Oneida's History
(written November 26, 1901)

Note: The following information is from the Jan. 1, 2000 issue of the Oneida Dispatch. It was originally published November 26, 1901. While somewhat lengthy a lot of information is presented about the city and there are a number of references to surnames from the area., city officials, etc. Brackets indicate areas of print that were unreadable; either best guess or peiods were used.

Its Settlement, Growth, Development and Prosperity.

Where Roamed the Iriquois Now Stand the Marts of Industry.


Something of its Manufacturing Induestires, Merchants, and Municipal Affairs.

Excellent Factory Sites, and Notable Transportation Facilities.

 Looking proudly back over the wide and busy interval of years that have 
lapsed since the hardy pioneers swung their keen bladed axes and hewed for 
themselves a settler's clearing on the present site in Oneida there is to be 
[cont]templated a fruitful period of steady growth--a growth which for the 
last decade has been not so much one of population as in industrial 
prosperity and annual munincipal improvement. 
 Looking hopefully forward on the other hand, Oneida, the youngest city in 
the Empire State, can don her lately acquired civic robes with a feeling of 
cheerful confidence in her future that is even now full of promise, and 
bright with possibilities. Today evidences of advancement are multiplying 
gradually in the shape of new industries that are finding satisfactroy sites 
here; in the largely [.....] and dwellings being erected, and the plans for 
improved transportation facilities in the manner of electric lines; all of 
which are destined to have a strong and beneficial effect on the young city's
welfare if carried out on the scale now outlined. The movement on foot also 
to enlarge the present canal feeder that runs from Oneida Creek to the Erie 
Canal if it materializes will result in unmeasured good to Oneida manufac-
turers and merchants, as such means of cheapened transportation will put them 
on the same favorable footing as to freight rates that other towns along the 
State's great water highway now enjoy. 
A Bit of Ancient History
Among the many Indian tribes that roved the vigin forests of North America two hundred years ago, none are more closely associated with the element of romance, or leave a stronger impact on the history of the state than the Five Nations, and early termed by the French explorers of that period the Iriquois. These savages then consisted of five warlike, uncivilized bands respectively named the Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas and Senecas. Of these it is recorded that the Oneidas were less bloodthirsty and more inclined to the arts of peace than any of their brethern. Certian it is, however, that the European nations then warring for supremacy on this continent had a wholesome respect for the redment, and ever sought the alliance of this unique confederacy; the Iriquois as a consequence achieving a prestige that made them for years a power to be reckoned with, and a people not tamely to be molested. Somewhere in the year 1533 the Oneidas erected their first village on the South shore of Oneida Lake, at or near the mouth of Oneida Creek, and when many years later the Tuscarora tribe from the South were adopted and taken into the Iriquois group making it one of six nations, they was assigned territory just west of the peaceably inclined Oneidas who were spreading over wider territory in Madison county. During the sanguinary struggles for supremacy which followed about this period the allegiance of the six nations wavered at intervals between the two great white races, finally being largely won to the cause of the English. In the historic period of the Revolutionary conflict the American colonists were indebted to the Oneidas and the Tuscaroras in no small degree as they ultimately cast their lot with the patriots and rendered valuable service during the war. For this an act of Congress in 1783 confirmed them in their territorial rights. After the Oneidas had abandoned their earlier home for some of the neighborhood of Oneida Castle the latter place claimed them for many years. In course of time, however, their migrations carried them to remote sections, leaving but a small remnant of the tribe settled in this locality at the