Whitestown has been called the “Mother of Towns". When created in March of 1788, the boundaries extended westward to Lake Erie, north to Canada and south to Pennsylvania. This encompassed over half of New York State. From this 12 million acre expanse 28 counties and more than 400 towns were formed.
History of Oneida County 1977 "Whitestown" Clarence Webster
HUGH WHITE FOUNDER OF WHITESTOWN
In this town was started the first permanent settlement of the county, or in the state, west of the Dutch settlement in the valley of the Mohawk. Soon after the close of the Indian and Revolutionary War, Hugh White left Middletown, Connecticut. He started in May 1784 and came to what is now Whitestown on the 5th of June. As the family proceeded up the Mohawk by boat, their teams kept even pace by land, and when they arrived at Shoemakers, a few miles below Utica on the south side of the river, they found many of the farms in that vicinity unoccupied; the charred remains of dwelling houses told a fearful tale of the ravages committed by the Tories and savages. Judge White looking for a means of subsistence for his family, stopped at the place, tilled one of the vacant fields and planted it with corn. During the “hoeing” season, Hugh White and his sons returned from their new home at the mouth of the Sauquoit to cultivate the crop. In the fall, they were repaid for their labor with a bountiful harvest.
Judge White was born in 1733, making him 51 years of age at the time of his departure. It was not the ardor and restlessness of youth which induced him to emigrate, but the spirit of enerprise and perserverance which looked forward to the future prosperity of himself and family. Judge White had five sons, Daniel C., Joseph, Hugh, Ansel, and Philo. Philo, the youngest, was sixteen years of age at the time of his emigration to Whitestown, and up to his death April 12, 1849 he resided upon the farm. The Judge had three daughters, Rachel, Aurelia and Polly.
“Immediately after the Revolution, Judge White became one of the purchasers of Sadaqueda Patent, jointly with Zephaniah Platt, the father of the late Judge Jonas Platt, Erza L’Hommedieu and Melancthon Smith. By an arrangement between the proprietors, it was agreed that they should meet on the land in the summer of 1784, and make a survey and partition.
Upon the arrival of Judge White, at the mouth of the Sauquoit, a bark shanty was erected for a temporary residence. During the summer the patent was surveyed into four sections, and the particular section of each owner was decided by lot. The section drawn by Judge White being all intervale, he purchased of Smith the lot drawn by him in its rear, which extended to the south line of the patent upon the hill. By this last purchase the Judge became the owner of about fifteen hundred acres.” The settlement of Whitestown soon began to progress rapidly.
Judge Whites sent the largest and best stalks of wheat, corn, oats, potatoes and onions, as a result of the productiveness of the soil, to his friends in Connecticut to encourage them to settle in this area. Among the pioneers of Whitestown that came were Amos Wetmore, Jonas Platt, George Doolittle, Thomas R. Gould, Reuben Wilcox, Arthur Breese, Enoch Story, Elisur Moseley, Caleb Douglas, William G. Tracey and Gerrit G. Lansing. Hugh White has superb wisdom and intelligence especially with his dealing of others, both white man and Indian.
He had an ardent spirit of enterprise, enthusiasm and the perseverance needed to obtain the goals, purposes and direction of Whitestown. The inscription on his tomb in Grand View Cemetery describes him as such, “He was distinguished for energy, and decision of character, and may be justly regarded as a patriarch, who led the children of New England into the wilderness. As a magistrate, a citizen and a man, his character for truth and integrity was proverbial.” Bibliography Jones, Pomroy, "Annals and Recollections of Oneida County". Rome NY Published by the Author, 1851
MONUMENT AT GRAND VIEW CEMETERY, WHITESBORO READS: HERE SLEEP THE MORTAL REMAINS OF HUGH WHITE, WHO WAS BORN 5TH FEBRUARY, 1733, AT- MIDDLETOWN, IN CONNECTICUT, AND DIED APRIL 16Th, 1812. IN THE YEAR 1784, HE REMOVED TO SEDAUQUATE, NOW WHITESBOROUGH, WHERE HE WAS THE FIRST WHITE INHABITANT IN THE STATE OF NEW YORK, WEST OF THE GERMAN SETTLEMENTS ON THE MOHAWK. HE WAS DISTINGUISHED FOR ENERGY, AND DECISION OF CHARACTER, AND MAY BE JUSTLY REGARDED AS A PATRIARCH, WHO LED THE CHILDREN OF NEW ENGLAND INTO THE WILDERNESS. AS A MAGISTRATE, A CITIZEN AND A MAN, HIS CHARACTER FOR TRUTH AND INTEGRITY WAS PROVERBIAL. THIS HUMBLE MONUMENT OF VENERATION FOR HIS MEMORY IS REARED AND INSCRIBED BY THE AFFECTIONATE PARTNER OF HIS JOYS AND HIS SORROWS, MAY 15TH, 1826.
