John McHarrie settled on the south side of the river at Baldwinsville 1792-94, helping boats through the rapids. He planted apple trees in 1798, about three and one-half miles northwest of Baldwinsville, on Lot 57. These were cut down about 1886. He also cut grass on Beaver meadow on that lot, in 1796. There were then dense pine forests in many places, with good hunting and fishing.
The state road--thus still called--from Onondaga to Oswego, was laid out in 1806-07, and crossed the river at McHarrie's rifts. A mail route was then established between Onondaga and Oswego. Before this, in 1797, Dr. Jonas C. Baldwin passed up the river with his wife, on their way to Ovid, where he lived till 1801-02. They looked around while their boats passed the rifts, and were delighted with the spot. Dr. Baldwin lodged that night with McHarrie, and bought the land the next year. From 1802 to 1807 he lived at Onondaga East Hill, and was then asked by the Lysander settlers to improve the water power and erect mills. He at once did so in spite of sickness and floods. That year the well were occupied in caring for the sick and burying the dead. Next year a wing dam, mill and raceway were finished, but sufficient power was lacking. Sickness came on before the dam could be carried across the river, but it was finished in the autumn.
As the river was a public highway boats had to pass, and he at once bought of the Inland Lock Navigation Company their rights between Oneida river and Cayuga lake. He made a canal, with the right to levy tolls for twenty years. This was changed with the opening of the Erie canal. In 1809 the dam was swept away, but was replaced the next year with increased facilities for work. The place was called Columbia till 1817, when a post office was established called Baldwin's Bridge. Dr. Baldwin was the first postmaster. Before this some got their mail at Three River Point, but after this stages began running to Onondaga Hill. At one time Stephen W. Baldwin ran a boat to Salina by way of the river and Onondaga lake, for passengers and freight. Dr. Baldwin opened a store in 1807. In the cold year he cared for about two hundred and fifty Oneidas, who encamped east of the village. Harvey Baldwin, his second son, was adopted by them in full form on this account, with the name of Cohongoronto, said to mean a boat with a sharp prow. During the war of 1812, Governor Tompkins placed arms with Dr. Baldwin, to be used in case of need. He died at Onondaga East Hill, March 3, 1827, in his fifty-ninth year, and was buried at Baldwinsville.
Another prominent citizen, Judge Otis Bigelow, opened a store there in 1863. He died June 21, 1864. His son, Payn, was also a leading man. John Hamill opened a store in 1816, and was supervisor at his death in 1827. The first lawyer was Reuben S. Orvin in 1816, and Dr. Silas Wallace came the same year, preceded by Dr. Cyrus Baldwin in 1814.
Jacobus De Puy came in 1805, buying land east of the village, on fifty acres on which he raised wheat the next year. Levi Calkins built his log cabin on Lot 80, in 1808 or 1809, and Jacob Dykeman cleared land and planted two orchards on lot 80 in 1810. The Frazees came before 1811. Lyman McHuron came in 1817, preceded by his father.
A Starr family was near the site of Lysander village about 1804. Richard Smith, father of Richard L. Smith, settled near that place in 1808, dying in 1865. The Vickerys also were near there about 1810, and from them it was called Vickery's Settlement. Chauncey Betts came in 1817, with Mr. Skinner, and they built a log store. Nathan Betts came soon after, and his other son, Jared, with him. Chauncey Betts became postmaster and built an ashery and distillery. The latter was not large, and when a pail of whiskey was brought to the store a tin horn announced the fact. If it was not "the mellow horn" it helped make men mellow. The place was called Betts' Corners till the Lysander post office came.
Thomas Ambler built a grist mill there at an early day, and Dr. Dennis Kennedy was the first physician and innkeeper. Andrew W. Baird went to Baird's Corner, at an early day, a small hamlet north of Lysander, where there was a post office.
Near Plainville William Wilson came in 1806, and some of his descendants still live there, hence the early name of Wilson's Corners. The Carrolls, Towns and Scofields came in 1810. Peter Voorhees came in 1813, and was the father of James L. Voorhees, long known as the "Tall Pine of Lysander" and noted in the lumber trade. Raloff Schenck came in 1815, the ancestor of a conspicuous family. His brother John came at the same time, and also Abram Daily and John Buck. The latter was an early merchant and postmaster. Benajah C. Upson came in 1812, and was the head of a prosperous family. Frederick W. Fenner came in 1817. A post office was first kept one and one-half miles south of Plainville. Lyman Norton was an early merchant, succeeding Dr. Schenck as postmaster.
