History of Warren County/Chapter 30

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JOHNSBURGH is the northwestern town of Warren county, being bounded on the north by the town of Minerva, in Essex county, on the east, across the Hudson, by Chester, on the south by Thurman, and on the west by the town of Wells, in Hamilton county. Its surface is everywhere broken by lofty and precipitous mountains, composed for the most part of solid rock. The northern and central part is occupied by the Schroon range of mountains, and the south by a spur of the Kayaderosseras. Crane Mountain, the highest peak of the latter range, attains an altitude of 3,289 feet above sea level. Its name is derived from the circumstance that a small pond which nestles in a concavity near the summit of the mountain is much frequented by cranes.[1]

The greater part of the town is too rough and stony for cultivation, the arable land being thus confined to the narrow valleys formed by the Sacandaga and other small streams which find their devious ways from source to mouth. The soil is a sandy and gravelly loam. Kaolin, serpentine iron ore, and a few other minerals are found in small quantities.

The early history of the town has been so well written by Dr. Holden for the Warrensburgh News, from matter furnished him by David Noble, of Weavertown, that we cannot refrain from drawing largely from this storehouse in the compilation of this chapter. The town was taken from the old town of Thurman on the 6th of April, 1805. The records for the first two years are not to be found. The officers for 1807, however, are given, as it gives a good partial list of the early settlers here: Supervisor, John Richards; assessors, Norris Hopkins, Archibald Noble, Henry Allen; highway commissioners, Joseph Wilcox, Edward Noble, Nathaniel Trumble; constable and collector, Joseph Hopper; constable, Lyman Lee; fence viewers, Andrus Weaver, William Leach; overseers of the poor, Robert Armstrong, James Parker; committee to build pound, Joseph Hopper, Lemuel Humphrey, John Thurman; pathmasters, Job Wood, Reynolds Weaver, Joseph Wells, Lemuel Harndon, Charles J. Wetmore, Edward Noble, Samuel Morehouse, David Kibby, Samuel Somerville, Samuel Ross, Samuel Baxter, John Pasco, Richard Stratton, Archibald Washburn, Archibald Noble, Abiram Galusha.

The old town of Thurman included the present Thurman, Bolton, Chester, Warrensburgh, Stony Creek, a part of Caldwell and all of Johnsburgh. It derived its name from John Thurman, the original patentee, who purchased it in about 1778. Its present name was derived from his given name. He made the first clearing in the twelfth township of Totten and Crossfield's Purchase on Elm Hill, one mile southeast of the site of Johnsburgh Corners, in about the year 1790. Mr. Noble says that Mr. Thurman named the place Elm Hill from a large and beautiful elm tree standing on a prominent knoll on this plateau, and that for many years the territory west of the Hudson River and north of Athol was known among the friends in England, Ireland and America as Elm Hill, and letters to the inhabitants here were so addressed. The nearest postoffice was Thurman, now Warrensburgh. About the same time, 1790, Thurman began to clear land on Beaver Brook, nearly a mile west from Elm Hill, and in 1790 or soon after he erected a saw-mill and grist-mill on the falls of of the brook. Settlers then began to move in from England, Scotland, Ireland and New England. They took up farms varying in size from fifty to one hundred acres. In 1794 Thurman built the first framed barn in town. It extended thirty by forty feet and was laid by Enos Grover, a cooper, by the scribe, or "cut and try" rule, the method of framing buildings in those days. This barn, which has been resilled once and reshingled twice, still stands on the Elm Hill farm, and is in good repair. About this time Thurman also opened a store and put up a distillery to create a market for the large quantities of rye which the newly-cleared lands produced. In those days the grain was malted for distillation, hence a store, malt-house and kiln was built for the purpose. It is said that most of the whisky made was used in the town. French's Gazetteer states that in 1795 Thurman erected a woolen factory, which was soon changed to a cotton factory, and that as early as 1797 he erected his calico printing works, the first, it is believed in America. Mr. Noble differs from it in that he does not mention the woolen works, and dates the construction of the cotton factory and calico printing factory between 1800 and 1804. These last two stood about thirty rods above his saw and grist-mill. As early as 1800 this mighty pioneer also erected ash works, and made large quantities of potash, which at that time and for thirty years after brought good prices. Farmers were paid one shilling a bushel for ashes, while potash brought from $2.00 to $3.50 per ton.

