EARLY CIVIL DIVISIONS --- FORMATIONS OF CHENANGO COUNTY --- ITS BOUNDARIES --- ORIGINAL TOWNS IN CHANANGO COUNTY --- ORIGIN OF NAME --- TOPOGRAPHY OF SURFACE --- AREA --- STREAMS AND POND --- THE SUSQUEHANNA --- -THE UNADILLA --- THE CHENANGO --- THE OTSELIC --- SOILS --- CLIMATE --- DEATH RATE OF CHENANGO COUNTY --- INDUSTRIES --- AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTIONS --- DAIRY INTERESTS OF CHENANGO COUNTY --- COMPARISONS WITH OTHER COUNTIES IN AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTIONS.
The Province of New York was divided into counties November 1, 1683, and the counties then formed twelve in number, were named from the titles of the Royal family.1 Albany county, one of the twelve, was the first civil division to which Chenango county belonged, and then embraced "the Manor of Rensselaerwyck, Schenectady and all the villages, neighborhoods and Christian plantations on the east side of Hudson's River, from Roeloffe Jansen's Creek; and on the west side from Sawyer's Creek to the outermost end of Saraghtoga." By subsequent statutes it was made to include everything within the colony of New York north and west of its present limits, and at one time, the whole of Vermont. March 12, 1772, Tryon 2 county was formed from Albany county and comprised the country west of a north and south line extending from St. Regis to the west bounds of the township of Schenectady, thence running irregularly south-west to the head of the Mohawk branch of the Delaware, and along the same to the south-east bounds of the present county of Broome; thence in a north-westerly direction to Fort Bull, on Wood Creek, near the present village of Rome; all west of the last mentioned line being Indian territory. Ontario3 county was formed from Montgomery, January 27, 1789, and included all that part of the State lying west of a north and south line drawn through Seneca Lake, two miles east of Geneva. February 16, 1791, Herkimer,4 Otsego and Tioga5 counties were formed from Montgomery; and March 15, 1798, Chenango county was erected from Herkimer and Tioga counties. The dividing line between those two counties was on a line with the south line of the present town of Sherburne.
The act by which the county was erected thus defines its boundaries: ---
"All that part of the Counties of Herkimer and Tioga, included in the following bounds, to wit: beginning at the south-east corner of Onondaga, thence in a direct course to the confluence of the Tioughnioga and Chenango rivers; thence up the last mentioned river to the north-west corner of a tract of land granted to John Jay and others; thence along the north bounds thereof, and the same line continued until it meets the west line of Clinton township; thence along the same south to the most north-westerly corner of the town of Warren; thence easterly on the division line between the said townships of Clinton and Warren, to the line of property; thence northerly along the west bounds of the Counties of Delaware and Otsego, to the town of Bridgewater in Herkimer County; thence on the southerly and westerly line thereof to the north bounds of the Twenty Towns, so called; thence along the same westerly to the south-west corner of lot No. 50 in the first allotment of a tract of land called New Petersborough; thence northerly on the west line of said lot No. 50 and 69, to the south line of New Stockbridge; thence the shortest line to the main branch of the Oneida Creek; thence northerly down said creek to the Oneida Lake; thence northerly down said creek to the Oneida Lake; thence westerly along the southerly shore of the Oneida Lake to the County of Onondaga to the place of beginning."
Chenango county derives its name from the river which flows centrally through it. It is an interior county lying south-east of the center of the State, and is centrally distant ninety-four miles from Albany. It is bounded on the north by Madison county, on the east by Otsego and Delaware counties, on the south by Broome county, and on the west by Broome and Cortland county, and on the west by Broome and Cortland counties. It contains 546,956 acres.6 It is geographically situated between 42° 12' and 42° 44' north latitude, and 1° 2' and 1° 36" east longitude from Washington. Its greatest length is about forty miles and greatest width about thirty-four miles.7
There were only eight towns within the original bounds of Chanango County at the date of its erection; but two, De Ruyter and Greene, were organized at the same time. Each covered a very large area. They were Jericho, (Bainbridge,) formed February 16, 1791; Norwich and Oxford. January 19, 1793; and Brookfield, Cazenovia, Hamilton, Sangerfield, and Sherburne, March 5, 1795. The earlier towns in the State, however, had a much larger area. Whitestown, formed March 7, 1788, included an indefinite amount of territory, practically all that part of the State lying west of Utica. It had at that time a population of less than two hundred. Sangerfield was transferred to Oneida County April 4, 1804: and Madison County was formed from Chenango County March 21, 1806.
