New York City / State Timeline
from Eagles Byte by David Minor
Year-by-year tracing the growth of the early days of the Republic
The handful of pinpricks on the New York State map indicating new settlements was beginning to grow by 1793. From the far south-western corner of the state, where Joshua Patrick opened the first inn at the future Aurora, east through the Finger Lakes, vast quantities of land were still changing hands. Robert Morris sold 3,600,000 acres of western New York to Theophile Cazenove. He also sold 85,000 acres to New York City capitalist Herman Le Roy and his associates William Bayard and John McEvers, land that would be known as the Triangle Tract. Before the year was out, Charles Wilbur moved into the Tract and erected a
cabin on the banks of the Oatka Creek in what would become Le Roy. From Ulster County, in the lower Hudson Valley, came Colonel John Hardenburgh, Winslow Perry, Amos Stoyell, and Jabez L. Bottom, to found the village of Auburn.
East of Auburn, the shores of Lake Onondaga were seeing the early beginnings of manufacturing activity. One frontier entrepreneur, James Geddes began making salt at Geddes, while Moses De Witt and William Van Vleck joined forces to erect a four-kettle manufactury, turning out potash to be used by pioneer families in the making of soap. Earlier inhabitants of the area were starting to feel the effects of encroaching civilization. A new treaty with the Onondaga tribe reduced the size of their reservation. It would not be the last time.
Communities established less than a half dozen years previously were slowly growing in size and social amenities. Ephraim Wilson settled in Bristol Center, building a home there. The village of Cato saw its first marriage as William Allen and Betsey Watkins said their vows on June 25th.
Albany was becoming more and more metropolitan, as befitted a state capital. The Society for the Promotion of Agriculture, Arts, and Manufactures was incorporated. But unrest is always just beneath the surface in semi-frontier communities. In November a group of slaves rebelled, setting fire to a number of buildings before order was restored.
Meanwhile the city at the mouth of the Hudson was attracting the talented and the ambitious. It was on April 3rd the city learned of Revolutionary France's declaration of war on Britain. One fugitive of that revolution was 24-year-old Marc Isambard Brunel. He would make his mark as an architect and a canal designer, before rising to the post of city chief engineer. Six years later he would recross the Atlantic, settling in England, where he designed the first Thames tunnel. His son Isambard Kingdom Brunel would design bridges, railroads and transatlantic steamships. Definitely an early case of U. S. brain drain.
U. S. Postmaster-General Timothy Pickering, had already negotiated three peace treaties with the Seneca and concluded a fourth in November of 1794. The tribe was now limited to the extreme western part of the state. But this year of 1794 had already seen a great deal of activity as land speculators labored to nail down their claims.
Surveying teams spread out across the state. Counties were laid out in the Military Tract in central New York, that had originally been set aside for the veterans of the Sullivan campaign. The agents of Sir William Pulteney were quite active, from the Finger Lakes to the Genesee River. The most enterprising, Charles Williamson, arrived at the northern end of Seneca Lake and laid out a village green on the hilltop to the west. It continues there today as Pulteney Park, center of Geneva's South Main Street Historic District. The Pulteney interests also bought a mill site on the upper falls of the Genesee from Benjamin Miller. The same year free black Asa Dunbar established a settlement nearby, which would one day become Rochester's Corn Hill neighborhood. Land west of the Genesee was being developed as well, as the Philadelphia office of the Holland Land Company hired surveyor Joseph Ellicott to mark out its recently-purchased land. Another speculator, Judge William Cooper, who operated in the eastern part of the state, was elected to Congress this year. He'd purchased lands in the Otsego Lake area in the 1780s and labored to improve the town he had established there and named after himself.
Civilization continued trickling into the survey areas in 1794. As the salt springs around Onondaga Lake began to attract local entrepreneurs, a public storehouse was erected for the protection and regulation of the new trade. Minister Thomas Streeter, a member of the Strict Baptist sect, settled in the area to the south, around Bath.
Two events that would change the face of transportation in the state and around the world were taking place in the lower reaches of the Hudson River. John Stevens demonstrated a crude working model of a steamboat. And in Port Richmond, on Staten Island, Cornelius Vanderbilt was born. He would make his fortune by turning the steam devices of land and water into major transportation industries.
Meanwhile Manhattan continued growing. Journeyman printers of the city formed the Franklin Typographical Society, the city's first permanent labor association. Designer Duncan Phyfe began manufacturing furniture in his shop near South Street. And a pest house or quarantine station that had been built to cope with the plague was converted into a hospital. It was given the name Bellevue.
© 1998, David Minor
The Eagles Byte New York City / State Timeline is from David Minor's radio scripts for Simon Pontin's Salmagundy radio program on WXXI-FM (91.5). David can be heard every Saturday morning at 10:15 talking about various aspects of world history.