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Early Oneida County History
- 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 oI 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 oI 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, had 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 peace brought about a return of a Iew of the former settlers, joined by others who had never seen this land. Hugh White located in 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 lands 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 Irom 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; few districts 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 oI 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 oI Oneida.
The large areas of tillable soil uncovered by the cutting of the forests 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 boast, that 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 milk 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.
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Each of these sections has different books on the same region:
- Town & County
- Native American
- Trains & Steamboats
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Copyright © 1996 by Richard Frisbie -- All rights reserved.