Thurman had his cotton factory machinery made and put up on the spot by an English machinist named Joseph Holden. The spinning and weaving department was under the superintendence of Daniel McGinnis, an Irishman. The calico printing was done by James Smalley, an Englishman, of enormous height, size and strength. The stones in Thurman's grist-mill were made by Jeremiah Harrington from granite which was found in the vicinity. David Noble well remembers the old man and has often seen those granite millstones. John Thurman, the founder and operator of all these industries, was killed at Bolton Landing in September, 1807, by a vicious bull, and was buried on his own premises, on ground now included in the Methodist cemetery at Johnsburgh Corners. So closely identified was he with the business which he conducted that at his death they all, except saw and grist-mills, closed and have never since been operated.

The first death in town was that of Enos Grover, father of the cooper before mentioned. It occurred in about the year 1795. He was buried in the plot of ground just above described. The attendants at the funeral were his family and four of Thurman's men. The first marriage was that of Calvin Washburn and Elizabeth Waddell, daughter of Robert Waddell. The first white child born in town was Polly, daughter of Robert and Julia (Hodgson) Waddell. Polly was married, when a young lady, to Bishop Carpenter, and was the mother of Jordan Carpenter, now of Chestertown. The first tavern in town was kept by Joseph Hopper, in about the year 1800, at now Johnsburgh Corners. The first post-office was established in 1817 or 1818 in the same neighborhood. The postmaster was Dr. Martin Gillett, who remained in office until about 1830, when he went West, and was succeeded by Clark Burdick.

The first settlers prior to Thurman's death were Robert Maxham and family, Samuel Hamden and family, Robert Waddell, son and daughter, Joseph Hopper, first hotel-keeper; Joseph Robinson, William Leach, Timothy Johnson, Reuben Washburn, Archibald Washburn, Samuel Morehouse, a Revolutionary soldier, and family. John Pasco, Thomas Morehouse, John Ward, Samuel Ross, David Kibber, Philaster Purney, Nehemiah Grover and Samuel Millington were also all Revolutionary soldiers, and settled here with their families. Others were: John Jones, a Welsh cloth manufacturer, and family; Samuel Baxter (Welsh) and family, George Hodgson (English) and family, John Armstrong (Irish) and family, Adam Armstrong (Irish) and family, David Noble (Irish) and sons, Archibald, Edward, William and John; Thomas Somerville (Irish) and sons, John, Samuel, Archibald and Thomas; John Richards (Welsh surveyor). Assemblyman and Member of Congress from Warren county, and supervisor from Johnsburgh many years; Levi Hitchcock and family, Jeremiah Harrington and family, Calvin Crawford, Ebenezer Fish and family, Lemuel Humphrey and family, Henry Allen and family, John B. Gage, Stephen Scripter, Silas Harrington, Enos Grover, Enos Grover, jr., Daniel Stratton, Benajah Putnam, Silas 'Sheffield, John G. Brewer, Andrew Weaver and family, William Weaver, John Weaver, Jonathan Barney, Archibald Wilcox, Joseph, Isaiah and Jacob Wilcox, James Parker and family, Daniel Robertson and Alexander Robertson (Scotch), Alexander, Nathaniel and Norman Trumble, Samuel Barber, J. P.; John Williams, Charles Wilson, Benjamin L. and Charles C. Thomson, Hiram, Elisha and Elijah Ross, Josephus Lee, Jeremiah Bennett, Nathan Raymond and family, John Monell and family, Norris Hopkins and family, Abiram Galusha (a Revolutionary soldier) and family, Job Wood, Nathaniel Barber, Martin Gillett, M. D., the first physician in town.

The first religious societies in town were of the Baptist and Methodist denominations, the New England settlers being for the most part Baptists, and the English and Irish portion Methodists. The first Baptist preachers who visited the town were Elder Jehiel Fox, of Chestertown, and Elder Bateman At this time the Baptists were the most numerous denomination in town. Although this people for the last seventy years have had most of the time a pastor settled here, yet they erected no house of worship until within three years they built a neat little chapel at North River. Their present membership is less than it was forty years ago.

