History of Onondaga County, New York


Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Chapter I. Early Discoveries — Claims of different Nations — New York under Dutch Rule — First Colonial Assembly - The Revolution and Progress of Settlement Westward 5

Chapter II. — History of the Military Tract 7

Chapter III. — Interesting Early Records - Town Meetings — Formation of Counties prior to Onondsga — Organization of Onondaga County 10

Chapter IV. — The Iroquois Confederacy 12

Chapter V. — The Onondaga Indians and the French — War between the English and French — Count Frontenac's Invasion of Onondaga, etc. 17

Chapter VI. - The Iroquois and the English — The Onondsgas in the French War — English and German Missions among the Onondagas — Schools — Treaties, etc. 23

Chapter VII. — Migration of the Onondagas — Location of their various Town Sites — Period of their Residence in each Locality 28

Chapter VIII. — Antiquities - Relics of European Intercourse with the Indians — The Monumental Stone of 1920, discovered In Pompey — Other curious Relics 31

Chapter IX. — Internal Navigation — The old Canal — Origin of the Erie Canal — Part taken In it by Eminent Men of Onondaga County — Its Completion and Advantages 36

Chapter X. — History of the Courts — Erection of the County Buildings 40

Chapter XI. — History of the Salt Springs, and Manufacture of Salt, with Statistics, etc. 44

Chapter XII. — History of the Salt Springs, continued, with tables showing amount of Salt mode since 1797 50

Chapter XIII. — Topography of Onondaga County 55

Chapter XIV. — Geology of Onondaga County 56

Chapter XV. - Geology, continued 60

Chapter XVI. — Agriculture — Classification of Soils — Climate — Timber — Clearing Land — Pictures of Pioneer Life — Productions of the County 64

Chapter XVII. — Comparative Statistics— Influential Agriculturists — County Agricultural Societies — The present Joint Stock Company — General Agricultural Statistics of the County 68

Chapter XVIII. — Judicial and Executive Officers under Herkimer County — Onondaga County Civil List — Military Organization - Population of the County from 1800 to 1875 75

Chapter XIX. — County Poor House and Insane Asylum — County Penitentiary — State Asylum for Idiots 81

Chapter XX. - Onondaga in the War of the Rebellions - Capt. Butler's Company - Pettit's Battery 84

Chapter XXI. - Jenney's Battery, etc. 88

Chapter XXII. - The 12th Regt. N.Y. Cols. 91

Chapter XXIII. - 12 Regt., continued - The 101st Regt. 96

Chapter XXIV. - The 122d N.Y. Vols., 103

Chapter XXV. The 122d N.Y. Vols., continued 107

Chapter XXVI. The 122d N.Y. Vols., continued - 15th Calvary 111

Chapter XXVII. The 149th N.Y. Vols. 118

Chapter XXVIII. The 149th N.Y. Vols., continued 122

Chapter XXVIX. The 185th N.Y. Vols. 127

Chapter XXX. The 185th N.Y. Vols., continued 131






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In attempting to compile a History of Onondaga County the writer is well aware of the interest and importance of the subject both to the historian and the antiquarian. Onondaga has always been a famous locality. In the prehistoric period, before the advent of the white man to its territory, it was the centre of a great Indian Confederacy — that of the Iroquois or Five Nations — and when the Jesuit Missionaries penetrated the solitudes of its forests, it became the theatre of events in which the two leading nations of Europe became directly interested.

The French and the English began the colonization of North America at nearly the same period. The jealousies and rivalries which had long made them enemies in the Old World were trans- planted to the New Continent. The French, by settling on the St. Lawrence, whose waters head in the great lakes of the Northwest, within a few miles of the tributaries of the Mississippi, which flows across half the continent to the Gulf of Mexico, had the advantage of the most direct means of access to the heart of the country, and to the rich and magnificent valleys and prairies of the Great West. In a few years they had ascended the St. Lawrence to the Upper Lakes; had crossed over to the Mississippi and descended it to the Gulf of Mexico; they had explored the vast fertile regions between the Alleghanies and Texas, and visited every tribe from the Gulf of St. Lawrence to Mobile Bay.

