Town of Sullivan
An early map of the town of Sullivan shows a surprising number of
roads crisscrossing its territory. Many of these may have been Indian
paths, but as settlers came to the area, the roads were improved and
extended, making it possible for farmers to market their excess produce.
This expansion encouraged more migration, with the newcomers settling
first just outside the present village of Chittenango, in the hills of
Perryville, and on the plains just south of Bridgeport. Several roads
converged at Chittenango, which led to its development as the business
center of the town.
The "Great Genesee Road" which was cut through to the western part of
the state by the Wadsworth brothers in 1790 was reincorporated by the
Seneca Turnpike Company in 1800. It passed through Chittenango and over
Brinkerhoff Hill to Manlius, following the direction of today's Route
173. Later the turnpike turned toward Syracuse before leaving the
village and followed the general direction that Route 5 does today.
Another road, the Madison County Turnpike, left Chittenarlgo to pass
over the hills to the sculttleasr and connect with Peterboro and places
beyond. The Chittenango-Cazenovia Plank Road which eventually reached
Oneida Lake was another artery of travel which served this area. Many
stagecoaches made Chittenango their stopping place, which spurred the
development of at least four hotels to accommodate travelers.
Because Chittenango had the advantage of abundant water power from the
creek, the town and village grew and the usual industries sprang up
gristmills, sawmills, and tanneries. Consequently, among other industries
there was a woolen mill (which later manufactured cotton goods) and a
foundry which made many products from iron such as plows, stoves, and even
bridges. The textile mill operated from 1824 to 1883 and the foundry was
active a few years longer.
Chittenango Claims some enterprising men amongst her ranks - in
particular one named John B. Yates who promoted many ambitious projects.
One of the most important was a sidecut canal which connected Chittenango
with the Erie Canal just north of the village. This lateral canal allowed
for a great deal of shipping business in and out of the community between
1819 (when the canal was built) and the late 1860s (when it was filled in).
Before its state of disuse, there were canal boats going both east and
west daily on the Erie. However, after the turn of the century and the
building of the Erie/Barge Canal system, the boat business at Chittenango
Landing was gone.
Another trail, an old Indian one, extended across the northern part of
the town of Sullivan providing a beginning for the present Route 31. Where
the road crossed the creek on the western boundary of the town a settlement
was founded and named Bridgeport. There the waterpower enabled the
innabitants to operate a sawmill, tannery, carding mill, broom factory and
other businesses. The creek at Bridgeport was also used for fishing as was
Oneida Lake. Today a research station maintained by Cornell University and
an organization known as the Oneida Lake Association are evidence that
efforts are being made to preserve this natural resource.
Along the shores of the lake beginning in the latter half of the 19th
century there were many resorts maintained at Damons Point, Shackeltons
Point, Larkin Grove and other places along the south shore where people
gathered for recreation during the summer. Lakeport grew up as a result of
this summer trade. Located here were a post office, hotels, and a store.
Tourism within the town became important not only along Oneida Lake, but
at Chittenango. White Sulphur Springs which was a big attraction in the
health-conscious nineteenth century. A summer resort was also located about
two miles south of Chittenango where a large hotel and some cottages
across the creek provided accommodations for two or three hundred guests.
Unfortunately, as with many of the early industries, little remains to
remind us of these popular attractions.
Believed to be the oldest settlement in the town of Sullivan is
Canaseraga, about one mile east of Chiittenango. A Frenchman, the
Marquis Angel de Ferrier married an Oneida Indian princess and lived
there before white men arrived. The post office, stores and church are
long gone but the hamlet remains and is now called Sullivan. Another
early place was Gates' Settlement, on the road toward North Manlius,
was first called Mathews Mills. It was located on Chittenango Creek
which split it in half so that half lies in the site of an old Indian
stockade where a skirmish occurred during the Revolutionary War. Another
hamlet is Perryville, which is partly in the town of Sullivan. It was
not only located on the Madison County Tumpike but on the Lehigh Valley
Railroad with a stop there called Blakeslee. Chittenango Station grew up
as a result of the railroad going through that area. The West Shore line
was located just south or tile New York Central and connected the town with
Syracuse and Utica with electric interurban cars for many years. A stage
took passengers to and from both stations.
As in many communities the social life in the settlements of Sullivan
revolved around the church and the school. One school called the Yates
Polytechnic Institute, was begun very early in Chittenango. Students
came from all over the state to attend, boarding at the school or in
the community. There were plans to make the academy into an agricultural
or trade school but they never materialized because of Yates' death and
lack of state support.
Officially, the town of Sullivan was formed in 1803 from a part of the
town of Cazenovia. It was named for General John Sullivan, whose men
marched through the area during the Revolutionary War. It was 1842
before the village of Chittenango, the only community of any size, was
incorporated. Later, in 1872, it was reincorporated under a revised
state law. Officials were then elected, laws enacted, and services such
as fire protection instituted.
As Chittenango and the town both grew, so did local interest in outside,
state, and national affairs. A newspaper, the Chittensmgo Herald was
established in 1831 and later became known by various other names. It also
served as the forerunner of the Madison County Times, which excelled in
its widespread coverage.
Today, the face of Sullivan reflects that times have changed and the
economy has shifted. Chittenango is considered a bedroom community to
Syracuse, yet the vast cultivated and open lands remaining in the rest of
the town call to mind a rural tradition which still survives.
Date: Friday, December 04, 1998 03:15 PM