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 old saw tells us there's nothing sure but death and taxes. The first had been around in New York State since the beginning, the second were introduced in 1799. Slumping land sales that year produced the need to generate other revenue--the government in Albany began leveling its first state tax. The assembly had other irons in the fire. They continued refining the geopolitical boundaries of the state by splitting off a portion of Onondaga County to form the new county of Cayuga.
Looking more closely at the remainder of Onondaga, they decided to regulate the burgeoning salt industry there. An act was passed requiring all salt manufactured at the springs be deposited in a public storehouse for inspection, and if necessary, sorted into two qualities. The finest quality was to be free from all dirt and the second to be free from impurities, dry, and no more than 25% inferior to the first quality. Of course, the lawmakers made sure a state employee inspected everything. They even decreed the type and size of container the salt was to be shipped in, and set up a series of fees and penalties (A-Ha!). The manufacturers and shippers probably began having dark thoughts about Big Government. The Assembly also took the first halting steps toward ending slavery, passing a gradual emancipation act on March 29th. All children of slaves born after July 4th would become freed when they reached the age of 25; 28 if female.
In Albany the Federalist Party was beginning to lose its hold, even as the nation's chief Federalist lay fighting his last battle. Death came to George Washington on December 14th. New York City learned of it on the 17th, Schenectady not for another week. In that town the church bells tolled for two hours and the aldermen donned mourning clothes for thirty days. As the winds of political change began rising and Republicanism grew stronger, one local Federalist decided it was time to retire from the game. Congressman and judge, William Cooper, father of James Fenimore Cooper, resigned both positions.
The state continued its growth spurt, from the Mohawk to the Niagara frontier. Utica now contained fifty houses. 23 Scots immigrants from nearby, read Charles Williamson's advertisements and went off to investigate the west. They soon bought land from the Pulteney agent and settled west of the Genesee on Oatka Creek. Taking their cue from the Roman name for Scotland they called their new home Caledonia. Other settlers went a bit farther and settled on Le Roy's East Main Street. Another group pushed over toward Lake Erie, while Asa Ransom dropped off partway, to found Clarence Hollow (and much later give his name to a restaurant). Others went still farther-to another creek, to begin a community named New Amsterdam, a name it would not keep for long.
The new century brought continued activity to New York State. In Manhattan architect John McComb, Jr.'s Church of Our Lady of the Rosary, down at the south end of the island was completed. The Bank of Manhattan opened on Wall Street. Up in the country, toward the northern end of the island lawyer-politician Alexander Hamilton bought property in August for a summer home. Over in the Bronx, fellow politician Gouverneur Morris began construction of his own country home which, like Jefferson at Monticello, he was designing himself. The Morris family name would be perpetuated geographically in the names of two Bronx villages, Morrisania and Morris Heights.
Currently, other villages were springing up, especially in the recently-formed Cayuga County. This year would see the settlement of Brutus, Cato, and Conquest. Watertown, up at the eastern end of Lake Ontario, was also settled. The first round of primitive infrastructure-building continued. The bridge across the northern end of Cayuga Lake was completed as was the Mohawk Turnpike, crossing the eastern part of the state. And prospective customers visited the sparsely settled Genesee Valley. James Wadsworth sold a section of his holdings to painter Benjamin West. Charles Williamson's publicity machine attracted three wealthy Maryland investors. Colonel W. Fitzhugh and Major Charles Carroll bought land in the Mount Morris area. Colonel Nathaniel Rochester bought at Dannsville (then spelled with two 'n's). In a few years all three investors would buy land farther downriver, at a place where a series of waterfalls would provide important power for mills and other industries. One of the men would give his name to the city that grew up there. Other mills were opened this year at another creek to the east, as builder Eli Lyon constructed a flour mill on Irondequoit Creek for Daniel Penfield, and Abram Bronson built a triphammer mill nearby.
Meanwhile, the Ellicott brothers and their teams completed the Great Survey for the Holland Land Company, begun the previous year. A surveyor's lot (pardon the expression) was not a comfortable one and the task was taking longer than originally expected. Facing waist-deep swamps, thickly-wooded mountainsides, hailstorms, fever, and distemper (for the pack animals), they also had to deal with summer drought, and storms like the one described by Benjamin Ellicott. "[T]he rain came in torrents, the lightning flashed, thunder roared incessantly, wind tearing from the sturdy trees their boughs, and dislocating others that had stood for many years apart--as if war had been declared against the forest." The men's efforts would pay off, especially for one of their leaders. In November, Paolo Busti was named General Agent of the Holland Land Company. He hired Joseph Ellicott as Land Agent and, in December, sent him off to the site of the future Buffalo to begin operations.
© 1999, 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.