These Photographs Contributed
by Julie Robst
Information was obtained from the Historical ? Statistical Gazetteer of New York State, R. P. Smith, Publisher, Syr., 1860, by J. H. French.
MEXICO----was formed from Whitestown, April 10, 1792, as part of Herkimer co. Parts of Richland and New Haven were annexed May 9, 1836. It included the northerly towns of Oneida co., nearly all of Lewis and Jefferson cos. W. of Black River, and all of Oswego co. E. of Oswego River. Camden was taken off in 1799, Champion, Redfield, Turin, Watertown, and Lowville in 1800, Adams in 1802, Lorraine and Williamstown in 1804, Volney in 1806, Constantia in 1808, New Haven in 1813, and Parish in 1828.
Its surface is gently rolling. It is well watered by numerous small streams, the principal of which are Little Salmon and Sage Creeks. There is scarcely a foot of waste or broken land in the town. The underlying rock is gray sandstone, covered deep with alluvial deposits. The soil consists of clay, sand, and gravelly loam, and is very productive. Considerable attention is given to stock raising and dairying; the manufacture of lumber, barrels, and leather is carried on to some extent.6
Mexico, (p.v.,) near the center, was incorp. Jan 15, 1851, and contains 3 churches, an academy,7 12 stores, 2 banks, 3 hotels, 3 flouring and grist mills, a sawmill, a furnace and machine shop, 3 coach factories, 4 carriage shops, and 3 cabinet shops. Pop. 948. Colosse, (p.v.,) in the S.E. part, contains 1 church, 2 inns, a store, 2 sawmills, and 2 gristmills. Pop. 119. Texas, 8 (p.v.,) located near the mouth of Little Salmon Creek, contains 30 houses; Union Square, (p.o.) in the E., is a hamlet.
The names of the earliest settlers within the present limits of this town are lost. There were about 25 who had already located in 1798; Jonathan PARKHURST and Nathaniel ROOD, from Oneida co., came that year.9 By the upsetting of a boat upon the lake, in 1799, Capt. GEERMAN and 6 others were lost, and in 1804, by a similar disaster, 9 others, leaving but 1 male adult inhabitant in the settlement.1 There are 10 religious societies and 9 church edifices in town.2
6. There are 19 sawmills, 5 gristmills, a fulling and cloth dressing mill, a woolen factory, and 3 tanneries.
7. The Mexico Academy was organized in 1826, as the “Rensselaer Oswego Academy.” Its name was changed May 19, 1845.
8. Formerly called “Vera Cruz.” See page 520.
9. Phineas DAVIS and
Calvin TIFFANY, from Conn., settled in 1799;
The first birth was that of Truman ROOD, Aug 10, 1799.
The first marriage, that of Richard GAFFORD and Mrs. ROOD, widow of N. ROOD.
The first grist and saw mill were built by Mr. Scriba’s agent.
The first store was kept by Benj. WRIGHT.
The first school was taught by Sanford DOUGLASS, at Colosse, in 1806.
1. Capt. GEERMAN, Nathaniel ROOD, ________SPENCER, and son, ______WHEATON, ________CLARK, and ______DOOLITTLE were those who were lost by the first accident. Benj. WINCH was the male survivor.
2. 2 Bap., 2 M.E., Cong., Presb., Free and Union Bethels, R.C. Prot., Fren., and Union. The Union Society holds its meetings in the Town Hall at Mexico.
MEXICO, NEW YORK
Submitted by Bonnie Shumway - Town Historian
Mexico was formed by the State Land Commissioner in 1792. This included Oswego, Onondaga, and Cortland counties of today. The Organization was never completed and two years later Onondaga formed its own county. George Scriba bought a large tract of land in 1796 and again called it Mexico. This included land from the Oswego River, across Oneida Lake, up to Southern Lewis County, across the lake, and down Lake Ontario shore to Oswego. Benjamin Wright surveyed the territory and called the 20th township Mexico. So there were two Mexico's then just as there are today (the village and the town of Mexico).
Mexico is called "Mother of
Towns". Taking into consideration the territories of 1792 and 1796
towns were formed in six counties;
Thus 84 daughters can claim Mexico as their mother.
