The History of New York State
Book IX, Chapter IV

Editor, Dr. James Sullivan

Online Edition by Holice, Deb & Pam




Moe than three centuries ago Samuel Champlain, with an army of Indians, came to the section which is now Oswego County and battled with the Six Nations, only to be routed. In 1654 Le Moyne, Jesuit Priest, with fifty men, visited this same territory, and stayed for some years. Count Frontenac made it his military base in his fights with the Indians from 1690 to 1697. Such was the record of the French.

English traders located in the area in 1722, and two years later, planned, with the approval of Governor Burnet, to build a fort. This project, despite the remonstrances of the French, was carried out in 1727. The trading post became the center of control for the region; with permanent settlers, additional fortifications, it soon became a town of note. Its name was that of the river around which it was built, Oswego, from the Indian Oshwakee, "the flowing out of the waters."

When there was an agitation for anew county, and one was erected from Oneida and Onondaga on March 1, 1816, no more appropriate title for it could be found than that of the river and the main village. Strife came over the location of the shiretown, and the committee appointed to decide on the place begged the question by named two county seats, Oswego and Pulaski. The county, with a population of only six or seven thousand, felt too poor to erect two courthouses, so for 45 years the business of the county was carried on in private houses, alternating, three yeas to each place.

Between the erection of the fort by the lake and the erection of the county, war had troubled the region. the increasing friction with the French caused preparations to be made for the conflict which must come. A massive fort (Ontario) was built on the east side of the Oswego River and another (Fort George) on the opposite heights. Vessels, the first built by the English, were launched on lake Ontario the same year, 1755. With the next year hostilities opened. In August of 1756 General Montcalm captured the two forts, with 1,700 prisoners, and the whole area was razed, leaving Oswego a desolation. For future accounts of this and other affairs in war, see the chapters in another section of these volumes. During the Revolution there was much passing to and fro through the county, with some desperate engagements. It is a noteworthy fact that the last military movement of the Revolution was an attempt, by troops sent by General Washington, to retake the forts on lake Ontario. Fort Ontario was the last frontier post to be surrendered by the English, July 15, 1796. This event was celebrated by the city of Oswego in 1896. The fort was partly town down in 1903 and two years later replaced by a more modern structure.

The years succeeding the end of the Revolution saw the adjustment of land titles. With the Indian, French and English grants and sales, no title was worth much. Realizing that, after all, the Indians had the first and real right to the territory, in 1784, a treaty made with the "Six nations" secured to them their possessions. Four years later a commission was appointed to purchase from the tribes their lands. Most of the county was ceded except small areas. In 1782 a tract running along the Oswego River was wet aside for soldier bounties, and was so quickly snapped up by the New York soldiers entitled to it, that two days after the issuing an advertisement for the claimants to appear, the commissioner distributed the land, July 5, 1790. The above is the account of the original of the "Military Tract" which comprised all the land west of the Oswego River.

Colonization began quickly after this distribution. The first white settler in the county was Oliver Stevens, who located at Fort Brewerton in 1789, and kept a tavern for the reception of the passing trader. At the close of the eighteenth century, there were many settlements scattered through the area. The principal ones were those at Redfield, Constantia, Mexico; a few folk resided at Oswego, and Union. The progress of the next century and a quarter can best be brought out in the records of the cities, villages and towns of the county.

Oswego naturally comes first,. Not because it is the largest city in the county and the shiretown, but because of the things which have brought it to its present position. The first permanent settler was Neil McMullan, who brought with him a house framed at his former house in Kingston, New York. His child was the first white child born in Oswego, 1802. The first industry had its start in the same year, a sawmill, and a gristmill and tannery came in 1806. Today the city has some 100 industrial plants, with a product valued at eight millions. Some of the industries rank with the largest in the country. It leads the world in the making of starch, cloth, and is a large manufacturer of boilers and machinery. The Oswego River supplies 100,000 horse power to the city. In 1812, the "Ontario," the first steamer on the lake, came into port amid great rejoicing. There are now some seven miles of docks to accommodate the lake traffic, with major railroad converging here.

Chosen a county seat in 181, no courthouse was erected until 1822, a wooden structure. In 1858 the present building was begun; in 1891 extensively altered and improved. As a village Oswego was incorporated in 1828, a city charter was secured in 1848. The city hall, at the time of its erection, 1870, was one of the handsomest. A school started in 1861, is today a State normal school of high rank. The custom house stands high among those of inland waters. There are few appointments of a modern city that may be not be found in Oswego.

Fulton, second only to Oswego in industrial importance, was first settled in 1800, and was of little importance until a dispute over the location of a post office in 1826. The government decided against all concerned and located it in a third place under the title Fulton. The Oswego Canal was built about this same time (completed 1828) an, with a post office and a canal, a boom was on in Fulton, which never receded. Incorporated in 1835, its bounds have been often enlarged, and it is today one of the pleasantest, busiest places in northern New York. Industrially, it stands high, having nearly 100 manufacturing concerns of varying size. Four of its main industries are those engaged in the making of firearms, tissue, and other papers, worsteds, and canned goods. Volney, a nearby village, has an important pulp and paper industry.

Pulaski had its beginnings in the location there of Benjamin Winch in 1804 and opened the first tavern. A gristmill was built in 1810, and by the time of the War of 1812, there were enough residents to make a company, which twice went to the aid of Sackett's Harbor and one to Oswego. It was chosen a county seat at the erection of Oswego, and a post office was established in 1817. There has always been a rural aspect to Pulaski, possibly because it is the center of so rich an agricultural district. There are ten manufacturing plants with products ranging from mills of several sorts, wood-working establishments making tables, cabinets, etc., to knitting concerns and makers of articles of clothing.

Phoenix, on the Oswego Canal and river fifteen miles north of Syracuse, was incorporated in 1848. Its manufacturing interests lie in paper, silks and electrical batteries.

Minetto, on the Oswego river four miles south of the city, is a large producer of shades and fixtures.

Mexico, on Salmon Creek, sixteen miles east of Oswego, dates from the 18182 period., it has ten factories, the principal products being canned corn.

Richland, also specializes in the canning of vegetables, but also makes furniture and other wood articles.


The county is divided in to twenty towns, the names of which, with the dates of their erections are:


Formed from Hannibal, April 20, 1818


Embraced, in 1792, a portion of Whitestown, Herkimer County being set off on April 10, of that year.


Taken from Mexico, March, 1806


"Mother of Towns," was formed originally April 10, 1792, and again with different boundaries in 1796


Set off from Richland, March 25, 1825


Erected from Mexico, April 8, 1808


Formed February 28, 1817


Organized April 1806


Taken from Volney on April 4, 1832


Taken from Volney, April 4, 1832

New Haven

Formed from Mexico, April 2, 1813


From Williamstown on March 25, 1839


Taken from Mexico on March 24, 1804


Erected from Mexico, 1796

West Monroe

Formed from Constantia, March 21m 1839


Taken from Richland, February 7, 1828

Sandy Creek

Separated from Richland, March 24, 1825


Taken from Hannibal, April 20, 1818


Taken from Volney, April 5, 1811


Erected from Mexico, March 14, 1800


Set off from Mexico, March 20, 1828



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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