The surface is a hilly upland, broken by the deep ravines of the stream. The highlands consist of two principal ridges, extending north and south, the first lying between the Unadilla and Chenango rivers, and the second between the Chenango and Otselic. These ridges are subdivided by numerous parallel and lateral valleys, and their declivities are often too steep for profitable cultivation. The summits are broad and rolling, and of nearly uniform elevation throughout the county. The highest points are six hundred to eight hundred feet above the principal valleys.8
The following excellent topographical sketch was published in the Oxford Gazette in 1823: ----
"The principal part of the county lies in the region of what is called the grand Alleghany ridge of mountains; its surface is therefore elevated and hilly; the hills run generally in a north-easterly and south-westerly direction and are separated by valleys of moderate width. The Susquehanna River runs across the southeast corner of the county, and opens a wide and beautiful valley of intervale land of a superior quality, extending from the south-east line of the county, to the mouth of the Unadilla river, winding a distance of about fourteen miles. The hills on the sides of the river are precipitous and lofty, approaching almost to the character of mountains; and formerly were thickly covered with the towering and majestic white-pine, so justly styled the pride of the American forest. This valley, with a slight interruption, continues up the Unadilla river to the north line of the county, presenting a tract of uncommonly fine and fertile land, particularly adapted to the cultivation of grain. It is of various widths, expanding towards the west as you proceed up the river.
" At a distance of a few miles west of this valley lie the elevated towns of Coventry, Guilford, the eastern section of Greene, Oxford, Norwich, Sherburne and the eastern parts of New Berlin and Columbus. The soil of this range of highlands is loam, intermixed with gravel, stony and hard to till, but is exceeding fertile in grain and grass, and richly rewards the plowman and grazier. The forest trees are beech, maple, birch, ash, elm, linden, chestnut, oak, poplar, tulip, hemlock, with less pine than is found on the hills near the river.
"West of this range of hills opens the charming valley of Chenango, formed by the river and its numerous branches. This river, having at its source an east and west branch uniting at Sherburne rises in Madison County, near the head waters of the Oriskany and Oneida Creeks, and pursuing a south-westerly direction through the whole extent of Madison and Chenango Counties and part of the County of Broome, falls into the Susquehanna at Binghamton, or Chenango Point. This delightful valley, for the beauty of its winding stream, its richly fringed margin of highly cultivated fields, its gentle and graceful slopes, its easy and varied acclivity, its picturesque slopes, its easy and varied acclivity, its picturesque landscapes, mellowed with all the variegated hues of verdure and fertility, is scarcely surpassed by any section of the United States. In this far-reaching valley are situated the pleasant and flourishing villages of Binghamton, in Broome County; Greene; Oxford, Norwich and Sherburne in Chenango County; also Hamilton in Madison County.
"Beyond this valley, to the westward, commences another and yet higher range of most excellent farming lands. No better grazing lands can be found in any region in the same latitude than are contained in the towns of Smithville, Preston, Plymouth, Smyrna, McDonough and Pharsalia. This is abundantly proved by the numerous herds of cattle, and the flocks of sheep that are every year driven from these towns to our different markets. The degrees of comfort, independence and wealth which are hence derived to the farmers of these towns, are facts that speak for themselves, and are the best evidence of industry and the excellence of the soil. The forest trees of this range are similar to those east of the valley of the Chenango, on the Guilford range.
"The towns of Pharsalia, Otselic and German are principally watered by the Otselic River and its numerous branches. This stream runs through the north-west corner of the county and falls into the Tioughnioga River, in the town of Lisle, in Broome county. The lands on the Otselic and its branches, are of a superior quality, better adapted to the cultivation of grain than the Preston range. The timber in this locality is the same as that already described.
"The whole surface of Chenango is beautified and enriched with innumerable springs, brooks, and rivulets of the purest water, affording desirable sites for mills of almost any power or description; and the saw-mills have heretofore produced immense quantities of lumber for Baltimore, Philadelphia and other southern markets.
