Village of
Oriskany Falls
History

History

From the Oneida County Historical Society:
A great number of the early settlers, many of them Revolutionary War veterans, came from Litchfield County, Connecticut, and Berkshire County, Massachusetts.
 

Stone Church
A great number of the early settlers, many of them Revolutionary War veterans, came from Litchfield County, Connecticut, and Berkshire County, Massachusetts. They found land that was excellent for farming and the Oriskany Creek that was a source of power for gristmills and sawmills. The abundant supply of limestone was utilized for many buildings and later, in crushed form, for roads.

The first schoolhouse is said to have been a log structure built near Newell's Corners about 1797. In 1834 the Augusta Academy was established in a unique semicircular building erected at Augusta Center across from the present Presbyterian Church. It existed as a college preparatory school, particularly for Hamilton College, until 1878.

In 1833 a Congregational group in Oriskany Falls started to build, with limestone from the Putnam quarry, what is still called the Stone Church.

The principal early road ran from Clinton along the Skyline Ridge to Augusta Center then southward to Madison. Many early farmers located along Washington Street, so-called from their former home town in Connecticut. Later, plank roads were built from Vernon Center to Madison via Augusta Center and from Utica to Hamilton through Oriskany Falls. Over these roads the mail was brought to the post offices opened in Augusta Center in 1813 and in Oriskany Falls in 1829.

The building of the Chenango Canal in the 1830s took away much of the traffic on these roadways. However, in 1868 Oriskany Falls became the southern terminus of the Utica, Clinton and Binghamton Railroad. Three years later the entire length of the road was opened; canal use declined and the Chenango was abandoned in 1876.

A printing business was started in Oriskany Falls in 1869 by F. G. Willard. Three years later he started to publish the first area newspaper, the Monthly Advertiser, This later became the Weekly News and then the Oriskany Falls News, under which name it existed until the early 1930s.

In the late 1800s at Oriskany Falls there were nine stores of various kinds: three shoe shops, two blacksmith shops, three saloons, two livery stables, a barber shop, a cooperage, an undertaking establishment, a cabinet shop, two meat markets and one coal business.

By the turn of the century Oriskany Falls was considered by the Utica Saturday Globe "a prosperous modern town, with busy mills and sufficient industries to keep its inhabitants profitably employed." There was a brewery that at its peak was producing annually up to 7,000 barrels of ale and lager using local grains and hops. Two Scotch cap factories were rated among the biggest in America. The stone quarry had become one of the largest in the state. A fire company was organized and in 1895 a resident recorded in his diary that the new street lights were turned on for the time.


Aftermath of 1917 flood

In 1892 the Union Free School in Oriskany Falls was organized and housed in a newly erected building which burned shortly afterward. It was quickly rebuilt and the first class was graduated in 1894, although it was not until 1913 that it attained the rank of high school with its first four-year program.

Two major disasters changed the face of Oriskany Falls in the early 1900s. In March 1909, fire destroyed the well-known Sargent House, Cross Opera House, two hardware stores, a barber shop, an undertaking business and a clothing shop. These businesses were replaced by O'Neil's Hotel, a grocery store and an undertaking and furniture business which evolved into the village hall.

In June 1917, after several days of prolonged heavy rain, the dams south of Oriskany Falls suddenly burst. Water from other dams farther south came roaring into the village, destroying buildings and bridges, and causing the death of two people.

The population of the township has at times climbed above 2,300. Employment dropped with the closing of the Utica Knitting Company mill about 1950. This was bought by the Cascade Finishing Corporation, which in 1966 sold the property to Cheesebrough Ponds. Farmers turned mainly to dairying after the era of growing peas and beans as cash crops in the 30s. The harvesting of these crops was done by southern migrant workers, with many attendant problems.

Disastrous fires have been frequent in Oriskany Falls. In 1952 the south side of the main business block was destroyed and rebuilt, to be consumed again by two fires in 1969. Lost by changes in times and by fires were the village shoe stores, the bakery, the theater, all barber shops but one and all grocery and meat markets except two.

The late summer of 1975 was marked by an unexpected project by the Village of Oriskany Falls, which had become owner of the Stone Church. The steeple of this building, twice struck by lightning during one storm, was restored with the century old weathervane renewed and replaced. Again it proudly points skyward, a reminder of the past and a hope for the future.


View From Firehouse Tower

Main Street

Shops on Main Street
Note: The above excerpts are from the article "Augusta" by Camilla Garuey, Stella Cieslak, Helen King, and Sandra Toumbacaris .
 
© 2009 Oneida County Historical Society 1608 Genesee Street, Utica, New York 13502-5425
315-735-3642, e-mail: ochs@midyork.org

From 1778 to 1862 - An Older History Of Oriskany Falls and Town of Augusta:

History of Augusta, NY
FROM: Gazetteer and Business Directory
OF Oneida County, N. Y. For 1869.
Compiled and Published By Hamilton Child, Syracuse, NY 1862

(Reprinted here courtesy of http://history.rays-place.com)

 


AUGUSTA was formed from Whitestown, March 15, 1798. A part of Vernon was taken off in 1802, and a part of Stockbridge (Madison Co.) in 1836. This town is included in the south part of the tract leased from the Oneidas in 1794, to Peter Smith, father of Hon. Gerrit Smith, and called the "New Petersburgh Tract." Authorities respecting this tract are somewhat conflicting. It is said by some that this tract was presented to Peter Smith by the Oneidas; by others that it was leased for 999 years, which is about equivalent, and by others that the lease was for only twenty-one years. The tract was divided into four allotments, the first of which lies wholly within this town. The lease was assumed by the State in 1795-97 and patents were granted to settlers, Smith retaining six lots in the town in part payment for his lease. The first settlers took their lands as tenants under Smith. Part of the Oneida Reservation, purchased in 1795 and sold at auction in 1797, is included in the north part of the town. The town lies upon the west border of the County, south of the center. Its surface is a rolling upland, lying upon two ranges of hills that run north and south through the town on opposite sides of Skanandoa Creek. On these hills are inexhaustible beds of limestone, which have been extensively quarried for fences and building purposes. Oriskany Creek flows through the south-east corner and Skanandoa Creek flows north through near the center of the town. The soil is generally very fertile, varying from a clayey to a sandy loam.

