The History of New York State
Book IX, Chapter IX

Editor, Dr. James Sullivan

Online Edition by Holice, Deb & Pam

 

CHAPTER IX.

ONEIDA COUNTY. #1

The political history of Oneida County began with its erection from Herkimer on March 15,1798. This garden spot of the upper Mohawk Valley had been devastated and almost depopulated by the Revolutionary War. Sullivan's campaign had chastised the Indians but had also laid waste much of the country. The gallant defense of Fort Stanwix against St. Leger, the battle of Oriskany, where St. Leger's forces were prevented from joining those of Burgoyne, made possible the victory of Saratoga.

Cressy, in "Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World," says concerning the battle of Saratoga and the part Oriskany played, that, "with a successful completion of Burgoyne's plan, the independence declared in 1776 would have been extinguished--the defeat and capture of Burgoyne's army were made possible by the battles of the Oriskany and Bennington."

The section, now comprised in Oneida county, has been settled by Germans of the Palatinate and Puritans from the east, but at the end of the war the region was deserted and was reverting to the wilderness. The coming of the peace brought about a return of a few of the former settlers, joined by others who had never seen this land. Hugh white located at Whitestown, in the summer of 1784. A few had settled at Deerfield and Fort Stanwix about the same year. But as late as 1787, according to Pomroy Jones, there were at Utica (Fort Schuyler) three houses, at Whitesboro seven, three at Oriskany, four at Rome (Fort Stanwix, three at Westmoreland. It is evident, however, that there was quite an inflow of settlers about this time, for in 1800 Utica had seventy buildings and Rome fifty. In 1790, when Herkimer County including Oneida, was formed from Montgomery, a census found 6,891 inhabitants in the whole of the upper Mohawk section.

The title to the land which now comprise Oneida County were secured from the Indians in 1790. Governor Clinton and some of the personages of the State met the prominent chiefs of the Iroquois in what is known as "The Great Council," at Fort Stanwix in 1788, which resulted in the ceding to the whites of the whole of the Indian territory except the Oneida Reservation. This treaty was not confirmed until June 16, 1790.

The county on its erection in 1798 was very large. In 1802 St. Lawrence was taken from it; three years later Jefferson and Lewis were erected from it; in 1816 the county of Oswego was formed from Oneida and Onondaga. But even these removals leaves the county with an area of 1,215 square miles. It is bounded on the north by Oswego and Lewis counties; on the east by Herkimer County; on the south by Madison and Otsego; and on the west by Madison and Oswego. Through the county runs the Mohawk with many of its tributaries. The valley of this river is one of the most fertile in this country; a few district can grow such a variety of products. In past ages the drainage of the region was towards the Great lakes, but when the mighty glaciers had gouged their way south and were returning to the frozen north from whence they came, they left debris which dammed the upper outlet to this valley and a new river system made its way to the southeast. This change in topography was responsible for much of the beauty, water power and fertility of this whole section, of which Oneida County has so choice a part.

While the greatest natural resource of this area has been the fertile soil, its first great industry was lumbering, for it was a heavily forested territory bordering on the Adirondacks. Hinckley is now the main timber cutting town, and makes all manner of wood products, including pulp and paper. Minerals have played but a small part. Iron was mined and forged as early as 1797 around Clinton. Ore was shipped by canal to Pennsylvania in 1840. It is relatively an unused resource. But in a report made in 1907, on the State deposits of iron, attention was drawn to the immense amounts of ore which indicated that "New York might easily become the leading iron State in the Union." Oneida lies in one of the heavier ore sections and may yet become the center of a great iron industry. It is said the ore can be more cheaply mined here than in any other part of the State. Since 1910 limestone has been quarried on a large scale in the town of Trenton, the most of which is used for road building. Glass sand was one of the early discoveries, and the first large manufactory of the county was a glass factory organized in 1809 with a capital of $100,000, at Verona, and continued until 1836. The year following an even larger factory began operations making crown glass at Utica. The discovery of natural gas in Pennsylvania brought about different and cheaper methods of making this commodity and glass is no longer one of the products of Oneida..

