April 4, 1998


We left Orange County farmer William Wickham 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 anxious 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 dwºn 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 state 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, them 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 new 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 in back in 1791.


© 1998 David Minor / Eagles Byte