Mexico is proud of the part it played in the abolition of slavery. As early as 1835 citizens signed petitions which were sent to Washington requesting the abolishment of slavery. Asa Wing was a prominent speaker who traveled across the state urging voters to pressure their representatives to pass new laws prohibiting ownership of slaves. Starr Clark was leader in the Underground Railroad and was the station master of the area. Mexico played an important part in the "Jerry Rescue".
Silas Town is known as Mexico's spy. Mr. Town talked a great deal about his spying on St. Leger during the Rev. War and the story was handed retold from generation to generation in the pioneer families. A monument was erected to honor Mr. Town and is still standing at Mexico Point.
Mr. Scriba planned a lake harbor at Mexico Point with a settlement Vera Cruz. This did not materialize but the area became very popular from the 1860's through the 1920s. A large hotel on each side of the Little Salmon River drew guests who stayed for weeks as well as local people who came by the hundreds for picnics and weekend activities. Today the East side has a public boat launch and the West Side has a beautiful town park.
In 1813 a system of public schools was established with 14 districts. The number increased to 19 by 1895 as new settlements developed. In 1822 a two story brick school housing grades on the first floor and high school on the second. This was called "The Academy" and was admitted to the state system by the regents in 1833. Mexico was the first school of secondary education to be founded in what is now Oswego County. Mexico was the first school to centralize in Oswego county. This occurred in 1936 when 31 districts in the towns of Mexico, Palermo and New Haven closed to make Mexico Academy and Central School. An elementary school continued in New Haven and Palermo while the rest of the students were bussed to Mexico.
Visitors to Mexico are often taken to the High School to view the mural LaGuerre d'Independance. This 32 strip multicolored handcarved woodblock scene was first printed in 1852-53. 1650 wood blocks and 220 colors were required to print it. The only other complete set of this irreplaceable art work is in th White House where it is hung in separate rooms when it is used. MACS is the only site where it is displayed in its entirety and in its original condition. A brick wall has been built in front of the High School. Alumni, residents and others who have ties with Mexico have "bought" a brick to have it engraved, making a most interesting entrance to the building.
The early industeries reflected the needs of the settlers and the result of their labor. Saw mils, asheries, gristmills and cheese plants were built. Blacksmiths, coopers, shop keepers, and tinsmiths were kept busy. Lewis Miller invented the spring wagon and the high quality of these wagons made them famous all over the county.
The canning factory of the first part of this century furnished income for many of our residents, the farmers grew the beans and corn, a tinsmith made the cans, housewives cut the green beans in their homes, and as many as 200 people were seasonally employed at the factory. The paper reported in 1900 that 12 hundred thousand cans were packed that season, putting out 85,000 cans daily.
Cement vaults are made in Mexico and the Ladd family makes cement septic tanks, well tiles and distribution boxes.
Lulu Brown began making pans of baked beans to sell in grocery stores in 1937. They sold so well that her husband Earl and her son Robert E. Brown decided to sell them in Oswego. The business grew and relocated to the second story of the building at the south east corner of South Jefferson and Main Streets. Earl Brown died in 1938 and shortly after Richard G. Whitney joined the firm, forming Brown-Whitney-Brown (BWB)
For a list of resources
available for the Town of Mexico, see the Resource
Information was obtained from the “History of Oswego County, NY,” 1789 – 1877, published by Everett ? Ferriss, 1878. Many thanks to Dianne Thomas, who transcribed the following information on the village of Mexico. Visit Dianne's Candee family biographies, and bible records.
This village was originally called Mexicoville; subsequently it received its present name. The first settlements of the town were in other portions of it, but at a very early day this became the nucleus of a busy colony. Nathaniel Rood, as before stated, was the pioneer of Mexico village. In 1812 there were situated within it’s present limits, seven houses.
Matthias Whitney, in February of that year, having purchased seventy-five acres of land on the east side of what is now Church street, and of a line extending north in prolongation of that street, moved into a log house situated on the site of Sharra’s blacksmith-shop. His nearest neighbor was Rufus Richardson, whose frame house, the second in the village, stood on the site of the present residence of James Driggs. Phineas Davis’ log house was situated about thirty rods northeasterly from the present residence of his son Phineas, and John Morton, a settler of 1801, had located on the village lot now owned by Jos. Simons. Mr. Aldridge’s cabin stood on the village lot now owned by J. Whyburn, and the house of Leonard Ames on the site of the present residence of Mrs. Samuel Smith.
