New York City / State Timeline
from Eagles Byte by David Minor
Year-by-year tracing the growth of the early days of the Republic
Man Digs Old Elephant
Funny game, the newspaper business. All are launched with high hopes. Some go on to lead successful lives. Others quickly flop. Several were begun in New York State in 1801. The Albany Centinel didn't make it beyond it's first year. The Hudson Balance did slightly better; it lasted seven years. But New York City's Alexander Hamilton was the most successful, in his choice of title anyway. On November 16th he founded the New York Evening Post, with William Coleman as its editor. Its line has not been unbroken; it might even be successfully argued that it's not the same newspaper, but today there still is a New York Post. One thing is certain—Hamilton would not recognize today's punchy tabloid.
The new papers had much to report. To begin with there was the national inauguration. Jefferson became president, with New Yorker Aaron Burr as his v. p. Burr was soon sitting on a committee to revise the constitution of New York State; for the first time the Federalists were out of power. The political landscape began changing rapidly. The Pulteney real estate interests were endangered and a financial overhaul resulted in Charles Williamson resigning, rather than sharing power with Sir William's new choice, former Board-of-the-Congressional-Treasury member Robert Troup. Williamson, the man who had perhaps done more than any other to shape the geographical landscape of western New York was gone. Other, lesser events were happening down in New York City. Doctor David Hosack founded Elgin's Garden, a botanical park bounded by the future 47th and 51st streets, and Fifth and Sixth avenues. The area was far from being the prime real estate it would one day become. A Lutheran Church was built down on Mott Street, the Church of the Transfiguration nearby. Today that area is in the heart of Chinatown.
The Finger Lake and Genesee Valley region continued growing. The area's first school was opened at Ganson's (later Le Roy). Settlers began moving into the future Bergen, Penfield, and Dunham's Grove. (We know the latter as Oakfield.) Joseph Ellicott moved his Holland Land Company office into Howe's cabin and named the settlement for one of his Dutch sponsors' far-off capitals, Batavia. Ellicott then moved on to Clarence and set up another sales office. Land in the western region was soon going for $2 an acre and by year's end 40 tracts were sold.
Later western pioneers would talk mysteriously of going to "see the elephant." Naturalist Charles Willson Peale couldn't wait. When farmers near Newburgh discovered some very strange bones, Peale organized the uncovering of a prehistoric mastodon. Resurrected, it was soon the star attraction of his Philadelphia museum.
Navy Beats Army
Not having a Psychic Hotline, New Yorkers were unable to foresee the future. Therefore they had no way of knowing for certain they were "between wars." But it doesn't take a Nostradamus to figure out that future wars are inevitable. And the military leaders of the period wanted to be ready. Last year they had begun a naval construction yard in Brooklyn, to maintain and augment whatever national fleet was needed. This year, several hours up the Hudson (the estimated time to Albany was nine hours, by sloop) a military academy was founded. Perched on a rocky outcropping on the western shore, it commanded a crucial and strategic reach of the river. The U. S. had learned it's lesson well from its revolutionary experience. Established by Congress on March 16th, the school enrolled its first class of future officers on July 4th. Down in Manhattan, civilian education was being stimulated by the first book fair in the country on June 1st.
Overland transportation around the state was enhanced by new construction projects. A turnpike across the Catskills was completed and a wagon road was opened between Buffalo and Chautauqua Creek, to ease travel to Ohio's Connecticut Reserve lands. Up near Sackets Harbor a bridge was erected across the Black River. The town of Brownville would not appear there for almost another decade. Along the new paths opened up by this construction activity the beginnings of the postal system made its way toward the far end of the state. James Brisbane became Batavia's first postmaster and he was soon processing mail out of Cananadaigua, which arrived twice a month.
Land sales continued briskly and Holland Land Company field agent Joseph Ellicott soon found himself hampered by the inconvenience of having the county seat at Canandaigua and by prohibitive taxes. Such problems helped spur the creation of Genesee County this year. Containing most of the land west of the Genesee it would soon give birth to Niagara, Orleans, Monroe, Wyoming, Livingston, Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Allegany counties.The state purchased a mile-wide strip along the Niagara River from the Senecas. calling it, oddly enough, the Mile Strip. Joseph Ellicott began warning his boss, General Agent Paolo Busti, that if the land around New Amsterdam (Buffalo) was not opened to development quickly, the state would beat them to the punch by opening the Mile Strip to settlement and establishing a town there. He was given permission to survey the land and sell lots. In the southern tier Captain Philip Church pioneered an Allegany County village. A dutiful son, he named it after his mother—Angelica. Colonel James McMahan pioneered Westfield, the first settlement in Chautauqua County. All of this new development did not come without its bureaucratic price. This year the Steuben County treasurer's office was required to post its first official bond—$2000.
© 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.