Broome County Local History Page

Broome County Local History Page

From: French’s Gazetteer of the State of New York., p.178-180

THIS county was formed from Tioga, March 28, 1806. Owego and Berkshire were annexed to Tioga co. March 21, 1822. It is situated near the center of the S. border of the State, centrally distant 110 mi. from Albany, and contains 706 sq. mi. Its surface is greatly diversified, consisting of rolling and hilly uplands, broad river intervales, and the narrow valleys of small streams. The hills extend from the Penn. line northerly through the co. They are divided into 3 general ranges by the valleys of the Susquehanna and Chenango Rivers. The first range lying E. of the Susquehanna forms the E. border of the co. Its highest summits are 400 to 700 feet above the Delaware and 1,400 to 1,700 feet above tide. The declivities of the hills are usually steep, and the summits spread out into a broad and hilly upland. This ridge is divided by the deep ravines of a large number of small streams; and in several places it rises into peaks. The second ridge lies in the great bend of the Susquehanna, and is bounded by the valleys of that river and the Chenango. The highest summits are 300 to 500 feet above the Susquehanna and 1,200 to 1,400 feet above tide. The hills are generally bounded by gradual slopes, and the summits are broad, rolling uplands. The southern portion of this ridge is high above the valleys; but toward the N. the hilly character subsides into that of a fine rolling region. The third ridge lies W. of Chenango and Susquehanna Rivers. Its summits are a little less in elevation than those of the second ridge; and the general characteristics of the two regions are nearly the same. The wide valley of the Susquehanna divides it into two distinct parts, the southern of which is more hilly than the northern. The hills in the central and western parts of the co. are rounded and arable to their summits. The narrow valleys that break the continuity of the ridges are usually bordered by gradually sloping hillsides.

The rocks of this co. all belong to the Chemung and Catskill groups. The former-consisting of slaty sandstone and shales-occupy all the N. and W. portions of the co.; and the latter-consisting of gray and red sandstone, red shale, and slate-crown all the summits in the S. and W. portions. Drift-consisting of sand, gravel, clay, and hardpan-covers a large share of the more level parts of the co., the rocks only cropping out upon the declivities and summits of the hills. The valleys throughout the co. appear to have been excavated by the action of water, showing that a force immensely greater than any now in existence must once have swept over this portion of country. Weak brine springs were early found, extending for several mi. along the valley of Halfway Brook, in the N. part of this co. Several excavations have been made for coal, but without sucess, as all the coal measures are above the highest scrata of rocks found in the co.

The principal rivers are the Susquehanna, Delaware, Chenango, Tioughnioga, and Otselic. The Susquehanna enters the co. from the N., and flows in almost a due S. direction through Colesville and Windsor to the Great Bend in the State of Penn., whence, turning N., it again enters the co. in Conklin, flows through that town in a N. W. direction, and thence westerly to the W. border of the co. In the upper course of this river the valley is narrow and bordered by high and steep declivities; but further W. it expands into broad intervales bordered by gradually sloping hillsides. The whole valley is celebrated for its beauty. The majestic river, with its strong current of clear, sparkling water, the deep, rich intervales, and the beautiful slopes crowned with forests, all together form a landscape rarely equalled for beauty and quiet repose. The Delaware forms a small portion of the E. boundary. It flows through a deep, rocky valley bordered by steep and often precipitous hills. Chenango River enters the co. from the N. and flows in a general southerly direction until it enters the Susquehanna at Binghamton. A broad intervale extends along the lower part of this river, but farther N. the high ridge shut close in on either side, confining the valley to yery narrow limits. The Tioughnioga enters the co. from Cortland and flows S. E. until it unites with the Chenango at Chenango Forks. The valley of this river is very narrow, and is bordered by high and steep hillsides. Otselic River, also from the N., flows through a similar narrow valley and unites with the Tioughnioga at Whitneys Point. The other principal streams are Oquaga Creek a tributary of the Delaware, Okkanum, Little Snake, Little and Big Choconut, and Nanticoke Creeks, tributaries of the Susquhanna, and Castle Creek, tributary of the Chenango.

The soil along the river intervales is generally very fertile, consisting of deep, sandy and gravelly loam mixed with disintegrated slate and vegetable mold. The narrow valleys of the smaller streams are also fertile. The soil upon the N. and W. hills consists principally of gravelly loam intermixed with clay and disintegrated shale, and is well adapted to grazing. The declivities of the S. and E. hills are similar to the last in character, but their summits are generally covered with clay and hardpan. The large proportion of upland and the unevenness of the surface render this co. best adapted to pasturage. While all branches of agriculture are pursued, fruit raising, and stock and wool growing, in connection with the products of the dairy, form the leading interests. A limited amount of manufacturing is carried on at Binghamton and several other places.