"Small lakes or ponds of transparent, healthy water have been found in almost every town in the county, but the number is not precisely known. These, together with the different streams, are plentifully stored with fish. In no case have these waters been known to render the climate unhealthy.
"The kinds of grain most extensively cultivated are wheat, rye, Indian corn, barley, oats and flax. Potatoes and the various garden vegetables and melons, common to the climate, thrive well.
"Of fruits, apples, both of the common and superior sorts, are, in most seasons, abundant. The valley of the Chenango, particularly in the middle and northern sections, appears extremely favorable to the plum; and abundance of the most delicious and fine flavored are produced almost every years. Grapes grow spontaneously in the field, and the finest exotics are cultivated in the gardens.
"The principal sources of wealth to the farmers are neat stock, wool and the dairy. A large supply of maple sugar is manufactured every year; and for a few years past immense quantities of what are called 'black salts,' produced from the lixivium of ashes, have been made into pot and pearl ash for foreign markets."
The Susquehanna9 River, within the limits of the county, it confined to the towns of Afton and Bainbridge. It rises in Otsego Lake, enters the county near the north-east corner of the latter town, and crossing both towns diagonally, in the south-westerly direction, leaves it near the south-west corner of Afton. Passing nearly its entire length through mountainous country, whose prominences are oft-times abrupt and irregular, it is subject to frequent changes in its course; and though this feature detracts from its value for navigable purposes, it adds vastly to the beauty of the country adjacent to its banks. It receives on the east line of the county the waters of the Unadilla,10 which forms the east line of the county above its confluence with the Susquehanna. The Unadilla is a flat though beautiful stream, rising in the south-east corner of Oneida County, flowing in a southerly direction, and having numerous tributaries both from the east and the west, the principal of which is Butternut Creek, in Otsego County. The Unadilla valley is about one thousand feet above the sea.
The Chenango,11 from its position in the county, is by far the most important stream. It rises by two branches which unite at Earlville, the westerly and principal one in the highlands in the north of Nelson and Eaton, and easterly one in the town of Sangerfield near the sources of Oriskany and Sauqoit creeks. Entering the county in the north-west corner of Sherburne, it flows in a southerly direction through the west part of that town and North Norwich to near the center of Norwich, when it deflects to the south-west, leaving Norwich in the south-west corner, and crossing diagonally the towns of Oxford and Greene, leaves the county in the south-west corner of the latter town, where it receives the waters of the Tioughnioga12 from the north, forming the Chenango Forks at the village of that name, and flows thence in a southerly direction to Susquehanna, into which it discharges its waters near the southern limits of the city of Binghamton. Hemmed in, like the Susquehanna, in its northerly course, by high ridges, towards the south it expands, like it, into a beautiful broad intervale. It has a uniform descent of five or six feet to the mile, and is free from rapids and sudden turns. Its numerous tributaries furnish many valuable mill sites. Among these are the Handsome, Lyon, Eddy, Padget and Page Brooks on the east, and Genegantslet, Ludlow, Bowman, Fly Meadow and Canasawacta Creeks and Mill, Cold and Pleasant Brooks on the west. The most important of these are the Genegantslet and the Canasawacta, both of which rise in the high lands of the town of Pharsalia. The former, which is often designated as a river, flows in a southerly direction through a deep, narrow and highly picturesque valley, through the south part of Pharsalia, and the west parts of McDonough, Smithville, and Greene, emptying into the Chenango a little below the village of Greene; while the latter flows in a south-easterly direction through the north-east part of Pharsalia, diagonally across the town of Plymouth, and empties in the Chenango in the village of Norwich. Both have rapid currents and afford an abundance of eligible mill sites. The Canasawacta is fed by streams having their source in Smyrna and Ortselic; and the Genegantslet, by numerous small streams, the principal of which is Five Streams, rising in the north-east part of German and flowing south through the eastern part of that town. The latter is also fed by Genegantslet Lake, the most considerable body of water in the county, situated in the west part of McDonough. Other ponds are Steeres, in Preston Matthewson, in New Berlin, North and Guilford, in Guilford, and Pratt's, in Afton, all small, and occupying basins among the hills, far above the valleys.
