In 1792 young John Lincklaen came to the wilderness of central New York to investigate a tract of land for a group of Dutch bankers. Upon Lincklaen's favorable report, 100,000 acres of the "Gore" or "Road Township," and 20,000 acres of the present town of Nelson were purchased. The investors were known collectively as the Holland Land Company and appointed Lincklaen as their resident agent.
Lincklaen returned the following year with a crew of axemen and merchant Samuel Forman. They soon erected a store, gristmill, and sawmill, then laid out lots and supplied all the necessities to lure settlers to the wilderness. The new settlement was parceled out in a neat and orderly manner at the north end of Lincklaen's purchaser. Additional land was purchased in the Fourth Allotment of the New Petersburgh Tract and more lots were laid out.
Small hamlets sprang up, dotting the townscape. Chittenango Falls, a settlement lying partly in the towns of Cazenovia and Fenner, was so named because of its proximity to the natural wonder of the "Falls." A papermill, cheese factory, and limestone quarry were located here. Belmont, located in Chittenango Creek and just north of New Woodstock boasted a sawmill and a gristmill in 1880, while Bingley's Mills touted itself as a hamlet of about a dozen dwellings in the same year.
New Woodstock, also one of Cazenovia's hamlets, was located in the south part of the town and rapidly grew to more than a cluster of buildings. Because of its location on the Hamilton and Skaneateles Turnpike, and its proximity to the Limestone Creek (which supported various manufactories), New Woodstock never suffered a great loss of population. Although the railroad no longer passes through and the industries are long gone, New Woodstock still thrives. The well-kept houses, the Baptist Church, the former railroad station turned museum, and the neat and active farms that surround it are a sign of the pride that the residents of New Woodstock have in their village.
Cazenovia village grew even more rapidly than New Woodstock, because of John Lincklaen's efforts to promote business and industry. From Cazenovia's beginning, Lincklaen envisioned his small settlement growing into a large and thriving city. With abundant waterpower, rich farm land, and plenty of room for growth, the village was destined for successful development. In fact, the village was chosen as the first county seat, where it remained but a few years until political squabbling and rivalry brought about its removal to Morrisville in 1817.
In 1803 construction was begun under the direction of John Lincklaen on the Third Great Western or "Cherry Valley" Turnpike. The turnpike, now followed by U.S. Route 20, was a boon to Cazenovia. This greatly improved transportation route brought through many settlers and opened a more direct route to the Albany markets than the Genesee Road that passed through the north part of the county. With the opening of the Erie Canal in the 1820s use of the turnpike declined. A century later, during the 1920s and '30s, the turnpike again gained popularity as an automobile route. Even today, with U. S. Route 20 passing through the center of the village, it is a main highway across the state.
Other factors influenced the village's development. Chittenango Creek which bounds the village on the south and east, was believed to encourage growth north along the lake. The creek itself, though, supported many varied industries and manufactories, which, in turn, soon attracted the population to the lower sections of the village.
In the first half of the nineteenth century the majority of these manufactories were located either north of or in the village. The land south of the village, being quite flat, did not afford too great a fall of water, so the industries there remained small and few prospered. It was not until the plank road between Cazenovia and Chittenango was opened in 1848 that Chittenango Creek's most valuable mill sites were utilized. Soon large woolen mills, a sash and door factory, and machine shops opened and flourished, Cazenovia then became the leading manufacturing community in the county.
For several decades these industries prospered, shipping their products across the United States and overseas. By the 20th century all the mills had suffered a decline and many had closed. By 1930 manufacturing had ceased and all but a few of the old mill buildings had been razed. The 20th century also marked the beginning of the era of the automobile. During the 1920s the Cherry Valley Turnpike was widened and paved, gas stations sprang up where blacksmiths shops once stood, and several car dealerships opened, one of which was conspicuously situated at the foot of the lake and known informally but passionately as the 'Blue Horror."
Until the 1960s, commercialism prevailed in the village. Large neon signs and new storefronts scarred the facades of many of the shops on Albany Street. Also, many of the once grand summer estates overlooking the lake were subdivided and several of Cazenovia's historic houses were thoughtlessly demolished.
By the mid-sixties it was becoming evident that the Cazenovia that many remembered was rapidly being devoured by "progress." Anticipating the eventual loss of the character that made Cazenovia a unique place to live several citizens banded together and formed a committee to work with storeowners and began to rid Albany Street of the gaudy oversized neon signs. Subsequent and numerous preservation activities also helped save and restore many village and town buildings and open spaces.
Although John Lincklaen's dreams of a great and properous city were never fully realized, the Cazenovia of today demonstrates with ample evidence that his pride in the community that he founded has been carried on through the generations