WHITESTOWN -- Village of Whitesboro
Whitestown, sometimes called “the mother of towns” originally extended north to the Canadian border, south to Pennsylvania, west to Lake Erie and east to German Flatts. This land, the Sadaquada Patent, was sold to Hugh White, Zehaniah Platt, Ezra L’Hommedieu, and Melancthon Smith. These four men agreed to meet on the patent and divide the land. In early May 1784, Hugh White and his party consisting of four sons, one daughter and one daughter-in-law left Middletown, Connecticut for their westward journey. Some of the party traveled by boat down the Connecticut River, and Long Island sound and up the Hudson River to Albany while Hugh White took his yokes of oxen overland. When they arrived in Albany, fortunately on the same day, they sold his boar and bought a bateau. As the family proceeded up the Mohawk River, by water, the ox-teams kept pace with them along the Indian trails. Thinking of future needs, they stopped long enough at Shoemaker’s (near present day Mohawk) to plant a field of corn in the remains of a farm ravaged during the French and Indian War. Hugh White and his sons returned to hoe the field and reaped an abundant harvest in the fall.
The White family disembarked at Whitestown on June 5, 1784. The bank adjoining the eastern boundary of the present-day village green was the site chosen for their first home. The lower portion of the house was formed by burrowing into the bank – hence, some say, the name of “Whites borrow”. The upper portion of the house was built of logs and had a ridgepole supported by forked trees set in the ground.
Hugh White treated the Indians fairly and kindly. However, one Indian chief, Han Yerry, decided to make Hugh White prove his trust in them. He requested his squaw be permitted to entertain Hugh White’s granddaughter overnight in their home, promising to return the child the following day. Realizing that non-compliance would shatter his friendship with the Indians, Mr. White agreed. Historians tell us that the mother placed little trust in the Indian’s word. But, true to his promise, the Chief arrived the next day promptly at sunset, carrying the child on his shoulders dressed as an Indian papoose. Laura White, the granddaughter of Hugh White, long remembered her unique experience.
Pomeroy Jones relates another incident with the Indians. Assembling at the White home, a group of Indians proceeded to amuse themselves in wrestling matches. After many trial, in which the Chief emerged as victor, he challenged Hugh White to a match. Refusal would have been regarded as cowardice. Hugh White was 51 years old and weighed 250 pounds at this time. But, the challenge was accepted. By some fortunate trip, Hugh White succeeded in throwing the Indian, then preceded to fall upon his opponent with all his weight driving all the breath out of the Indian. Slowly the Indian rose, shrugged his shoulders and remarked, “Ugh. You good fellow too much.” Hugh White was never challenged again. The seal of the Village of Whitesboro perpetuates this episode.
The White family returned to Middletown in the fall with glowing tales of the fertility of the land. To illustrate this point, Hugh White brought with him the largest and most productive of his crops of potatoes, corn, etc. In the spring of 1785, White brought all of his family back to Whitestown to live. From this time onward, Whitestown flourished and attracted other residents.
The village of Whitesborough was incorporated by an Act of the Legislature on March 26, 1813, and the first meeting was held in the Town Hall. Over the door of the Town Hall is a marble tablet reading. “Whitestown Hall, erected 1807, donated by Hon. Philo White, 1860”. This building was given to the town with the stipulation that it be used as a Court House; and if not used for this purpose, would revert to the heirs of Hugh White. Philo White, having recently returned from serving as Minister to Ecuador bought out the rights of the heirs of Hugh White and presented it to the town in 1860.
