The History of New York State
Book IX, Chapter III

Editor, Dr. James Sullivan

Online Edition by Holice, Deb & Pam

 

CHAPTER III

OTSEGO COUNTY. #1

Otsego County is situated on the highlands are the headwaters of the Susquehanna River to the southwest of the center of the State. Its surface presents a great variety of hills, fertile valleys, hurrying streams and lovely lakes. Of the latter, Otsego is not only the largest being eight miles long, but one known to a nation through the Leatherstocking tales of James Fenimore Cooper. The whole county is full of interest historical and fictional; its high land beauty and salubrious climate can be enjoyed in half a hundred summer resorts. Dairying has been brought to a perfection not found often; and the multiplication of railroads and, in more recent years, of hard surfaced highways has made it accessible to all.

Three years after Henry Hudson came to Albany, eight years before the Pilgrim Fathers landed at Plymouth, two Dutch explorers came up the Mohawk from Albany, crossed the hills to Lake Otsego, and went down this valley of the Susquehanna. They were the first white men visit this region. They filed a map of their travels at Amsterdam, Holland, where it was found only a few years ago. There may have been must have been, travelers and traders who came into this country in the years before any attempt was made at settlement. But it was not until 1769 that surveyors came to establish lines of the grants made by the State to individuals. In 1768 such a grant had been made by George Clark, Lieutenant-Governor of the State, to John Lindsay, Jacob Roseboom, Lenelet Ganseevoort, and Sybrant VanSchaick. This was at Cherry Valley, where the first of the pioneers of the county had located in 1739. AS late as 1762 there were only 12 families in this settlement, but at the beginning of the Revolution, the number of settlers had risen to 300. In November 1776, this Cherry Valley settlement was attacked by the Indians, causing the death of 48, and in 1780 a second massacre made the few remaining inhabitants flee, leasing the place deserted until after the end of the war.

These and other Indians attacks led to a punitive expedition by Sullivan in 1779. General Clinton, with 1,800 men, was to join him with the troops he had brought to Otsego Lake. Desiring to descend the Susquehanna in boats, and finding the river too low to be navigated, he dammed the lake, arranging his boars along the shores. When the lake had risen three feet, he tore out the dam and, on the escaping floor, sailed directly into the Indian country. The Indians, astonished at the sudden lowering of the river, and even more amazed by its sudden rise, upon whose crest came the white mans' fleet, regarded it as a sign that the Great Spirit had gone to the aid of the enemy, and fled precipitately before the forces of the invader. The county, with its dozen remaining families in 1776, was a deserted wilderness within the next year or two. How, when and by whom the region was peopled will be shown under the history of the various towns.

The disasters and the coming of the soldiery to avenge the disasters, proved to be a blessing in the end, for by these events was the county brought to the attention of hundreds to whom it was a terra incognita. Not only did the pioneers of the area return to their former homes, but they were joined by some of the thousands of the New Englanders and others who joined the great hegira that started shortly after the close of the Revolution. By 1791 the region left that it should have a separate government from Montgomery County and a more convenient place to which it might go on the county's business. In 1791 the county of Otsego was set up and Cooperstown, on Lake Otsego, was named as the shire village. Only two towns were organized at that time; Otsego, lying to the west of the lake and the Susquehanna,, and Cherry Valley as the remaining section. Before the end of the century eleven more civil divisions had been made and during the next 54 years the number was brought up to 24. The towns, with their populations of recent decades may be listed as follows:

 

