A History of Oneonta
from its earliest settlement
to the present time
by Dudley M. Campbell. Oneonta, NY
G. W. Fairchild & Co. 1906

Transcribed & Contributed
by Sandy Goodspeed


At the time of its first settlement, Oneonta was in the old county of Tryon, which was formed from Albany county in 1772. Tryon county the embraced the whole western portion of the state, from a line extending north and south through the center of the present county of Schoharie, to Lake Erie. In 1784 the name was changed from Tryon to Montgomery. Oneonta was then in the town of Suffrage.

During the period of which we have written, Oneonta as a distinct town had no existence. The village of Oneonta was then in the town of Milford, and was known as Milfordville. Through the brawl of two old bruisers, it was sometimes vulgarly called "Klipknocky." This nickname lasted a long while, and was known at a long distance from home.

The act creating the town of Oneonta was passed by the legislature April 17, 1830, and read as follows:

SECT. 1. From and after the first Tuesday in March next, all that part of the town of Milford lying southwesterly of the line commencing on the line of the town of Laurens, at the southwest corner of great lot number fifty in the Otego patent, and running thence as easterly course along the southerly boundaries of said lot number fifty, to the southeast corner thereof; thence a southerly course along the easterly corner thereof; thence an easterly course along the southerly boundaries of lot number fifty-eight to the southeast corner thereof; thence a southeasterly course to the westerly corner of James Ferris' farm; thence along said Ferris southwest line to the Susquehanna river, and across and down the same to the northwest corner of lot number two in Fitch's patent; thence along the north line of said lot number two to the town line of Maryland be annexed to the town of Otego.

SECT. 2. All that part of the town of Huntsville lying northeasterly of a line commencing on the line of the town of Franklin and at the southeasterly corner of lot number nineteen in Wallace's patent, and running from thence along the southeasterly boundaries of said lot, to the Susquehanna river, be also annexed to the town of Otego. And all that part of the town of Otego lying southwesterly of a line commencing on the Susquehanna river at the southwest corner of John VanWOERT's farm, and running along the southerly boundaries of said farm west twenty degrees, north sixty-five chains, to the northwest corner of said lot; thence north to the line of the town of Laurens, be annexed to the town of Huntsville. And the said town of Hunstville, as altered by this act, shall hereafter be known by the name of Otego; and the said town of Otego, as hereby altered, shall hereafter be known by the name of Oneonta.

SECT. 3. The first town meeting, in said towns, shall be held on the first Tuesday in March next, at the following places, to-wit: In Milford at the house of William V. WHITE, in Otego at the house of S. & G. BUNDY, and in Oneonta at the house of William ANGELL.

In accordance with the act of the first town meeting was held March 1, 1831, at the house of Thomas D. ALEXANDER, who had succeeded Mr. ANGELL. The name of the town was given by Gen. Erastus ROOT of Delhi. Resolutions were passed and town officers elected as follows:

"At an annual town meeting held in the town of Oneonta at the house of Thomas D. ALEXANDER, on the 1st day of March, 1831, present Eliakim R. FORD, Robert COOK, Justices in said town. After the opening of the meeting by proclamation, it was resolved,
1st, That there be three assessors elected for said town.
2d, That there be four constables elected for said town.
3d, That there be four pound-masters chosen for said town.
4th, That an amount, equal to the sum which may be distributed to said town from the common school fund, be raised by tax for the support of commons schools in said town.
5th, That the sum of one dollar per day be allowed to the fence viewers of said town.
6th, That five per cent be allowed as the compensation to the collector, as his fees for collecting the taxes for said town.
7th, That all circular and partition fences, in said town, shall be at least four feet and six inches high.
8th, That widows, who have no land, shall be entitled to let their cattle run at large in the public highways, from the first of April to the first of December.
9th, That the annual town meeting shall be held on the first Thursday of March. The following officers wren then elected for the town:

Supervisor-William RICHARDSON.
Town Clerk-Adam BROWN.
Justices of the Peace-John DILLINGHAM, Jonah NORTHRUP, John S. YAGER.
Assesors-John VanWOERT, John FRITTS, John T. QUACKENBOSS.
Commissioners of Highways-Issac SHEPHERD, Asel MARVIN, William ANGEL.
Overseers of the Poor-George W. SMITH, Samuel CARPENTER.
Collector-Hiram SHEPHERD.
Constables-Hiram SHEPHERD, David SULLIVAN, Emanuel NORTHRUP, Robert S. COOK.
Commissioners of Schools-Obadiah GIFFORD, Peter DIETZ, Joseph WALLING.
Inspectors of Schools-Samuel H. CASE, Washington THROOP, Amos COOK.
Sealer of Weights and Measures-Eliakim R. FORD,
Pound-Masters-Beers PEET, Joseph WALLING, William DIETZ, Elisha SHEPHERD.

In 1835, five years after the organization of the town, the whole tax-paying population of Oneonta was 261. The grand total tax levy of the town was $781.48. The amount of public school money raised by the town was $100.45. William ANGEL was supervisor and David SULLIVAN collector for that year.