In the early years of Whitesboro, many judges and lawyers, well known throughout the state lived and practiced at the Town Hall. From “A Few Stray Leaves in the History of Whitesboro”, we learn that Thomas R. Gold, a leading member of the bar in Central New York was elected to the State Senate in 1796, a position he held for several years. He also represented this district in congress in 1810 through 1813 and was marked for his untiring industry and application.
The village officers were in the Town Hall building until 1984: then they were moved to the old Fire House on Moseley Street. The Town Offices were in the Town Hall until 2008; then they were moved to the former St. Anne's Parish facility at 8539 Clark Mills Road. To date the Whitestown and Village of Whitesboro Courts are held in the Town Hall Building.
WHITESTOWN -- Village of Yorkville
On October 22, 1902, the residents of Yorkville, by the vote of 91 to 37, approved incorporation, for the village of Yorkville. On petition to the Whitestown Town Clerk, Evan W. Jones was named temporary Village Clerk to conduct the election for village officers. Notices were posted at ten public places. These were ‘Ed Pickett’s Tin Shop”, a pole in front of “Carpenter’s place of business”, on the outside of the Engine House, a pole near the old Post Office, inside the Post Office, a pole on Andy Lumen’s Corner, Evan’s Blacksmith shop, a pole on the property of John E. Jones, a billboard, and a pole at the corner of Whitesboro Road and Champlin Road. The Election was held as per notice on December 27, 1902. The following were elected: Village President Evan W. Jones Trustee – 1 year Hannibal Gray Trustee – 2 years Robert Cooper Treasurer Evan A. Jones Tax Collector Evan T. Jones At a meeting held in Robert Cooper’s General Store on December 31, 1902, William G. Wimble was named Village Clerk and on January 16, 1903, John B. Griffiths was appointed Road Commissioner. Salaries of two dollars for each meeting were approved for the Village President and Trustees, and an annual salary of fifty dollars for the Village Treasurer was approved. On January 10, 1903, the Board approved a fee of twenty five dollars for the rent of a small building in the rear of the old schoolhouse, located at the corner of Whitesboro Street and Bunker Avenue to be used a the Board Room. On January 18, 1903, the Board approved a contract with the Utica Gas and Electric Company to light the village from sunset to 1 AM at a cost of 20 cents per light. The Board adopted a sanitary sewer system in October 1910.
The Village of Yorkville evidently existed long before its incorporation. It resulted in part from the residential area occupied by people employed in the New York Mills Textile Plants. The name Yorkville may have evolved from the fact that a major portion of the population was on an English-Welsh origin and may have resulted as a derivation of the name of an English or Welsh community. From 1902-1927 the village leader was termed the “President”.
In the village’s first 23 years of its incorporated life nine men were elected to the office of Village President and a total of twenty different men were called upon to serve as Village Trustees. After 1927 the name of the village leader was changed to “Mayor”. The Honorable Frank Robak served the longest term of mayor in the village’s history. He was first called to service as a Trustee from 1936-1955 and served as mayor for twenty-eight years from 1955 – 1983.
WHITESTOWN -- Village of Oriskany
The name of Oriskany dates back to a settlement of the Oneida Tribe of the powerful Iroquois Confederacy. It was these Native Americans that named it “Oriska”, “River of Nettles.” In the 18th century a bloody and decisive battle was fought at a ravine just west of the Oneida’s settlement of “Oriska”. The battle was between the Tryon county Militia with the Oneida allies against the British, Tories, and the remaining nation of the Iroquois.
In the 19th century, before the War of 1812, a mill was established at Oriskany to help make the fledgling nation independent of British textiles. At the turn of the 19th century Summit Park was constructed at Oriskany, and served the people of the Mohawk Valley recreationally during their newfound leisure hours. This was brought about by the Industrial Revolution. In the 20th century Oriskany won world distinction when in 1943 the Congress of the United States authorized the construction of the attack carrier, Essex class “ The USS Oriskany”. This ship served her country well for 26 years with great valor and distinction.
