Hamilton - The Village
Elisha Payne's enterprise in developing the village of Hamilton was thoroughly successful. Within a little more than two
decades of his arrival the hamlet was in a thriving condition with two taverns (one was Payne's), three stores, a schoolhouse,
a newspaper, church, and grist and saw mills. It had become a center for trade for an extensive farming area and for holding
local courts and training days of the militia. This growth met with competition from neighboring villages but it was Squire Payne's
which won out.
Like most first generation New England settlers, those of Hamilton were concerned about religion. Nearly all were
Baptists and in 1796 they formed a church in Samuel and Betsey Payne's log cabin. It was the only religious society in the
village until 1819 when the Methodists gathered into a class. The Congregationalists organized in 1828. In 1817 seven laymen
and six clergymen from Hamilton and the surrounding area formed the Baptist Education Society of the State of New York for
the purpose of training young men for the Baptist Ministry. From it Colgate University developed.
Improved forms of transportation nourished the community's prosperity. The Cherry Valley Turnpike, chartered in 1803,
now part of U.S. Route 20, was an important east-west artery five miles to the north. The Hamilton-Skaneateles Turnpike went
from Otsego County to the east through the center of the village on to the Finger Lakes region. The Chenango Canal, which
was completed in 1836 and in operation until 1876, put Hamilton on a water route between Utica on the Erie Canal and
Binghamton on the Susquehanna River. Direct railroad connections with the outside world did not come until 1870 when the
Utica, Clinton and Binghamton was constructed more or less in line with the canal.
The completion of the canal and the railroad, each in its turn, brought prosperity. New streets were laid out and several
houses built. Many representing various types of architecture - Federal, Classic, Gothic, and Victorian - still grace the
community. Also contributing to the economic life of the village were several merchantile establishments and a variety of
manufacturing activities including furniture, flour, shoes and leather goods, ironware, bricks - all long since gone. The business
section, nearly destroyed by fire in 1895, was quickly rebuilt and remains virtually untouched. Education was an important
feature of village life since a private academy, a female seminary and a university were located here. Today it may be said that
Colgate University is the major industry and that it distinguishes Hamilton from most central New York villages.
In recognition of architectural, esthetic and historical significance of a great number of buildings in the village, Hamilton
was listed in 1984 as an Historic District on the State and National Register of Historic Places.