The History of New York State
Book IX, Chapter VII

Editor, Dr. James Sullivan

Online Edition by Holice, Deb & Pam



Madison COUNTY. #1

The history of Madison County prior to its erection has been recounted under the chapter dealing with Chenango county, with which it was joined. Its part in the wars, from the difficulties with the Indians and French to the great World War of this century is shown in another section of this work. The Madison region was relatively free from early Indian difficulties, for the aborigines received the first settlers as friends with whom they were glad to share their hunting grounds and lowland fields. Not until persuaded by white men that they were being mistreated did they join the former in raids upon their erstwhile friends. There was little attempt to settle this district until Revolutionary times and the Indian lands were then purchased by the authorities of the State, distributed to the soldiers, or sold to speculators who induced many to migrate and develop large areas which had hitherto been neglected or unknown.

Madison was part of the great reserved Indian domain extending from its eastern boundaries indefinitely west. One of the first results of peace with England was the extinction of the Indian title to this great area. The county is on parts o three tracts surveyed from 1775 to 1795, known as the Military Tract, the Tuscarora Purchase, and the Gore, a strip overlooked in the laying out of the lines of the first two. There are, of course, many minor division and patents in Madison to which even today land titles are traced.

Chenango County, set off from Herkimer and Tioga counties in 1798, included Madison, which became a separate division March 21, 1806. The latter was enlarged thirty years later by the annexation of part of the town of Stockbridge lying east of Oneida Creek. It took its title from President James Madison. On its formation there were only five civil divisions: Brookfield, Cazenovia, DeRuyter, Hamilton and Sullivan towns. From the territory of these five have none others been erected, five during the year following the organization of the county. The names and 1920 population of these towns are: Brookfield, 2.092; Cazenovia, 3,343; DeRuyter, 1,141; Easton, 2,223; Fenner, 780; Georgetown, 854; Hamilton, 3,354; Lebanon, 940; Lenox, 5,536; Lincoln, 821; Madison, 1,629; Nelson, 1,099; Smithfield, 767; Stockbridge, 1,413; and Sullivan, 3,002.

The county is one of the central ones of the State, bounded on the north by Oneida County; on the east by Oneida and Otsego; on the south by Chenango; and on the west by Onondaga and Cortland counties. It has an area of 650 square miles and a population in 1920 of 39,535, being one of the few rural counties which has not lost population to any extent in the last fifty years. It has a great variety of surface from the swamp lands near Lake Oneida on the north to the rich vales in the south. The central part is on the water shed of many of the streams, some going north to the lake, while others make their way to the Susquehanna. The land is not mountainous but generally elevated. The principal stream of Madison is the Chittenango, which not only flows through a region of marked beauty, but has hydraulic possibilities which have never been fully utilized, although the site of many ancient mills. In one of its reaches of eight miles it descends 740 feet, one of the falls being 134 feet. Besides Oneida Lake, the county has a gem in the Cazenovia, or as it is sometimes called, Owahgena Lake, which has become one of the best known summer resorts of the county.

The variety of surface has made for a variety of uses made of the land. the heavy forests of the pioneer days have well nigh disappeared, but in their place have come large cultivated area producing most of the staples possible to the central section of New York. The grains, hay and milk now lead among the products, but this has, from the first, proven its fitness for apple growing which has taken a new lease n life during the last twenty-five years. Hops used to be a banner crop, but was finding the competition of the far west severe and was on the wane before the Volstead law gave it the fatal blow. Cheese and butter making was the main industry of Madison until it proved more profitable to ship the milk in the natural state or turn it over to condenseries. Change has taken place in the agricultural methods, and crops, and it is well for the visitor to remember, when he is passing through some beautiful section, and see what to him are waste field, ruined mills and neglected farms, that it is due to no fault of the region, but rather to the advance or change which is inherent in any business which it vital and grows.