We in Oriskany take great pride in our long and varied history and the services our community and our citizens have contributed as a legacy to the heritage of our country. Col. Gerritt Lansing, generally considered the founder of Oriskany, was born in Albany, New York on December 11, 1760. He entered the army at the beginning of the Revolution and served until the end of the war. According to Webster’s “Oriskany”, has had been with the Sullivan campaign in 1779 against the Iroquois in southern and western New York. He was a lieutenant in Washington’s army at Yorktown under Col. Hamilton. In 1785, he came to this area to survey the Oriskany patent. Impressed by the beauty and richness of upstate New York, he returned in 1802 to buy 400 acres of land southwest of the Mohawk River and west of the Oriskany Creek from the DeLancey tract. Under the Forfeiture Act of 1784 the land of the DeLancey’s, an aggressive Loyalist, had been set aside by the state and put up for public sale.
In 1820, Lansing erected a gristmill and a sawmill. In 1811, the Oriskany Manufacturing Company was established to supply clothing for the War of 1812. Gerritt Lansing was made President of this company, and he along with Dr. Seth Capron, a prominent physician, were both sizeable shareholders of the company. Reputedly, this was the first woolen mill in the United States.
On October 23, 1819, Gerritt Lansing, Oriskany’s first citizen, and 70 others crowded on the first boat in the Erie Canal. On board was Governor DeWitt Clinton. According to an account in the “Utica Patriot”, the canal boat was greeted at Oriskany by the ringing of the mill bell “while little girls were seen throwing flowers and green sprigs into the boat.” In 1821, the first post office was established in Oriskany with Col. Lansing as the first postmaster. Lansing and the village people enjoyed even greater distinction when on June 10, 1825, the Marquis de Lafayette – who was on a 16 month visit to the United States – stepped from his barge at 6:00 AM and had breakfast at the white pillar Lansing home which is now on Dexter Ave. The two men had become acquainted at Yorktown in the final campaign of the Revolution. Col. Lansing died May 27, 1831, and is buried with his wife in Grand View Cemetery, in Whitesboro, NY. In his obituary as reported in the Utica Sentinel & Gazette, he was described as “an illustrious example of patriotic and endearing virtues.”
WHITESTOWN -- Village of New York Mills
Situated between gently rolling hills, lies a village which is often referred to in the media as “Clean and Beautiful” New York Mills. The community, which was once a green area, sparsely cultivated by some hard working farmers, prospered with the passing of time and became prominent in the manufacture of textiles to which the village owes its economic growth. Following the American Revolution many New Englanders were attracted to the Mohawk Valley due to its rich fertile soil, which was favorable for farming. The Sauquoit Creek, which meanders through a portion of Lot No. 2, which is a part of the Sadaquada Patent, and purchased by Amos Wetmore, was recognized as a favorable source for waterpower. It is this Sauquoit Creek that greatly contributed to what the village is at the present time. Dr. Seth Capron, a physician by profession, being familiar with mills in Rhode Island, realized the potential of this creek as a source of power.
There was local need for production of cotton cloth and New York Mills seemed to be the ideal place. The necessary land was acquired from Amos Westmore. Benjamin Walcott of Rhode Island, the owner of several mills was selected to supervise the mill construction. In 1801, Benjamin S.Walcott, Sr. arrived here followed by Dr. Capron in 1808, and together their industries started spinning yarn in 1809. Also, in 1809, Mr. Walcott returned to his home state of Rhode Island. His son Benjamin S. Walcott Jr. became Superintendent of the mill. In 1810 this company became known as the Oneida Manufacturing Society. And this is the way this historical event happened: On the 30th of May 1808 the co-partners of the firm of Walcott & Co. met at the office of the Gold Mill, where Mr. William M. Cheever was designated agent of the company to erect a dam on the Sauquoit Creek, procure timber and contract for erecting a 60x25 ft. 3-story building for the factory, 2 dwellings and a blacksmith shop. The building was erected that same year and at another meeting several “co-partners” were appointed to purchase necessary goods for the company.
