Monday, December 28, 2020

Fire Damages the Historic Wood House in Eaton

The Historic House of Allen Wood, a house once part of the Eaton  School, home of Rev.E D Willis- abolitionist and friend of Gerrit Smith,  once used as the Wood House Museum as well as the library and currently the home of former Maison County historian and writer Back Street Mary...sustained heavy fire damage on Dec. 24th.   Due to the efforts of the Morrisville, Eaton, Hamilton, Madison, Earlville Fire Departments and others, the fire was kept to the back of the house and kitchen...saving the main historic structure. 

Messere the current owner says " August 14th,  is an important day of sorts for me, my house and the history of not only Eaton.... but also of Madison county and today's agriculture.  If you have a four wheel drive car, truck or might be important to you also." 

Eaton is the home of Allen Wood the maker of the first four-wheel drive transmission that used metal gears like today's models.  It was the his brain child and he wish to make this unit available to pull traction engines into the field with all of its other words the precursor of today's tractor and four wheel drive vehicles.  Yes it meant man rode on it into the field for the first time. To accomplish this his-shirt tail relative Loyal Clark Tabor invented and patented its design with all of its gears...for  a mechanical four wheel drive!

Allen Nelson Wood was born in the community of Middleport, one of the stops on the Chenango Canal just below Eaton. His mother and father named him after the great Lord Nelson. Captain Allen Wood Sr., Allen’s father, was a Revolutionary War veteran and a well-known Freemason. His death recorded on March 16, 1823, resulted in the largest Masonic funeral in Madison County history up until that time and for some years to come, because of the decline in Masonry after the William Morgan incident.

Allen Wood Sr. married Lucinda Newcomb of Lebanon, they had five children - Alonzo born in 1808, (he married Lydia Hodges), Olivia, born in 1810, (she married Oliver Whitaker), Tirza (married David Smith of NYC), Polly Hale (married Dr. Orson Gregory of NYC) and Allen Nelson Wood, born on August 14, 1818.

Mr. Wood was a respected member of the area, the Congregational Church, and the business community. Wood was a director, and one of the largest stockholders of the First National Bank of Morrisville as well as director and a major stockholder of the Hamilton National Bank. In 1880.  Allen Wood was the also the main stockholder of the Morrisville National Bank, owning personally sixty-five shares. He traveled as the business agent of the company that had offices in Chicago, Augusta GA. and of course, Eaton, NY.

Through his records of stock found in Cornell's Olin Library it was evident that Mr. Wood invested in many banks across America.  Mr. Wood was also instrumental in bringing the Midland Railroad to the area. To bring the railroad in, Eaton (he) agreed to bond for $150,000.

The railroad, of course, allowed an easier and wider distribution of the steam engines and parts, as well as affording the company an easier way to bringing the needed iron ore from the Clinton area to Eaton for use in the foundry, and the coal from Pennsylvania. A foundry, we might add, which made all the parts for the engines - even to casting all of the needed gears.  Wood and company also employed many through the deepest depressions of the post Civil War period and set up and sold rights to the Oneida Royal Company an many other companies.

Mr. Wood's great granddaughters visited the Wood House on Brooklyn Street in 1996, and took pleasure in telling of how... "their great grandfather, Mr. Wood, who was considered the larger than life pillar of the community... Mr. Wood was on the Board of Directors or Trustee for the banks, the Eaton Congregational Church where he was also a Deacon and Sunday School Superintendent, he was Trustee of the Eaton Village Cemetery Association, and an abolitionist whose house was and Underground Railroad stop and of course – the founding member and co-owner of the famous Wood, Taber & Morse Steam Engine Works... stood only 5 foot three inches tall."

For more information on Mr. Wood, Wood, Tabor and Morse, Patents for the machines visit the Old Town of Eaton Museum on River Road in Eaton.  For information visit their facebook page at  Old Town of Eaton Museum.

*An interesting side note for genealogists is Lucinda's sister Jerusha, who married their father's brother John Newcomb, lived and is buried in Eaton. One of Lucinda's brothers Daniel married Anna Clark of Eaton.

Eaton Church is still standing with its historic windows one of which has the Wood family name on it..near the pew where he is mentioned in a story in a book by Melville Landon! The Landons have a window also!


  1. So glad it wasn't any worse... Prayers to you..

  2. mary im so sorry about the house fire..if i can help let me know..