The institution which is, in a way, the flower of the sturdy desire for education in Madison, is Colgate University at the village of Hamilton. Even in the first years of settlement there were yearnings after schools of learning, and it is said that in 1794 Samuel Payne, the pioneer and Baptist felled the first tree where Colgate not stands, and with the act dedicated himself to the service of God and education. the first blossoming of the idea was in 1819 when there was founded The Hamilton Literary and Theological Institution. Baptists were behind the school and it was formed with the desire to better fit young men for the ministry. For nineteen years the institution was purely a ministerial school open to those who wished to enter the ministry. More and larger buildings were erected beginning with 1823. A new location was required; for this Samuel Payne gave his farm in 1826 and West College was built. In 1833 the East College was erected, five years later a large boarding hall, and during this same period houses were put up for the homes of its professors. The growth of its curriculum was in proportion; by 1834 the courses had extended from three to eight years, covering academy, college and theological school. In 1839 the doors were thrown open cautiously to students other than those studying for the ministry, and in 1846 the name was changed to Madison University. Almost coincident was the movement to change its location to Rochester, but the urgent call fro help was heeded from all over the land and the university remained stronger than ever, although the question of change was agitated for years. President Ebenezer Dodge, who became head of the institution in 1868, was in a measure responsible for the change in the name of the university to that which it now bears, although he did not live to see his idea consummated. William Colgate, has been an interested helper of the institution until his death in 1857, and his sons felt it a sacred trust that they should continue to keep up the assistance that their father had provided. In recognition of these services, and in memory of the elder Colgate, the name of the university was changed to its present form in 1890.

The county seat or seats of Madison have been movable affairs. At the erection of the county, Sullivan and Hamilton were made the shiretowns and the courts were held in the school houses of these two places until 1812. This did not seem in keeping with the dignity of the county and the question of having real courts buildings was constantly agitated. No bid by any village was large enough to encourage any change until 1810, when Cazenovia was appointed the one and only shiretown. A brick building was put in the process of erection, and when fairly complete, the first court was held in it in January, 1812. Five years later the county sear was removed to the more central town of Morrisville and the comparatively new curt building eventually was sold to serve as a church. Subsequently it was used for school purposes by the Oneida Conference Seminary.

The first court was held in Morrisville courthouse in 1817; this building was replaced in 1847. Burned in 1865, still another house was erected, to which an addition was made in 1877. But the end of the wanderings of the county seat were not attained for Wampsville, in the northern part of Madison, became and remains the shiretown.

The educational problem has always been one hard to solve, from the early days down to the present. The pioneers of the county included many new Englanders who placed great value on the proper teaching of their children. They were poor, widely separated in their settlements, and there was a dearth of educated folk who could give their time to the training of the young; buildings were lacking as well as books. The need of these first settlers were recognized by the State, but little that was practical was done to supply them. Not until 1840's was there such an office as the County Superintendent, 1843, teacher's institutes, 1844 a State normal school, and in 1849 free education. the great expansion of the Academy idea shortly before this time quickly waned with the growth of free education. The schooling problem still troubles Madison. It has its special schools, including a State Agricultural School at Morrisville; its system of public education is on a par with that of other rural counties, but because it is a rural county, no scheme has yet been perfected which properly cares for its youth.

The division of the county in town for their better government has expanded their number from five to fourteen. The history of the divisions is, after all, the history of the whole. What they are and where, when settled and by whom, their resources and products, villages and hamlets, are all matters of interest to one who would know the history of Madison.

Brookfield, the first alphabetically, was erected from Paris, March 5, 1795, and embraced Columbus until 1805. It is in the northeast corner of the county and approached the mountainous in the ruggedness of its aspect. The Unadilla Valley on the east border is perhaps its most fertile area, but the opposite section was one of the earliest cultivated and still retains its importance agriculturally. A railroad taps the town, giving access to market for its farm products. The population in 1920 was 2,092. The first person who visited the town with an intention of settling was Steven Hoxie who came in the interest of a Rhode Island company who expected to colonize along the Unadilla. The first actual settler, however, was Daniel Brown, a Quaker, who came with friends of his in1 791. He built, on Mill Creek, the first sawmill in the region.

The villages in this area are numerous. Clarksville, or Brookfield as it is now known, was incorporated May 5, 1834, and has been the pleasant rural center of the district. North Brookfield, village and station, and South Brookfield are hamlets which have grown up in different part of the town. West Edmeston is in the south section with the greater part of it in the town of Edmeston. river Forks is on the east border line.

Hamilton, named in honor of the great statesman, was formed from Paris, march 5, 1795. It is in the broken valley section on the southern border, from whose hills building stone of good quality was once quarried. It is on the loamy soil that the residents have depended, hops formerly being one of the main crops. General farming, with every farmer having his cows, is the present practice. Two railroads cross the town, and the Chenango Canal made its way through the corners. In 1920 the population was 3,354. Hamilton village, the largest in the town, was incorporated on April 12, 1816,. It is located in a most attractive part of the Chenango Valley, While there are several manufacturing plants, and the village has a large mercantile section, it is best known as the seat of Colgate University. This educational institution was established in 1819 as the Hamilton Literary and Theological Institution, but later change to its present name, made a remarkable growth, and became one of the most important schools of higher education in the State. A more complete account of the university has already been given. Poolville, Hubbardville and East Hamilton are other villages in Hamilton town.