Near Little Utica Reuben Coffin came early, being collector in 1812. Elijah Baker was the first merchant there, and Dr. Ezra Baker was a mile away. The Paynesville post office was established in 1832, Noah Payne being postmaster. Some years later it became Little Utica. Mr. Payne was both farmer and merchant, and influential. In the town at large the Smiths, Emericks, Dunhams, Lusks, Fullers and others came early.
The wolf bounty was at first ten dollars, but became twenty dollars in 1815, but bears were but five dollars. Hogs at first might run at large, which suited the bears, but in 1813 it was voted that if they weighed less than sixty pounds they should wear yokes. In 1809 it was ordered that ten dollars fine should be paid "for cattle brought into town to feed in our woods." One laudable penalty was that of 1809, being five dollars from "any man letting Canada thistles or burweed go to seed on his farm." Few now know what a pest these were.
Schools had the usual course from the log house to the approved modern building; from simple branches to those which task the brain. No one knows how many die from overeducation, but some are awake to modern defects. However much it lacked, the "old red schoolhouse" turned out men and women mentally strong. They could spell, they could figure, they could write a readable hand.
In 1864 District No. 2 in Lysander, and No. 18 in Van Buren were united as the Baldwinsville Union Free School, and the "Board of Education for the Baldwinsville Academy and Union Free School" was incorporated, with Henry Y. Allen as president. L. H. Cheney became principal. In 1867 steps were taken to enlarge the schoolhouse on the south side of the river, and to build a large and modern one on the north side. For this seventeen thousand five hundred dollars were appropriated. A large and central site was bought, where the Baldwin house had stood, with the condition that it should always be used for schools. The building has since been enlarged and improved. In 1884 a fine school building was erected on the south side, at a cost of eight thousand dollars, and this also has been enlarged. In the town of Lysander in 1895, there were twenty-one districts, beside two joint districts.
In 1813 the Rev. Ebenezer Lazelle held his first service in a barn near the north line of Baldwinsville, and organized a Presbyterian society July 13. Services were held in the village schoolhouse for many years, but a union church was built in 1830. This became the Presbyterian church. The present brick edifice was built in 1865, during the pastorate of the Rev. John F. Kendall. The present pastor is Rev. F. W. Fuesse. Near Lysander village were Presbyterians and the Dutch Reformed, who united in forming the Second Presbyterian church of Lysander, October 20, 1820, under Rev. John Davenport. Services were held in the schoolhouse and elsewhere. The Dutch Reformed increased and formed the First Reformed Dutch church, under Rev. James Stevenson, March 1, 1828. That year these united in building, but difficulties arose, and after some years the latter society was awarded the church. In 1833 the Presbyterians built another. Both prospered awhile and then decayed. Thus in 1877 the two societies united as "The Congregational Church and Society of Lysander." The first pastor of this was Rev. Henry T. Snell.
A deserted Baptist church is at Jacksonville, but no data are available. Baptist services began in Cold spring in 1813, and Rev. Dudley Lamb formed a society in 1818 called "The Second Baptist Church of Christ in Lysander." Service were held in the schoolhouse, and were transferred to Baldwinsville in 1840, where, October 3, the society took the name of the Baldwinsville Baptist church. A church was dedicated January 1, 1841 on the south side, and a fine brick one in December, 1871, under the Rev. Benjamin O. True. The present pastor is Rev. G. L. Ford. Professor John T. Genung was the pastor, 1875-78, afterward becoming a professor in Amherst College.
Methodist services began here in 1821, on the south side. Classes were kept up for many years. In 1843 the village became a station, a church being dedicated in December, 1844. One of brick was dedicated October 20, 1870. A class was formed at Lysander in 1831, and a church built in 1844, since much enlarged. The Palmertown class of 1832 built the Little Utica church in 1834. The White chapel at Cold Spring is called after George White, who began services there early in the nineteenth century. The church was built in 1861.
The Christian church at Plainville began with Elder Obadiah E. Morrill in 1820, remaining there twenty years. A frame church was built in 1831, burned in 1852, and replaced with a brick structure.
