Benjamin Morehouse was the first white settler, and his coming is dated April 26, 1789. He had a wife and three children, and the next year opened the first tavern in the county. He was dignified, genial and popular, and was known as "the Governor." Danforth was his nearest neighbor. Before 1800 he was joined by Dr. David A. Holbrook, Jeremiah Jackson, Roger Merrill, William Bends, James and Jeremiah Gould, Caleb Northrup and others, all near Jamesville, then called Sinai. Sarah Morehouse was born February 16, 1790, the first white child in the town.
Dr. Holbrook, the first physician, located at Morehouse's Flats in 1792, moving to Jamesville about 1800. The first saw mill in the town and county was that of Asa Danforth in 1792. In that year he temporarily lived in Lot 81. The mill was then covered with bark, and he brought the saw on his back from Utica. In 1793 he built a grist mill, gathering sixty-four white men and Indians to raise the frame. These structures were on the site of Dunlap's mills. Oliver Owen erected another saw mill in 1795, and in 1798 Matthew Dumfrie built a malt house, brewery and distillery east of the creek. Jeremiah Jackson built the first frame house at Jamesville in 1797, and Mr. Trowbridge opened the first tavern there in 1804. Two years later David Olmsted succeeded him, keeping the best house west of Utica.
Benjamin Sanford built a grist mill about 1804, and Stephen Hungerford started clothing works, while Robbins & Callighan opened a store. Lime, plaster and cement works came later. The first school in town, a little east of Jamesville, was taught by Polly Hibbard, succeeded by Susan Ward. In 1806 a school was opened in the village, and in 1809 Thomas Rose was the first postmaster. The name of Jamesville was first proclaimed at a great celebration, July 4, 1810, following the incorporation of the "Jamesville Iron & Woolen Factory" in 1809.
About 1790 John Young, a Revolutionary soldier, settled at Orville, on Lot 62. His six sons and three daughters grew up and settled around him, so that the place was called Youngsville. He opened and kept the first tavern, and built the first frame house there, dying in 1834. In 1814 a post office was established and named Orville, dropping the old name of Youngsville and the later one of Hull's Landing. Hull's grist mill was reached by boats on the canal feeder, and became a great shipping point. In 1835 the name was changed to De Witt, but it is still known as Orville, and a branch of the Suburban road begins there.
Cyrus Kinne was the first blacksmith in De Witt, coming there in 1792. His four sons had large families, and some went to Cicero. In that direction the Britton settlement, now Collamer, sprang up at a later day. The first settler were the Brittons, Isaac Carhart, James and Walter Wright, Nathaniel Teall, Abraham Delamater and others. Nathaniel Teall was first postmaster there before 1835.
Robert Dunlop came to Jamesville in 1833, founding the Dunlop mills, and manufacturing water lime, cement, plaster, etc. His son Robert, also deceased, had five large lime kilns in Jamesville, two flouring, and cement and plaster mills. Fiddler's Green, a picturesque spot now owned by the Suburban road, was part of the estate.
The physician features of the town have been mentioned elsewhere, but there are some small caves of no special interest. Messina Springs were so named from Messina, near ancient Syracuse. They are sulphur springs, much like many others here. Gypsum was found in 1811, and this and water lime are important products. Here also are eruptive dykes described by Mr. Schneider, and faults and glacial formations are of interest.
December 29, 1795, some residents of Manlius and Pompey formed the "First Presbyterian or Church of Bloomingdale," a mile south of Jamesville. Jeremiah Jackson presided, but was not one of the trustees. No farther steps appear. In 1811, at Orville, a Methodist church was organized as "the Youngs Society," by Rev. Dan Barnes. In May, 1826, it was reorganized as the Methodist Episcopal Young Society of Orville. The original edifice was occupied from 1819 to 1863, and then became a school building. Then the Methodists obtained and repaired a disused Presbyterian church, also built in 1819. The Union Congregational Society, at Morehouse's Flats, was thus organized and incorporated in September, 1805. The next year it began building and finished a church in 1809. It was sold, and for about fifty years used as a barn, being burned in 1886. The writer has a sketch of this he made that year. In Jamesville a Congregational church was built in 1828, Episcopal in 1832, Methodist in 1832. Of the above the Congregational became a Presbyterian church in 1843. The name was changed in 1870, and the church was burned in 1882, rebuilt in 1892. The Episcopal church was organized as St. Mark's, July 13, 1831, Rev. Seth W. Beardsley, first rector. The church was remodeled in 1874, burned in October, 1877 and the new one was consecrated in 1880. A Roman Catholic church was built a few year since.
In 1828 a Methodist church was formed in Collamer, Rev. Austin Briggs first pastor. A chapel was built 1830, which was repaired and rededicated in 1857 as the First Methodist Episcopal church of Collamer. In October, 1842, the First Presbyterian church of Collamer was organized at the "Britton Settlement School House." A church was built in 1843, and Rev. Amos W. Seeley was the first pastor.