On May 7, 1810, a stockholders meeting of the Oneida Manufacturing Society was held with the following present: Thomas Gold, Theodore Sill, Seth Capron, William M. Cheever, Newton Mann, E. Mosley, Jonas Platt, Samuel S. Breese, Thaddeus B. Wakeman, James Cannahan, Sill J. Doolittle, Benjamin Walcott Jr., G. Lansing, Asher Wetmore, Abel Wilcox, Jr. and Nathan J. Roberts. The company bylaws were drafted and adopted. Capital involved was $200,000. From these humble beginnings, the first mill was built, followed by several others. At the southern end of New York Mills (Upper Mills) was the Whitestown Cotton & Woolen Manufacturing Society. It was organized on May 13, 1813 by Benjamin S. Walcott Jr. and George Doolittle. This mill was located on the south side of Asylum Street in the Burh-Stone Factory, built in 1796. The factory received its name from the French Burh-millstones that were used to grind the farmers’ flour. The stones came from a quarry 60 miles from New York Mills. Asylum Street was later changed to Burrstone Road.
Benjamin Walcott, as agent for Benjamin Marshall of New York City, erected a mill in 1925 in the Middle Mills for the manufacture of fine sheeting. The firm was named Marshall & Walcott Co. In 1840 the name was chanced subsequently to New York Mills. In 1839 Mr. Marshall sold part of his interest in the Middle & Upper Mills to Benjamin s. Walcott and William Walcott. Shortly thereafter Mill No. 3 was built on the north side of Asylum Street in the Upper Mills. Marshall sold his remaining interests to Charles D. Walcott and Samuel Campbell, A Scot, who came to New York Mills shortly after 1831. He was made part owner by William and Charles Walcott in 1843. The firm was known as Benjamin S. Walcott, William Walcott, Charles Walcott & Samuel Campbell. In 1856, Charles Walcott died and Benjamin Walcott retired. Benjamin Walcott’s interest was purchased by William D. Walcott and Samuel Campbell and the firm of Walcott & Campbell was founded.
The Oneida Manufacturing Society owned the mill call “Oneida”. This mill was purchased for the old firm just prior to its dissolution by Samuel Campbell. Campbell had mechanical skills and mathematical abilities. He initially worked for Walcott & Marshall as a spinner, then he was in charge of the weaving rooms and soon was superintendent of the mill. It was Mr. Walcott who had the keen wisdom to use the rare qualities of Samuel Campbell. In 1870 the last mill – Mill No. 4 was constructed next to the north end of No. 3 mill in the Upper Mills.
While reference is made in this history to Lower Mills, Upper Mills and Middle Mills, these three settlements or complexes were within the boundaries of New York Mills – the Upper Mills being located in the Town of New Hartford and the Middle and Lower Mills being in the Town of Whitestown. The two sites which were developed prior to 1925 (Oneida Manufacturing Society and Whitestown Cotton and Woolen Mill) were located on the Sauquoit Creek within the town as well as New York Mills, which are all in close proximity to the Mohawk River. Most of the houses were located in the Lower Mills. The outlying areas were unsettled, while the rest was farmland.
Many residents including farmers were also employed by the mills to weave the coarse yarn into cloth on their hand looms. These farmers, it is presumed, came from New England after hearing that this area had rich fertile soil. In 1825 the Erie Canal was completed and ran through the northern edge of Whitestown. Prior to that time there was no transportation to Albany except travel by horse team. In 1825 the main street of the village was but a cinder patch – muddy on rainy days and dusty when it was dry. Shortly a corduroy road was built from logs measuring 18-20 inches in diameter. The corduroy road was rough and bumpy, constructed from one end of the village to the other. A macadam road was later built when both the population and traffic increased. It stretched from Yorkville to Burrstone Road and was named Main Street. It was laid by prisoners from the Utica and Rome jails. The “chain gang” on whose ankles were attached the ball and chain worked in sweltering heat and extreme cold. B. Stuart Walcott was disturbed by this brutal treatment and complained to Oneida County, so the ball and chains were removed immediately.
When the Erie Canal was completed it gave the mills a closer outlet and contributed to the development of the era stimulating a flow of commerce and an increase in industry. Freight was the principal commodity of the canal in transporting products. During the period 1808-1825 supplies were hauled by team for $1.00 per 100 pounds. A boat owned by the mill transported goods to Albany and returned with cotton and supplies. Heyday of the canals in the area lasted no more than 30 years. Oriskany Boulevard is the present site of the Erie Canal. By 1826 with the expansion of the mill complex in the Middle Mills, some company houses had already been built, and mill workers also built houses on Main Street. Some of the Irish laborers who worked on the Erie Canal remained in the area when the canal was completed and found employment in local mills. With the influx of more settlers and employees, Walcott & Campbell Co. erected more houses, three schools, three engine companies and three boarding houses in close proximity to the mills.