Grace (P. E.) church was organized July 27, 1835, Rev. Richard Salmon presiding. Occasional services followed, and a corner-stone was laid in August, 1853. The frame blew down and the church was not finished till 1860, when it was consecrated November 13. It was the first church in America to use electric lights The Rev. Dr. Henry Gregory officiated till 1864, and Rev. W. M. Beauchamp, S. T. D., from July 1, 1865, to October 1, 1900. The present rector is Rev. J. . Smith.
St. Mary's (R. C.) church, on the south side, was built and consecrated in 1851, mainly through the efforts of Rev. Samuel Mulloy. It has a cemetery and is well equipped. St. Stephen's church, West Phoenix, is served from this parish.
In October, 1848, the Syracuse and Oswego railroad was opened, creating a larger market for Baldwinsville. This also built up Lamson's (called from a resident), a station four miles north. A large hotel was built there by Harvey Slauson. The Syracuse & Baldwinsville railroad was opened April, 1887, but had a brief existence. The Lakeside electric railroad was opened September 24, 1899, and is now to be extended to Fulton and Oswego, providing ready means of reaching Syracuse, and vastly increasing travel.
In May, 1895, Erwin Fairbanks began leasing land near Baldwinsville in search of natural gas. In February, 1896, a gas company was formed, and drilling was begun in March. June 27 immense quantities were reached, and other wells were sunk with varying success. It is largely used in the village.
Tobacco culture began in Marcellus in 1845, but little is grown there now. In Lysander it began in 1850, and it soon became a great industry in that town and Van Buren. Some very fine crops were gathered in 1907. It is handsome in the field, and a large tobacco barn, half filled with fresh plants, is a delight to the eye. The smoker prefers it later. The whole treatment is interesting, but cannot be described here. It is a pity that it all ends in smoke, whether or no we believe the old couplet: "Tobacco is an Indian weed. It was the devil sowed the seed." The Indian does not think so. With him it is an offering acceptable to the Great spirit. We use it differently.
Baldwinsville mills have been on a large scale, whatever the kind. There were great sawmills at an early day; great grist mills always; knitting and woolen mills have not done so well; paper mills have had some success; a sash and blind factory lasted a good many years; carriage and wagon factories have had their ups and downs; ax, hoe, rake and fork factories have disappeared, but one establishment has had a wonderful development, and is now incorporated as the Morris Machine Works.
The firm of Heald, Sisco & Company was doing a moderate business in the manufacture of centrifugal pumps until 1869, when William F. Morris took part in it. He saw the capabilities of this pump for tanneries, dockyards, dredging, wrecking, etc., and now they go all over the world. No agents are employed. The making of steam engines and machines was added to the pump business, and the capital is three hundred thousand dollars. The works are constantly extending. Other manufactories do a good business.
The merchants, lawyers, doctors and clergymen have been many in number, some of them eminent in their callings. The village has provided the county with two surrogates and several member of Assembly--honest ones, too. In describing a notoriously corrupt Legislature, the New York Tribune once told of Jeremiah Emerick, who stood there in honest simplicity, innocently supposing the rest were honest too. Former Mayor Amos has his home here.
The First National Bank was organized February 2, 1864, James Frazee, president. The State Bank followed in May, 1875, George Hawley, president. Payn Bigelow succeeded Mr. Hawley on his death, and Otis M. Bigelow succeeded his father. Other prominent men have been Wallace Tappan, Jacob Amos, Isaac M. Baldwin, W. H. Downer, Samuel Bisdee, S. C. Suydam, D. C. Greenfield, Isaac T. Minard, Rev. Dr. Parsons, Dr. J. V. Kendall, Squire Munro, the Connells, Millers, Wells, Wilkins, Dr. Perkins and others.
The Baldwinsville Republican was founded by Samuel B. West in 1844, and became the Baldwinsville Gazette under C. Mark Hosmer in October, 1846. The Gazette issued a fine historical jubilee number in 1895. After various changes the Gazette was published by the W. F. Morris Publishing Company, W. F. Morris, president. This was in May, 1895, and this arrangement continues. The Baldwinsville Era was founded in May, 1885, by Charles P. Cornell, now of Syracuse, and discontinued in 1900. Another paper was established afterward.