The co. seat is located at Binghamton, at the junction of the Chenango and Susquehanna Rivers.The courthouse, situated at the head of Chenango St., fronting Court St., is a fine stone and brick edifice, with a Grecian portico in the Ionic style. It contains the usual co. offices, and in many respects is a model building. The jail is on Hawley St., at a little distance from the courthouse. A fireproof co. clerk's office is situated adjacent to the courthouse. The co. poorhouse is located upon a farm of 130 acres 3 mi. N. of Binghamton. The average number of inmates is 45, kept at a weekly cost of $108 each, exclusive of the products of the farm, which are estimated at $800 per annum. The children are sent to the district school, and when of proper age are bound out. No religious instruction is afforded. The sexes are kept in separate buildings, and the general arrangement of the institution is such as to secure the health and comfort of the inmates.

The principal works of internal improvement are the Chenango Canal, connecting the Susquehanna River at Binghamton with the Erie Canal at Utica; the N. Y. & Erie R. R., and the Syracuse, Binghamton, & N. Y. R. R. These various routes furnish all necessary facilities for traveling and commercial purposes, and bring the agricultural lands of the co. into close proximity to the great Eastern markets. Several plank roads have been built; but they are now mostly abandoned.

There are 6 newspapers published in the co.

By a treaty held at Fort Herkimer, June 28, 1785, between the Governor and Commissioners of Indian Affairs in behalf of the State, and the Oneidas and Tuscaroras, the latter for $11,500 ceded all their lands, bounded N. by an E. and W. line from the Chenango to the Unadilla, 10 mi. above the mouth of the latter, E. by the Line of Property,1 S. by Penn., and W. by the Chenango and Susquehanna. At the Hartford Convention, in 1786, a tract of 230,400 acres, between the Chenango and Tioughnioga on the E. and Owego River on the W., was ceded to Massachusetts. This tract was afterward known as the "Boston Ten Towns," and was sold by Mass. (Nov. 7, 1787) to 60 persons for £1500. It is embraced in Broome, Tioga, and Cortland cos. The Indian title to this tract was extinguished in 1787, and the remaining Indian titles within the co. were extinguished by the treaty of Fort Stanwix in 1788. The S. and E. parts of the co. were granted to Hooper, Wilson, Bingham, Cox, and others, several of whom resided in Philadelphia.

The first settlements in the co. were made in the valleys of the Susquehanna and Chenango, in 1785. The settlers were people who had traversed the region in the Revolution; and they located while the country was still threatened with Indian hostilities, and before Phelps and Gorham had opened the fertile lands of Western N. Y. to immigration. The early settlement was retarded by a remarkable ice freshet in 1787-88, which destroyed most of the property of the settlers upon the river intervales. Scarcely less calamitous to life and property was the scarcity that followed in 1789. Oquaga, on the E. branch of the Susquehanna, was a noted rendezvous of tories and Indians during the Revolution.5 Most of the invasions into the Schoharie and Mohawk settlements, as well as those upon the frontiers of Ulster and Orange cos., were by way of the Tioga and Susquehanna Rivers from Niagara; and this war path, with its sufferings and cruelties, has been often described in the narratives of returned captives.1

From: Smith's Valley of Opportunity

In 1787, a treaty with the Indians in the Otsiningo area finally opened the door to permanent settlement in what would eventually become Broome County. The largest block of land covering 230,000 acres was sold to a group of Massachusetts speculators and became known as the 'Boston Purchase'. It was purchased at just 12.5 cents per acre and encompasses a large area north of present day Binghamton. A more strategic part of the valley, located at the confluence of the 2 major rivers eventually found its way into the hands of William Bingham.

In 1801, the newborn village growing up at the junction of the two major rivers was known as Chenango Point and was part of Tioga County. It wasn't until March 28, 1806 that Broome County was created with Chenango Point designated as the county seat. Chenango Point later became Binghamton and was officially incorporated into a village on May 3, 1834. Daniel S. Dickenson was elected as the new village's first president. In later years Daniel Dickenson would go on to be elected to the U.S. Senate and come into national prominence. 2

From: Ref "Historical Gazetteer and Directory of Tioga County NY, 1887"
Initially Tryon County
1784Name changed to Montgomery County
1791Tioga County Formed
    (included Chemung, Broome and Chenango Counties)
1798NE corner given Chenango County
1800Enumerated in Tioga County NY for census
1806 Broome County taken from Tioga
contained Newark, Owego, Richford and Berkshire.
1822Broome reduced to current size3

1 French, J.H., Gazetteer of the State of New York, Syracuse, N.Y.: R. Pearsall Smith, 1860.
2 Smith, Gerald R. The Valley of Opportunity: A Pictorial History of the Greater Binghamton Area. Norfolk:The Donning Company Publishers, 1988.

3 Data submitted to Broome County mailing list by Thomas Delcano []