Cortland County New York is named for Pierre Van Cortlandt, president of the convention at Kingston that wrote the first New York State Constitution in 1777, and first lieutenant governor of the state. The county seat is Cortland. The famed Cortland apple is named for the county. Located in the glaciated Appalachian Plateau area of Central New York State, midway between Syracuse and Binghamton, this predominantly rural county is the southeastern gateway to the Finger Lakes Region. Scattered archaeological evidence indicates three different aboriginal cultures hunted the area beginning about 1500 AD.
Our American County Histories collection contains a detailed history of the area in the form of History Of Cortland County With Illustrations And Biographical Sketches Of Some Of Its Prominent Men And Pioneers by H.P. Smith of Syracuse, New York. This book, and its illustrations, is viewable as page images and as fully searchable text.
Excerpt from the Introduction
While it may seem to the uninitiated a task involving but little difficulty to prepare for publication a work no more comprehensive in character than this volume, and containing merely a history of a single county, still it is not out of place here to assure all such readers that the task is one involving a vast amount of labor and research, watchful care, untiring patience, and fair discrimination. This need not be said to any person who has had experience in similar work.
In attempting the production of a creditable history of Cortland county the publishers and the editor did not underestimate the difficulties of this task, and came to it fully imbued with both a clear idea of its magnitude and determination to execute it in such a manner that it should receive the general commendations of all into whose hands it should fall.
It is the general plan of the publishers in the production of county histories to secure, as far as possible, local assistance in preparing the work, either as writers, or for the purpose of revising all manuscripts; the consequence being that the work bears a local character that could not otherwise be secured, and, moreover, comes from the press far more complete and perfect than could possibly be the case were it entrusted entirely to the hands of a comparative stranger to the locality treated of.
We cannot pass unnoticed the names of a few who have given most generously of their labor and time towards the consummation of the work: To Hon. R. Holland Duell, Hon. A.P. Smith and David E. Smith for aid in preparing the chapter on the bench and bar of the county, most of the writing of which was done by the last named gentleman; to Dr. Caleb Green and Dr. Frederick Hyde, the former for writing and the latter for revising much of the chapter on the medical profession; to George L. Warren, H.W. Blashfield and others for assistance in preparing the history of the Masonic order; to Hon. Wm. H. Clark, B.B. Jones, F.G. Kinney, Wm. O. Bunn, Ed. L. Adams, W.O. Greene and E.P. Fancher, of the county press, for generous aid and the use of their valuable newspaper files; to Mrs. Dr. Frederick Hyde for valuable documents; to Alonzo Blodgett for use of valuable scrap-book; to Charles Kingsbury and T. Mason Loring for valuable historic materials; and many others in the different towns whom we cannot mention for want of space.
Contents by Chapter
- Natural Characteristics — Boundaries and Topography of the Territory now Embraced in Cortland County — Its Rivers, Creeks and Lakes — Geologic Formations — Climatic Features — General Character of the Soil — Timber
- History of the Aborigines — The Iroquois and their Great Confederacy — The Different Tribes and their Limitations — Traditionary Origin of the Confederation — Legend of Taoun-ya-wat-ha — Tribal Relations — The “Clan” System — Social Relations and Personal Peculiarities of the Iroquois — Their Amusements — The Councils — Origin of the Warlike Tendency of the Iroquois — The French Colonists and their Struggles with the Indians — Defeat of the Adirondacks — Military Organization and Characteristics — Treatment of Prisoners — Physical Traits — Their Downfall Foreshadowed
- Indian Relations in Central New York — The Territory of Cortland County with Reference to the Indian Tribes — The Leni Lenape — Their Traditionary Origin — Their Relations with the Iroquois — The Peculiar Office Assigned Them — Final Supremacy of the Iroquois — Indian Villages — Their Personal Habits and Social Customs — Religious Beliefs, Marriages, Festivals, etc.