Church Street, Mexico, N.Y.
About 1813 George Kingsbury built the third frame building in the village, which was occupied by him both as a residence and as a cloth-dressing establishment. John Morton built a saw-mill in 1804 where “Goit’s mill” now stands, and a few years later rigged up a run of stone in one corner for grinding corn. This was quite an improvement upon the stump method of smashing grain, and was largely patronized. People came from Scriba and even from Oswego to get their grinding done, bringing their grists upon their backs and returning in the same way.
In 1811 this property was purchased by M. Whitney, who put in another run of stone, and about 1827 by Dennis Peck. The latter was succeeded in the business first by William and afterwards by David Goit, who in turn sold to its present owner A.C. Thomas.
T. S. Morgan and Matthew Mc Nair, of Oswego, as early as 1818 built a store, distillery, and ashery. The latter with an oil-mill occupied the west bank of the stream on the north side of the road. The store was situated on the village lot now owned by L.F. Alfred, and run by Wm. Fitch, an early postmaster; afterwards by James Lamb and Elias May. Mr. Fitch about 1827 built the second store, which, having been remodeled, is now the billiard-saloon kept by Wm. Simons. The distillery of Morgan ? Mc Nair was run by Simon Tuller until 1838, when it was succeeded by that of Lamb, Webb ? Tuller.
The first hotel was built by M. Whitney, in 1823, on the present site of the Mexico House. Jabin Wood started a tannery in 1825, and soon after built the first shoe-shop. He was succeeded in the tanning business by Archibald Ross, and the latter by William Merriam. The southwest corner of the present Church and Main streets was early owned by Daniel Murdock, and at his death its title was purchased by Nathaniel Butler, the first jeweler.
In 1825, Basaliel Thayer started a wood-carding and cloth-dressing establishment, situated on the site of the eastern one of the two mills owned by A.C. Thomas.
Peter Chandler built and kept a brick store, at an early day, situated on the site of the dry goods store of Stone, Robinson ? Co. Here Mr. Chandler carried on an extensive business. Samuel and Benjamin Stone, formerly his clerks, are now prominent merchants in the place. George and Ransom Butler also kept a store here at an early day. John Martin built the Park Hotel, which is still standing.
Mexico, located as it was in the center of a wealthy agricultural region, rapidly rose in importance, until today it is one of the most thriving and pleasant towns in the county. Below are given its most prominent business interests:
Millers, A.C. Thomas,
proprietor of the Toronto and State Mills, Robbins ? Son.
Besides, the place contains the banking-office of L.H. Conklin, three Hotels (Mexico House, Empire House, Barrett House, an academy, three district schools, five churches, a cheese-factory, and the number of shops and markets common to a place of its size.
Mexico was incorporated January 15, 1851, and the following trustees elected for the ensuing year: O.H. Whitney, C.D. Snell, James S. Chandler, David Goit, and Asa Sprague. The corporate bounds contain six hundred and thirty-five and sixty-one one-hundredth acres of land, and its population is about fifteen hundred. The Mexico Independent, a handsome and prosperous sheet, is published here, and also the Deaf Mutes’ Journal, both of which are mentioned more at length in the chapter on the press.
This cemetery was established in 1838, and the first burial therein was that of Luther S. Conklin, in September of that year. It includes eleven acres of land nicely located and beautifully laid out in winding walks and drives, ornamented with shade and evergreen trees.
The first trustees were James S. Chandler, John Bennett, and Calvin Goodwin. The first addition was made May 11, 1861, by L. H. Conklin, including lots from 105 to 265, inclusive. April 1, 1873, lots from 266 to 494, inclusive, were added by the corporation.
EARLY SICKNESS – ROADS – FIRES
The early settlers did not escape the usual diseases consequent upon opening the lands to the sun, the decomposition of vegetable matter, and the existence of miasmatic swamps. During the year 1812 there was a sweeping epidemic through this whole region, in some of its symptoms strongly resembling Asiatic cholera; so fatal was this disease and so wide-spread were its ravages that many died for want of proper care. Physicians from the older settlements came in and rendered timely and valuable service to the inhabitants.