After 1870 Polish immigrants migrated here in search of employment in the mills and over the years constituted a large portion of the village population. The residents of New York Mills include the Welsh, English, Scotch, Irish and French ancestry. In later years the Lebanese and others followed. Between 1857-1874 growth of the village was not due to the mills, but rather, to the private individuals. About 1869 the community had three boot manufactures, four general stores, one carpenter, a tannery, two meat markets, a tailor and an iron and stove dealer. In 1902 there were also creameries, a dry goods store, a hardware dealer, a wagon maker, and physicians. The first commercial creamery was started by Orville and Matt Risley. They were only milkmen and ice cream makers. Charles Clark of Porter Street had the first photography shop and tintypes were 5 cents. A tannery was located on the corner of Elm and Main Streets. Wybo Wind, who emigrated from Holland in 1890 and worked in the Upper Mills for $5.00 a week, purchased a barn from Mamie Barnes and this was the first Wind’s Bakery. After two years he moved to Whitesboro where he built Wind’s Bakery, which was at one time considered one of the largest in the state. His truck later carried bread, and other baked goods to various areas in Upstate New York.
Robert Fraser also had his start in New York Mills. He peddled his wares from door to door in a large suitcase and then established a dry goods store near Porter Street. This venture was a successful one and he moved to Utica where he established Fraser’s Department Store.
Entertainment was a scarce commodity in the early days. Home get-togethers were common. There was card playing, strolling and relaxing along Sauquoit Creek and the mill Reservoir. There were also the picnic grounds and a zoo in a grove at the end of Porter Street. Admission was by ticket purchased from the Railway Co. The park was known as Wilson’s Grove. John Bell was presumed to be another owner of the park. Most recently the park was know as National Park. On weekends dances were held in the pavilion, picnics were held and everyone had an enjoyable time. It changed ownership several times and then ceased operations. Later on “Sylvester’s Night” Polish dances were held annually at Union Hall on New Year’s Eve. It was also at Union Hall that dances, weddings, showers and minstrels were held. Parish picnics were held and St. Mary’s children often acted in plays directed by the nuns. In the 1920’s a cast comprised of village residents acted at Union Hall. It is well worth mentioning some of those talented know men and women who had contributed to the cultural aspect of the community. Many have passed away and those living are in their 80’s. Directors were Joseph Powroznik and Joseph Romanow. Mary Romanow was the prompter. Some of those who comprised the cast were. Stephania (Zachara) Kielbasa, Helen (Trepacz) Romanowski, Valeri (Gorecki) Niemiec, Michael Nadolski, Frank Rogak, Stanley Pula, Louis Soltys, John Wiater, Charlie Wroblewski, John Furgal, Casimer Krol, Michael Wojcieszyn, Joseph Piszcz, Gabriel Ruchwa, and John Kielbasa. It is said that Union Hall was overflowing with patrons, and the plays were so superb, that they were requested to repeat them in other communities in the area. Another source of entertainment was a theatre owned by John Droka, which was located on the corner of Greenman Avenue and Main Street.
After the horse drawn street cars made their appearance in New York Mills in 1888 and later the electric cars appeared on the scene, it was common for an entire family to spend the day at Forest Park in Utica or take the open air trolley to the renown Summit Park in Oriskany. Utica Transit Company current furnishes bus transportation to the village.
Over the years the mills hummed with activity, manufacturing products unsurpassed by any other in the world. The company exhibited their products here and abroad, in cities such as Philadelphia and Paris, France and received a number of awards. Products were sold under the American label while other manufacturers gave their goods a foreign label. Walcott & Campbell were determined to sell their product as American goods exclusively. Being very successful both Walcott and Campbell accumulated large fortunes. (During the Civil War, for taxation purposes, Walcott reported an income of $100,000 each year.) In 1884 the firm was incorporated under the name of New York Mills Corporation with a million dollar capital. When Mr. Campbell and Mr. Walcott died, their sons, Samuel E. Campbell and Stuart Walcott, operated the company. After selling the common stock of the company to Julliard & Co. in 1906, Mr. W. S. Walcott died shortly and the within two years S. R. Campbell also died. Walcott’s and Campbell’s control of this factory complex ceased and they had nothing further to do with the mill except for some of the young men who were employed in minor positions.