- European Discoveries and Settlements — Jacob Cabot at Newfoundland — The Brothers Cortreal — Discovery of the St. Lawrence River — Ponce de Leon’s Discovery of Florida — Spanish Discoveries and Conquests — French Acquisitions to the Northward — Settlement of Quebec — English Settlement at Jamestown — Establishment of Dutch Settlements on the Hudson River — Claims of Rival Nations — Arrival of the Jesuits — Champlain’s First Meeting with the Indians — The Expedition — Indian Wars — Extension of the Fur Trade — Jesuit Missionary Work — French and English Rivalry and their Negotiations with the Indians — Attack on Montreal — Expedition Planned by’ Frontenac — Burning of Schenectady—Treaty of Utrecht — The Iroquois in the Carolinas.
- Previous to County Organization — An Indian “Summer Resort” — Early Records and State Divisions — Genealogy of Cortland County—The Military Tract — Its Origin and History — Land Bounties to Soldiers — Proportions of Bounties — Action of Congress in Relation Thereto — The Tract Ordered Surveyed, Mapped and Divided — Conditions Imposed upon Grantees — The “State’s Hundreds” School and Gospel Lots — Division into Townships — Fraudulent Land Titles — Vexatious Litigation — Formation of the Present Towns of the County.
- Formation of the County — A Division of Onondaga County Demanded — The Petition of Southern Residents for that Object — Important Provisions of the Law Organizing Cortland County — Origin of Name, — Changes in the Townships — Organization of the Courts — First County Officers — Early Political Parties — Pioneers of the County — Delays in Early Settlement — Comparative Dates of Other Settlements — Routes of Incoming Pioneers — Privations of Early Settlers — Winter Travel in Olden Times — The First Settlers in Cortland County — Mrs. Beebe’s Lonely Life in the Wilderness — Settlements in the Different Towns Previous to 1810 — Population at that Date — Opening of Early Roads — Turnpike Road Companies — Necessity for Grist-mills — The First Churches — Early Schools.
- The Second Decade — Dwellings and Surroundings of Early Settlers — Household Conveniences — House Raising — The Pioneer’s First Agricultural Work—”Logging bees” — The Settler’s Diet — Scarcity of Money — Advantages of Asheries — The Tioughnioga River as a Highway to Market — The Head of Navigation — Port Watson Village — The First Newspaper in the County — Its Chief Characteristics — Old Advertisements — The First Court House — An Old Building Document — Village Rivalry — Further Organizations of Turnpike Companies — Change of Boundary — The First Newspaper in Cortland Village — An Early Celebration — Struggle over the Site of the Gaol — Its Final Location in Cortland — Newspaper Recrimination — The First Agricultural Society — The Old County Clerk’s Office.
- The Third Decade — Condition of the Community — Abandonment of the Tioughnioga as a Freight Highway — The Erie Canal Project and Its Influence in the County — The Constitutional Convention of 1821 and the Changes Wrought thereby in the County — The First Railroad Charter — Sauna and Port Watson the Terminal Points — More Turnpike Companies Incorporated — The Canal Mania — The Syracuse and Port Watson Canal Project — Other Internal Improvements — Statistics.
- From 1830 to the present time — Beginning of the Third Decade — Condition of the County at Large — New Road Companies Organized — The County Poor House — Building of the New Court House — Railroad Agitation — Incorporation of Two Companies for Lines Through Con-land — Organization of the Second Agricultural Society — Political Reminiscences — The Leaders of Other Days — The Campaign of 1844 — Changes in Congressional and Senatorial Districts — Town Boundaries Altered — Town Genealogy — Development of Dairying Interests — Public Education — The Old Stage Routes — The Railroad Again — A New Charter Obtained — The Road Finished — Public Demonstrations of Satisfaction — Effects on Villages — The First Death Penalty — Political Events — Building of a New Jail — New Railroad Connections — Statistics.
- Military History — The 76th Regiment — “General Training” Days — Military Dignitaries in the Old Militia — Cortland County in the War of the Rebellion — The News from Bull Run — Its Effects at the North — The County Aroused — An Important Meeting—Suggestions for the Organization of a Regiment — Meetings Held Throughout the County — Recruiting—The 76th Regiment Organized — Camp Established on the Fair Grounds — The Green-McNett Trouble — Departure of the Regiment — Reorganization — Line and Staff Officers — Off for New York — Ordered to Washington — Camp Life at Meridian Hill — Ordered to Fredericksburg — Colonel Wainwright Assigned to the Command of the Regiment — The First Battle — Examples of Heroism — The Second Bull Run — South Mountain and the Conflict — At Fredericksburg — The Bloody Field of Gettysburg — An Execution — In the Wilderness — At Spottsylvania — In Petersburg — “Expended in the Service” — Home.