June 3, 1848, Baldwinsville was incorporated; the first election was held June 24. Le Roy (afterward Judge) Morgan was elected president. Later came police, a board of health, lock-up, town hall, fire department and, most important of all, water works. A large well was sunk on the south side in what seems an ancient bed of the river, furnishing limitless supplies of pure water. This is pumped into a stand pipe on Davis hill, and thence distributed. C. N. Bliss was president of the first board.
Lysander and Van Buren joined in a centennial celebration May 30, 1894, anticipating the county celebration. Dr. J. V. Kendall was president of the day, and E. P. Clark, marshal. Historical papers were read by Messrs. Abbott, Beauchamp, Nichols, Smith, Stevens and Tappan; a poem by C. B. Baldwin.
The village has long had electric lights, and these are effective in the brilliant water fetes now popular. The trolley line has made the place so accessible that it is much frequented by Syracusans for fishing and water sports.
The Baldwinsville Female Charitable Society is the oldest woman's organization in the United States, having been formed July 25, 1817, at the home of Mrs. Farrington. Minutes have been kept for ninety years. Mrs. Hamill was president for fifty year. Mrs J. H. Morley holds that office now.
From the town line at Cross lake to the north line on Oswego river, Lysander has a navigable water front of over thirty miles. This is spanned by five river highway bridges, and two for railroads, with more to be built soon. Snow's bridge, in the west part of the town, Lot 96, was a notable point in early days. It succeeded Adam's Ferry, but has long been gone. Float bridge for canal use, south of Baldwinsville, is unique here. Above this boats pass from the river into the canal by a lock. This lock was once farther north. Beside the work done at Jack's Rifts there was an early cut-off called the state ditch, which is to be enlarged for the barge canal. There is a covered bridge there.
A soldiers' monument was erected and dedicated October 12, 1887 at Baldwinsville. Beside soldiers of the civil war it records those of the Revolution. There are two G. A. R. posts in this town, respectively at Baldwinsville and Lysander villages.
Pleiades Lodge, No. 354, F. &. A. M. was warranted December 7, 1822, Zadock Washburn, W. M., but made no returns. Seneca River Lodge, No. 160, was formed by dispensation, February 12, 1850, and warranted June 6. Sanford C. Parker was the first master. Payn Bigelow was the first one initiated in 1850. Riverside Chapter, No. 260, R. A. M., was organized in February, 1871, and a charter was received the same month. D. M. Rankin was the first H. P.
Mohegan Lodge, No. 129, I. O. O. F., was organized in 1845, Daniel T. Jones being first N. G. The number became thirty-three in 1850, and afterward twenty-nine. It has a fine monument in the cemetery. There are many lodge and clubs of various kinds.
Among local names are Hortontown, Fenner's, Fuller's and Wright's Corners, Cold Spring, and New Bridge.
In 1836 Baldwinsville contained a Presbyterian church, two grist mills, three sawmills (two of these with four saws each), a veneer sawmill, machine shop, three taverns, four stores and from eighty to one hundred dwellings. In 1886 it had five churches, four wagon shops, eighteen tobacco dealers, a billiard room, lumber yard, two harness shops, five grist mills, sawmill, tin shop, seven hotels, two banks, three meat markets, marble works, three painters, two undertakers and furniture dealers, four confectionery shops, three cigar factories, art store, veterinary surgeon, five general stores, grain house, two coal yards, photograph gallery, spring bed factory, liquor store, eight saloons, three drug stores, four shoemakers, four hardware stores, sash and blind factory, newspaper, five lawyers, bakery, pump factory, five blacksmiths, two jewelry stores, opera house, four groceries, five physicians, paper mill, three barbers, three clothing stores, brick yard, two millinery stores, knitting mill, two dentists, two livery stables, and a tool factory.
Lysander village as generally known as Betts' Corners in 1836, and had then a church, tavern, three stores, a tannery and about forty dwellings. Cornelius C. Hubbard and Chauncey Betts were storekeepers and Dr. Clark was the physician. In 1886 it had two general stores, hardware store and tin shop, harness shop, blacksmith and shoe shop, hotel, meat market, wagon shop, undertaker, two insurance agents, two physicians, a cheese factory and dealers in agricultural implements and fertilizers. There were then two churches.
In 1836 Plainville had a church, two taverns, a store and twelve to fifteen dwellings. There is but one tavern now, but more stores.
Little Utica had a church in 1836, a tavern, store, sawmill and a dozen dwellings.