"In an act of the legislature of the state of New York, passed Apr. 17, 1854, the county of Schuyler was formed, taken from the counties of Chemung, Steuben and Tompkins. It is bounded on the north by the counties of Yates and Seneca, on the east by the counties of Tompkins and Chemung, on the south by the county of Chemung, on the west by the county of Steuben. Its county seat is Watkins, a beautiful village at the head of Seneca Lake. The county lies in the valley of Catharine Creek, and east and west of the valley, and east and west of Seneca Lake, and embraces a fine fruit growing and agricultural district.
The local history of Schuyler county extends back to the revolutionary war and beyond. General Sullivan in 1779, in his expedition against the six nations, came down the valley of Catharine creek, and on the east side of the Seneca Lake, destroying the orchards and cornfields of the Indians, which he then found, located upon lands now within the limits of Schuyler county. The lands around the beautiful Seneca Lake were the choice hunting grounds of the red man, and the waters of the lake their favorite fishing resorts, and where they had for centuries established their rude huts, planted their corn, and gathered the fruits of their orchards.
One of the aged Queens, Catharine Montour, had her home in a village near the present village of Havana. Sullivan's men found her at her Indian village "Catharinestown", where she had been left in a helpless condition by the Indians who fled before the invading army of Sullivan. They treated her kindly, and provided for her wants. It was in her honor that the town of Catharine, and the creek was named, and the township of Montour given.
The fame of Catharinestown was heralded far and wide, and the fruitful orchards and productive lands upon the borders of Seneca Lake were described by Sullivan's soldiers, to attentive and listening ears among the heroes of the continental army, which as soon as peace had been declared, and the land open for occupation, came thronging into the lands of the Senecas. Syndicates existed in those days, and large tracts were secured by capitalists, and notably among these in the present limits of Schuyler county were Royal Flint, Jonathan Lawrence, Robert C. Livingston, John Lamb, M--- (maybe Melanathon??) Smith, James Watson, and John Watkins, and known as the Watkins and Flint purchase (see history of Watkins).
The formation of no county in the state was attended with more bad feeling and litigation than Schuyler. The germs (ie. seeds), which resulted in its formation in 1854, were planted in 1836, when the county of Chemung was formed, and the county seat located at Elmira. The citizens of Catharine, Montour, Dix, Catlin, Veteran and Cayuta wanted the county seat located at Horse Heads. It was nearer the geographical center of the new county of Chemung, and the citizens of the towns named, irrespective of political parties, claimed that they did not have an opportunity of being heard before the committee of the legislature, before whom the formation of the county of Chemung, and the location of the county seat was refered and Elmira selected. From that time until the formation of the county of Schuyler was accomplished, the project of a new county was secretly, and quite often publicly and openly avowed by citizens of Veteran, Catharine, Dix and Cayuta and enlisted sympathizers in Reading and Tyrone, in Steuben county, and Hector in Tompkins county. After being disappointed in the selection of the county seat, the citizens of Catlin, Veteran, Dix, Catharine, Cayuta and Erin, with the nominal consent of the town of Big Flats, compelled the selection of Horse Heads, as the central point for holding county conventions and genearal parades of the militia, and organized rifle companies of the county. In the matter of the distribution of public offices in the county, for years the location of the candidate had as much to do with his election as his capacity, ability and fitness, resulting in each locality putting forth its most available candidate. The interrogatory for years, when a candidate was proposed for any county office was "Is he a sympathizer or a friend of Elmira, Southport and Chemung, or does he favor Dix, Catharine, Cayuta and Veteran." These things prevailed in the Democratic conventions, and in the whig conventions, and like Banquo's ghost, "It would 'not down'." The writer of this sketch distinctly recollects how it was discussed in the election of Col. Jacob Westlake, for member of assembly, in 1837, and the selection of Hon. Hiram White, of Cayuta, in 1838, the selection of Judge Joseph L. Darling, of Catharine, in 1846, and Judge John W. Wisner, of Elmira, and Judge James Dunn, of the same place, how it entered into the nomination of Samuel Minter, for sheriff of Big Flats, in 1840/41, and his selection of William Skellinger, of Havana, as his deputy, and also in the election of Mr. Skellinger for sheriff in 1846. There was an undercurrent quietly at work for many years, encouraged by such gentlemen of the northern portion of Chemung county as Major Erastus Crandall, Elijah Sexton, and Jabez Bradley, of Veteran, Charles Cook, Elijah Hinman, Guy Hinman, William Skellinger, Doctor Watkins, Alva Nash, Judge Simeon L. Rood, Hiram W. Jackson, George B. Guinnip, Green Bennet, and others of Dix and Catharine, irrespective of party, which was certain to culminate in an open rupture and division.