Throughout the mill era the village went through a number of devastating times. Conditions in the mill were not good, wages were low and working hours were long. In 1911 a union was organized and meetings were held in a hall owned by Peter and John Kozak who owned the “Grove” later know as National Park. In 1913 workers began building Union Hall where future meetings could be held. The workers and mill owners were unable to come to terms to correct working conditions and in 1912 the workers went out on strike. In 1916 another strike occurred, with the employees demanding higher wages and elimination of certain unreasonable policies enforced by the company. The mills, however, did not entirely stop operation. “Scabs” were brought to New York Mills from Utica, and fights ensued between the employees on strike and the Uticans. The company then took the most drastic measure of all by moving all strikers and their families out of company houses. All their worldly goods were put in front of the house by the road. Women fired their cast iron stoves and cooked outside. Many members of ousted families found refuge with friends and relatives; some slept in barns during the strike. Many were not very fortunate. The rains came, and furniture fell apart.
Then there was the time in 1918 when a dreaded disease, influenza, spread through this country and abroad. When it reached epidemic proportions an improvised hospital was set up in the village fire station. There were still many Polish immigrants who had difficulty conversing in English and John Kielbasa who was then in his teens translated for the doctors. It was said that people were “dying like flies”. There was, also, a high incidence of deaths from tuberculosis due to conditions in the mills. Employees who worked in certain areas were exposed to microscopic cotton fibers, which filled the air. Breathing in these fibers resulted in the contracting of “consumption”. Subsequently steam was introduced in the air, the fibers settled, and the condition was somewhat alleviated.
In 1951 A.D. Julliard phased out its operation in New York Mills. Allegedly, the corporation failed due to the old, and outdated machinery, and found it difficult to compete with cheaper products manufactured in the south where machines were modern, and perhaps faster, labor was cheaper and cotton was available locally. When A. D. Julliard & Co. ceased operations, some of the mills were razed, and others were sold and put to various uses. One mill, which was preserved, was on the New York Historical Register. One evening, a rumble was heard by the voters and the building collapsed. Part of the village heritage was gone.
After the mills stopped operating local patterns of employment changed drastically, and the village became a satellite community rather than a self-contained economical unit. Some of the employees retired, others who were financially stable did not go to work again while most of the workers were fortunate to find employment elsewhere and in many cases found even better jobs than they had in the local mills. And so in spite of the mills closing, the village survived and prospered. The appearance of the village improved. Residents who purchased company houses began to take pride in their ownership and improved the appearance of the mills. New York Mills began to lose its stereotype “mill town” appearance.
Today in New York Mills the old and the new are blended – you can find old homes some of which are over 100 years old), business structures, and the cemetery (Glenside Cemetery) where pioneers and their families are buried. Memorials are situated throughout the village. A memorial marker stands in from of the Village Hall. The Fire Station recalls the role of local fire fighters in protecting their community by a memorial. Another monument stands at Pulaski Park and two more can be found at the Veterans Park where a lovely gazebo was erected. Parks play an important part in the community.
Some of the residents felt that New York Mills should acquire some land for a park. Joseph Piszca, known as “Mr. Democrat” in the political arena, initiated action to petition the Village Board (Mayor Herbert Hart was in office at the time) to consider purchasing some parkland. In 1933 the village purchased a parcel of land from A. D. Julliard & Co. and the Village Board appointed the following residents to the Park Board: John Kielbasa who was the village police officer; Dennis Shannon, and Walter Gargas who was a WWI veteran. The park was named Pulaski Park in memory of the late General Casimer Pulaski, who fought for the American cause during the Revolutionary War. He was the father of the Cavalry and with his personal money maintained the Cavalry. He was gravely wounded in battle in Savannah, Georgia, died and was buried at sea. In the park, from Joseph Piczcz’s Deansboro farm, is a stone with a bronze plaque which records the names of the civic minded individuals mentioned above. The park playground was used mainly by youngsters of the Lower and Upper Mills. It is located on Main Street, between Walcott and White Streets.