David Noble, a local preacher, and father of the first Methodist family in Johnsburgh, was the son of Archibald Noble, of English descent, and Eleanor (Jamison) Noble, of Scotch extraction, was born in Ireland in December, 1734. The Noble family were Episcopalians, or members of the English Church, as it was then styled. When a young man David Noble was converted under the preaching of John Wesley, who, in his early ministry, often visited Ireland, and together with his sons and daughters united with the Methodist societies. In 1795 he, a widower, and his four sons and three daughters, all adults and unmarried, came to America and settled in the city of New York, where, with his eldest son Archibald, he labored as a stone and brick mason. The family attended the old John street Methodist Church. In 1798, under the persuasive influence of John Thurman,[2] he came to the wilderness lands of Thurman Patent, now Johnsburgh, and purchased four hundred acres in a body—one hundred for each son—and, in 18oo, moved upon the tract and began to clear the land. He put up log buildings near Beaver Brook, which intersected each of the four parcels. He then inaugurated a series of meetings at his own house and at the mills of Mr. Thurman—now Dunn's mills, near Johnsburgh Corners. The Methodist preachers of Cambridge Circuit immediately followed, and preached at Mr. Noble's house once in six weeks. The first of these preachers were Samuel Howe, Martin Rutter, Elijah Hedding (afterward a bishop), David Brown and Mitchell B. Bull. The members of the first Methodist class in town were David Noble, his sons and daughters, Thomas Somerville, a brother-in-law and an elder in a Presbyterian church in Ireland, and his wife; William Leach and wife, Adam Armstrong and wife (who afterward lived and died in Albany), Elizabeth Somerville, Elsee Robinson, Rachel Hitchcock, Mrs. Enos Grover, Mrs. A. Edwards, John Armstrong, Rebecca Armstrong, and Dyer Burdick, of Athol. The first class-leaders were David Noble, Adam Armstrong and William Leach (an exhorter). From that time to the present Methodist preaching has continued here without interruption.

In July, 1807, David Noble went on horseback to Arlington, Vt, on a visit to his eldest daughter, Jane, wife of Richard Empey. On the 10th day of the month, while attending a Methodist meeting in a school-house, at the conclusion of the sermon he delivered an impassioned exhortation, sat down and died without a struggle. He had attained the age of seventy-three years. His last words were: "And may this be our happy lot till Heaven. "He was buried at Ash Grove Church—the first Methodist Church erected north of New York city—beside the graves of the Revs. David Brown and Philip Emburg, in the town of Cambridge. In June, 1876, his grandson, David Noble, of Weavertown (who furnishes much of the information contained in this chapter), exhumed his remains and re-interred them in the cemetery of the Methodist Church of Johnsburgh. He also removed with the body the marble slab which marked his resting place at Cambridge.[3]

Following is a list given by Mr. Noble, of aged persons who have died in town: Thomas Somerville, died October 13th, 1815, aged 81 years; Mary Somerville, his wife, — — died 1825, aged 83 years; Elizabeth Somerville, a sister, died August 12th, 1837, aged 90 years; Archibald Noble, died August 14th, 1848, aged 78 years; Elisha Ross, died October 3d, 1865, aged 80 years; Hiram Ross, his brother, died October 9th, 1869, aged 88 years; Elijah Ross, also a brother, died May 9th, 1870, aged 85 years; John Ward a Revolutionary pensioner, died June 3d, 1854, aged 101 years; Samnel Somerville, died April, 1872, aged 99 years; Thomas Somerville, died June 2d, 1877, aged 94 years; Edward Noble, died March 12th, 1857, aged 84 years; Mahala Richardson, died — — 1883, aged 92 years; Margaret Hodgson, died May 23d, 1884, aged 92 years.

Johnsburgh responded with alacrity to the demand for volunteers during the War of the Rebellion. Her foremost men at once engaged themselves in the work of procuring enlistments, and so well did they do their work, and so patriotic were the sentiments of the inhabitants, that out of a population containing perhaps not five hundred men, one hundred and fourteen found their way to the battle-field.

