, only to be held up in Ludlowville by the arrival of a grandchild. The East Hill tavern keeper caught up with them and begged them to reconsider his offer, and William PEW indeed bought the entire property for his children. Descendants of this pioneer family are still living in Ithaca.


James MITCHELL was the first member of his family to visit what is now Ithaca. He stopped here on his way from his birthplace, Mansfield, New Jersey, to family property , New Market, Upper Canada, in 1802. He was so favorably impressed with the area at the head of Cayuga Lake that, after disposing of his Canadian property, he returned and bought a farm from the PEWS. Early accounts state that he built a log cabin on the north side of present-day Mitchell Street near Cornell Street and returned to New Jersey to fetch his family. In Oct. 1802 he returned to his new home with his parents, John and Hannah ENGLISH; his wife, Lyna CLABINE; and four of their five children (one child had died on the journey). Also traveling with the party were James's brother, George, his wife, Betsey RAMSEY, and their eight children. In addition to the log cabin mentioned in early accounts, the Mitchells built a home at what is now 609 Mitchell St. and a brick house at 1006 Ellis Hollow Rd., which was razed in 1979. In 1871 John MITCHELL sold a half acre of his land to the Ithaca and Cortland Railroad, and in the 1870's and 1880's he sold several lots "for burial purposes only" in the Pewtown graveyard, later East Lawn Cemetery.
[ Taken from : Ithaca's Neighborhoods The Rhine, The Hill, And The Goose Pasture ; Edited by Carol U. Sisler, Margaret Hobbie, and Jane March Dieckmann]

Dan PEW and Pewtown

Dan (not Daniel) PEW , who died February 18, 1900, at his home on Snyder Hill, was 91 years of age. He left a widow, Phebe Ann BANFIELD, (daughter of Edward & Martha (COOPER) BANFIELD) who is about six months younger. There were two children, William Edward, who married Mary S. VANPELT and now lives on Snyder Hill; and Martha Ann, second wife and widow of Harry SNYDER. She now lives with her mother. Martha had no children, but William Edward had two, Bertha deceased, and Levi unmarried.

Dan PEW was the son of William PEW, and his wife Rachel Lockey GENUNG. He was born November 3, 1809 in the town of Ithaca, NY. near the present residence of George N. PEW at what was once called Pewtown and is now more generally known as East Lawn. Dan was the oldest child; the second being Hannah, now deceased, who married Robert JOINER of Besemer: the third, Elizabeth, also deceased, who married first, Benjamin MORSE of Ithaca, and second William SNOW of Ithaca; the fourth, Sally, deceased, who married Benjamin SLOUGHTER of Brookton; the fifth, Mary, deceased, who married J. W. BANFIELD of Snyder Hill; the sixth, Margaret, who died young; the seventh, William, of Ithaca, deceased, who married Hannah DEUEL; the eighth, Rachel, who married Warren BENHAM and moved to Michigan; the ninth, Nancy, who married James PERRY and who now lives at Morris Chapel near the Danby-Caroline boundary; the tenth, George Washington, of Ithaca, who married first, Grace Ann LINDERBERRY and second; Harriet BENNETT, the latter and her husband living on Fulton Street; the eleventh and last child of William PEW being Angeline, who married Jacob Peter GENUNG of Ellis Hollow where they now live.

Dan PEW was the son of William PEW, the grandson of William PEW, and the great-grandson of William PEW. This great grandfather, William was brought up by an English family in New Jersey; but the story that he was a foundling from a church pew and thus named Pew is probably worth no more than most of the legends of other families. There were Dutch and Huguenot Depews, Depuys, and Pews, and the Tompkins County Pews are probably of Dutch origin.

A brother of Dan Pew's grandfather was also named Dan Pew. This older Dan was a prominent spy in Washington's army in the retreat across New Jersey. On one occasion (place forgotten) Dan, the spy, was taken by Indian allies of the English and was about to be burned by them, but a British officer, who was a Mason, learning that the spy was also a Mason, succeeded through strategy in giving him an opportunity to escape, which he took by swimming across a river and under cakes of ice.

The grandfather of the late Dan PEW came up from New Jersey and "squatted" with his family, one of them being Dan's father, on land in the east part of what later became the town of Ithaca. When the land was taken up in the Military Tract by the New York State Revolutionary soldiers, William PEW found himself without property, but he soon bought land that had been granted to a soldier and prepared to lay out the village of Pewtown. He kept a tavern just west of the present site of the brick house at East Lawn now owned by Miss Charlotte MITCHELL: but the tavern stood close to the Ellis Hollow road (continuation of Mitchell Street). When Dan Pew's grandfather attempted to lay out Pewtown and erect other houses, his grandmother, named Hannah (family name forgotten), so bitterly objected that she herself applied the axe to the building the men were raising. This building was later erected, presumably on the spot where it was first attempted, on the site of the house once owned by Dan Pew and now owned by Mrs. Phebe Ostrander MITCHELL. But the rise of Pewtown ceased, leaving the way clear for the rise of Simeon DeWitt's Village of Ithaca. Even the name Pewtown has nearly ceased to be heard, giving place to East Lawn for the school house and cemetery and East Ithaca for the R.R. station.

The children of William PEW, the "founder of Pewtown" were; John, who lived in an old red house at Pewtown; William, the father of Dan; Joseph, who lived in Ithaca and in New York City; Elizabeth, who married Tyson HONNESS and lived between Pewtown and the Catskill turnpike; Richard, who kept his father's tavern, built the Mitchell brick house and later owned the Preswick Farm; Benjamin who lived on the west edge of Snyder Hill overlooking Pewtown. Later Benjamin PEW moved to Ithaca, dying at his home at the northwest corner of Seneca Street and Stewart Avenue. His son George N. PEW lives at the old Benjamin Pew Home at East Lawn. His family is the last Pew family living at Pewtown.

The late Dan PEW was one of the staunchest citizens of the county and a man of the highest sterling worth. Not a learned man, he nevertheless, had a very large fund of information. Not a financial man, yet no one knew better the true value of money. We cannot deplore this loss for age sat heavy upon him, but we could wish for more characters as sturdy as his. L.N.N.

Ref: copied from clipping in Scrap book of Mrs. Robert R. HAZEN, Ithaca, N.Y. copied by, Mrs. J.B. Smelzer, Ithaca, N.Y. Dec. 2, 1941
Transcribed by: Janet M. (Genung) Nash July 28th 1998 William PEW was my (Janet M. (Genung) Nash ) great-great-great-great-grandfather, the father of William PEW who married Rachel L. GENUNG, the parents of Angeline PEW who married Jacob Peter GENUNG who were the parents of Wilber A. GENUNG who married Jennie BARRETT who were the parents of Aaron Howard GENUNG who married Alice Mary HUGHES who were the parents of Wilber H. GENUNG who married Elaine J. CRISPELL, who were the parents of Janet M. GENUNG who married Stephen L. NASH Sr.

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