New York Books - Herkimer County
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New York - Herkimer County

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Herkimer County: Valley Towns
Jane W. Dieffenbacher
Early Families of Herkimer County, New York: Descendants of the Burnetsfield Patentees
William V. H. Barker
Distant Drums: Herkimer County, New York in the War of the Rebellion

David P. Krutz
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Map of Herkimer Co. (1895)

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Herkimer County was erected from Montgomery County February 16, 1791, and, as first formed, embraced an enormous territory. The boundaries as given were: "All the territory bounded north by Lake Ontario, the River St. Lawrence and the north bounds of the State, easterly by the counties of Clinton, Washington and Saratoga; south by the counties of Montgomery, Otsego, and Tioga." Many counties and subdivisions of these counties have been taken, but even now it has an area of 1,370 square miles, with such a distribution that it extends from the Adirondacks to the Mohawk.

It has a north and south dimension of 83 miles, making it the longest county in New York. Hamilton thrusts into the side of this line a corner which divides the area roughly into halves, which correspond somewhat to the differences in the two sections of the county topographically. North of this corner the surface is mountainous, wild, much of it being denuded forest land, rocky, sandy or thin, ill suited to regular agricultural uses. There is still some of the timber left, and parts of this area are much frequented by summer campers. Lakes are numerous; hills are picturesque and healthful.

The section south of the angle is that which is the seat of most of the industries and population. The Mohawk divides this southern part, and the nearer one gets to the river the more one is in a fertile farming country where dairying interests are manifest everywhere. The character of the land and the training of the early settlers made of this section a cheese district. As early as 1785 this industry was started and in 1800 small quantities of this article were being exported. By 1826 the business had spread to nearby counties, and in 1830 a cheese trade with England had been established.

The specialty of the county was due not only to the fitness of the land for such purposes, but more because of the fitness of the people who inhabited it. The first permanent settlers of Herkimer were Germans from the Lower Palatinate, who, escaping from their own country, were left destitute in England. They were shipped from that country to settle on the "Hudson's River," that they might be useful in the production of naval stores and act as a frontier barrier against the French. They became dissatisfied with the Hudson conditions and emigrated to Herkimer region. Three of these companies of Palatinates arrived in New York before the end of 1722. Some from all three had come into the county before 1725. Governor Burnet had already, July 9, 1722, secured some of the lands from the Indians to grant to these immigrants. Probably the first settlements of the new-comers were made during the years 1723-24, near the present towns of German Flats and Herkimer. The Revolution scattered the most of the colonists. The "Burnetsfield patent," a document often referred to in the land deeds of today, was dated April 30, 1725, and names 92 of the Palatines to whom land was granted. There were 46 lots on each side of the Mohawk River, those embracing the villages of Ilion and Mohawk being of uniform shape and size.

The granting of lands to poverty stricken immigrants seems very liberal, but does not appear in so good a light when it is realized that the settlers were set alone among the Indians, and were to be the buffer against the French. In 1757 they had to bear the shock of the French and Indian war. In November of that year a band of Canadians and their Indian allies swept down on the little fort at Oswego, captured it, and immediately hurried down the Black and Mohawk rivers and massacred the inhabitants of the section on the north side of the Mohawk near the present village of Herkimer. A full account of this and later wars are to be found in other chapters of this work. To one interested in the events of the early Revolution, particularly those which took place in this section, the account of battles along the Mohawk, especially those in which General Herkimer defeated the forces of St. Leger's on the Oriskany near Utica on August 17, 1775, preventing his juncture with Burgoyne, will bear reading. This engagement was one of the severest of the Revolution, numbers being considered.