The French avowed the deliberate purpose of keeping the English out of all this territory, and of confining them to the narrow strip of country along the Atlantic coast. In this scheme of empire they sought the friendship and alliance of the Indian tribes. They first secured the friendship of. the Hurons and Algonquins of the North and West, establishing among them missions and trading posts : first in the forests of Canada, then on the Straits entering Lake Superior and Lake Michigan, and finally along the Mississippi, the Wabash and the Ohio. In 1641, a great convention of Red Republicans of the Northwestern wilderness was called at Sault Ste. Marie, which was attended by all the tribes far and near, and by officers both civil and ecclesiastic of the government of New France; and it was proclaimed to the assembled tribes that they were placed under the protection of the French nation. In 1671, Nicholas Perot, the agent of Talon, the Intendant of Canada, convened a similar great council at Green Bay, on Lake Michigan. Not only were the vast multitudes of dusky warriors, sachems and braves there assembled brought into alliance of friendship with the French, but Perot, paddled in a bark canoe by friendly Pottawattomies, visited the Miamis at Chicago, and secured from them similar conditions of friendship and alliance. While all this was going on, the Iroquois or Five Nations, the most powerful confederation of Indians on the continent, were holding the ground between the English and the French in the State of New York, the Long House, as they called it, reaching from the Hudson to Lake Erie: not as neutrals, although they sought at times to preserve a sort of neutrality, but as enemies of the French and ultimately as friends and allies of the English. The French had wantonly provoked their hostility at the beginning of the colonization of Canada ; by forming an alliance with the hereditary enemies of the Iroquois, tribes whom the latter had beaten back beyond the lakes and held in awe and subordination. They were so antagonistic to the French along the northern border of New York that Lake Ontario and the Niagara River could not be navigated by them, and for many years their only avenue of access to the West lay by the Ottawa River, through which they paddled their bark canoes to Lake Nippissing, crossed over to French River, by which they descended to Lake Huron.

The first visit of the Jesuits to the Mohawks and Onondagas had its origin in the necessity for conciliating the Iroquois, whose geographical position between the English and the French, and whose strength and prowess in war, made them the natural arbiters of the destiny of which ever nation they chose to assist in the struggle. Those who regard the mission of the Jesuits in this country as purely religious, having for its exclusive object the conversion of the heathen to Christianity, mistake very gravely its import and character. It had evidently a politico-religious significance. Not alone to extend the dominion of the Church, but through the Church to extend the power and dominion of France, came these zealous, devoted and self-sacrificing disciples of Ignatius Loyola to the wilds of North America.

In Onondaga their mission-field was the most important on the Continent. For, while it was comparatively easy to make friends and converts of the unbiased tribes of other sections of the country, here they had a strong, wily, skillful, though often a magnanimous foe, to contend with and to conciliate. Other tribes were less dominating — the Iroquois were the proud lords of the domain, the heroes of a thousand battles. Besides, at Onondaga, there was that in the situation which made the work of the Jesuits vastly important. This was the center of the Confederacy or League of the Five Nations, the Capital, at which all their great National Councils were held, where the sachems and chiefs, from the Hudson to the Niagara, assembled to attend to the business of State, where the national policy and all the great questions of peace and of war were decided. If, therefore, the Five Nations were to be influenced and brought over to an alliance with the French against their English enemies, where could this be so well accomplished as at Onondaga, in the heart and capital of their confederacy.

This made Onondaga a famous locality, not only during the period of the Jesuit Missions, but equally famous during the wars which followed, when the French, failing in ecclesiastical diplomacy, resorted to the arbitrament of war. Thrice was this valley invaded by the French. Then came the long struggle known as the "Old French War," which in 1759 culminated in the downfall of the French colonial power in America: the Iroquois fighting on the side of the English and turning the scale against the common foe.

It has been seriously doubted by some of the best statesmen and casuists whether the English colonists would have been able to conquer the French without the assistance of the Five Nations, and whether, in the absence of the powerful aid which they rendered, this country might not to-day be a part of the French dominions. Certainly, with their great strength, skill and advantage of position turned against the English, the fate of the latter would have been very different from what it, was.

Nor has Onondaga been less noted as an organized civil division of the State of New York. Her central location in the great State of which she is a part; her connection with the great lines of communication both of the early and more recent times; her peculiar topographical and geological features; the variety and richness of her resources and productions: and, above all, the character, distinguished talents and reputation of her eminent men, have rendered her one of the most noted counties in the interior of the Empire State. At an early time, when the character of this great State and Nation had to be formed and its policy shaped and directed, Onondaga men, at the bar, on the bench, in the fields of enterprise and in the halls of legislation, bore a conspicuous part, and rendered the name of Onondaga famous throughout the country. Here were the great advocates and projectors of the Erie Canal — that great State enterprise which, consider- ing the early stage of the country's progress in which it was begun and completed, eclipsed all the marvels of the oldest nations of Europe. The men who believed in the practicability of this great undertaking, so far in advance of the rest of their fellow-citizens that their ideas were regarded as the dream of visionary enthusiasts and treated with derision ; who first brought the subject before the Legislature, first explored and surveyed the route and who stood by the enterprise till it was finally crowned with success, were men of Onondaga ; and by their identification with this great work made the name of Onondaga famous throughout the land.

