CNY Local History

      Cortland County Hall of Fame

A museum “truth” is that every artifact has a story.  In the case of our Hall of Fame, every member has a story.  We have selected 35 individuals to date.  They are listed below in “birth” order.  Each name is linked to a short biograpy.

Nominations are generally accepted from early January to Mid March each year.  Contact us at Homeville@CNYLivingHistory.org if you want more information.

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Celebrating & Preserving Our Heritage:  The First Hundred Years1 in Central New York

(Items in italics have associated memorabilia in the museum)

 Chronology

 Pre-Settlement

  • Geography was hugely shaped by the ice age and the terrain was a significant factor in settlement.
  • This area was the hunting grounds of Delaware and Onondaga Indians & Jesuit missionaries were early explorers.
  • During the Revolutionary War, the British encouraged regional Indians to attack settlers in areas such as Cherry and Wyoming Valleys; what is now Cortland County was not yet settled.

1791 – 1800:  “The Log Cabin Period”2

HV06 Log Cabin Model 001

  • New York surveyed this region as a “Military Tract”—land grants given to Revolutionary War veterans.  Many sold the land to settlers or speculators, but some moved here.
  • The towns in the military tract were named after Greek & Roman places and notables, but sources differ on who was responsible for that decision.
  • Some of the first businesses in the area were water powered grist and saw mills.

1800 – 1810:  “Getting Organized”

  • The first church in the area was the Congregational Church, built on the Homer Village Green in 1805, followed by many others.  See historic maps and pictures of both Homer and Cortland.
  • “Cortlandt” County became separated from Onondaga County in 1808; it was named after Lieutenant-Governor Pierre Van Cortlandt – see reprint of 1804 map of New York state for the “before” county boundaries.

1810 – 1820:  “Becoming Civilized”

  • The Court House was paid for by Jonathan Hubbard on land donated by Sam Ingalls.  Homer, Port Watson and McGrawville all wanted to be the county seat, but Hubbard’s maneuvering won the prize.4  It was finished in 1813.
  • The first newspaper was the Cortland Courier, published in 1810 in Homer, but named after the county.5 “Homeville” will soon host a significant collection of early newspapers.  If interested, come back and visit us!

1820 – 1830:  “Education and Progress”

    • The Cortland Academy, in Homer, was the first school of higher learning in the area; other schools followed.

School housesOne-room Schoolhouses in Cortland County.

  • The first two schools, Cincinnatus and Homer, opened in 1797. Others followed and by 1874, there were 167 school districts in the county. Today, there are five districts. Six to eight grades, totaling up to 60 students, shared one room and one teacher. Most of the one-room schoolhouses closed by the 1950’s, though the Glen Haven School in Scott remained open until June 1968. Our display includes two desks from the Glen Haven School.
  • Many goods during this era were shipped down the Tioughnioga from Port Watson via “Arks”.
  • The completion of the Erie Canal in 1825 changed transportation routes throughout the region.

1830 – 1840:  “The Period of Luxuries”

  • Business boomed in the area and many large & comfortable homes were built.
  • If you’re a visitor to the area, take time to drive through the historic districts to see some of these homes.

 1840 – 1850:  “Big Interests”

    • The plank road between Cortland and Syracuse (now Route 11) was built 1849-18516 and cut travel time significantly.
    • New York Central College was opened in McGrawville and “proposed to allow women to enter…and to admit students of any race, religion or color.”
  • The Underground Railroad was also gearing up; see pictures of stations in McGraw and Little York.

1850 – 1860:  “Contact with the Outside World”

    • Trains—Syracuse & Binghamton Railroad was completed in 1854; it became part of the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western (D.L.&W.) in 1869   The Lehigh Valley line also passed through the region.  See the “Trains” section for pictures from our collection.
  • Other notable advances during the pre-Civil War decade were the telegram, telephone & lamps; the “TOYS” museum has an early wall telephone from Truxton in “Grandma’s Kitchen”.

1860 – 1870:  Civil War & its Aftermath

  • Lincoln had three significant connections from Homer:3
    • Eli DeVoe – Secret Service detective who uncovered the plot to assassinate Lincoln in Baltimore enroute to be sworn in as President
    • William O. Stoddard – President Lincoln’s third assistant secretary and a respected author
    • Francis B. Carpenter – Artist of the painting “President Lincoln and his Cabinet and the First Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation”
    • Additionally, William H Seward (NY Governor, Senator and President Lincoln’s Secretary of State) was from Auburn and Seward’s close political advisor, Thurlow Weed, was born in Cairo, Greene County and raised in Cincinnatus, NY

Infantry Regiments

  • 76th New York State Volunteers – recruited in 1861; mustered in 16 Jan 1862
  • 157th New York State Volunteers – mustered in 19 Sep 1862
  • 185th New York State Volunteers – mustered in 19 Sep 1864      

 10th NY Calvary Regiment—Sgt Llewellyn P. Norton, from Scott, NY, was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for actions during the Battle of Sayler’s Creek, Virginia on April 6, 1865.

1870 – 1880:  Big Business in Cortland & Homer

    • The Wickwire family entered business with a grocery store, then specialized in hardware.  They made their fortune after their transition to manufacturing.  Visit the 1890s House for more about the Wickwire family and businesses.Brockway

Brockway Carriage Works founded in 1875 – The entire south half of the main building is filled with Brockway trucks (donated and on-loan) and components.  Extensive displays on the Brockway family and company are available upstairs. 