OTSEGO COUNTY

1890

1892

1900

1905

1910

1915

1920

Burlington

1,334

1,402

1,268

1,151

1,108

1,145

999

Butternuts

1,813

1,777

1,698

1,618

1,452

1,539

1,383

Cherry Valley

1,803

1,772

1,802

1,731

1,706

1,544

1,400

Decatur

597

588

559

502

476

4337

422

Edmeston

2,703

1,689

1,764

1,679

1,567

1,682

1,553

Exeter

1,245

1,227

1,087

1,033

1,067

967

814

Hartwick

2,894

1,866

1,800

1,817

1,813

1,943

1,648

Laurens

1,659

1,663

1,483

1,500

1,453

1,410

1,335

Maryland

2,199

2,166

1,998

1,781

1,852

1.731

1.529

Middlefield

2,200

2,223

2,100

1,869

1,949

1,671

1,547

Milford

2,051

2,100

2,007

1,913

1,825

1,843

1,616

Morris

1,920

1,848

1,689

1,580

1,434

1,367

1,207

New Lisbon

1,323

1,312

1,225

1,088

1,039

976

912

Oneonta

80,18

8,347

8,910

9,928

1,307

1,527

1,601

Oneonta City

---

---

---

---

9,491

10,474

11,582

Otego

1,840

1,806

1,817

1,708

1,699

1,521

1,366

Otsego

4,917

4,310

4,497

4,482

4,287

4,481

4,223

Pittsfield

1,218

1,186

1,101

970

917

965

813

Plainfield

1,025

961

897

889

844

873

791

Richfield

2,699

2,663

2,526

2,633

2,212

2,419

2,133

Roseboom

1,100

1,233

1,031

954

885

867

773

Springfield

1,626

1,790

1,762

1,604

1,468

1,506

1,287

Unadilla

2,723

2,714

2,601

2,511

2,376

2,457

2,395

Westford

1,023

998

910

912

803

773

735

Worcester

2,741

2,760

2,409

2,328

2,185

2,416

2,136

Inmates of Institutions

---

41

---

28

---

---

---

Totals

50,861

50,361

48,939

48,209

47,216

48,534

46,200

 

Butternuts, area 26,008, was formed from Unadilla in 1796. It takes its name from the creek that flows southwesterly through the town. Into the creek flow a number of smaller streams which give this hilly region a very broken surface. Gilbertsville is the only important settlement, and is the mercantile and social center of this farm section. Abijah Gilbert, an Englishman, joined with Rich and Lewis Morris in the purchase of a thousand acres in the town. In 1787 General Jacob Morris accompanied by Gilbert, made their way to the lands which they never had seen, settled, and thus became the pioneers of the village and town.

Cherry Valley, area 24,058 acres, was formed in 1789, as one of the two original divisions of the new county. It was divided into eight towns in the years that followed. The highest elevations of the county are in this town, Mount Independence, more than 2,000 feet, and an un-named hill, which is still higher, 2,301. The lands around cherry Valley Creek are the seats of some of the best farms in the county. The site of the village was made on the grant of John Lindsay, in 1739, on the site of the village whose name was taken by the county. The village, home of an unusually large number of distinguished men. Two other settlements, smaller in size, are Salt Springville, and Center Valley.

Decatur, area 12,841, was erected from Worcester in 1808. It is strictly an agricultural town, with only one village, Decatur. The first settler was Jacob Kinney, who located here in 1790, near the village. Nahum Thompson was the earliest to set up a store, and James Champion erect the firth mill.

Edmeston, area 26,075 acres, was set up from Burlington in 1808. Its main stream, the Unadilla, lies between the town and the county of Chenango. The name is that of Colonel Edmeston, who, for his services, in the French war, received a crown grant of 110,000 acres along the river. At an early unknown date he sent one of his soldiers, Persifer Carr, to locate on his tract. He did so and remained until carried away, with his family, buy the Indians. Later, 1818, William Stickney and Samuel Simmons started the first industry, a forge and a trip hammer for the manufacture of axes, rifle barrels and iron plough shares. Villages in the town are: Edmeston, West Edmeston and South Edmeston.

Exeter, area 11,895 acres, was formed from Richfield, in 1799. In the hilly but well drained town are many fine dairy farms. The earliest landed proprietors of Exeter were Major John Tunnicliff and William Angel. The former came from England, in 1756, and purchased 12,00 acres, and built on it a cabin at a place known as "The Oaks." He had to abandon his home until after the French and Indian War. Angel was from Rhode Island, and located on what is now called angel's Hill. The three villages in the township are: Schuyler Lake, West Exeter, and Exeter.

Hartwick, area 25,098 acres, was formed from Otsego in 1802. The name was given it in honor of Rev. John Hartwick, who, in 1745, purchased from the Indians a tract of 21,500 acres. He made no known attempt to colonize his lands until after the Revolution . Judge William Cooper persuaded him to rent the most of his acreage with the privilege of purchase, which led to a prompt colonization of the section. The villages of the township are: Hartwick, founded in 1802, Hartwick Seminary, the site of one of the few schools surviving the "Academy period"; South Hardwick; Toddsville; and Hyde Park.

Laurens, area 26,116 acres, was formed from Otsego in 1810. Otsego Creek, the principal stream, flows through a fertile, well cultivated valley. To this pleasing section came Joseph Mayall, in 1773, to be followed in the same year by Richard Smith from Maryland, who erected a "mansion" not far north of Mayall. The name of the Quaker, John Sleeper, is intimately associated with the early history of the town. The villages of the town are: Laurens, the oldest; Mr. Vision, the largest; and West Laurens. Otsego Park is a popular pleasure resort near Laurens villages.