In October, 1872, the New York Central & Hudson River Railroad Company bought one hundred and fifty acres for freight yards, shops, etc., on Lot 42, now East Syracuse. The growth was rapid, of course. Many miles of tracks were laid, and there has been expansion ever since, the field of operations now reaching Minoa on the east. Railroad affairs are paramount there, but other interests appear. The First Presbyterian Society of East Syracuse was formed March 8, 1875, and a church was built the following summer. The church was organized January 27, 1876, Rev. J. M. Chrysler being first pastor. A new church was built in 1896. St. Matthew's Roman Catholic church was built in 1880, under the pastorate of Rev. Michael Clune. The Methodist Episcopal church was organized in 1881, building the next year. Emmanuel Protestant Episcopal Church was built in 1883.
The Young Men's Christian Association was formed in May, 1881, and built its home in 1888. The railroad company pays its secretary six hundred dollars a year, and aided in building. The first schoolhouse was built in 1832, in a country district. With the village the school rapidly grew, and in March, 1887, the Union Free School was organized, and a handsome building was erected in 1891, used in 1892, and completed and dedicated November 28, 1893. There is also a circulating and reference library connected with the school.
East Syracuse was incorporated November 21, 1881, Charles C. Bagg, president. The East Syracuse News was established in December, 1884, by Edwin F. Bussey and John L. Kyne. The latter became sole owner in August, 1887, and has been editor since its incorporation in 1894, beside being active in other ways. He has long been a leader in firemen's affairs. March 1, 1891, C. J. Sawdey became editor of the Onondaga Gazette. This was purchased by John A. Nichols, Jr., December 1, 1895. Water is now had from a reservoir near Jamesville. Electric roads, now double tracked in East Syracuse, bring the village in close contact with Syracuse.
Allusion has been made to caves. One discovered in 1807 was about a mile east of Jamesville, and opened in sinking a well. It was twenty feet below the surface, and about five feet broad by seven feet high, for six or eight rods, contracting and expanding. It has long been closed. Another cave, two miles west of Jamesville, is said to be several hundred feet long. A small one is at the lake nearer the village, and in other places cold air issues from rock fissures. The Jamesville road to Syracuse passes fine rock exposures, and is a picturesque and pleasant drive.
Clark said of Morehouse that "In 1791 he carried a plowshare on his back to Westmoreland, to be sharpened, and while the blacksmith was doing the work, he proceeded to Herkimer, purchased thirty pounds of flour, and returned on foot, with flour and plowshare on his back."
Morehouse's Flats had a lawyer at an early day, with students. He was William Edgar. Captain Samuel Wilcox located at Lyndon, west of Fayetteville. He was a large landholder and prominent business man. His son, Asel F., was there in 1823, and was also a leading man, doing a large business in plaster. He had flouring, plaster, and saw mills at High Bridge or Elkhorn, in Manlius.
Van Vleck Nottingham was another leading man who came in 1833, the head of a notable family, and prominent in agricultural circles. Several of his sons settled in Syracuse.
Eastwood was incorporated April 17, 1895, J. L. Jones being first president. It has important manufacturing interests, and a trolley line connects it with Syracuse. A special car on the Jamesville line carries officers and prisoners to the county penitentiary, whose massive buildings are a conspicuous feature. Adjacent to its grounds is the great reservoir on Butternut creek. Everywhere around are picturesque scenes, and the vicinity is a favorite resort for the artist, historian, botanist and geologist, or the mere pleasure seeker.
Jamesville had a Presbyterian church in 1836, a post office, several stores, some mills and about forty dwellings. In 1886 it had two cement, lime and plaster mills, three general stores, three blacksmiths, two hotels, three grist mills, one cider mill, broom factory, sash and door factory, wagon shop, shoe store, a physician and two churches. The churches have since increased.
Orville had a Presbyterian church in 1836, several stores, a tavern and about thirty dwellings, with a large trade in water lime. In 1886 it had a hotel, two general stores, a grocery, cider mill, and a dealer in agricultural implements.
East Syracuse incorporated in 1881, was founded by the purchase of a large tract of land in 1872, by the New York Central railroad. It was bought of Rufus R. Kinne, Elijah Clark, Eugene Bogardus and the Carpenter estate. At that time four farm houses occupied the site of the present village. Freight yards were laid out, and by 1886 the population was about two thousand. At that time there was but one dry goods store, and that business may never be large there, with Syracuse near. There were then two general stores, two drug stores, a furnishing store, news stand, jewelry store, hardware store, confectionery and tobacco store, two coal yards, four shoe shops, a shoe store, four physicians, four churches, one undertaker, three groceries, four dressmakers, three barber shops, five hotels, eight boarding houses, a meat market, millinery store, sewing machine dealer, two blacksmith shops, steam grist mill, lumber yards, etc. Also a newspaper. There has been a healthy growth ever since.
Some "good roads" have recently been made in this town, of which serious complaints have been made, and the matter was taken up by the Board of Supervisors and carried to Albany for final adjustment. Two toll roads are yet kept up in this town.