Broome County History

BY: John Warner Barber - 1851

The following excerpt is from the Historical Collection of the State of New York, written by John Warner Barber in 1851.

Broome county, named after Lieut. Gov Broome, was taken from Tioga in 1806. Length on the Pennsylvania line, 37 miles; breadth, on the Tioga boundary 28, on the Delaware 13, and midway 17 miles. Centrally distant from New York, northwest, 252, and from Albany, southwest, 145 miles. The surface of the country is broken and mountainous. Among its principal elevations are the Cookquago, the Oquago, and the Randolph mountains. The valleys bordering on its numerous streams are extensive and fertile, producing large quantities of wheat. The soil is better generally adapted to grazing than the culture of grain. Fruit succeeds well. The inhabitants are principally farmers, and its agriculture is respectable. The Chenango canal enters the county on the north, follows down the valley of the Chenango river, and enters the Susquehanna river at Binghamton. The line of the ERie railroad passes through the county. The county is divided into 11 towns, viz: Barker, Chenango, Colesville, Conklin, Lisle, Nanticoke, Sandford, Triangle, Union, Vestal and Windsor.

The Village of Binghamton, formerly called Chenango Point, the shire village of the county, was incorporated in 1813, 1824, and 1834. It derived its present name from William Bingham, a munificent benefactor of the village in its infant state. The gentleman was possessed of a large estate, and was the proprietor of a large patent of land lying on both sides of the Susquehannah, including the site of the village. Mr. Bingham was a native of England, and came to this country when a young man, and went into the mercantile business in Philadelphia. He was a member of congress for some years while it held its sessions at Philadelphia. His two daughters married, the one Alexander, the other Henry Baring, two noted bankers in London. Mr. Bingham died in London in 1804.

A picture in the book shows the appearance of the village as it is entered from the west side of Chenango river, by the red bridge, (so called) which is 600 feet long. The village is principally on the east side of the Chango, and contains about 500 houses, 50 stores, and 3,000 inhabitants. There are six churches, viz: 1 Episcopal, 2 Methodist, 1 Presbyterian, 1 Congregational, 1 Baptist, and 1 Catholic. There are two femal seminaries, a large school for boys, two printing offices, the courthouse and prison; two banks--the Broome County Bank incorporated 1831, with a capital of $100,000, and the Binghamton Bank, which commenced its operations in 1839, with a capital of $100,000, and the privilege of extending it to one million. The villlage of Binghamton is 150 miles from Albany, 90 from Utica, 40 from Norwich, 22 from Owego, and 7 from the Pennsylvania line. The great medium of transportation to the place is by the Chenango canal. This canal, which terminates at Binghamton and Utica, is 95 miles long, 46 feet wide and 4-1/2 deep. the number of locks in the whole route is 105. The canal was commenced in 1834 and completed in 1837, and cost nearly two millions of dollars.

The tract of country in which Binghamton is situated, became first known to the whites by the expedition of Gen. Sullivan against the Indians in 1779. Upon the site of Binghamton, a brigade of American troops under the command of Gen. James Clinton, the father of De Witt Clinton, encamped for one or two nights on their way to join the main body under Sullivan, then penetrating westward. The first white man who made a permanent settlement in what is claimed for the village vicinity, was Capt. Joseph Leonard, who was originally from Plymouth, Massachusetts. He first emigrated to Wyoming, Pennsylvania. He owned a farm in that place, and was under arms there at the time of the massacre, though not on the field of action. He moved from Wyoming in 1787, with a young wife and two litle children. His wife and children were put on board a canoe, with what goods he brought up, and the canoe rowed by a hired man; while he himself went up on land with two horses, keeping the shore, and regulating his progress by that of his family on the river. A Capt. Baldwin, who settled on the Chemung river, moved up at the same time in company with him.

Previous to the settlement of these first emigrants, a number of persons from Massachusetts came on an exploring tour to this region; on their return they obtained a grant from the legislature of Massachusetts of a large tract, which they afterward purchased of the Indians. This tract contained 230,000 square acres, fro which the company paid to the state 1500. It appears that when the agents of the company came on, they found that patents had already been granted to Bingham, Wilson and Cox, by the State of New York, which interfered with their grants. This claim of Massachusetts to this part of the state, originating in some ancient colonial claims, was finally satisfied by the grant of the right of pre-emption to certain lands in western New York.

The valley of Oquago was settled by the whites about the year 1788. the most of the earlier inhabitants were from Waterbury and Watertown, in Connecticut. The Rev. Mr. Buck was the first minister who preached in the place. He was called by the first settlers Major Buck, as he had held that office during the revolutionary war. Mr. Williston, a missionary from Connecticut, appears to have been the next. Soon after the formation of the Presbyterian Church, Rev. Seth Sage became the settled pastor, and remained such till his death. The Episcopal church was organized in 1803, by Bishop Chase, then a missionary in Western New York.

Oquago, now Windsor in this county, about 16 miles from Binghamton, was the residence of a tribe of Indians. It appears to have been a half-way resting-place for the "Six Nations" as they passed south of Wyoming, and also for the tribes of the Wyoming Valley as they passed north. Johnathan Edwards, the celebrated divine, while a minister at Stockbridge, Mass., took a deep interest in the welfare of the Indians in this place. He procured a missionary for them, Rev. Mr. Hawley, and three other persons, Mr. Woodbridge, Mr. and Mrs. Ashley. The three latter returned. Mrs. Ashley, it appears, was employed during her stay as an interpreter. Mr. Hawley remained their missionary until the commencement of the French war, when it was considered unsafe for him to remain longer. About one year previous to this time, Mr. Edwards sent one of his sons, a lad of about nine years of age, to Oquago, under the care of Mr. Hawley, to learn the Indian language, in order to become an Indian missionary. When the war commenced, a faithful Indian, who had special care of the lad, took him and conveyed him to his father, part of the way on his back. This lad was afterwards President of Union College.

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