New York City / State Timeline
from Eagles Byte by David Minor
Year-by-year tracing the growth of the early days of the Republic
Our new nation hit a milestone in 1787, as the delegates meeting in Philadelphia approved a final draft of a new national constitution on September 17th. New York-born Pennsylvania politician Gouvernor Morris had written the final draft, and the delegates passed a resolution to forward it to Congress in New York City. The Articles of Confederation had been supplanted by the new U. S. Constitution and courts and citizens would continue refining its meaning, down to the present day and beyond.
Meanwhile the seat of government would continue to grow, as a center for arts and commerce, challenging Boston and Philadelphia's position. On the 24th, the city's Daily Advertiser printed A Revolution Effected by Good Sense and Deliberation, the first known original commentary on the Constitution in the state. On April 16th, Boston playwright Royall Tyler opened his new play The Contrast in New York, at the John Street Theatre. It would be the first professional performance of a comedy in America.
On July 5th, Connecticut-born clergyman, doctor, and speculator Manasseh Cutler arrived in the city and spent the next nine days petitioning Congress for the right to buy one-and-a-half million acres of land on the Ohio River-at 3 acres for a dollar-for the Ohio Company. On the 27th he was given the authority to buy 1,781,760 acres for $1,000,000, with an option for another five million acres. Meanwhile the state legislature, meeting in the city, sold Alexander Macomb four million acres in the northern part of New York state. Heady stuff for a city that had only cost a few dollars worth of trinkets itself.
Further up the Hudson, civilization was making inroads. In Albany, housewright Isaac Packard was building Cherry Hill, a Georgian mansion, for patroon Philip Van Rennselaer. (From now on Philip would have to work a bit harder to maintain his estate, as the legislature abolished feudal tenure this year. ) And the printing firm of Claxton & Babcock would begin publishing Troy's weekly Northern Centinel & Lansingburgh Advertiser. Off to the west, at the confluence of the Chenango and Susquehanna rivers, settlers began to gather at a site they called Chenango Point. We call it Binghamton.
While all of this was happening, decisions were being made in Hartford, Connecticut, that would have an impact on western New York. A conference set the western boundary of New York's Indian lands just east of the Niagara river, running from Lake Ontario to Lake Erie. Rights to the one-mile strip west of the line were reserved for New York State.
July 26th brought good news to Troy, New York, for subscribers to Babcock and Hickock's Federal Herald. On this date New York's representatives learned that Virginia had ratified the new U. S. Constitution. Despite Governor George Clinton's Antifederalist, states' rights objections, they immediately followed suit. Clinton's stand didn't hurt him with state voters, though. They returned him to office a number of times on through 1795, and again from 1801 to 1804.
Down in Manhattan, the new Congress spent the remainder of the year scheduling elections for the presidency, declaring the city temporary capital of the United States, and moving the furnishings and trappings of the outmoded Confederation Congress out of Federal Hall. They adjourned on November 1st.
Settlements continued to spread. A group of pioneers began clustering on the Chemung River, an area later named Elmira. To the north, Onondaga Indians signed the Treaty of Fort Schuyler (formerly Fort Stanwix) ceding "all their lands forever,"-with the exception of certain reserved lands-to the Sate of New York. A small number of settlers in that area began producing their own salt from the springs at the northern end of Lake Onondaga. Downstate, in northern Westchester County, the Town of Cortlandt was founded. And at the far western end of the state, a man by the name of Middaugh established a tavern at Lewiston, at the lower end of the Niagara River Portage. His establishment would be a lonely one, catering only to travelers; the first permanent settlers wouldn't arrive for another fourteen years.
It was this year that a number of people began taking an interest in the area along the Genesee River, people with names that would become an important part of the valley's heritage. A resident of Hartford, Connecticut, arrived in the valley and looked around with an eye to settling in the region. He liked what he saw. His name was Jeremiah Wadsworth. He would have to deal with the valley's new owners. Massachusetts had sold its western New York lands to a consortium of investors headed by Oliver Phelps and Nathaniel Gorham. They paid the Senecas $5000 in cash and trade goods, plus a $500 annual payment for the lands, which became part of the Military Tract, set aside for veterans of the recent revolution. Phelps and Gorham hired a local trader by the name of Ebenezer (Indian) Allan to start a mill at the Falls of the Genesee. They overlooked one thing. There was no convenient way for customers to get across the river at that point. The mill failed.
And in Hagerstown, Maryland, Sophia Beatty married a local businessman. His name was Colonel Nathaniel Rochester.
© 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.