In 1860 the population of the village is put down as 678. The village was then described as containing three churches, a newspaper office, woolen factory, carriage factory, iron foundry, a grist mill, a tavern, saw mill, and distillery.

The growth of the village of Oneonta from 1840 to 1850 must have been very slow. The building of a house in those days was an act of no little importance. For ten years there were but few dwellings erected, and those few were of a cheap and inferior class. The population hardly kept pace with the building. The young went west, and the number of families that moved out was about equal to the number that moved in.

From 1850 to 1860 there was but little building and but a small increase in the population. There are no accessible figures showing the population of the village at the different decades, but the census returns for the town may be taken as safe guides in forming an estimate of the village population at different periods. In 1830, when the town was organized, it contained a population of eleven hundred and forty-nine. In 1840 it had increased to nineteen hundred and thirty-six. In 1850 it had slightly decreased, then being nineteen hundred and sixty-seven. These are the figures for the town. If the village population had increased in the same ratio, it could not have been far from two hundred and fifty when the town was formed in 1830. It is hardly fair to infer that the village ratio of increase was quite equal to that of the town. The western immigration was made up more largely from the villages than from the farms. The same cause-lack of profitable employment-that has transferred the young men of New England from the plow to the manufacturing centers, transferred our young men from a place where no industry was encouraged, to remote but wider fields of usefulness.

The following named persons are known to have been resident voters of the town at this first annual election. If any poll list was kept it cannot be found, and it is believed the names here given would nearly tally with the original poll list:

John TANNER, Gilbert E. CAMPBELL, Jonathan BREWER, John FRITTS, George SCHRAMLING, Nathaniel EDMONDS, Seth WHITE, Jeremiah T. MORENUS, Martin MORENUS, Wm. MORENUS, Thomas ARMITAGE, Frederick BORNT, Peter YAGER, Solomon YAGER, John S. YAGER, David YAGER, Isaac PEET, Solomon PEET, Beers PEET, Henry GIFFORD, Daniel GIFFORD, John GIFFORD, Peter SWART, William SWART, James SLADE, Jacob YOUNG, James YOUNG, Robert COOK, John DILLINGHAM, Jonah NORTHRUP, John T. QUACKENBUSH, George W. SMITH, Samuel CARPENTER, Ira CARPENTER, Enoch COPLEY, Joseph HODGE, Samuel RICHARDS, John HACKETT, Christjohn COUSE, Henry COUSE, Tice COUSE, Asa EMMONS, Laurence SWART, Eliakim R. FORD, Wm. LIVINGSTON, Anthony COUSE, Hontice COUSE, David WARD, David SULLIVAN, Obediah WARD, Amasa WARD, Daniel HODGE, Wm. FERGUSON, Menzo FERGUSON, Stoughton ALGER, ABRAHAM OSTERHOUT, Ira EMMONS, Carlton EMMONS, Jacob VANNESS, Samuel WALLING, John I. COUSE, David T. EVANS, Joseph WALLING, Silvenus SMITH, John BEAMS, Nicholas BEAMS, Wilhelmus BEAMS, James LEE, Jacob MORRELL, Daniel MORRELL, David MORRELL, David KIMBALL, Nicholas KIMBALL, John KIMBALL, Wm. WOLCOTT, David ALGER, David ALGER, Sr., Nicholas ALGER, Elias ALGER, John BLEND, Michael BLEND, Reuben BUTLER, Thomas MANTOR, Abraham BLEND, Elias HILLSINGER, Daniel CROCKER, Daniel SULLVAN, Ezra GATES, Peter DININEY, Abram HOUGHTALING, Lewis HOUGHTALING, Hugh HOUGHTALING, Wm. RICHARDSON, Jacob RICHARDSON, Morris COOLEY, Wm. COOLEY, Wm. PRICE, Ashael MARVIN, jr., Ashael MARVIN, sr., Elias MARVIN, David MARVIN, Joel LOSEE, David WHITMARSH, John BARNES, Abiatha WHITMARSH, Samuel BARNES, Wm. BARNES, David BABCOCK, Sanford BABCOCK, Nathan BABCOCK, Lewis SMITH, Wm. ANGEL, Joseph W. LINDSAY, Nathan BENNETT, Err W. BENNETT, Samuel H. CASE, Edmund MEIGS, Eseck POTTER, John POTTER, Michael HARNEY, Frederick BROWN, Adam BROWN, Jacob BROWN, Jacob DIETZ, Abraham WOLF, Isaac WOLF, Conrad WOLF, Asa PARISH, Daniel WARD, David AINSWORTH, John M. WATKINS, Munson R. WATKINS, Sylvester FORD, John VanWOERT, Peter VanWOERT, David HAWKINS, Wm. HACKETT, Elisha SHEPHERD, Elisha SHEPHERD, jr., Ira SHEPHERD, Sanford SHEPHERD, Ezra TOLLES, Isaac SHEPHERD, Wm. FRITTS, Hiram SHEPHERD, Isaac HOLMES, Nathaniel NILES, Alvin STRAIT, Daniel P. STRAIT, Johann HARSEN, James McDONALD, Mark McDONALD, Leander McDONALD, Peter W. DIETZ, John McDONALD, Stafford POTTER, John HACKETT, Obediah GIFFORD, Washington THROOP, Amos COOK, Wm. DIETZ, Eli DERBY, Samuel DERBY, Levi BROWN, Rice COOKE, Wm. WAINWRIGHT, Egbert SCRAMLING.