The Veterans Park is adjacent to Pulaski Park and is situated between White and Floyd Streets on Main Street. It honors the village veterans. Two monuments are located there. Alexander Hobbs, General Manager for the mill complex was instrumental in A. D. Julliard & Co. donating this land to the village for a veteran’s park. The company, also, donated some land for playground and park activities on Henderson Street.
In later years 10 adjacent acres of land were purchased from a private individual. The park is named; “Little League Park” and many “great” games are played here. New York Mills is proud of its park system. Each Memorial Day, services are held at the Veterans Park to honor our veterans. Prior to the service is a parade. Main Street is solidly lined with people and if a person hasn’t seen someone from New York Mills for any length of time, he or she is bound to meet this person at the park at this time.
Not only on these solemn occasion are parades held in the village. Worth mentioning is the 1932 N.R.A. (National Recovery Administration) parade, which featured a special N.R.A. float. On the float were several young ladies from New York Mills in their finery – in lovely dresses made from velvet manufactured by A.D. Julliard Co. in the village. A sign across the float said, “Whether you’re 60 or sweet 16, you’ll look fine in velvetine”. The bands played, firemen marched, there were the shiny fire trucks, washed and polished for the occasion, and children rode their bicycles, decorated with red, white and blue crepe paper. The Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of America were also in the parades. In 1933 another organization of scouts joined the ranks of the International Scouting Organizations. These local scouts were sponsored and organized by the Polish National Alliance (P.N.A.) and membership was comprised of Polish boys and girls. They were “Harcerze” and “Harcerki”. Their Scoutmaster was Michael Dziedzic, who for approximately 38 years has been the director and producer of the “Polish Melodies” radio program on a local station. There’s also the Little League Parade (including Babe Ruth), the Firemen’s Old Home Days Parade, and a parade when the village firemen are hosting a Firemen’s convention. “Everyone loves a parade,” and the people in New York Mills certainly do.
The Old Home Days and Firemen’s Conventions were “fun time” for the village residents and people from other communities. The community is proud of its dedicated firemen who volunteer their services to promote safety. With up-to-date equipment, advanced techniques, and highly trained firemen, the Fire Department came a long way since the time a hand pumper, owned by the mills, was used to put out fires. It no longer compares with the times when the mill bells rang signifying a fire and signaling men to run to the mill barn where the pumper was housed, and pull it to the site of the fire. Depending on the extent of the fire, there were times the mills would stop operation and the employees were summoned, as was the case of a fire in the cotton picker room.
At one time there were three “engine houses” built by the mills and located throughout the village. One was located in the area of the present fire station on Main Street; another was on New Hartford Street and the third on Asylum Street (Burrstone Road). These were in close proximity of the three mills. From 1832 to 1932 Yorkville fought fires in New York Mills, although by 1850 the village had fire apparatus, keeping it in the Yorkville fire headquarters. Today the fire station, built in 1844, has also the village board room, the court room, police department, and the firemen’s club room.
Years ago the bell atop the fire station, which came from one of the mills, signified the curfew at 9 PM. When the bell rang, everyone was to be off the street. This was strictly enforced.
Great improvements have been made with the passing of years. The street system has expanded with time, and street branch out from Main Street throughout the entire village. The roads have been paved, and curbs installed. There are 10.7 miles of roads. The trolley tracks, which were once located on the east side of Main Street and later moved to the center of the street, have been removed and buses now furnish transportation to and from Utica.
The village is rich in the tradition of the past, with its ethnic and historic consciousness. People have emotional ties, and take pride in their homes and community. Homes have been personalized and the interior and exterior of their homes have been updated. Standards are no longer set by mill owners as they have been in the past when the manufacture of textiles became a dominating economic factor in the village. The early mill owners, the physical location of the mills, the work force and the merchants all played a vital role in the development of New York Mills.
The village is now a closely-knit quiet residential community with civic-minded patriotic and active residents, with a sense of great pride who feel that this is an ideal place to live permanently and raise their families. Excerpts from: Whitestown 1784-1984, Official Commemorative Book for the 200th Anniversary of the Settlement of Whitestown, New York