Cazenovia, one of the five towns formed before the erection of the county on march 5, 1795, included some of the parts of eight of the present towns. It is on Cazenovia Lake, where it joins the Chittenango. The falls of the latter stream drop 136 feet, and the whole region is noted for its natural beauties, the home of many people, also, who spend here their summers. Agriculture is the main industry.

Cazenovia village was incorporated on February 7, 1810. It was founded in 1793, being part of the celebrated Holland Syndicate purchase. the name was derived form Theophilus Cazenove, a native of Amsterdam, Holland, who journeyed to the county in 1793 with Mr. Lincklaen and others. The village was platted the next year and with the fine position, with valuable water power, predictions were made that it "would become a manufacturing city that would vie with Lowell." Manufacturing has been of relatively greater importance in the years that are gone than now. There are six factories at the present time, woodworking being the largest, with a cannery and a knitting mill next in order. The hamlet of New Woodstock, a station of the Leigh Valley road, is the other rural hamlet., Population, 3,343.

De Ruyter, was taken from, Cazenovia, march 15, 1798, and named after Admiral De Ruyter of the Ditch Navy. It is in the southwest corner of the county and , although hilly, is one of the sections easy to being under cultivation, but almost from the beginning it has been a dairy town. the first settlement was in 1793 by the Benjamin brothers and Eli Colegrove. The village of the same name is a station on the railroad situated on the Tioughnioga, and was started mainly as a sawmill hamlet in 1800. There are a few factories, but the village derives its dominant place from its location as a the rural social center of a good farming section.

Eaton, formed from Hamilton February 8, 1807, is located near the center of Madison in the Chenango Valley. It has several ponds and lakes, some of which used to be feeders to the Chenango Canal. Settlements were made within its borders in 1792 by John and James Salisbury of Vermont. Probably credit should be given to Joshua Leland, who, coming the next year, not only made improvements, but stayed and erected the first saw and grist mills. The population of Easton in 1920 ws 2,223, the peak of its growth coming in 1855, when it habitants numbered over 4,000. There are five hamlets and villages in the town: Eaton, West Eaton, Pratts Hollow, Pine Wood, and Morrisville, the former country seat and largest village. The former place was incorporated April 14, 1819, and again in 1848. Stores and a mill were started in the village in early 1800. Relatively little growth was made before the opening of the Erie Canal and the establishment of the hamlet as the shiretown in 1817. Manufacturing, for a time, gave promise of being of large proportions, but the canal and railroads which soon followed were not an unmixed benefit. Besides being the seat of the county buildings, it has a State agricultural school. Easton Village, Eaton Center, West Eaton and Pierceville are all small hamlets.

Fenner, formed April 22, 1823, is one of the central towns lying among the hills and narrow valleys. The soil is good; there are deposits of marl which makes valuable agricultural lime, and general farming is the main occupation of the residents. It was settled in 1795 and has a present population of 780. The two hamlets of the district are Perryville and Fenner, with a part of Chittenango Falls.

Georgetown, erected from De Ruyter, April 7, 1815, is on the west side of the county. It is an upland area with the Otselic Creek draining it. A railroad crosses it which takes its dairy products/ General farming is [pursued to some extent. The first settlement was made in 1804 by William Sexton. Georgetown village is the business center. Population, 854.

Lebanon, set off from Hamilton February 6, 1807, is the center town on the south border of Madison. The Chenango flows through the eastern part of the town, the Otselic on the west, making its location on the low ridge between the two valleys a region well suited to horticulture and dairying. Lebanon was one of the six towns originally patented to colonel William smith, and settlement was begun under his encouragement in 1792. The 1920 population was 940. Lebanon village is the first settled and largest of those in the district. South Lebanon is a hamlet about a mile and a half removed from its namesake. Randallsville is the east terminus of a railroad.