Onondaga became noted at an early time for her mineral resources — her Salt, Gypsum, and Water - Lime. The Salt Springs of this locality were known throughout the French and English colonies and in Europe more than two hundred years ago. After the Revolution, their fame attracted hither visitors and settlers, and their partial development formed the nucleus of flourishing villages which have grown into a center of more than sixty thousand population.

The first discovery of water lime in America was made in Onondaga at a period most opportune, when it was needed for the permanent locks and culverts in the construction of the Erie Canal; and, in consequence, from 1819 that great work went forward to its completion, and has since had the materials at hand to keep it in a permanent state of repair. Here, too, the first discovery of gypsum in the United States was made in 1792, which has since become as noted and valuable as the famous plaster of Paris.

The history contained in the following pages covers all the ground over which we have thus cursorily glanced, giving each step of the' progress of the county in detail from the earliest discoveries. The plan of our work, of course, is very different from that of Mr. Clark's two volumes. While we have condensed the history of the Indians into three or four chapters, adding considerable original matter, we have extended the history of the Military Tract, the Salt Interest, the Civil Record, and other matters, deemed of most importance, far beyond anything that has yet been published.

Our History of the City of Syracuse is almost entirely original matter, embracing the inception and progress of industries and institutions which either did not exist or were in their infancy when Mr. Clark published his Onondaga, such as the Public Schools, Churches, Institutions of Learning, Libraries, Manufactories, Banking, Railroads, and the various Industrial and Commercial interests of the modern city. Also in the various Towns of the County, the histories have been brought down from the point where they had been left by the former historian. The Military Record of Onondaga in the War of the Rebellion — a history not hitherto attempted — has been added, forming one of the most valuable and interesting features of the work.

The sources of information to which we have had access in compiling this volume are the Jesuit Relations; Colonial and Documentary Histories of New York: Clark's Onondaga; Bancroft's History of the United States; Smith's New York; Parkman's Jesuits in America; Champlain's Journal; Charlevoix's History of New France; Parkman's Old Regime in Canada: Davidson & Stuve's History of Illinois; Turner's History of the Holland Purchase; Geological Reports of the State of New York; Transactions of the State Agricultural Society; New York Civil List; State Census for 1875; Local, County and Town Records, Maps, Pamphlets, Files of Newspapers, and various other documents of a local character. For local matters we have consulted the Pompey Re-union and Van Schaack's History of the Village of Manlius.

For valuable assistance we are indebted to Hon. George Geddes, not only for materials and suggestions embodied in various portions of the general history, but for the matter on geology, agriculture, &c., drawn from his valuable Report published in the Transactions of the State Agricultural Society for 1859; to Moses Summers, Esq., of the Onondaga Standard, for aid in the use of books and papers, and the History of the 149th Regiment; to Col. J.M. Gere, Col. Jenney, Major Poole, Gen Sniper, Capt. W. Gilbert, Lieut. Estes, Gen. Richardson, and others, in making up the history of the regiments from this county engaged in the late war. We also acknowledge indebtedness to Hon. E.W. Leavenworth, Messrs. J. Forman and Alfred Wilkinson, Hon. Thomas G. Alvord, George J. Gardner, Esq., and others, both in the city and country. Many clergymen have kindly assisted us with data for the History of the Churches, and prominent Masons and Odd-Fellows have courteously aided us in the histories of their societies.

It is hoped that this contribution to local history will be the means of rescuing much historical material from oblivion that would otherwise perish. Records are liable to be destroyed: in many instances they are very imperfectly kept; many of the most important events of daily occurrence in every community are never recorded at all: if they find their way into the daily papers and files are kept, there are usually no duplicates of the same, and the likelihood that they will be preserved is as one against a thousand compared with a book of history in which these facts and events are gathered up and distributed among thousands of readers.

Moreover, much of the most valuable part of our local history exists only in the memory of those who have been witnesses of the events or participators in them. And these are rapidly passing from the stage of action. Scarcely a week passes but some early settler, whose experience reached back to the beginning of our present improvements and institutions, and whose memory was replete with interesting facts and incidents connected with the country, is numbered no more among the living. Happy for the interests of local history if such citizens had been interviewed, and the contents of their interesting knowledge and experience put upon record. Surely he who preserves these valuable traditions from perishing, and commits them to the hands of the descendants of our worthy pioneers in an authentic and readable form, is doing a kind office to present and future generations.

No one but he who has attempted to compile such historical collections, is aware of the difficulties, even now, attending the collection of such materials. The meagerness of the records and the incompleteness of the best recollections that can be elicited, are constantly compelling the local historian to modify his plan or to leave it imperfectly executed. Links are wanting which the utmost labor and research cannot supply. While painfully conscious of this fact, we have striven to make the following pages as accurate and complete as possible under the circumstances, and we submit our humble labors to the indulgent criticism of the public.