In 1820 a fatal form of dysentery prevailed, carrying off many of the people. Almost every family furnished one or more victims to its ravages. Ague and bilious fevers were common for many years along the lake-coast. These diseases alone probably carried off more than one-half of all who located here during the first twenty years.
The roads for many years, as a matter of course, were not of the best, and were much of the time impassable, the principal means of communication between different points being by Indian paths and marked trees. The first road of any pretensions in this region was constructed by Mr. Scriba, from Constantia to Vera Cruz, now Mexico Point, connecting the proposed cities. The original road from Mexico to Oswego passed in a westerly direction through what is now known as the Cheever district, in New Haven, and from there it followed the beach of the lake. However, at this period there was but little communication between the places, as what is now Oswego city contained but two frame houses and a warehouse. The highways in the immediate vicinity of Mexico village received early attention from the settlers.
An incident is related of Leonard Ames and Walter Everts, which may throw some light upon the state of the roads in those days. Mr. Everts had been out to some of the eastern settlements to procure provisions. Returning with his load, he got stalled in the mud some fourteen miles from home, on what is now the road from Colosse to Camden. His harness was broken and his horse fast in the mire. For hours he labored by all possible means to extricate himself, but without success. He was about to abandon all, but at this juncture Mr. Ames came up with his family, on his way to Mexico. He cut his shoe-strings into proper dimensions for sewing, pried open his chest, and took out his awl. The harness was soon repaired, the horse lifted from the inglorious and unpleasant position, and all went on rejoicing.
Mexico has been celebrated for its many fires. The first building consumed by fire was the cabin known as the “Gafford place”, owned by Nathanial Rood and occupied by Calvin Tiffany, formerly by Mr. Tiffany and Phineas Davis.
Early in February 1801, the former being absent from home, a fire caught in some tow overhead and the building burned down. Mrs. Tiffany, her child (Rufus) and the hired man were the only witnesses. The second fire occurred in 1807, destroying the dwelling owned by Richard Gafford.
In July 1864, a very destructive and alarming conflagration took place in Mexico village, which reduced seventeen buildings, on the south side of Main street, to heaps of burning ruins in two hours. The loss was sixty-seven thousand dollars. A fire in July 1866, on the opposite side of the street destroyed property to the amount of twenty-four thousand dollars.
Improvements of every kind went hand in hand, and every effort was made, from the first, to advance the interests of this small handful of people. Schools were not forgotten, although for several years it was impossible to maintain a school. As late as 1814 it is said that there were but fourteen adult males in this town. The first school was taught in 1806, by Sanford Douglass, at Colosse. The earliest school in Mexico village was taught by Harriet Easton, in Shubael Alfred’s barn, in 1811. The surviving pupils of this school in Oswego County are Roland Crossman, Silas Davis, and Mrs. O. Whitney in Oswego, and Mrs. Thomas Webb and William Ames in Mexico. The first public movement made for schools was in 1813.
The proceedings of the meeting for this purpose we give as recorded: “At a special town-meeting held at the house of Calvin Tiffany, June 3, 1813, in compliance with the act for the establishment of common schools, S. Palmer, Peter Pratt, and Jonathan Wing were chosen commissioners of common schools in said town, and Timothy Norton, Denison Palmer, Elijah Everts, William D. Wightman, Jos. Bailey, and Elias Brewster, inspectors of said schools. Voted, to allow the school commissioners seventy-five cents per day for their services, and to raise by tax on said town, for the use of said schools, sixty dollars.” Then follows the division of the town into school districts.
The pioneer school-house of Mexico was constructed of logs, and situated near the ground formerly occupied by the East Presbyterian church. As originally formed, school district No. 5 was three miles from north to south and two and one-half miles from east to west. A strip half a mile wide was soon added on the eastside. Black creek then divided the district into two nearly equal portions; that lying on the west side being still known as No. 5, while the east side became No. 8. On the 8th of May 1810, districts 5 and 8 were consolidated in one grand district, including the whole of the present districts 7, 8, and 9, and parts of seven other districts. This movement was made with the idea of erecting a building two stories high; the ordinary district school to be kept on the lower room, while the upper story should be devoted to the purposes of a high school.