The large areas of tillable soil uncovered by the cutting of the forest encouraged the first and most continuous development of the county. Conditions were found to be suited for nearly all general and many special crops. It is a boat, hat everything, not of a semi-tropical nature, can be grown in some part of Oneida. The early Germans were trained stock breeders and dairymen, so it was natural that dairying should be one of the first agricultural interests to come to the front. The growth of all this district as a seat of manufacturing gave a ready market for milk products and has kept the production of mil in the first place. Sheep were brought in by some of the first settlers after the Revolution, and the first mill in New York State for weaving wool was started in Whitestown, (Whitesboro), in 1808. In 1811 a woolen goods mill was incorporated and begun business at Oriskany Creek. "Their wool they obtained largely from a flock of sheep kept in Deerfield by a Dr. Capron." The adaptability of the soil has brought about in later years a vast canning industry; the county is almost the pioneer in this line. One can hardly go in any grocery store without seeing some product of Oneida staring one in the face, for all the noted companies in this business have their branches in some part of the county.

It is for its varied manufactures that Oneida is best known. Even a condensed list of products would take too much space. The county was fortunate in having many, and easily developed, water powers. Transportation was early and well established. The Mohawk Valley has been the Indian's road. In 1796 a company was formed to lock the river at Little Falls, and to canalize the "Carrying Place" at Rome. By 1812 boats navigated the stream between Schenectady and Utica. Work on the Erie Canal started at Rome on July 4, 1817. Other canals followed, from Utica to many of the towns in Oneida in 1794, and about the same period saw one connecting it with Albany. A railroad connected the county with this latter city in 1834. This early erection of transportation gave the early start to manufacturing, which, continuing with an increasing momentum, has made Oneida one of the great industrial districts of New York. Further mention will be made of industries under the accounts of the several cities and important villages.

The original Oneida County contained St. Lawrence until 1802, and Jefferson until 1805. In 1816 it lost territory to Oswego, which included the towns of Constantia, Mexico, New haven, Redfield, Richmond, Scriba, Volney and Williamstown. 

 

Since that year the bounds of Oneida have remained unchanged, and the county now comprises twenty-eight towns. These with the date of their creation are:

Annsville

Taken from Lee, Florence, Camden, and Vienna

April 12, 1823

Augusta

From Whitestown

March 15, 1798

Ava

From Boonville

May 12, 1846

Bridgewater

From Sangerfield

March 24, 1797

Boonville

From Leyden

March 28, 1805

Camden

From Mexico

March 15, 1799

Deerfield

From Schuyler

March 15, 1798

Florence

From Camden

February 16, 1805

Floyd

From Steuben

March 4, 1796

Forestport

From Remsen

November 24, 1869

Kirkland

From Paris

April 13, 1827

Lee

From Western

April 3, 1811

Marcy

From Deerfield

March 30, 1832

Marshall

From Kirkland

February 21, 1829

New Hartford

From Whitestown

April 12, 1827

Paris

From Whitestown

April 10, 1792

Remsen

From Norway

March 15, 1798

Rome

From Steuben

March 6, 1796

Sangerfield

From Paris

March 5, 1795

Steuben

From Whitestown

April 10, 1792

Trenton

From Schuyler

March 24, 1797

Utica

From Whitestown

April 7, 1817

Vernon

From Westmoreland and Augusta

February 17, 1802

Vienna: first called Orange, then Bengal and in 1816 to Vienna

.

Western

From Steuben

March 10, 1797

 

The population of the various towns in 1920 was:

Annsville

1,353

Augusta

1,911

Ava

615

Boonville

3,147

Bridgewater

746

Camden

354

Deerfield

706

Florence

701

Floyd

663

Forestport

862

Kirkland

4,744

Lee

1,143

Marcy

1,191

Marshall

1,490

New Hartford

8,646

Paris

3,094

Remsen

969

Rome city

26,331

Sangerfield

1,795

Steuben

786

Trenton

2,389

Utica city

94,165

Vernon

4,522

Vienna

1,544

Western

1,061

Westmoreland

1,984

Whitestown

10,183

Total

182,833

 

Utica, sometimes called the "Heart of New York State," because of its location near the geographical center of the State, destined to become the manufacturing center as well. It had a population of 94,156 in 1920, and covered a territory of ten and one-half square miles. Five years later its dimensions was 18,8 square miles and estimated population of 110.,000.

In 1758 Fort Schuyler was erected at a ford on the Mohawk; in 1785 three cabins near this ford were the homes of John Cunningham, George Damuth and Jacob Chrisman; such was the beginning of Utica. John Post set up a store in 1790. The Legislature voted $10,000 for the erection of a bridge on a given line; that line is the central avenue of the city. A blacksmithy was started in 1794, a tavern at the same time. On April 3, 1798, the village of Utica was formed with fifty houses and a land boom. Yet Utica was secondary to Whitesboro in importance.