1880 – 1890:   Changing Face of Agriculture and more Big Business

More efficient transportation (railroads & refrigeration) opened new markets for local products.

Cortland Traction Company was founded in 1882 and remained a key mode of local transportation until 1931. Cortland Traction CoOur display features a seat from a Cortland Traction Company trolley car. One of their routes ran from Cortland to Little York Park and back, but the trolley did not turn around. The handle on the corner of the seatback allowed the back to be flipped, so no matter which way the trolley was going, the passenger was always facing forward.

Increased mechanization in the fields improved productivity – visit the “TOYS” barn for a huge array of farming related implements spanning the past 200 years.

Smith Corona – The Smith Premier Typewriter Company was established in 1886 by brothers Lyman, Wilbert, Monroe, and Hurlbut Smith. L.C. Smith and Brothers Typewriter Company was founded in 1903. Smith CoronaThe company expanded, purchasing Corona Typewriter, Marchant Calculator, and other companies that allowed it to add items such as adding machines and copiers, making it one of the top business machine companies. In 1960, SCM Corporation consolidated production from several facilities (including Groton) at a new, state-of- the- art plant in Cortlandville. At its peak in 1974, the company had 5,300 employees; 4,000 were located in Cortland. The rifle at the bottom of this display was made by Smith Corona during World War II.

And just for fun…Sig Sautelle’s Circus was headquartered in Homer beginning in 1892.  George Satterly served as a drummer boy for the Union Army during the Civil War, then joined the North American Circus when he was 21 years old and became successful as a sideshow performer. He changed his name to Signor Sautelle, but his friends called him Sig. In the late 1800’s, he started his own circus. Sig Circus 2He constructed the octagon-shaped building pictured at left (in a painting by Hugh Maxwell), located on Route 11 in Homer, in the early 1900’s. The first two floors were used as living quarters for his family and the third floor was a training area for acrobats. Before barns were completed behind the house, animals were kept in the cellar where there was a training ring. The painting pictured below was done by Marie Ripley and donated by Ed and Mary Tracy who owned the building when it was known as Tracy’s Restaurant & Bakery.Sig Circus 1

If you haven’t checked out the Hall of Fame biographies, read Chester Wickwire, Elmer Ambrose Sperry and Major General Levi Chase for insight into the late 19th century through mid 20th century.

Homer’s baseball team was first known as the Homer Town Team, then the Red Wings and the Red Sox.  But on May 9, 1939, the Homer Braves were formed as a semi-pro team in the southern Tier League.

Homer BravesHomer Municipal Stadium, whose grandstands were funded by George Brockway (founder of Brockway Trucks), was considered one of the finer small town fields in the Northeast.  After gaining lights in 1946 (notable for a small town ballpark), 1,915 fans attended the second lit game, played against the New York Black Yankees.  While the Homer Braves are long gone, the location of their stadium, now Griggs Field on Hudson Street, continues to host baseball and softball games for various community leagues.

It is believed that 400 major league baseball players played games held in Homer, either as members of the Braves or while on visiting teams.  The Braves manager, Dewey Griggs, made a name for himself during his success with the braves and was later hired as a major league scout.  He scouted such famous players as Hank Aaron, Roger Maris and Juan Marichal.  Copies of some of Griggs scouting reports are on display in Homeville.

 

 

Notes:

  1. The subtitle “The First Hundred Years” came from the video, “The Beginnings: A Historical Overview of Cortland County”, A Leadership Cortland Project, 2006, Cortland County Historical Society.
  2. The organization by decades and titles of the first seven sections were copied from Bertha Eveleth Blodgett’s book: Stories of Cortland County, 2008, Cortland County Historical Society.  The first edition of this book was published in 1932.
  3. Sweeney, Martin. Lincoln’s Gift from Homer, New York: A Painter, and Editor and a Detective, McFarland, 2011.
  4. Blodgett, pg 42.
  5. Ibid, pg 44.
  6. Cortland County Historical Society, Ed. Cortland County Chronicles, Vol 2, Cortland Press, 1958, pg 206.

Resources: 

Books

  • Blodgett, Eveleth. Stories of Cortland County, Cortland Press (CCHS Pub #1) reprinted 2008.  The first edition of this book was published in 1932.
  • Cortland County Historical Society, Ed. Cortland County Chronicles, Vol 2, Cortland Press, 1958
  • Leisure Hour Club of Homer. A Look Over Our Shoulder, 1985, available through the Homer History Center
  • Gallinger, Roy. Oxcarts Along the Chenango, Heritage Press, 1965
  • Palmer, Richard F. Rails Through Cortland County: The Story of Railroading in Cortland County, Cortland Press (CCHS Pub #21), 1991
  • Saxton, William (Diary of). A Regiment Remembered: The 157th New York Volunteers, Cortland Press (CCHS Pub #22), 1996
  • Sweeney, Martin. Lincoln’s Gift from Homer, New York: A Painter, and Editor and a Detective, McFarland, 2011

Videos:

  • “The Beginnings: A Historical Overview of Cortland County”, A Leadership Cortland Project, 2006, CCHS.

Online:

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