History of Edmeston, New York
This chronology of Edmeston, New York history was derived principally from the Nonenmacher Papers compiled around 1990 by Bob and Berni Nonenmacher. The statements are quoted directly from the sources and should not be taken as absolute fact. Where discrepancies are obvious to the editors, corrections have been noted in square brackets. Feel free to add to these corrections, but of course, please don't change the original quotes. Additional quotes are also welcome.
A Quarter Millenium of PapersEdit
A collection of quotes and information derived from papers of various individuals, legal documents, maps, ledgers, and letters preserved in the Edmeston Museum. Arranged in chronological order, they may answer some questions concerning the History of Edmeston while raising others.
Historic and geographic backgroundEdit
This locality was within the bounds of the Oneida Nation and along the Unadilla River (Fort Stanwix Line) and was the undisputed land of the red man until 1770. — The surface of this land was an elevated upland broken by numerous valleys. The highest elevations were about 400 feet [120 m] above the Unadilla River. — Hazel L. Jones
[The elevation of the town actually varies by about 800 feet (240 m): from just under 1100 feet (335 m) above sea level at the Unadilla River, to just over 1900 feet (580 m)] near Taylor Hill and Summit Lake.]
Years before any white settlers had entered the Unadilla Valley, the Oneida Indians, one of the five nations of the Iroquois, roamed its forests. Since fish were plentiful in the streams and deer and other game in the forests, the Oneida Indians considered this valley one of their best hunting and fishing grounds. — Susan Hickling
When white men first came into the Otsego region, the territory now covered by the county belonged to the Mohawk Indians. [Maps show the western edge of Otsego county, including Edmeston, as being in the Oneida Nation.] As early as 1704 the Mohawks began to convey their lands to white men and in 1736 this trend first affected the present Otsego County. By 1761, 150,000 acres [607 km²] had been thus transferred and a small settlement had been in existence at Cherry Valley for two decades. With the concession of Canada to England in 1763, everyone in New York was safe from the French. The frontier line could soon move to the "Line of Property", set at the Ft. Stanwix treaty in 1768 to separate the area of white and Indian occupation. This line, so far as it need be traced here, ran from the confluence of the Canada and Wood Creeks to the source of the west branch of the Unadilla River, the whole length of the stream, then overland to the north-east corner of Pennsylvania. Almost at once the remaining Otsego lands were almost entirely taken up and settlements were begun on them in a dozen or more places. Local government facilities nearer at hand than Albany were now needed.
In 1772 Tryon County was erected, named for the colonial governor at the time [William Tryon] and taking from Albany all its territory west of a point on the Mohawk River that is now the southeast corner of Montgomery County. This was followed twelve days later by a division of the new county into districts (corresponding to the present Towns).
In 1775 Tryon County was formed. [it was actually formed in 1772 as noted above] This was destined to be the last act ever to take effect in New York under British rule. Sixteen days [3 years] later, April 19, 1775, came the Battle of Lexington and Concord. In May a Provincial Congress took over the functions of the government for the revolutionaries.
The boundaries of Old English District began at the headwaters of Otsego Lake, ran westward along the north line of the Otsego Patent, continued to the Unadilla so as to include The Edmeston Patents. Soon after the w:Revolution was won, more changes were made. Governor Tryon had led hostile forces and Tryon county was renamed Montgomery County in honor of an American General. In 1788, the legislature redefined the subdivisions and established several new ones, but now a term "towns" was adopted. As obnoxious a reminder as Tryon, Old English District became Otsego Town.
Otsego County was erected February 16, 1791 with Cooperstown as its county seat. In its first form it was much larger than it is now. Revisions were frequently made, the latest being in 1854, leaving the County divided into 24 townships. The County covers 648,320 acres [2,623 km²], so in area it ranks 17th among  counties.
Water courses served very well for exploratory trips, also for freight if continuous to a destination, but household goods and other merchandise had also to be sent far inland. Land prospectors cut rough roads to their tracts to assist settlers, but federal authorities required better ones before approving postal service. For many years the interior regions were not developed to build proper roads by local labor or through property taxation, so "great state roads" were constructed with funds raised by lotteries approved by the legislature. One of these extended from Catskill far to the west of the state touching Unadilla. Other stage mail routes, connecting important points, were laid out by the county highway commissioners. These also came to be called "great roads" and there were several in this county. Soon toll turnpikes, built by incorporated stock companies, provided a better way. Two of the most important of these served the county. Both were in operation soon after 1800. The w:Catskill and Susquehanna Turnpike linked the Hudson with Wattles' Ferry at Unadilla (by 1844 this route was changed to come to Oneonta and by this time many of the turnpikes had become public roads). The Great Western Turnpike was built piecemeal in many sections. The first ran from Albany to Cherry Valley, the second on through Cooperstown and on to Sherburne via the present route 80, the third from Cherry Valley to Cazenovia via the present route 20. Throughout the first half of the nineteenth century stage lines were the chief carrying agents in carrying passengers, mail and express in this locality.
When the ambitious projects for the state's extensive canal system were under consideration, Otsego county made a strong bid for the use of the Mohawk–Otsego Lake–Susquehanna route as part, but was finally by-passed and all of the former main objectives were reached by several extensions of the canal. The Erie Canal was of tremendous importance to New York's commerce and to farmers near its route, but long brought ruinous competition from the western states to such more remote regions as Otsego County.
Steam engines could go on rails where canal boats could not. They could also operate throughout the year, a privilege denied to the canals. Railroad construction began in the 1830's and just about [a few decades later?] the Civil War period reached this county. Local steam roads were built and operated at first by comparatively small companies which later consolidated with major organizations. The Ontario & Western and the Unadilla Valley ran close to the Western boundary, a spur of each reaching Edmeston, West Edmeston and South Edmeston, all now defunct.
During the twentieth Century we have been living in the gasoline and rubber era. Its vehicles, like the automobile, the bus, the moving van and the airplane, are too familiar to need mention, but additions to this story can be foreseen as the atomic age matures. — Roy L. Butterfield