In the years after the opening of a new century growth was rapid. Boats were on the Mohawk, there were many stage routes, the Erie Canal came in 1825, a railroad a few years later. The second charter of the village conferring broader powers is dated April, 1805. Twelve years later, almost to the day, Utica separated from Whitesboro and obtained its third charter. It now had a population of 2,861, 420 houses, several stores, three each of churches, taverns and breweries. On February 13, 1732, Utica was chartered as a city, one of the earliest in the State. Manufacturing was coming in to the fore, there being 550 concerns, either mercantile or industrial. Manufacturing on a large scale maybe said to have been initiated in 1846, when it was realized that steam could be used as advantageously here as elsewhere. Within two years three large woolen and cotton mills were organized. Gas was supplied in 1850.

A new charter, the second as a city, was secured in 1849, when a census showed 17,556 inhabitants. Many changes in the political organization took place in the succeeding years reaching a climax on January 1, 1908, when Utica became a city of the second class. In 1925 the city had 75 churches, 28 public schools and 17 private, two newspapers, "The Utica Observer-Dispatch" and "Utica Daily Press"; libraries, all the necessaries that go to make the modern city so livable a place; parks, 700 acres of them, playgrounds hospital, clubs.

Manufacturing plants, 400, are capitalized at $80,000,000 with an output nearly equal to the capital. What they do not produce is easier to more than to list their products. Raw materials must be brought in as Oneida County is not a commercially mineralized district. Milk has been the main product, supplied by the outlying regions from the first, and has been the means of making Utica one of the great cheese centers. One-tenth of al the knit underwear made in the United States is fabricated in Utica. Other articles of commerce might be picked out for mention, but it is not necessary. As a great industrial city, Utica as "won her spurs."

Rome is the second largest city in the upper Mohawk Valley, with a population in 1920, of 26,341. The history of Utica is typical of the growth of cities in this section, so that we need not repeat the form in connection with Rome. It is the most westerly city in the valley, at the head of what was once the navigable portion of the Mohawk. The Indian name for the place was Diewainsta, "The place where canoes are carried from one water to another." The early settlers called it the "Carrying Place." Both names grow out of the fact that at this point it is only a mile from the Mohawk to Wood's Creek, where on could embark on a journey down waters to Oneida Lake, and thence to the Great Lakes.

The strategic value of this portage led to the erection of two forts by the British at what is now Rome. In 1760 Fort Schuyler was erected, a large and cost affair for that time, and it was round this fort that one of the crucial battles of the Revolution was fought. There seems good evidence to prove that there the Star and Stripes was first given to this country, July 14, 1777.

The Rome of today is a vigorous industrial city, with a more than usual proportion of mercantile establishments and banks. This is probably due to the fact that it is the center of so rich a farming section. Not only do the farmers shop and bank in the city, but many of the farms are in crops grown for the canneries of which the city has many. Copper and brass and the various articles made from these metals make up the outstanding industries of Rome. As a great illuminated sign along one of the railroads has it: "Ten per cent of the copper used in the United States is manufactured in Rome." Many forms of machinery, medicines, hardware and knit goods are made in the city plants. Altogether there are sixty industries, employing 6,000 people, with an output of $35,000.000.

Whitesboro, (Whitestown), one-time leader in Oneida, is now a pleasant town of 3,000. Its name is on the deeds of properties covering half the State of New York, for it was once the county seat of a great area. Just the fact that it was off the main line of travel, when the State began to grow, held it back and other places took the leadership that was expected of Whitesboro. Its history has already been told in other parts of this work. There are a number of factories in the village manufacturing knit goods. Wood products, such as sashs, doors, and blinds, furniture, etc., metal articles and specialties of minor importance.

Oriskany, near which is the rough terrain over which the famous battle of the same names was fought in 1777, as a village of some thousand population. Paper, felts and malleable iron products are made here. On a hill outside the village is a monument to the heroes of the battle of Oriskany. New York mills is a one industry village where one of the greatest cotton corporations has its looms. Washington Mills makes special chemicals. Chadwick is the seat of important knitting mills,. Sauquoit, Clayville, Cassville are also knitting towns. Clinton, the seat of Hamilton College, specializes in canned goods, textiles and paints, as does Waterville. Hinckley, Remsen, Holland Patent, Trenton, Prospect, Salisbury, and many other villages are the trade centers of their various towns, and are mainly interested in some agricultural product, usually milk, which is either made into the various dairy products or bottled and shipped to the large cities. The vegetables and fruits raised in this rich valley are canned or preserved and sent all over the States.

 

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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