The only other considerable stream in the count is Otselic Creek, which rises in Georgetown and crosses the north-west corner of the county, flowing in south-westerly direction through a deep valley like its recipient, the Tioughnioga, with which it unites at Whitney's Point, crossing diagonally in its course the towns of Otselic and Pitcher and the north-west corner of Pharsalia. It receives the waters of Middletown Brook and Brackel Creek on the east, and Mud Creek and Manns, Buck and Ashbel Brooks on the west.
These lateral streams have worn deep, narrow gorges in the shaly rocks which form their bed. All the valleys give evidence of having been formed by agencies much more powerful than those operating.
The soils are almost entirely derived from the disintegration of the rocks. In a few localities is found a very limited amount of drift. The soil of the uplands is principally a shaly loam, resting upon rocky beds or a substratum of hard earth impervious to water and the plow; while that in the valleys is a fine quality of productive alluvium, intermixed in places with gravel. Grass is the most natural production of the up-lands, which respond most readily to the application of fertilization, and yield a sweeter, more nutritive and substantial crop than the richer valleys, where the growth is more rank and luxuriant. The soil in the valleys is open and porous, and being devoid of the tenacious substratum of the high lands, its fertility needs more frequent replenishing.
Owing to the altitude and location of the county, its climate is less subject to those extreme variations than localities which are adjacent to large bodies of water. It is about two hundred miles north-west from the nearest point on the Atlantic coast, and about sixty miles south-east of the south shore of Lake Ontario. The Catskill mountains are very nearly between the county and the proximate point on the sea shore; and Ontario is several hundred feet below the Chenango valley; with no very remarkable intervening elevations. Heavy snow-clouds visit this region, coming mostly from east north-east; and the north-west winds chill the air and exhibit phenomena common to the same currents of air in the more immediate neighborhood of the inland fresh water seas, situated in high latitudes. The difference is in degree and duration.
The severe frosty weather sets in usually during November, but less disagreeable and less injurious than the chilly north-west winds in March and April. The east wind, a terror to the people inhabiting the sea coast, seldom prevails here, but when it does it renders the atmosphere too cool for comfort or health and retards vegetation. The summer season is quite uniform and the heat is seldom oppressive. The air, like that of all elevated countries, is invigorating; free from noxious vapors and well supplied with oxygen. Unlike that which prevails in countries adjacent to salt water, it is remarkably elastic. Sound lungs are required to resists its action; but with a respiratory organization unimpaired, long life may be expected. Cutting away the forests has doubtless exerted some climatic influence and tended to shorten or modify the distinguishing characteristics of the spring and autumn seasons.
This locality is comparatively free from those terrific winds which generally make the month of March so much dreaded, especially near the lakes. It has its cold, penetrating, disagreeable blasts, but they are temporary and soon pass off. Sleet, hail, rains and thick mists involve the atmosphere more or less during this month, and exert a disagreeable influence till the month of April, and, if the spring is a late one, till a much later period. But these objections are trivial compared with the piercing, tempestuous blasts which sweep the lake country, leaving malignant fevers in their train. But while, as compared with this region, the springs in the lake country are more rigorous and retarded, the autumns are milder and longer, reaching well into the month of December. This is due to the fact that in the spring the temperature of the water is lower than that of the superincumbent atmosphere, which is chilled thereby until an equilibrium is restored; while in the autumn it is higher, and constantly imparts the warmth it retains.
Along the streams in this region in the fall season, and through less frequently, in the spring, heavy fogs arise in the morning, but vanish by nine or ten o'clock. They present a curious spectacle to the residents of the uplands, which they seldom visit, as marking the course of the streams through the deep gorges, the view is one of surpassing splendor. They produce a heavy, unelastic atmosphere which is oppressive to strangers, but not so to the residents.