From this dates the commencement of the Mexico academy, one of the oldest schools of its class in the State. It was incorporated in 1828, and has always prospered, notwithstanding the burden of its baptismal name, ---Rensselaer Oswego academy, --- which it retained for twenty years. The first board of trustees were as follows: Elias Brewster, president; Avery Skinner, secretary; Peter Pratt, treasurer; Chester Hayden, Nathaniel Butler, Moses P. Hatch, David R. Dixon, Seth Severance, James Abel, Orris Hart, H. Curtiss, William Williams, Oliver Ayer, John A Paine, Henry Williams, G.B. Davis, Samuel Emery, and M.W. Southworth.
The location first selected for the building was the place where the late Milton Byington lived, about three-fourths of a mile east of the Park hotel. This was a compromise between the rival settlements of Prattville and Mexico.
The brink and materials for its construction at this place were procured; but the advocates of the present site prevailed, and the other point was abandoned.
At that day this was a great undertaking, and many made great sacrifices to aid in its erection. The walls were not completed until late in December, no roof had been put on, and it was feared that the frost would destroy the walls, so that the toil and struggle of nearly a year would come to naught. The ready with and will of Captain L. Ames suggested relief, - that of drying the walls by fire in the inside. He detailed companies of young men, with the injunction, “Boys, whenever the fire burns low roll in more logs, feet, and three stories in height, was erected immediately in front of and adjoining the old brick building. The latter formed a rear extension to the more pretentious edifice then erected. From this point the academy assumed a position as one of the most successful in pile on more limbs.” Thus day after day and night after night unceasing fire was kept up, until the walls were thoroughly dry. Dennis Peck heated water in a caldron kettle with which to make mortar to carry up the gable ends and the building was soon completed.
John Howard was installed teacher of the high school, and Laura Fish was placed in control of the other department. A subscription amounting to fifteen hundred and twenty-nine dollars was obtained, and in 1836 a wooden structure twenty-eight by fifty the State.
The offspring of the common school, it has become the mother of schools. Where there was one, now are tens. Its principals, beginning in 1826, have been successively as follows: Mason Southworth, E. Dorchester, _____ White, _____ Brooks, _____ Shepard, O.H. Whitney, Mason Southworth, George Hapgood, B.I. Diefendorf, Russel Whiting, W. H. Gillespie, George Hapgood, W.H. Gillespie, E.E. Bragdon, A. Davison, W.H. Gillespie, John R. French, J.D. Steele, B.F. Potter, A.B. Dunlap, S.H. Adams, William H. Mc Laughlin, William H. Reese, S.M. Coon, and in 1874, Charles E. Havens.
The first town-meeting, under the second organization, was appointed by law to be held on April 1, 1796, at the house of John Meyer, in Rotterdam (now Constantia). Probably the inhabitants failed to hold the town-meeting on this date. They certainly held none the next year, and for that reason the officers of 1797 were appointed by three justices of Herkimer county, of which Mexico was then a part. John Meyer was appointed supervisor; Oliver Stevens, town clerk, Amos Matthews, Solomon Waring, and Luke Mason, assessors; Amos Matthews and Solomon Waring, overseers of the poor; Solomon Waring, collector, and Elijah Carter, constable. The justices of the peace, prior to 1816, were appointed by the “council of appointment” the governor being the presiding officer, and having the casting vote. In 1798, Isaac Alden, of Williamstown, John W. Bloomfield, of Rotterdam; Benjamin Wright of Vera Cruz; Joseph Strickland, of Redfield; and Samuel Royce, of Camden, were appointed justices of the peace.