Lenox, formed from Sullivan March 3, 1809, and in 18796 divided into Lenox, Lincoln and Oneida, is one of the more level sections near the shores of Oneida Lake, Such swamp lands as have been drained are used for special crops, but the area as a whole is sued for staple farm crops. The Klock family's arrival on the site of Clockville in 1792, inaugurated a period of settlement which soon led to quite a dense population of the time. The original section, covered by the undivided Lenox was the largest, richest, with the most and largest villages. The breaking up of Old Lenox, left it with Canastota, as its important village. Canastota was incorporated April 12, 1870, under the general law, although it had been chartered in the same month in 1835. It was little different from other rural boroughs until the railroad was put through and it became a thriving manufacturing section, surpassed only by Oneida, it near neighbor. There were twenty plants in the village in 1915, the most of which were canneries, taking care of vegetable crops which succeed so well in this town. Cut glass, furniture, wagons, and the by-products of the canneries were among the other productions. The village is modern in its appointments, with a good store section, several churches and newspaper.

Wampsville, on the Central Railroad, is the shiretown of the county. Population of the township (1920) 5,536.

Lincoln, set up when the division of Lenox was made in 1896, is the southern third of the Old Lenox and the seat of the first settlement by the Klocks in 1792. The early setters preferred this location t those farther north in this area, and when agriculture, unencouraged or helped by canal or railroad, was the main industry, it was a section of first rank. Transportation changed the early trend and the town of Lincoln has remained a quite rural region, with Clockville as its main hamlet. Populations, 1920, 821.

Madison, formed from Hamilton February 6, 1807, is on the east border. the rolling area is mostly in dairy farms, with fruit culture receiving increasing attention. Hop growing was the main occupation of former years. Daniel Perkins bought two lots of the owner of a great tract in the county, William Putney, and settled near the site of the village of Madison in 1792. Numbers were added in the next two years, and in 1794 quite a colony came from Rhode Island. The population in 1920 was 1,629. The villages are; Madison, incorporated April 17, 1816; Bouckville and Solsville.

Nelson, set off from Cazenovia march 13, 1807, is a hilly section not well suited to agriculture, but repaying the intelligent cultivation of its surface. It is the lure of the city for the country boys rather than the lack of possibilities in the land that has prevented the most of the county from reaching the heights it deserves. The population of the early years of 1800 was nearly double the present one of 1,099. Erieville, a station on the railroad, and Nelson are the principal hamlets.

Oneida, formed from Old Lenox, 1896, lies in the level northern part of the county. Her the soil is easily worked and much o it light enough to make it good vegetable land. In fact, one of the most profitable crops of the county is that of vegetables which are canned to a great extent. The division of Lenox left the largest village in this section the borough of Oneida, incorporated years before the formation of the town. it got its start as a railroad town which drew to it the population and business of other and less well situated places. A post office was established here in 1841, and most of the banks, largest corporations, and principal improvements date after this. Oneida is the industrial center of the county, with probably more factories of size then all the rest of Madison combined. This expansion has come about in the recent years. some of the more important concerns are those making caskets and burial vaults; furniture of several kinds; vegetable canneries, which employ many in their season; iron foundries, steel pulleys, cigars in quantity and various articles of clothing. Population 91920) own and city, which are now one, 10,541

Smithfield, formed march 13, 1807, from Cazenovia, was named in honor of its owner. It is one of the center towns with some of its area not arable because of their swampy conditions. The land of this section was first leased from the Oneida Indians for 999 years by Peter Smith, who later, to perfect his ownership, paid the State $350 for a tract of 50,000 acres. He sent an agent to settle on the tract, Jasper Aylesworth, in 1795, who was followed almost immediately by John Taft. The population in 1920 was 767. The villages are: Smithfield, which once ha a large glass factory, and Petersboro. . This town was one of the first to make cheese in a factory.

Stockbridge, erected from Vernon, August, Lenox and Smithfield, May 20, 1836, is one of the high upland areas well cultivated and prosperous. Milk is, however, the main raw products, but the crops of apples and other fruits are large. The first settlers were Nathan Edson and his sons who came in 1791. Munsville is the largest village, Stockbridge and Valley Mills being two pleasant hamlets. Population (19120), 1,412.

Sullivan, erected from Cazenovia February 22, 1803, had the largest part of its area taken six years later to form Lenox. It is the town in the northwest corner on Lake Oneida with much low unused land, but containing some of the best farms in Madison. Canaseraga is the oldest village on the site of an ancient Tuscarora town. here came the first white settlers in 1790 in a group of nine families. Chittenango village arose later but was the leader in the industrial affairs. The village was incorporated in 1842. Chittenango Station and Lakeport are two hamlets. In 1920 it had a population of 3.002.


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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