The larger part of the land was lease-hold property. Most of that portion now within the corporate limits of the village, and for some distance to the east and to the west of its boundaries, was divided into farms of one hundred acres each, the lines running nearly at right angles with the river and extending back on each side of the Susquehanna river so that a nearly equal division of the river bottoms and the upland could be made among the settlers. Besides the JOHNSON patent (already alluded to), at the Plains, and below, the subdivision of the remainder of the town lying along the river are designated in old deeds by numbers "in Wallace Patent"-sometimes they are referred to as being in the Banyer patent. As the heirs of of the original owner, or patentee, became of age, certain lots, designated by numbers, were offered for sale, when they were usually bought by the lease-holder. It had been for years the custom of the owner, or his representative, to grant what were known as life-leases. The lease might be for one, two or three lives. A lease for life ran during the lifetime of the lease-holder; but as most of the leases were for three lives, the names of three persons were mentioned during whose lives the lease was to continue. One of these names was of a very young person.

Besides the Johnson & Bayner patent included within the town limits, were also portions of the Otego and Burlington Township patent. Over the upland portion of these royal patents log roads extended, along which the great pines sawed into logs were hauled to the mill where they were converted into lumber which was piled up by the riverside, awaiting the spring freshets to raft them to the Baltimore market. No very scrupulous regard was shown respecting the ownership of the timber taken.

For a long period the mail was brought in to the village by the carrier, who made a route from Cooperstown to Delhi. Dr. Joseph Lindsay held the contract for carrying this mail many years. When approaching a post village the carrier announced his coming by a long drawn-out blast upon the tin horn which he carried at his saddle- bow.

Previous to the organization of the town, most of the highways therein were merely slight improvements over the old log roads of the first settlers, but a new era appears to have dawned by the extension of the Charlotte Turnpike. An act, which in part was as follows, was passed by the legislature April 16, 1830, to effect this purpose:

Section 1.-Jacob DIETZ, William ANGEL, Frederick A. FENN, Samuel STEPHENS, and such other persons as may be associated with them, are hereby created a body corporate and politic, for the sole and only purpose of making a turnpike road and constructing a toll-bridge across the Susquehanna river, with a capital of twenty- five thousand dollars, to be divided into shares of twenty-five dollars each.

Sections 2 and 3 of the act provided for commissioners and prescribes their duties.

Section 4.-Such commissioners or any two of them, shall lay out said road on the most eligible route, proceeding from a point at or near Hotchkiss' mills in the town of Harpersfield, in the county of Delaware, by Milfordville (Oneonta) meeting house, to Gilbertsville in the town of Butternuts, in the county of Otsego.

After its completing this road became a great highway from the Susquehanna to the Hudson river at Catskill, both for stages and teamsters. For many years nearly all the goods that came to country stores hereabouts and all the lumber that went from here to the Hudson were carried over this route. In after years the carting business from this part of the valley was transferred to Fort Plain, on the Mohawk. The Charlotte turnpike was also the road taken by cattle drivers from the west. It was not an unusual sight to see several droves of cattle, a thousand or more in a drove, from Ohio and Indiana, as also large flocks of sheep, pass through the town in one day during the summer season. A favorite stopping place for the drovers with their herds was at Emmons, where a well-managed hotel was kept for many years by Carlton Emmons.

In 1853, the first effective measures were taken towards the construction of the Albany & Susquehanna railroad. The workers for the project suffered many defeats and much discouragement. The delay in the building was such that the road was not completed to Oneonta till the summer of 1865, and to Binghamton, about two years later. In 1870 master mechanic in charge was John PRIMMER. The latter was succeeded by Charles A. JONES, Thomas HOWARD, Henry C. SMITH, John R. SKINNER, the last named holding the position for many years. His successor was W. C. ENNIS, who took charge in 1904. The average number now paid here, both shopmen and trainmen, is 1200. The monthly payment to employes is about $65,000. In February, 1902, the average number of men employed in the shops was 740, and the average monthly wages of the shopmen was $22,000; of the engineers and firemen, $15,500; making nearly $40,000 paid monthly from the pay car at Oneonta.

John H. RAMSEY of Albany was the first president of the road, and continued to act in that capacity till the Albany & Susquehanna was leased for ninety-nine years* to the Delaware & Hudson company, and was merged as a part of that system. John W. VanVALKENBURG was the first superintendent. The latter post is now held by D. F. WAIT whose immediate predecessors were A. J. STONE and C. D. HAMMOND, with J. H. Manning as superintendent of motive power. The first local directors of the road were Eliakim R. FORD of Oneonta, and Jared GOODYEAR of Colliersville. These men were pioneers in the projected road, and continued efficient workers in its behalf until the finish. At the present time George I. WILBER is the local director.


*The peroid of time-ninety-nine years-was adopted from the old English custom of leasing land for three lives, each of thirty-three years.

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