For many years Johnsburgh suffered from great and manifold disadvantages. Being a northern town of the county, and abutting on the Northern Wilderness, no commerce and very little travel passed through it. For years the inhabitants carried their grain and butter to Glens Falls and Waterford for sale, in return purchasing and bringing home family supplies, such as tea, tobacco, molasses, rum (for the hay and harvest season), sole leather, cotton and woolen clothing. At times somebody would make a spasmodic effort at keeping a store—falsely so-called—by dealing in small quantities of rum, tobacco, salt, etc. In 1832-33, the Weavertown Tannery was built by William Watson and James Wasson, of Blandford, Mass. The enterprise stimulated the dormant energies of the inhabitants, giving employment to the men, creating a market for bark and farm produce, and awakening hopes of other industries yet to come. Several stores were soon established.[4] A few years later a tannery was built at The Glen. It burned not long a after, was rebuilt, operated a few years and abandoned, having proved a source of loss to everybody interested in it. In 1852 Milton Sawyer and Wheeler Mead built the tannery at North Creek. In 1875 a Boston company erected a tannery on the Sacandaga River in the west part of the town, which is still in operation.[5]

The first church edifice built in town was erected at Weavertown about 1822, by the Dutch Reformed Church, having a membership of ten persons. As the society were unable to procure a pastor, some of its members joined other societies, while others moved away. In 1835 the Baptists finished the church, which had not yet been plastered, and occupied it a few years, but finally, for want of unity among the members, it was abandoned, and recently torn down. The next house of worship was the Methodist Church at Johnsburgh Corners, which was begun in 1838 and completed in 1843. It has been in use since it was repaired in 1879, and is now in good condition. Its value is placed at $2,000. The next edifice—Methodist—was built in the Fourteenth Township, or North River, in about 1847, at an expense of about $1,200, and is yet in use. The fourth is the Free-will Baptist Church of North Creek, which was built in 1853. It cost about $2,000, and is still in use by that denomination. The sixth[6] was the Methodist Church built at North Creek in 1879. It cost about $2,500. The seventh is also a Methodist Church, erected in Weavertown in 1879-80, at a cost of $2,500. It is very neat and commodious. Its dimensions are thirty-two by forty-eight feet. The Catholic Church of North Creek was organized in 1875, and the edifice erected in the same year at an expense of $2,300. The first pastor and Sunday-school superintendent was Rev. J. A. Kelly. Father Lynch followed him, and was followed by Father Green. Next came Father O'Mahoney, now of Warrensburgh, and in the fall of 1884 the present pastor. Father Flood, was settled as pastor.

Following is a list of the names of the supervisors from 1807, to the present time, and a list, also, of the present town officers: 1807-17, John Richards (in 1811 he was elected unanimously); 1820, '21, John Boyd; 1822, John Richards; 1823-27, Archibald Noble; 1829-32, Nicholas Rosevelt; 1833, Thomas Somerville; 1834, '35, Jacob Wilcox; 1836, '37, John D. Dunn; 1838, Thomas Somerville; 1839, David Noble; 1840, '41, John Richards; 1842, Nicholas Rosevelt; 1843-46, John Hodgson, 2d; 1847-50, John Noble, 2d; 1851, John D. Somerville; 1852, Nicholas Rosevelt; 1853, John Hodgson; 1854, Hugh Waddell; 1855-57, Samuel Somerville, jr.; 1858, John Noble, 2d; 1859, John Hodgson; 1860, George P. Wait; 1861, John Hodgson; 1862-65, Robert Waddell; 1866, Charles W. Noble; 1867,'68, Godfrey R. Martine; 1870, William Waddell, 1871, '72, Barclay Thomas; 1873, John Straight; 1874, Barclay Thomas; 1875-77, James C. Eldridge; 1878, '79, William Waddell; 1880, '81, James C. Eldridge; 1882, A. C. Hall; 1883, '84, Charles W. Noble; 1885, Taylor J. Eldridge.

The present town officers are: supervisor, Taylor J. Eldridge; town clerk, Archibald R. Noble; justices of the peace, Charles W. Noble, William H. Waldron, Samuel Somerville, Thomas Eldridge; assessors, Seymour C. Armstrong, John A. Straight, George S. Bennett; commissioner of highways, Harry Richards; overseers of the poor, William Dillon, Samuel Rexford; collector, Robert T. Armstrong; constables, Robert T. Armstrong, George Wells, William Johnston Luther Waldron; game constable, Seth T. Thomas; inspectors of election, district No. 1. John T. Somerville, Thomas W. Armstrong, Delbert Pasco; district No. 2, William H. Waldron, J. B. Randall, Patrick Collins.