The citizens of the southern portion of the county were aware of
dissatisfactions, and such men as the late Hon. John G. McDowell,
W. Buck of Chemung township, Solomon L. Smith, Philo Jones,
and others of Southport, William R. Judson, John W. Wisner, Lyman
Judge Hiram Gray, Thomas Maxwell, Wiliam Maxwell, John (Arnot?)--?,
Partridge, and citizens generally of Elmira, were trying to avert
impending crisis and reconcile the differences and stalemates.
(solution?) would come up in an indirect form every year at the annual
meeting of the supervisors, in the selection of the equalizing
to fix the taxable rate of the lands in the various towns of the
It was the southern portion arrayed against the northern portion of the
county, and the northern portion of the county arrayed against the
portion, and the result was inevitable, and when Schuyler county was
no one was surprised however much they were opposed, or in favor of
It is the sincere belief of the writer that had Horse Heads been named
as the county seat of Chemung, in 1836, Schuyler county wouldn not have
been formed, and Chemung would have retained her original territory
The battle of Schuyler did not end in the strife for passage of a
act authorizing its formation, but a long and bitter controversy grew
of the location of its county seat. All is peace now, and may she
enter upon a course of uninterrupted prosperity.
The first county officers were Judge, Simeon L. Rood; county clerk, Algernon E. Newcomb; sheriff, John S. Swartwood; treasurer, Charles J. Broas; district attorney, Lewis F. Riggs; school commissioner, William C. Gulick; surrogate, Simeon L. Rood; member of assembly, Henry Fish of Mecklinburg.
The commissioners to locate the county buildings were Delos DeWolf, of Oswego county; Edward Dodd, of Washington county; Vivius W. Smith, of Onondaga county. They fixed the location at Havana. A court house was erected, and afterwards sold. A court house, jail and other buildings were erected at Watkins; and a series of litigations commenced which our space will not permit to enter into detail. Suffice it, that the county seat was finally located at Watkins.
The Chemung canal was completed in 1833.
The Elmira and Jefferson railroad was completed in 1849. Now under the control of the Northern Central R.R.
The Syracuse, Geneva & Corning railroad was completed in the year 1877.
Its [Schuyler's] first BOARD OF SUPERVISORS consisted of Leroy Wood, of Cayuta; Phineas Catlin, of Catharine; W.E. Boothe, of Dix; Henry Fish, of Hector; Edwin C. Andrews, of Reading; George Clark, of Tyrone; A.S. Newcomb, of Orange; H.M. Hilliman, clerk.
The first term of circuit court was held at Havana, Aug. 19, 1859, Ransom Balcam justice; Minor T. Broderick, J.B. Wilkins, justices of sessions.
MEMBERS OF THE ASSEMBLY--
Henry Fish, 1858; Isaac D. Mekeel, 1859; Edwin H. Downs, 1860; Abram V. Mekeel, 1861; Alvin C. Hause, 1862; Samuel Lawrence, 1863; Lorenzo Webber, 1864-5; Samuel M. Barker, 1866-7; George Clark, 1868-9; William C. Coon, 1870-1; Harmon L. Gregory, 1872; Jeremiah McGuire, 1873; Harmon L. Gregory, 1874; Wiliam H. Fish, 1875; William Gulick, 1876-7; Abram V. Mekeel, 1878-9; Lewis Beach, 1880-1; Minor T. Jones, 1882; Adrian Tuttle, 1883; J. Franklin Barnes, 1884; Fremont Cole, 1885.
John J. Swartout, 1854; Elvin K. Mandeville, January 26, 1856; Moses F. Weaver, November, 1856; Robert Lockwood, 1859; Peter C. Hager, 1862; Chester M. Hager, 1865; Charles W. Claugherty, 1868; John S. Swartwood, 1871; John Wood, 1874; Herman L. Easterbrook, appointed Dec. 19, 1876; Henry B. Catlin, 1877; George E. Hurd, 1880; John M. Wakeman, appointed April 1, 1882; James W. Lyon, 1882; the present incumbent.
Simeon L. Rood, 1854; George C. Sheater, 1862; Benjamin W. Woodward, 1866; George C. Freer, 1870; Oliver P. Hurd, 1876; Martin J. Sunderlin, 1882, present incumbent. The County judge is the Surrogate.
Algernon S. Newcomb, 1854; John Hollett, 1857; Devalson G. Weaver, 1860; Edward Kendall, 1866; Myron H. Weaver, 1875; Arthur C. Woodward, 1878; Arthur C. Woodward, 1882-present incumbent.