present day. On the termination of the Revolutionary war this section had no white settlers. Chenango county was formed in 1798 and then included the present Madison county, but in 1806 a new county division was made. The year 1790 saw the first permanent settlers in Madison County, and during the next ten years roads were opened up and the gradual expansion of the district began. The land which served as the site for the village of Oneida was purchased in 1829 by Sands Higinbotham from private owners, it afterwards being added to by a purchase from the State in 1830. Sands Higinbotham removed here from Vernon, Oneida County in 1834, and how much the village that sprang up from this period is indebted to this courageous, enterprising man, cannot be readily estimated. On the Fourth of July, 1839, after presenting certain privilges and right of way to the New York Central Railway, Mr. Higinbotham, in company with other villagers, had the satisfaction of seeing the first train steam into Oneida Depot, as it was then called. He afterwards made a stipulation with the railroad company to stop all passenger trains at the depot for refershments, having built the Railroad House, (now the Allen House), for the purpose. The first log homes had been erected in the place about 1828 by Peter Dygert and Adam Phillips. On the arrival of Mr. Higinbotham in the village his enterprise and liberal induicements brought in settlers rapidly, who rented houses or land from him, and became a factor in the up-building of the place. Work on the canal feeder from Oneida creek made a demand for hands in 1835, and the village commenced to grow slowly but substantially. Niles Higinbotham, who succeeded his father, proved a worthy successor in the work of advancing village interests. Besides conducting a business of his own in the old Goodwin store on Madison street, in association with his brother-in-law, Mr. Higinbotham organized in 1851 the Oneida Valley Bank, the first financial institution of the village. Like his brother, Niles Higinbotham labored for the good of the village through a long and useful life, his money and ripe judgement being ever at its disposal. The first store was opened by Amos Storey in 1842, being known as the "Red Store." The next was on the site of the Kenyon block, being built by George Hamilton, of Verona. Some of the merchants doing business in Oneida at this period were S. H. Goodwin Co., S. Chapin & Son, Lyman Morse, Ambrose Hill, Stoddard & Lype and Newman Scofiled. The postoffice was established in 1841, with Erasmus Stone as the postmaster, and the first school in the same year. The Oneida Seminary which was opened in 1857 enjoyed high repute for many years until closed by financial troubles. Isaac Newton Messenger who died in 1895 was another prominent figure in the up-building of the Oneida of those early days, opening the first law office here in 1843. He served as President of the village and as Postmaster during his long and honored career. The first physician of the village was Dr. Earl Loomis, a Yale graduate who began practice in 1842. He was followed by Dr. Lewis Joslyn and Dr. Ben Palmer. The came others in rapid succession. In 1840 the first manufacturing industry, a foundry and machine shop, was established. The village grew, more substantial buildings began to appear, merchants multiplied and some few of the business blocks that remain today were erected.In 1848 when the village incorporation took place, the population was estimated at about one thousand. Erasmus Stone was elected the first President of the village, S. C. Sloan, Clerk; James Williams, James Fish, James McFarland, and Simon Cobb, Trustees. In 1870 the village had increased its population to 4,000. Among the business people were S. H. Goodwin & Son, Randall & Barker, S. E. Kenyon, C. A. &D. H. Ealrath, W. H. Thompson, A. E. Coe & Son, W. H. Dimmick, John E. Stone,T. C. Thompson, A. R. Truner, David Walter, Harry Walter & Co., Wm. C. Lawrence, Matthewson & Rivenbrug, Stone & Schuyler, Farnham & Son, and others, whose sketches appear in this issue. The first newspaper, the forerunner of the Dispatch, was stared in 1851 by D. H. Frost, and called the Oneida Telegraph. This was succeeded in 1854 by the Sachem, Ira D. Browna acting as editor. in 1863 the paper became the Dispatch, and various changes