Augusta, (p. v.) situated near the center of the town, contains one church, a store, several mills and mechanic shops, and about fifty houses.

Knox Corners, (p. v.) situated a little north-west of the center, contains one church, a store and about sixty houses.

Oriskany Falls, (p. v.) in the south-east corner of the town, contains two churches, a hotel, two stores, two woolen mills, a flouring mill, a saw mill, a machine shop and about 800 inhabitants.

The first settlement was made by a man named Gunn, in 1793. Benjamin Warren built the second habitation for white people within the limits of the town. On the 17th of August of the same year, Ichabod Stafford, Joseph and Abraham Forbes, and their families, settled upon the East Hill. Some of them slept in their cart the first night they lodged in Augusta. Isaac and Benjamin Allen settled here in 1794. Among other early settlers were David Morton, John Alden, Amos Parker, Thomas Cassaty, Ozias and Lemuel Hart, James Reynolds, Abel Prior, Thomas Spafford, Ezra Saxton, Abiel Lindsey and Francis O'Toole. Mr. Parker was a soldier of the Revolution and did gallant service for his country. At one time he saved the life of LaFayette by disobeying orders. In 1824, when LaFayette was the "Nation's Guest," Parker called at his room in Utica and reminded him of the circumstance, when they both "wept, like Joseph and Benjamin, upon each other's neck." Mr. Parker was present at the surrender of Cornwallis.

Francis O'Toole was an educated Irishman, impressed into the service of England while on his way to France to complete his education. He was engaged in a number of battles, and after three years landed in Boston without money or friends. The following incident is copied from Jones's Oneida, and said to have been related to a friend by O'Toole himself: "After he had landed in Boston he went to Hartford, Conn., where he hired to Col. Thomas Seymour, with whom he lived two years. Frank had the fortune soon to ingratiate himself into the favor of the Colonel and his lady. For the first year he passed as a wild, unlettered Irishman. Upon one occasion Mrs. Seymour kindly proffered her services to teach him to read. Frank, with the greatest possible nonchalance depicted upon his countenance, gravely told her he thought himself too old to commence an education. His benevolent employers were not undeceived as to his knowledge of letters until his second year's service, and he was then detected as follows: Col. Seymour had a son by the name of Richard, pursuing his studies at Yale College. Being at home during his vacation, he wished to excite some wonder among the servants in the kitchen by a display of his learning by 'spouting' a sentence in Latin. His pedantry threw poor Frank off his guard, and Richard was retorted upon severely in the same language. This was overheard by Mrs. S. in an adjoining room, who soon made her appearance and told her son she thought he would be very much improved by a further acquaintance in the kitchen. The news soon spread that Col. Seymour's wild Irishman was liberally educated, and he who had been only greeted with the epithets of Pat and Paddy was now addressed as Mr. O'Toole." He located in this town in 1794, and remained till his death, in 1842.

In the spring of 1797 five families from Litchfield County, Conn., settled on the road leading south from the center of the town. At the organization of the town in 1798, Gen. Augustus Van Horn promised Col. Thomas Cassaty a new military hat if he would have the town named in honor of him (Gen. V. H.); the name was so near that of the General's that he gave Col. C. the hat.

The first town meeting was held. at the house of Timothy Pond, Jr.; Thomas Cassaty was chosen Supervisor, and Joseph Durkee, Town Clerk. Mr. Durkee held the office twenty-four consecutive years. Col. Cassaty was a Justice of the Peace, and administered the oath of office as Supervisor to himself; and certified that the oath was taken before himself. He built the first saw mill, in 1795, at Oriskany Falls, and the next year a grist mill was built. A grist mill was built at Fishville, in 1808, by Charles Fish and Benjamin Gregg, and in 1809 one was erected at the center by Josiah Bartholomew and Eleazar Metcalf. The first birth was that of Peter Smith Gunn; the first marriage that of Daniel Hart and Catharine Putnam, and the first death that of Eleazer Putnam, in 1795. The first merchant was a Mr. Adams, who kept his goods in the house of Ichabod Stafford, in 1798. The first religious services were held in the house of Mr. Fairbanks, in 1794. In 1797 a Congregational Church was formed with nine members, whose names were Isaiah Gilbert, Experience Gilbert, Benjamin Durkee, Susanna Durkee, Thomas Stafford, Lucy Stafford, Ezra Saxton, Abiel Linsley and Anna Linsley. After the formation of the society, they held services on the Sabbath in school houses, barns, private-dwellings, and sometimes in the open air.

The population in 1865 was 2,061, and its area 16,903 acres.

There are twelve school districts, employing thirteen teachers. The whole number of children of school age is 783; the number attending school, 647; the average attendance, 265; and the amount expended for school purposes during the year ending September 30th, 1868, was $3,099.04.