The population of the town has been recorded as follows:—1850, 1,503; 1855, 1,983; 1860, 2,188; 1865, 2,286; 1870, 2,599; 1875, 2,577; 1880, 2,742.

Municipal History.—We have departed, for the sake of convenience, from the usual method of writing town histories, and have already included much that might have properly come under another head. We could not adopt a different here without lessening the value of the matter so well compiled by Mr. Noble, and edited by Dr. Holden. There are some sketches, however, which we belleve we can use better than by inserting them under the head of municipal history.

As has already been indicated the first settlement in the town was in thenear vicinity of the site of Johnsburgh Corners. It is now a village of the same proportions that it had gained years ago. The oldest mercantile business in the place is that now condncted by Mrs E. A. Phillips, whose husband, Henry Phillips, now deceased, started it in the stone store opposite to the present location, in 1860. He first went into partnership with John Noble. At the expiration of two years this relation terminated. Mr. Phillips bought the building now occupied by his widow, and associated himself with John W. Armstrong. Two years more brought a further change, this time Albert Wills, a brother-in-law of Phillips, succeeding Armstrong. They dissolved in 1871, and Phillips carried on the business alone until his death in 1874, since which time his widow, Mrs. E. A. Phillips has been her husband's successor.

The building in which she plies her trade was built about 1830, by Hiram Truesdell, and used by him as a store. Charles W. Noble has had a general store here also since the spring of 1879. Before that he was a merchant in Weavertown. In September, 1881, Mrs. S. Martine and E. G. C. Smith, wife of A. W. Smith entered into partnership and continued on a large scale, a business theretofore carried on by Mrs. Martine alone. They bought the building which they use of William Lackey. A. W. Swith occupies a part of the building for the purpose of dealing in hardware. William Lackey & Son (Edmund) opened a store on May 1st, 1885, having purchased the stock of Theodore Barrett, who had run a store in the village for a year before.

Johnsburgh Corners boasts of one hotel, which is said to be sixty-three years of age. Its first proprietor was John Fuller. His successors have been numerous, being in order as follows:—Samuel Morgan, Dr. G. R. Martine, now of Glens Falls, John Loveland, Lorenzo Pasco, O. Hitchcock, ——— Drake, William Lackey, John A. Rose, William Eldridge, and the present proprietor, Luke Martin, who assumed control May 1st, 1885. The house has a good reputation. It will provide for about twenty-guests.

The medical profession alone is represented in this little hamlet by Dr. M. C. Gill, who finished his medical studies in the Dartmouth Medical College on the 29th of June, 1882, and within two months thereafter displayed his sign to the invalid portion of this neighborhood.

It has already been stated that the first postmaster here, Dr. Martin Gillet, served from 1817 or 1818 until about 1830. Clark Burdick succeeded him. In 1855 John Noble was in office, but how long he had held it is not positively known. Henry Phillips was appointed in 1862 and retained the office until 1874. Since then his widow, Mrs. Eunice A. Phillips has been postmistress.

Weavertown began its regular growth as a village immediately after the opening of the tannery in 1833. There are now two hotels and three stores, besides the tanning interests. The oldest hotel is that now kept by B. McLaughhn, who has been its proprietor since 1860. His predecessor, Ira Russell, built the house some years before and kept it until he took it. J. M. Waddell became proprietor of the other house in 1867, when he succeeded Robert Lee. Lee had been connected with the house since about 1860. It was erected by John Eldridge and John Loveland. Prior to Lee's occupancy it had been used as a tavern and store together.

David Noble was a general merchant in Weavertown from 1869 to January, 1884, when his son, Archibald R. Noble, succeeded him. It is now principally a drug store. William Waddell and Robert Waddell, brothers, built in 1865 the store now occupied by the former. Robert Waddell died in 1878. The building which has been used by E. & W. Moston for mercantile purposes since May 1st, 1881, had been before that closed about a year. A. B. Humphrey kept store there for two years before the suspension. It had been used as a store for a number of years.

There are no lawyers in Weavertown, and but two physicians, Dr. W. W. Aldrich, who was graduated from the medical department of Dartmouth College in 1877 and began to practice hers in 1878, and Dr. C. J. Logans, who was admitted at Burlington, Vt., in 1871, and came to Weavertown from Chestertown in December, 1883.

