Cross posted to the coming Saturday’s print edition of the New Hartford Indpendent.
The first settler’s house in New Hartford was finished in November, 1733, somewhere on the top of Town Hill by Stephen Kelsy. By December 1733 the first proprietors had all selected, by lottery, their parcels and building began in earnest early in the spring of 1734. The town would be formally incorporated 1738. In 1733, New Hartford was still seen as ‘an unbroken wilderness infested by wild beasts and Indians.’ For perspective, in 1733 George Washington was only a year old. King George II was king; the idea of the United States was not yet even a distant concept, though the Molasses Act of that year can be seen as one of the first opening movements.
Stephen Kelsy had been born in Hartford in 1677. He died in New Hartford in 1745, the first person to be buried in the town’s original cemetery, the Town Hill cemetery. His gravestone stands to this day. He was married to Dorothy Brounson, from Wethersfield, and they had eleven children, born between 1700 and 1718.
It is not known if Kelsy spent the winter in his new house on the hill, if he did it must have been a long winter. However, in order for a proprietor to legally claim their lot, they had to live there personally for part of the year. His neighbors would have been the aforementioned wild animals; the Native Americans who used the region as seasonal hunting grounds and for other resources, such as soapstone, generally wintered in long-established settlements in the more protected river valleys.
Kelsy’s house was likely built of logs and would probably have been only eight feet by eight, with the only opening being a door. The size can be estimated because houses were required to be at least 16 feet square in order to count as a permanent dwelling, which suggests that people probably built houses that were smaller, or tried to. The house probably had a simple, fieldstone cellar for storage. A fieldstone fireplace and chimney would have served for both heating and cooking. It is unlikely that he had any livestock; and he probably walked out from Hartford, along the trail that would become Route 44.