- Military History — The 157th Regiment — Recruiting the 157th Regiment — Sources of the Different Companies — Staff and Line Officers — Camp Mitchell — Ordered to the Front In Camp at Arlington Heights — The Regiment Assigned — The First Death — At Centreville — Christmas in Front of Fredericksburg — In Burn side’s “Mud Campaign” — Battle of Chancellorsville — Severe Marching — Gettysburg — The Roll Call after the Battle — Recruiting and Reorganization — Engagement at Hilton Head — An Incident — Major Place as Provost Marshal — Mustered Out.
- Military History — The 185th Regiment and Other Organizations — Organization of the Regiment — The Cortland County Companies — Their Officers — In Camp at Syracuse — Ordered to the Front — Assignment to the First Brigade, Fifth Corps — A Spy Captured — A Winter Camp — Demonstration on the Weldon Railroad — Winter Quarters Again — Marching Orders — Hatcher’s Run — Under a~ Terrific Fire — Capture of Major Bush and His Detail — Colonel Jenny’s Situation and Resignation—At Fort Steedman — At Quaker Farm — Colonel Sniper’s Bravery — Heavy Losses — The Fate of the Colors — Five Forks — The End Approaching — At Appomattox — Other Organizations — Summary.
- Official Action in the War of the Rebellion — The First Act — An Important Resolution — Action of the Board of Supervisors Relative to Payment of Bounties — The Committee of 1864 — Money Borrowed for the County — The Bounty Committee — Further Sums Raised — A County Bounty Offered — The Call for 500, 000 Men — Bounties Increased — Issue of Bonds — Loans by the County to the Towns — Statistics.
- The Cortland County Press — The First Newspaper — The Pioneer Journalist — Description of the Cortland Courier — Changes in Proprietorship and Names — Dr. Jesse Sean’s Career as a Publisher — Another Change — A Sheet of 1830 — A Glimpse at Its Contents — Rufus A. Reed and His Connection with Cortland Journalism — The Predecessors of the Cortland County Republican — The Oldest Paper in Cortland Village — Ancestors of the Standard — The Western Courier — Establishment of the Democrat — Seth Haight’s Administration — H.G. Crouch Enters the Arena — The Cortland American — C.P. Cole and the Gazette — The Republican Banner — The Cortland Journal — First Issue of the Cortland Standard — The Cortland County Democrat and Its Predecessors — The McGrawville Sentinel — The Otselic Valley Register — The Newspaper Death Roll.
- The Bench and Bar of Cortland County — The Old English Courts — Establishment of Courts in America — Creation of the Court of Appeals — The Supreme Court — Its Judges and Their Duties — The Court of Common Pleas and the County Court — Justice’s Courts and Courts of Special Sessions — Judicial Offices — The Bar of Cortland County — Its Early Eminent Members — Roll of Attorneys’ Oaths — The Present Bar — Biographical Notes.
- The Cortland County Medical Society.
- Secret Societies, etc. — The Free and Accepted Masons of Cortland County — The First Lodge in the County — Its Old Records — Other Lodges Instituted — The Independent Order of Odd Fellows — Lodges and Officers — Other Societies.
- County Societies, Buildings, etc. — The Cortland County Agricultural Society — Its First Fairs—List of its Presidents — The Cortland County Farmers’ Club — Its Organization and First Officers — Value of Its Work — List of Officers — The Cortland County Bible Society — The Young Men’s Christian Association — County Buildings
- History of the Town of Homer
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- History of the Town of Virgil
- History of the Town of Marathon
- History of the Town of Cincinnatus
- History of the Town of Truxton
- History of the Town of Cuyler
- History of the Town of Preble
- History of the Town of Scott
- History of the Town of Solon
- History of the Town of Freetown
- History of the Town of Taylor
- History of the Town of Willet
- History of the Town of Harford
- History of the Town of Lapeer
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