Maryland, area 29,873, was formed from Worcester in 1808. The terrain of the town is rugged and broken, with Schenevus Creek flowing through the center. Dairying has achieved some prominence. Elisha Chamberlin and three Spencer brothers are probably the pioneers of the section, locating here in 1790. The Spencers erected the first grist mill of the locality in 1794. Villages in the township are: Schenevus, Maryland, and Elk Creek.

Milford, area 28,172, was formed from Unadilla in 1796. The Susquehanna River divides the town in to two ridges, and it was the water power of that stream, together with the fertile lands of the valley, that drew the first settlers. Just when, and by whom the region was pioneered is unknown. The four villages of the township are: Milford, Portlandville, Colliersville and Cooperstown Junction. Milford Center is growing into a suburb of Oneonta.

Morris, area 24,035 acres, was formed from Butternuts in 1847. The township was named for General Jacob Morris, son of the signer of the Declaration of Independence, who, with his brother, Richard, received a grant of 30,000 acres as an indemnity for property destroyed by the British. There were many people in the section long before the erection of the town, but who came first is not known. The only village of size in the township is Morris, with a population of 5050, Maple Grove is a hamlet.

New Lisbon, area 26,899 acres, was formed in 1806. Agriculture is the main occupation of the residents of the town, although horticulture comes in for some attention. The earliest of the settlements was started shortly after the Revolution. Garretsville, the main village, is named for John Garrett, its pioneer, who was driven out by the Indians and made a captive in the French and Indian War. Other villages of the town are: New Lisbon, formerly Nobleville; Lena; Welcome, and Stetsonville.

Oneonta, area 21,930 acres, was formed from parts of Milford and Otsego in 1830. The Susquehanna River flows through the southern part, the valley of which was not only a favorite resort of the Indians, but the seat of the first settlements. Of the pioneers who came to the region before the Revolution, only the names of two or three are known. General Sullivan's raid, in 1789, passed through the district and left in its wake some who were founders of the town. the city of Oneonta, West Oneonta, and several suburban places, make up the settlements of the township.

Oneonta City, population (1920) 11,582, is the one large community in the county. The advantages of its location were appreciated by the Indians, and it is said that the main street of the city is on the line of the old Indian trail. The city lies about half way between Binghamton and Albany. The residential part of Oneonta extends to the north over the gentle slopes of the hills. Along the river, on both sides, is the railroad and factory district. Two important railroads, and several branch lines, solve the transportation problem. The Delaware and Hudson located their repair shops here at an early date, and have several times enlarged the plant and the number of hands employed. Milling companies, shirt factories, silk mills, and cigar factories have come in until the city became one of the important industrial places in this section of the State. In 1920 there were 31 manufacturing concerns located here, employing 1,657 hands, with an annual output valued at $5,628,739. Oneonta also does large wholesale mercantile business.

The Central New York Fair is one of the successful institutions of the city. A State armory is located here. The buildings of the State Normal School, established in 1889, form another of the attractive features of the place. All the modern necessities and conveniences have been secured by the busy pleasant city.

Otego, area 26,634 acres, was formed from parts of Unadilla and Franklin (Delaware County) in 1822, with the name of Huntsville. In 1830 the present title was taken. It is one of the best farming towns, and was founded shortly after the Revolution. The character of its early settlement, being made up of New Englanders and Germans, led to quite a bit of rivalry, which seems only to have advanced its progress. The villages of the section are: Otego and Otsdawa

Otsego, area 32,141 acres, was organized as a part of Montgomery County in 1788, and included all that part of the county west of Otsego Lake and the Susquehanna River. It is the oldest town in the county. Cadwallader Colden, surveyor-general, was in the region in 1737. In 1753 Rev. Gideon Hawley came here as a missionary to the Indians. In 1783 George Washington "viewed the Lake Otsego at the source of the Susquehanna," Among these visitors must be numbered the two Dutch adventurers who also "viewed" the lake in 1702. Colonization did not begin in a large way until about 1788. The present villages of the town are: Cooperstown, Fly Creek, Oaksville, and Hope Factory.

Cooperstown, situated on one of the most picturesque lakes in the State, Cooperstown is not only one of the loveliest of place, but has around it the romance of the "Leatherstocking" tales of Cooper. The village was founded by Judge William Cooper, the father of J. Fenimore, who, in 1785, purchased 100,000 acres in this section. On January, 1786, the judge came with the surveyors and took possession of his domain. Two years later he ad the site of the present village surveyed and laid out. In 1789 a large house was built for him, and Mr. Cooper brought his family. By that time the village had attained a population of 35.

