New York City / State Timeline
from Eagles Byte by David Minor
Year-by-year tracing the growth of the early days of the Republic
When New York lawyer John Jay brokered a treaty with England in November of 1794, the announced provisions aroused political opposition-opposition that would not die down for the next two years. Northern commercial interests found the granting of most-favored nation status (sound familiar?) to Britain unacceptable. As New York entered 1795 and Alexander Hamilton announced his support for the treaty, he became one of the state's more unpopular citizens.
In July he attempted to explain his reasons in an outdoor public address on New York City's Broad Street, (near today's stock market, where George Washington had spoken during the city's Federal period).
Hamilton's speech had to be canceled when several citizens began tossing stones at him. The city was becoming rather touchy anyway. An outbreak of yellow fever was just getting underway, and by November several hundred New Yorkers would be dead of the disease.
In the rest of the state things were quite a bit calmer. Nonetheless, governor George Clinton decided to retire from politics. Oddly enough it was John Jay who was elected to succeed him. Obviously the Federalists still enjoyed great power in New York. Clinton would be back as governor in 1801.
Though much of the state was still sparsely populated, the Hudson Valley and part of the Mohawk region was becoming quite civilized. Union College, so called because it was a union of several religious denominations, was founded in Schenectady. Building funds for the school were raised by the usual private subscriptions and lotteries, common methods for projects across the country, for decades to come. Among the monies raised were $225,000 for nine professorships, $5,000 for textbooks, $30,000 for a library and $20,000 for a cemetery! Some of the funds came from investments in Brooklyn real estate.
The legislature had authorized a survey for a public highway last year, from Utica to the Genesee Valley, but these things take time. Jacob Weidman was near enough to Albany (a lack of a cross-state road didn't matter) when he founded a village out of Rensselaerville and named it Bern for his birthplace in Switzerland. Others found the lack an obstacle, but not an unsurmountable one. Two Englishmen erected a log cabin west of the Genesee-the future site of Caledonia. Daniel Penfield began buying Phelps and Gorham Tract property for his mills on Irondequoit Creek, to the east of the Genesee. He would firmly place his name on the ensuing village. And two men named Ephraim would make their marks on our area. Ephraim Webster pioneered the future site of Syracuse. And Ephraim Wilder built an inn at Canandaigua, later a stage stop. You can still stay there-it's today's Acorn Inn.
In February of 1796 English actor Joseph Jefferson made his New York City debut in The Provoked Husband. The year ended with the debut of Victor Pellesier's opera Edwina and Angelina. It would be another 29 years before Italian opera would be performed in the city. Construction had also begun this year on the Park Theatre, on a site now occupied by Park Row. In between the two performances, the city managed to keep busy. Inventors John Fitch and John Stevens continued with their separate efforts to devise watercraft powered by steam, drawing a few curious onlookers to the shores of lower Manhattan's Collect Pond. Construction on the City Hotel, begun two years earlier, was completed. Members of the Methodist Episcopalian Church formed their own congregation, the first black church on the island.
As the arts began multiplying in the city, the political scene became quieter, with the transferral of the state govnment to the new capital at Albany. Representatives would find life a bit more primitive up toward the other end of the Hudson. A public water corporation was formed there this year, empowered to construct a water works. Nothing came of it. Meanwhile the new transplants had to suffer the local well water, water that was, in the words of Peter Kalm, a visitng Swedish naturalist in 1748, "kept in cellars, in order that the slime may subside." Yum! But the reorganization of the state government continued. The legislature divided the state into eight legal districts. Each district was assigned its own attorney general, except for the New York City
District. A $15,000 loan was made to the Western Inland Company for improvements to the state's waterways, and a state road was opened, connecting Whitestown, in Oneida County, to Geneva, in Ontario County, passing through the Cayuga County town of Auburn.
The road was important, as land promoters were now redoubling their efforts to sell off their vast holdings. The possibility of a British-Indian invasion by way of Canada and the territory south of Lake Erie a few years back, had threatened to drive many settlers out of the region. Sales had almost ground to a halt, but peace was restored at last and they were expected to regain momentum. Three foreign tourists made their way from George Washington's Mount Vernon to Canandaigua, where they called on Thomas Morris, son of financier Robert Morris. He brought the three men, the exile Louis Philippe of France, Duc d'Orleans, and his younger brothers to see the Falls of the Genesee. And our friend Charles Williamson and his new towns were bustling. William Kersey and James Edie began publishing the Bath Gazette andGenesee Advertiser. An academy was founded at Geneva. And the comparatively palatial new Patterson Inn, on the future site of Corning, provided unexpected amenities to prospective land buyers. Over 3,000 visited the area this year.
© 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.