Further appointments were made as follows: Reuben Hamilton, of the present town of Mexico, in 1800; in 1804, Ebenezer Wright, of what is now Volney; in 1805, Reuben Hamilton, Samuel Tiffany, and William Burk, of Scriba; in 1806, William Cole, of Mexico and Thomas Nutting, of Parish; in 1807, David Williams, of Mexico and David Easton, of New Haven; in 1808, Reuben Hamilton, William Burk and John Nutting; in 1810, Joseph Bailey of New Haven, and Dyer Burnham, of Mexico; in 1811, David Williams, David Easton, Peter Pratt, of Mexico; Jonathan Wing and Joseph Bailey, of New Haven; in 1813, Benjamin Wright and Peter Pratt; 1814, David Wing; and in 1815, Solomon Everts, of Mexico, and Paul Allen, of Parish.
The first town- meeting, so far as known, was held at the house of John Meyer, April 3, 1798, and the following officers elected: John Meyer, supervisor; Benjamin Wright, town clerk; John Bloomfield, A. Matthews, Benjamin Gilbert and Lute Mason, assessors; Solomon Waring, collector; Solomon Waring and Reuben Hamilton, overseers of the poor; John W. Bloomfield, Reuben Hamilton, and Samuel Jarvis, commissioners of highways; A. Matthews, Jared Shepard, and Abram Van Valkenburgh, constables; Henry Fall and Amos Matthews, fence-viewers; Samuel Royce, John Meyer, and Benjamin Wright, school commissioners.
Since 1798, the supervisors and justices of the peace are given below:
Date SupervisorsJustices of the Peace
Date Supervisors Justices of the Peace
Luther S. Conklin
We find in the town records of an early period some ordinances, which to the present generation may seem somewhat novel. April 7,1801, it was “voted that no hog shall run at large without a goose-poke, eight inches above the neck and four inches below, small hogs in proportion, after the 10th of May next, until the 26th of October next.”
March 6, 1804, it was “voted that ten dollars be paid for each and every wolf killed in the town of Mexico the year ensuing.” In 1812 this bounty was increased to thirty dollars. Daniel H. Southard is reported to have received from the town treasurer fifteen hundred dollars for wolf-scalps. During that year it was “voted that any person belonging to the town of Mexico shall be entitled to receive six cents for each black, gray, or striped squirrel, blue jay, or blackbird he shall kill within said town.” This was a rise on a former ordinance of four cents.
Mexico Lodge of F. and A.M. – This lodge was installed at the house of Samuel Rogers, January 24, 1808. An invitation had been previously given to brethren of the order to be present. The following were the first officers: Haynes Bennett, Master; Anson Tenant, S.W.; Samuel Cherry, J.W.; Shubael Alfred, Treasurer; Martin Kellogg, Secretary; Samuel Cole, S.D.; and Levi Matthews, J.D. Others among the early members were S. Rogers, M. Way, D. Tubbs, William Cole, Joseph Baily, Joel Savage, Peter Pratt, John Howard, G. Winan, S. Bradner, J. Boynton, G. Barnes, P. Hosmer, Calvin Tiffany, and H. Davis. In June 1810, S. Cherry succeeded Mr. Bennett as Master. The Morgan difficulty in 1826 resulted in the dissolution of the lodge, none of whose original members are now living. The present prosperous and stable lodge was instituted in 1848.
No. 135, of Royal Arch Masons, was granted a dispensation from the
grand chapter of the State of New York, December 12, 1850. It was
organized February 5, 1857, and the following officers duly installed:
Basaliel Thayer, High Priest; Avery Skinner, King; Simon Leroy, Scribe;
J.E. Bloomfield, Secretary; David Goit, Treasurer; A.B. Simons, C.H.; Stephen
Pardee, P.S.; Abner French, R.A.C.; John Wood, M. 3d V.; O. Ramsdell, M.2d
V.; and Robert C. Kenyon, M.1st V. B. Thayer held the office
of H.P. until December 1855, when Avery Skinner was chosen to that office.
Mexico Tent, No. 85, N. O. of I. R. – Their charter was granted July 20, 1876, to twenty-two members. Its first officers were D.C. Morse, P.C.R.; J.A. Rickard, C.R.; Frank Carpenter, D.R.; John D. King, R.S.; A.N. Benedict, F.S.; T. Miller, Treasurer; S.P. Gray, Secretary; J.J. Burdick, Y.; J.O. Ballard, I.G.; S. M. Bennett, O.G. The membership is fifty-seven. The Degree Council contains forty-six members.
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