Those who emigrate from this county to the vast prairies of the West undergo re-acclimatization, and usually, sooner or later, encounter bilious attacks; while those who emigrate towards the Atlantic, except consumptives and asthmatics, renew their health by the change.13
The industries of the county are almost exclusively agricultural, and this disparity between agricultural and mechanical pursuits is increasing. There were fifty more manufacturing establishments in the county in 1870 than in 1875; though in the latter year there were thirty-five counties in the State having a less number of manufacturing establishments than Chenango. These considerations of soil and climate determine the agricultural productions of the county; and since there is little material variation in climate throughout the county, and, though some difference in the quality, but little in the character of the soil, we observe a great similarity in the staple productions. The chief branch of agriculture is dairying, in the products of which the county takes a high rank, standing forth in the State in the quantity of butter made in private families,14 and second in the quantity made in factories of which there were forty-eight in the county in 1874.15 Indeed nearly if not quite the entire capacity of the county is developed by the dairy products. The dairy business was commenced about 1837 to 1840 and developed rapidly.16 In a few rare instances dairying had been followed many years earlier. The following is an extract from a paper read before the Chenango County Agricultural Society in 1849, and gives the estimated products of that year:---
"A large proportion of our farmers are engaged in the business of making butter and cheese. Our fine pastures and pure water enable our dairymen to manufacture large quantities of excellent butter, which commands good prices in market. It is to be noticed to the credit of our butter making, that at the last State Fair, the first premium on butter was awarded to a Chenango farmer. The books kept at the canal offices and store-houses enable us to state the quantity of butter and cheese sent to market by the Chenango Canal this year. It is as follows: --- Of butter, after deducting weight of tubs and firkins, 1,966,929 pounds; of cheese, 1,035,356 pounds.
"It is estimated that one-tenth of the quantity of butter and cheese manufactured finds its way to market by the New York and Erie Railroad, and by routes other than the Chenango Canal, which, when added to the above figures, makes, in the aggregate, 2,185,476 pounds of butter, and 1,150,284 pounds of cheese that was sent to the market from this county during the year."
This was independent of the amount consumed in the county, which, it was believed, would increase the butter product to three and a half million pounds, and cheese to two million pounds.
Hops, which are the staple production of Madison County, are cultivated to a limited extent in the northern part of this county. Chenango County lies immediately south of the belt which defines the wheat growing country of this State; while Madison County lies on its southern border and near its eastern extremity. Notwithstanding, it yields fair crops of winter wheat, and ranks as the twenty-sixth county in the State. In 1874, the average yield of winter wheat per acre was 15.29 bushels;17 the average throughout the State was 16.16. Of the other great staple productions---hay, oats, and corn---Chenango County ranked as follows: twenty-fifth in hay, of which 1.15 tons were yielded to the acre, the State average being 1.13, and the highest average, in Herkimer County, 1.35; ninth in oats, of which 33.25 bushels were yielded to the acre, the State average 28.59, and the highest average, in Monroe County 36.97; and sixteenth in corn, of which 36.47 bushels were yielded to the acre, the State average being 32.33, and the highest average, in Yates County, 47.82. In barley in ranked third, yielding 25.82 bushels per acre, the State average being 22.83, and the highest average, in Saratoga County, 32.87; in buckwheat, fifth, yielding 18.96 bushels to the acre, the State average being 15.14, and the highest average, in Steuben County, 19.99; in rye, nineteenth, yielding 12.86 bushels to the acre, the State average being 11.82; and the highest average, in Herkimer County, 21.63; in potatoes, seventh, yielding 127.20 bushels to the acre, the State average being 102.22, and the highest average, in Kings County, 153.64. The ratio of milch cows to the acreage of improved land, June 1, 1875, was 12.07, the State average being 8.44, and the highest average, in Herkimer County, 14.89, Chenango ranking as seventh. It ranked as twenty-first in the average yield per cow of diary products in 1874, its average being 127, that of the State 124, and the highest, Orange County, 172.18 In its wool product it ranked thirtieth, the average weight of fleece in 1875 being 4-38 pounds, while that of the State was 4-90, and the highest, in Ontario County, 5.99. The average yield of spring wheat per acre in 1874 was 13.58 bushels, while that of the State was 12.19, and of the highest, Kings County, 45; of hops, 366.63 pounds, while that of the State was 489.64, and the highest, Cattaraugus County, 826.46. In the former in ranked eighth, tieing Queens County, and in the latter, thirtieth. Thus it is seen that, with the exception of winter wheat, hops and wool, its average production exceeded the State average in every particular enumerated.
