This county was formed from Steuben, Chemung, and Tompkins, April 17, 1854. It lies upon both sides of a S. extremity of Seneca Lake; is centrally distant 160 mi. from Albany, and contains 352 sq. mi. Its surface is mostly an undulating and hilly upland, divided into two distinct ridges by the deep valley of Seneca Lake and it's inlet. The highest summits are 600 - 1,000 ft. above above Seneca Lake and 1,200 to 1,600 ft. above tide. A bluff 100 to 300 ft. high extends along the shores of the lake, too steep for profitable cultivation; but farther inland the hills are bordered by long and gradual slopes and are generally arable to their very summits. The extreme s. part of the co. assumes a more hilly and broken character. Catherines Creek, flowing into the head of Seneca Lake, is the principal stream. Its course is through a deep, narrow, and winding valley bordered by steep hillsides 400 to 600 ft. high. Upon it are numerous falls, affording abundance of water-power; and near its mouth is a marshy region of considerable extent. Meads Creek, a tributary of Chemung River, drains the SW corner, and Cayuta Creek is the SE corner.
Agriculture forms the leading and almost sole occupation of the people. Spring grains are extensively grown, and stock and wool growing and dairying are largely carried on. The climate and soil are both better adapted to pasturage than to tillage. Fruit is becoming an important article of culture, and all kinds adapted to the climate succeed well. A limited amount of manufacturing is carried on at Watkins and Havana.
(Gazetteer of the State of New York, 1860, J. H. French)