in the proprietorship have followed since that date up to the present day. The Democratic Union had its origin in 1856 at Hamilton, N. Y. The plant being later removed here by W. H. Baker. St. John's Episcopal Church organization took place in 1843, it being the oldest in Oneida. The Presbyterians followed on year later. The year 1848 saw the first Baptist Church in the village; the Methodists organizing in 1850, al- though services had been held irregularly for some years previous. The inception of the first Catholic Church of Oneida dates back to 1843, a small wooden building serving the people up to 1881. In the past thrity-six years such records as are obtainable give the presidents and clerks of the village as follows: Presidents--1865, Horace Deveraux; 1866, [.] P. Soper; 1867-68, D. W. C. Stephens; 1869, George Berry; 1870, James [.] Bennett; 1871, Stephens; 1871- 72, N. Messenger; 1873, Francis C. Miller; 1874, C. A. Walrath; 1875, Thos. [.] Randall; 1876-78, B. E. Chase; 1879, [.] D. Cheney; 1880, D. W. C. Stephens; 1881, Chas. F. Polley; 1882, H. W. Ca[....]er; 1883-84, Chas. F. Polley; 1885, Elisha G. Gay; 1886, Chas. F. Polley; 1887, James N. Bates; 1888, E. C. Stark; 1889, C. E. Remick; 1890, E. E. Coon; 1891-92, F. B. Cheney; 1893, Frank C. Drake; 1894-96, Wm. M. Baker; 1897, Charles House; 1898-99, Barney Ratnour; 1900, Jno. E. Stone (serving until April of 1901 when city incorporation took place.) Clerks--1865-69, Ervin Saltsmen; 1870-71, A. J. Luce; 1872, S. C. Waterman; 1873, John Ackerman, (last named resigned and R. J. Fish received appointment); 1874-75, Ben. D. French, (died in office, F. H. Foote being appointed); 1877-79, John Kelly; 1880, E. J. Girvin; 1881, W. Hector Gale; 1882, Joseph McLaughlin; 1883-84, John A. Ferguson; 1885-86, Edward B. French; 1887, J. A. Ferguson; 1888, J. C. Ayers; 1889, E. L. Hunt; 1890-93, W. F. Leete; 1894, E. L. Hunt; 1895, J. E. Brewer; 1896, E. R. Boden; 1897- 99, H. L. Bonney; 1900-1901, W. Hecdtor Gale, (later succeeded by E. R. Niles shortly after city incorporation.) During the period from 1850 to 1861 Oneida was a busy place, being then a favorite distributing point for produce of many kinds, the New York Central, then the only road, doing a tremendous business in freight. The growth of manufacturing interests came later.
The Oneida of 1901.
Having given a brief synopsis of the earlier events in Oneida's up-building, a presentment of modern conditions may prove of equal interest. Situated in the heart of a prosperous country with railroad facilities that are unsurpassed in a place of its size Oneida has the first powerful element of success, while the impetus the city has been receiving of late in the way of new industries have not been without their effect on the prosperity of the people. Among the concerns located here are some of the largest of their kind in the United States, and from present indications the era of manufacturing development has only just begun.
What Oneida Has to Offer.
Three lines of railroad, viz.: the New York Central, the New York, Ontario and Western, and the West Shore. Substantial depots and splendid service to all the principal points in the state and the leading marts of trade. Excellent fire protection. The first hook and ladder was used in Oneida in 1860; while in 1873 a steamer was purchased for the frowing village. On the completion of the water works a volunteer fire department was organized continuing until 1895, when a paid department took its place. Over 75 hydrants are available in case of fire and the pressure is exceptionally strong at all times. The fire department has few superiors in the state, and is a source of pride to the citizens. Two electric lighting companies--The place was lighted from 1868 to 1888 by gas supplied by the Oneida Gas Light Co., which still does a thriving business, with private consumers. The Oneida Electric Light Company originated with Mr. J. W. Warner, who supplied the village for years. The plant is an excellent one, many customers being numbered by the company; the Oneida Light & Power Co. has been doing business since 1897 and has a four years' contract for lighting with the corporation at the present time. One of the purset water supplies in the state, drawn from springs two-and-a- half miles south of the city, a reservoir system and filter