With the coming of peace, came also a resettlement of the Herkimer district, in which many New Englanders had a share, and the establishment of industries and means of transportation. The thin line of travel wormed its way through the Mohawk Valley as the easiest route westward. The first State road through Herkimer was from Albany to Utica, constructed in 1794. The Mohawk was naturally the first means of handling heavy freight, although the rapids at Little Falls interfered badly. This difficulty was overcome by the building of a canal around the rapids in 1797. Some of the masonry of these old locks is still in a fair state of preservation. In 182O the Erie Canal was complete, superseding the Mohawk, and in the late thirties the Utica and Schenectady Railroad increased the transportation facilities.

Villages were being founded everywhere, great sections of Herkimer's original territory were being taken to form other counties, and the county had subdivided its area into towns. Only by separate consideration of the divisions can we get a grasp of the history of the whole.

The oldest village in the county is Herkimer, today the county seat, incorporated April 6, 1807, with a population of 300.

Source: James Sullivan. History of New York State 1523-1927. 1927

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Click on the links below for book titles and history specific to that county.

From what or whom did the name of each county originate? Click here to find out.

County Date
Parent County County
Albany 1683 original county Albany
Allegany 1806 Genesee Belmont
Bronx 1914 New York Bronx
Broome 1806 Tioga Binghamton
Cattaraugus 1808 Genesee Little Valley
Cayuga 1799 Onondaga Auburn
Charlotte 1772 Albany renamed Washington in 1784
Chautauqua 1808 Genesee Mayville
Chemung 1798 Tioga Elmira
Chenango 1798 Herkimer, Tioga Norwich
Clinton 1788 Washington Plattsburgh
Columbia 1786 Albany Hudson
Cortland 1808 Onondoga Cortland
Delaware 1797 Ulster, Otsego Delhi
Dutchess 1683 original county Poughkeepsie
Erie 1821 Niagara Buffalo
Essex 1799 Clinton Elizabethtown
Franklin 1808 Clinton Malone
Fulton 1838 Montgomery Johnstown
Genesee 1802 Ontario Batavia
Greene 1800 Ulster, Albany Catskill
Hamilton 1816 Montgomery Lake Pleasant
Herkimer 1791 Montgomery Herkimer
Jefferson 1805 Oneida Watertown
1683 Original county Brooklyn
Lewis 1805 Oneida Lowville
Livingston 1821 Genesee, Ontario Geneseo
Madison 1806 Chenango Wampsville
Monroe 1821 Genesee, Ontario Rochester
Montgomery 1772 Albany (as Tryon to 1784) Fonda
Nassau 1899 Queens Mineola
New York City
1683 Original county New York
Niagara 1808 Genesee Lockport
Oneida 1798 Herkimer Utica
Onondaga 1794 Herkimer Syracuse
Ontario 1789 Montgomery Canandaigua
Orange 1683 Original county Goshen
Orleans 1824 Genesee Albion
Oswego 1816 Oneida, Onondaga Oswego, Pulaski
Otsego 1791 Montgomery Cooperstown
Putnam 1812 Dutchess Carmel
Queens 1683 Original county Jamaica
Rensselaer 1791 Albany Troy
Staten Island
1683 Original county St. George
Rockland 1798 Orange New City
St. Lawrence 1802 Clinton, Herkimer, Montgomery Canton
Saratoga 1791 Albany Ballston Spa
Schenectady 1809 Albany Schenectady
Schoharie 1795 Albany, Ostego Schoharie
Schuyler 1854 Tompkins, Steuben, Chemung Watkins Glen
Seneca 1804 Cayuga Ovid, Waterloo
Steuben 1796 Ontario Bath
Suffolk 1683 Original county Riverhead
Sullivan 1809 Ulster Monticello
Tioga 1791 Montgomery Owego
Tompkins 1817 Cayuga, Seneca Ithaca
Tryon 1772 Albany (renamed Montgomery 1784)
Ulster 1683 Original county Kingston
Warren 1813 Washington Lake George
Washington 1772 Albany (see Charlotte) Hudson Falls
Wayne 1823 Ontario, Seneca Lyons
Westchester 1683 Original county White Plains
Wyoming 1841 Genesee Warsaw
Yates 1823 Ontario, Steuben Penn Yan

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