The first postmaster at Weavertown was John Hodgson, who was appointed before 1850. In 1869 he was succeeded by the present official, David Noble.

North Creek.—This village owes its origin to the introduction of the tannery here in 1852. T. J. Converse, who came herein 1854, informs the writer that at that time there was practically no village here. There were a few roughly-constructed boarding-houses, and one store kept by Russell Fuller in the building now occupied by Taylor Eldridge. There was no post-office here, though very soon after that Russell P. Fuller received the appointment.[7] In 1857 Mr. Converse was appointed; in 1860, Moses Ordway; in 1862, Wheeler Mead; in 1863, Lyman West; in 1865, Thomas J. Converse again; in 1870, William H. Waldron; and in 1872 the present incumbent, Samuel Richardson.

Mr. Converse, in continuation, states that the religious meetings in 1854 were held in the old school-house; that there was no saw-mill, nor grist-mill nor ashery, nor distillery here.

Mercantile Interests.—The oldest mercantile establishment at North Creek is the one now conducted by T. J. Eldridge, who bought out William Remington in September, 1884. Remington's predecessor was Elihu Janes. James Wilson was the second one in the store and the first was John Straight. P. Moynehan established a general trade in North Creek in 1877. In May, 1844, he sold out to the present proprietors, M. Crehore & Co. The B. A. Martine Pharmacy was first opened in the fall of 1880 by B. A. Martine. Since his death in 1881 A. A. Skinner carries on the business under the same name.

The North Creek tannery, already mentioned, was erected in 1852 by Milton Sawyer and Wheeler Mead. The partnership between them terminated about 1865, and Milton Sawyer conducted the business alone until 1876, when the present proprietor, John Reed, took possession. William H. Healy, of Boston, had some connection with the business up to 1876. He furnished the money with which to build the tannery and afterwards furnished it with hides. The tannery has been built over twice since 1876. About twenty men are now kept busy in the building- and as many more furnish the bark, though they are not always in Mr. Reed's employ. The tannery turns out 30,000 sides of leather per annum.

Hotels.—There are two hotels at North Creek—the American Hotel, kept by John Mclnerny since May 1st, 1872, when he came here from Chestertown and built it. The house will accommodate thirty guests; and the Adirondack House, of which J. J. Lyons has been proprietor for four years. William Waldron was his successor.

Physicians.—J. L. Fuller, M. D., received his degree at Dartmouth Medical College in 1881, and came to North Creek in the summer of 1882. Dr. F. W. Spoor was graduated in medicine at the New York Homeopathic Medical College, March iSth, 1884, and bought his brother's practice at North Creek in the same spring.

North River.—This is a small hamlet in the north part of the town, containing one hotel, of which Danforth Eldridge has been proprietor for nearly fifteen years; and two stores, kept respectively by Mr. Amidon and Samuel Towne.

In 1855 Schuyler Fuller was postmaster at North River; he was succeeded in 1867 by Lincoln M. Root. In 1861 Henry W. Wilson was appointed; in 1863, James M. Ordway; 1864, Warren W. Gleason; and in 1866, Danforth Eldridge, the present postmaster.


  1. Seen from Warrensburgh, eleven miles away, the mountain presents a remarkable similitude to the profile of the human face.
  2. The story is told of Thurman that in his efforts to colonize his patent he was in the hahit of exhibiting beech nuts to the natives and immigrants in New York and observe that that was the kind of buckwheat that could be raised on Elm hill. Let the reader weigh the probabilities of the story for himself.
  3. David Noble, now of Weavertown, is a grandson of the subject of the above sketch, son of Archibald Noble. He was born July 11th, 1804, about three miles west of his present residence. He first came to Weavertown in 1833, soon after the tannery was built. In 1843 he bought a lot and erected thereon the building in which he now lives and does business. He opened his store in the fall of 1844.
  4. It it a noteworthy fact that Weavertown, North Creek and Creek Center in Stoney Creek, date the origin of their existence as villages immediately subsequent to the erection of the tanneries which now keep them alive.
  5. The Weavertown Tannery will be closed in the fall of 1885 because of the scarcity, and distance from headquarters, of bark.
  6. See Catholic Church given below.
  7. Mr. Converse states that lie was the first postmaster, and that he held the office eleven years. If so, the legislative manuals have been in error. We have followed them.