being used. The water is forced by the gravity system through the streets of the city. which are plentifully piped and supplied with mains. A street railway system, organized in 1885, that has given Oneida good service since that period. The line runs from the New York Central Railroad station through the busiest section of the city to the West Shore Railway depot at Oneida Castle, there being about one-and-a-half miles of tracks. The complexion of the company has lately changed and the entire road is to be extended and electrified. Trolley connections with both Utica and Syracuse is a possibility in the near future. A School system that is par excellence, with principals and teachers of high efficiency. Avery W. Skinner holds the position of Superintendent of Schools, while Prof. E. C. Brown is at the head of the high school corps. The Board of Education consists of nine members. There is also a superior school library. A trunk and lateral sewer system, inaugurated some years ago, that is very comprehensive, and which when completed will have few superiors. Broad streets and much substantial paving both in the business and residential sections are features not to be overlooked. Five flourishing banks, three express companies, two telegraph lines, and two district telephone companies furnish the enterprising citizens particularly good service. A modern,well-equipped hospital, and churches that are both numerous and handsome in appearance justify local pride. The Episcopalians. Methodists, Presbyterians, Roman Catholic and Free Methodists are all ably represented. Easy communication with Sylvan Beach, which of recent years has obtained the reputation of being one of the most charming summer resorts of many that dot the the surface of the Empire State. The whole region in the neighbor- hood of Oneida is one of picturesque beauty and romantic charms. Visitors to this section are on the increase yearly, the hotel accomodations keeping pace with the volume of travel during the tourist season. The taste of Oneida citizens is well exemplified in the beautiful homes that grace the principal thoroughfares of the residential quarter. Few places can equal the "Youngest City" in this respect. The city charter was obtained March 28, 1901, and the present government is made up as follows: Mayor---J. M. Goldstein Alderman--First Ward, Bertrand H. Stebbins; Second Ward, G. Frederick Davis; Third Ward, Chas. E. Remick; Fourth Ward, Albert E. Clark; Fifth Ward, Edward J. Pardee; Sixth Ward, Wm. G. Nixdorf. City Clerk--Elbert S. Niles. City Judge---Jerre T. Durham. Assistant City Judge---Jas. B. Jenkins. City Attorney--Joseph Beal. City Chamberlain--Robert A. Hill. Board of Education--President, Dr. Geo. W. Miles, C. A. Frost, H. D. Fearon, Rhody Toher, B. S. Brown. Supt. of Schools--Prof. A. W. Skinner. Board of Public Works--Albert R. Loomis. Commissioner of Charities--Frederick McCraith. Hospital Commissione--S. D. Baldwin, F. S. Hammon, John Steinhauer. Board of Health--Dr. Chas. H. Perry, President; Roswell B. Downing, Jerome B. Hoffman. Health Officer--Dr. Otto Pfaff. Police and Fire Commissioner--Dr. F. C. Drake. Chief of Police--Austin Wilcox. Chief Fire Department--Wm. H. Plato. First Asst. Chief--Frank Ernenwein Second Asst. Chief--Wm. Purdy. Driver Hose No. 1--Edwin Harris, Capt. Hose No. 1--Wm. Merrill, Capt. Hose No. 2--Frank Simpson, Capt. Hose No. 3--Robert Flanagan, Capt. John J. Hodge is the City Postmaster. The free delivery system has been in existence since the 1st of October, 1888. An active chamber of commerce has done much to further the interests of the city, and manufacturers seeking desirabe sites are certain of courteous treatment and most reasonable concessions.
Oneida's City Officials for 1902.
The recently elected city officials who will take office on the 1st of January next, are as follows: Mayor--Dr. Otto Pfaff. Aldermen--First Ward, Bertrand H. Stebbens; Second Ward, Fremont Chapin; Third Ward; Charles E. Remick; Fourth Ward, Albert E. Clark; Fifth Ward, Edward J. Pardee; Sixth Ward, Robert Colway. City Judge--James E. Brewer. City Chamberlain--Robert A. Hill. Supervisors--Charles House, John W. Gregg, Jerome B. Miller. Assessors--Charles B. Cowles, Joseph Veling.

Date: Friday, February 04, 2000 09:11 AM

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