Lewis F. Riggs, 1854; Marcus Lyon, appointed March 12, 1855; Daniel Jamison, 1855; Henry C. VanDuser, 1858; John W. Brown, 1861; Samuel C. Keeler, 1864; Oliver P. Hurd,1867; William L. Norton, 1870; Charles H. Fletcher, 1873; Charles W. Davis, 1876; W. LeRoy Norton, 1879; Washington Robertson, 1882--present incumbent.
Charles J. Broas, 1854; Cyrus Roberts, 1857; Adrian Tuttle, 1860; Jacob Fitzgerald, 1863; James Cormack, 1866; Levi Shepard, 1869; Abram S. Stothoff, Jan. 10, 1873; William H. Watt, Nov., 1873; Jesse Lyon, 1879-present incumbent.
Since organization of the county in 1854; William Gulick, Cyrus Roberts, Daniel Beach, Charles G. Winfield, Lauren G. Thomas, James H. Pope, Duncan C. Mann, Charles T. Andrews, Lauren G. Thomas, Augustus C. Huff, Term three years.
The FIRST GRAND JURY of Schuyler county was composed of Orange Hubell,Charles G. Tuthill, Charles Babbitt, J. Brown, B. Carpenter, William Vaughn, Stephen Thayer, William Slawson, D.W. Goodrich, W. Buck, N. Fish, Samuel Vaughn, A. Stoll, W.A. Hurd, E. I.(?) Agard, Fred L. Lane, L. Mix, W. Hubbell, M. Colegrove, G.C. Brown, E.W. Prentiss, Samuel Ross,jr., John J. VanAllen, District Attorney.
The SCHUYLER CO. MEDICAL SOCIETY was organized Dec. 29, 1857. Members: Thomas Shannon, J.W. Thompson, G.D. Bailey, Nelson Winton, E.B. Wagner, N. Niverson, S.B. Nichols; first president-Dr. Nelson Winton; J.W. Thompson-vice president; Thomas Shannon-secretary; S.B.H. Nichols-treasurer; Nelson Nivetson, G.D. Bailey, E.B. Wager-censors.
Schuyler County HOMEOPATHIC MEDICAL SOCIETY was formed July 9, 1872. Officers: William Gulick, president; Alexander V. Stobbs, vice president; A.P. Hollett, secretary & treasurer; G.A. Tracey, E.W. Lewis, C.B. Knight, censors.
Schuyler County AGRICULTURAL SOCIETY was organized Mar. 14, 1855, John Woodward, president; Cyrus Sebring, Hiram White, Cornelius Harring, Eli C. Frost, Charles Mathews, vice presidents; Orlando Hurd, secretary; Thomas Evans, treasurer; Henry Fish, Morderica Carbon, Jacob Hendricks, John Roberts, Isaac P. Seymour, Robert Hughey, Solomon Williams, John Ennix, George C. Freer, Executive Committee.
Schuyler County BIBLE SOCIETY organized in the month of February, 1856.
The Chemung Democrat was issued in 1840, at Havana.
The Independent Freeman was issued June 15, 1850, by William B. Slawson & Co.
The Watkins Republican was issued June, 1854, by J.K. Averill.
The Schuyler County Press was issued in 1858, by S.M. Taylor.
The Son of Temperence issued in 1860, by A.C. Lumbard.
The Schuyler County Democrat issued 1865, Watkins, S.C. Clizbee editor.
The Watkins Independent was established in 1866, by S.C. Clizbee.
The Schuyler County Times was issued in 1873, by Thomas & Gates.
The Havana Journal was issued Sept., 1849, by Waldo M. Potter.
The Havana Enterprise was issued in May, 1872, by W.H. Page.
The Corona Boraeallis was issued in the year 1851.
Here is a list of Schuyler
newspapers on microfilm and where to find them.
(Link to another website.)
The Schuyler County Teachers' Association was organized in the year 1859. The first officers were: D.H. Stoll, president; Henry C. Howard, vice president; Mary E. Duryea, treasurer; Sarah Dakin, secretary; Daniel Beach, county commissioner of common schools.
Post offices in Schuyler county--Alpine, Altay, Beaver Dam, Bennettsburg, Burdette, Catharine, Cayuta, Cayutaville, Havana, Hector, Lawrence, Logan, Mecklinburg, Moreland, North Hector, North Reading, Odessa, Orange, Perry City, Pine City, Pine Creek, Pine Grove, Reading, Reading Center, Reynoldsville, Searsburg, Smith Valley, Sugar Hill, Townsend, Tyrone, Watkins, Weston.