Fall 1998

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1791, 1792

New York City / State Timeline

from Eagles Byte by David Minor

Year-by-year tracing the growth of the early days of the Republic


We left Orange County farmer William Wickham [my ancestor-dm] and his family in 1790, holed up for the winter at Tioga Point in northern Pennsylvania. As signs of spring began appearing, the family was eager to be on the move to York State. Making their way to the north by a combination of boat, shanks mare and canoe, they arrived on the east shore of Seneca Lake on May 3rd, and made their way up the sharply sloping hillside until they reached a level spot toward the top and set up camp. There they erected the first dwelling in the town of Hector and settled in to begin a farm and a new life. One lake to the east, on Cayuga Lake, settler Roswell Franklin had recently lost a wife and his youngest child during a battle with the Seneca. His wife was dead and his child had disappeared, a captive. The losses were too much for him. He died, as the records show us, "under the weight of his misfortune."

Pioneers such as the Wickhams and the Franklins were entering a geography that was slowly taking political form in 1791. Robert Morris, who had made a reputation as "The Financier of the American Revolution" applied to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to purchase land recently recovered from land agents Phelps and Gorham. For the princely and oddly euphonious sum of $333,333. 33 he acquired four million acres of land at the far western end of the state, which encompassed most of the land west of the Genesee River. Zebulon Norton settled at a rapids on the river. The site later became West Mendon, then Honeoye Falls.

Albany County was becoming unwieldy in size and the section on the east bank of the Hudson became Rensselaer County. To the west Otsego County was incorporated; William Cooper was named presiding judge by the governor. With the westward migration beginning to accelerate, a private company was chartered to make waterway improvements in the state, but little would be done until the second quarter of the next century, when the Erie Canal became a reality.

The city of Albany meanwhile was becoming quite civilized. This year saw the founding of the Society for the Promotion of Agriculture, Arts and Manufactures, and the Albany Institute of History and Art. Just across the river, in the Rensselaer County, editor Silvester Tiffany began publishing the Lansingburgh American Spy, a weekly newspaper, in April. In September he launched another paper, Tiffany's Recorder.

The city on Manhattan Island, no longer the nation's capital, nevertheless began expanding and new land was needed. Part of the solution was the commencement of a ten-year project to fill in the Collect Pond, near today's city hall, a swampy body of water that was becoming increasingly polluted. Our environment was endangered, even back in 1791.


Things were volatile in New York in 1792, at least as far as the printing and the real estate businesses went. First off, in January, Rensselaer County publisher Silvester Tiffany sold his Tiffany Recorder to George Gardner and James Hill, who removed his name from the masthead and called it the Lansingburgh Recorder. Tiffany then took on William W. Wands as a partner in August, turning the operation of the business over to him by the end of the year, presumably retiring shortly afterwards.

Huge tracts of land continued to change hands in the western part of the state. One year after buying most of western New York from Phelps & Gorham, financier Robert Morris sold the portion east of the Genesee River to William Pulteney and his associates, reaping a quick return on his investment. Another agent, named Theophile Cazenove began buying most of the land west of the river. His principals were a group of Dutch investors with the ringing names of P. & C. van Eeghen, Schimmelpennick, Stadnitski, Van Staphorst, Vollenhoven, and W. & J. Willink, who had organized themselves as the Holland Land Company.

The Genesee itself was seeing a bit of action. Scotsman Patrick Campbell came to scout the valley for his countrymen, soon publishing a favorable account of his travels. At the northern end, above the upper falls, Ebenezer Allan's mill site was sold to Benjamin Barton. Elsewhere new towns were being formed this year. Chili in the west, Fairfield in the north and Cortlandt in the lower Hudson Valley, near the Croton River. Attempts were also being made to link the various parts of the state. General Philip Schuyler, hero of the Revolution, formed The Western Inland Lock Navigation Company, to build a three-mile canal bypassing the cataract at Little Falls. Another canal was to link the Mohawk River with Wood Creek and thus to a branch of the Black River, to the north of the future city of Rome.

Valentine's Day saw the founding of the Albany Library. But it was the metropolis to the south that was really beginning to come to life. While work on filling the Collect Pond continued, new streets were being laid out in the lands north of the old mill site. Boston businessman Abijah Hammond had donated a device for drilling for water to the city government, which ordered experiments to begin on a vacant lot adjoining city hall.

October 12th saw another first with a major celebration of Columbus's discovery of America. One other innovation appeared earlier. It you waited to see what Dow Jones Industrial Averages closed at last night it all started with a meeting of city businessmen. It was a warm May morning and they met outdoors, in the shade of a buttonwood tree--on Wall Street.

1998, David Minor
1703, . . . 1784, 1785, 1786, 1787, 1788, 1789, 1790, 1791, 1792, 1793, 1794, 1795, 1796, 1797, 1798, 1799, 1800, 1801, 1802, 1803, 1804, 1805, 1806, 1807, 1808, 1809, 1810, 1811, 1812, 1813, 1814, 1815, 1816, 1817, 1818, 1819, 1820, 1821, 1822, 1823, 1824, 1825, 1826 , 1827, 1828, Pt. 1
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.
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