New York City / State Timeline
from Eagles Byte by David Minor
Year-by-year tracing the growth of the early days of the Republic
Departures And Arrivals
As 1803 dawned over New York State, there was one significant player missing. Back in London the year before, Sir William Pulteney had given his ledgers a good going-over. Despite the fact that his investment in Genesee lands had doubled in eight years under the capable hands of his agent Charles Williamson, all Sir William could see was the amount in the expenses column - $1,373,470, and ten cents, as well as outstanding obligations of $300,000. Deciding to micro-manage, usually a bad idea even back then before it had a name, he sought to appoint a co-proprietor in New York. Charles Williamson was not about to share responsibility with anyone. He settled his affairs and moved on. The super salesman was gone now.
Ledger figures weren't coming out right down in New York City, either. An audit revealed that a member of Mayor Edward Livingston's staff had embezzled over $44,000 of municipal funds. The mayor, innocent of any wrong-doing and just recovering from a bout of yellow fever, moved quickly to restore the public monies from his own pocket. Impoverished, he resigned and moved to New Orleans. Waiting in the wings was a young U. S. Senator with a name soon to be reckoned with in the state—name of De Witt Clinton. He would soon have a new office, as the cornerstone for the third, and current, City Hall was laid this year.
Upstate, development moved apace. Early settlers were putting down roots, roots that would be the foundations of Fredonia, Salamanca, Aurora, Warsaw, and Caledonia (then known as Southampton). In Batavia, land agent Joseph Ellicott made his first sale, to Adam Hoops and three business partners. Ellicott tore down his log office and moved into a frame building. Batavia was named the seat of Genesee County. Settlers in Schenectady rebuilt the first bridge across the Mohawk, previously blown down just after its construction. In Herkimer County the Fairfield Academy was established. Becoming a medical school in 1809 it would fail to meet the requirements for a college and have its conditional charter revoked around 1812.
De Witt Clinton was not the only rising political star in the state this year.
Upstate lawyer Martin Van Buren was named to the New York State Bar. And circuit court judge Daniel D. Tompkins, a future gubernatorial rival of Clinton's and future U. S. Vice President, arrived in Auburn to administer justice. He held a court of Oyer and Terminer, appointed to inquire into all treasons, felonies and misdemeanors, sitting on the case of a local Indian named John, who stood accused of killing settler Ezekial Crane, Jr. After hearing the evidence, Tompkins found John to be guilty of murder and sentenced him to be hanged. According to French's Gazetteer of 1860 the convicted man, "urgently requested that he might be shot-—a privelege, of course, not granted by our laws."
Where Was Nelson Eddy?
New York City was fairly quiet in the autumn of 1804. The leisure classes had time for reflection, time to consider their heritage and their legacy. A number of them got together and founded the New York Historical Society. In a few months its members would be soliciting operating funds as well as donations of artifacts. (If you go to their Central Park West headquarters today don't miss the Tiffany lamp collection).
It was a relief for the citizens to be able to focus on quiet pursuits after the summer just passed. On May 12th the city had celebrated last year's purchase of the Louisiana Territory with public festivities, hanging out flags and shooting off cannon. Nearly two months later, on July 11th, two pistol shots could be heard, across the Hudson at Weehawken, New Jersey. The former Secretary of the Treasury's shot went high, probably on purpose. The lame-duck Vice-President's did not. The next day Alexander Hamilton died of his wound, leaving a wife and seven children behind. Aaron Burr fled to Philadelphia and served out his term of office.
The rest of the state continued growing. The U. S. Surveyor General declared Black Rock, rather than Buffalo, as the only suitable place on Lake Erie for a port. The village of Colonie and the town of Chautauqua were founded. The town of Willink was founded but soon changed its name to Aurora. New settlements sprang up. Adam Hoops founded a village in the Southern Tier near springs with bits of oil floating on them. He corrupted the Latin word for oil, oleum, and named the place Olean. Among the founders of Summer Hill in Cayuga County was teacher Nathaniel Fillmore. His son Millard had been born in the county four years earlier. Fredonia, Hamburg, Williamsville and Ossian were founded. All this activity required new pathways. The state legislature declared Mead and Mud Creeks to be public highways. Construction on the road from Rome to Sackets Harbor continued, passing through the town of Lorraine. And twice weekly mail service began between Utica and Canandaigua. But infrastructure wears out and the mile-long bridge across the northern end of Cayuga Lake collapsed. It wouldn't be rebuilt until 1813 but the new structure would last until 1857. Through it's early years, until the Erie Canal was built, it would serve as the main route of migration through the state.
Civilization also spread. Early in the year James D. Bemis arrived in Canandaigua to open a bookstore. He would soon sell to Myron Holley and go on to become sole proprietor of the Canandaigua newspaper The Western Repository and Genesee Advertiser. Painter John Vanderlyn turned out the perennial melodramatic classic "The Death of Jane McCrea." And Caledonia welcomed a new schoolteacher Jeanette Macdonald. As far as we know this one didn't sing.
© 2000, 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.