In the production of hay, Greene takes the lead as compared with other towns in the county. Coventry, Guilford, New Berlin, Norwich, Oxford, Sherburne and Smithville exceed the general average, which is 7,716 tons per town. Smyrna takes the lead in barley. Columbus, Coventry, Otselic, Pitcher, Plymouth, and Sherburne exceed the average, which is 305 bushels per town. Greene takes the lead in Indian corn. Afton, Coventry, Guilford, Norwich, Oxford, Sherburne and Smithville exceed the average, 14,279 bushels. All the towns produce oats abundantly, Sherburne taking the lead. Afton, Columbus, Coventry, Greene, Guilford, New Berlin, Oxford, Smithville and Smyrna exceed the average, which is 33,782 bushels. Sherburne also takes the lead in winter wheat. Afton, Bainbridge, Green, Guilford, North Norwich and Smyrna exceed the average---915 ½ bushels---while German, Lincklaen, McDonaough, Parsalila and Preston did not produce any in 1874. Sherburne took the lead in hops, of which all the towns except Smithville produced more or less. Sherburne, Plymouth and North Norwich produced considerably more than half the quantity raised in the county---258,838 pounds---and Sherburne nearly three times as much as any other town, 97,846. Only three other towns, Afton, Ostelic and Smyrna, produced the average quantity, 12,942 pounds. Potatoes were a plentiful crop with all the towns, Otselic, however, taking the lead by the production of 45,398 bushels. The least quantity-13,280-bushels was raised by German. Afton, Bainbridge, Columbus, Greene, Guilford, New Berlin, Oxford, Plymouth, Sherburne and Smyrna produced the average quantity, 26,898 bushels. The apples of the county have a peculiarly fine flavor. They are raised readily in all the towns and are quite a common crop. The largest quantity, 30,831 bushels, is raised by Greene; German producing the smallest quantity, 8,098 bushels. Most of the town closely approximate the average quantity, 17,560 bushels, while Guilford and New Berlin, each producing about 19,000 bushels, Norwich, 23,451, Oxford, 27,199, Pitcher, 17,583, Sherburne, 29,828, and Smryna, 27,830, are the only other ones which exceed the average. Maple sugar is also a common and valuable production, the greatest quantity, 64,805 pounds, being made in Guilford, which more than doubles the quantity made in either of the other towns, except German, McDonough, Pitcher, and Smithville, each of which, as well as Coventry, Lincklaen, Pharsalia and Plymouth, exceed the average product, 23,331 pounds. The smallest quantity, 650 pounds, is made in North Norwich.19
The average number of milch cows kept in the several towns is, with one or two exceptions, pretty uniform. Greene has the largest number, 4,113, which is nearly double the number kept by the majority of the other towns. Guilford, with 3,599, and Oxford, with 3,031, most nearly approximate it. German has the smallest number, 1,234. Columbus, Coventry, New Berlin, Norwich, Plymouth, Sherburne, Smithville, and Smyrna came up to the average, which the latter just equals, 2,278. Milk from 12,256 cows was sent to the factory in 1874, while in the following year the number was increased to 13,143. Neither Afton, Brainbridge nor Smithville sent any to factories in either year; and German, which sent milk from 119 cows in 1874, did not send any 1875. Columbus sent from the largest number, 2025, which was increased from 1,896 the previous year; and McDonough from the smallest number 11, which was half the number of the previous year. Only four others exceeded a thousand, New Berlin, Plymouth, Sherburne, and Smyrna. Only two others, Greene, and Lincklaen, reached the average number, which was 773. Greene took the lead in the staple product, butter, made in families. The number of pounds made was 489,537, which was closely approximated by Guilford, which made 476,253 pounds. Most of the other towns produced less than half that quantity. Columbus produced the least quantity, 85,165 pounds. Afton, Coventry, Norwich,20 Oxford, Preston and Smithville exceeded the average which was 226,264 pounds, the total product being 4,751,542 pounds. Bainbridge, McDonough, Otselic and Pitcher closely approximated the average, and German, New Berlin, Pharsalia and Sherburne less nearly so. Norwich led in the quantity of cheese made in families, producing 34,080 pounds, the total product being 115,765 pounds. Only Greene, Guilford, McDonough, New Berlin and Plymouth reached the average quantity, 6, 093, while the others except Sherburne, fell far below it. North Norwich made 200 pounds, the least quantity made by any in which cheese was made.
|North Norwich ‡||12,239||Total,||136,895||396,355|
|*Afton included in Bainbridge||‡ North Norwich included in Norwich|
|† Lincklaen included in German||? Pitcher included in German|