Cooperstown, although more than a century and a third has passed since its founding, has never made any astonishing growth, nor startled the world with the extent of its manufacture. But it has always attracted the lovers of the beautiful, and won the affection of the chance visitor or resident. It has, from time to time, been the permanent or summer home of many famous men. In Lakewood Cemetery is a monument of Italian marble twenty-five feet high, on the summit of which is the figure of Leatherstocking. It was erected in memory of one of America's greatest novelists, the son of the founder of the village, James Fenimore Cooper, who died at his home in Cooperstown on September 14, 8151.

Pittsfield, area 22,548 acres, was formed from Burlington in 1797. It is a west border town, located among the fertile highlands between the Unadilla River and Butternuts Creek. The river valleys were the seats of the early grain farming, and the gristmills, the first factories of the county. The district was settled in 1793 by New Englanders. Fruits and milk are not the principal products of the section. The main village is Pittsfield.

Plainfield, area 17, 142 acres, was formed from Richfield in 1799. The Unadilla River constitutes the western boundary and is its valley are most of the farms and dairies. The first of the pioneers came in 1793. One of the early settlers was Caleb Brown, who erected the first mill in the town, and at various times, later, built oil mills, a cloth factory and a Woolen mill. This is a thrifty dairy region with one main center, Unadilla Forks.

Richfield, area 20,418 acres, was formed from Otsego, in 1792, and included Exeter and Plainfield, which were set up in 1799. It is scenically beautiful with several wooded peaks, and Canaderaga Lake, or Schuyler Lake, forming the center of the picture. The greatest and holder of the early days was John Tunnicliff, who, in 1756, purchased 12,000 acres of the Otsego Patent, and added 600 more in 1774. Settlement began as soon as the danger from Indian raids was over. The two villages of the town are Monticello and Richfield Springs. The site of the later mentioned village of the township was well known to the aborigines as "Big Medicine Waters," because of the mineral springs. To the healing springs came the red man and the denizens of the forest who sensed the value of the waters. In 1820 Dr. Horace Manley drew the attention of the world tot he efficacy of the springs in the treatment of many diseases, and from that time dates the expansion of the village and its fame as a resort. The charm of the surroundings of the springs and Canadarago Lake have been preserved. The village has had done for it all that science, art and culture can do for a naturally well located place.

Roseboom, area 19,739 acres, was formed from Cherry Valley in 1854. It was named in honor of one of the early purchasers of 2,000 acres in the region. it was not settled until well after the Revolution, and no store was opened until 1832. There was a gristmill, however, started in 1818 by Cornelius Low. Dairying has always been the foremost vocation in the town, cheese making being at one time an important industry. The villages of the township are: Roseboom, South Valley and Pleasant Brook.

Springfield, area 26,522 acres, was formed from Cherry Valley, in 1797. The terrain is rolling highland situated north of Otsego Lake. Agriculture is the main pursuit. In 1762 five families settled on the shores of the lake, There were few additions to the colony until after the war against Britain had closed. The principal villages of the section are: Springfield, Springfield Center, East Springfield and Middle Village.

Unadilla, area 29m349 acres, was formed from Otsego in 1792. It lies at the confluence of the Susquehanna and Unadilla rivers. While probably settled before the Revolution, when and by whom is not known. Dairying has engaged the best efforts of the town's people, and has been brought to a foremost place in the county. The principal village is Unadilla, located on the north bank of the Susquehanna, 99 miles from Albany, and 44 from Binghamton. It is the shipping point for the milk and products of the surrounding farm region. it has also a busy factory district. The villages dates as far back as 1790, but amounted to little until a turnpike was built in 1802, connecting it with Catskill.

Westford, area 20,812 Acres, was formed from Worcester in 1808. It is one of the hilly, well drained sections, where dairying is at its best. The pioneers of the town came from Vermont in 1790. It has been the birthplace of a number of prominent men. The villages and hamlets of the township are: Westford, Westville and Maple Valley.

Worcester, area 29,030 acres, was formed from Cherry Valley in 1797, embracing Maryland, Decatur and Westford, all of which were set up as towns in 1808. The fertile valleys of the Schevenus and Charlotte rivers were chosen by the pioneers in which to carve out their farms, and it is this same section in which at the present day the most of the farms and orchards are situated. The three main villages of the township are: Worcester, a large flourishing place, East Worcester, and South Worcester.

 

The History of New York State, Lewis Historical Publishing Company, Inc., 1927

This book is owned by Pam Rietsch and is a part of the Mardos Memorial Library

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

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