Part of Coxe’s Patent, 6th division, Clinton began in March of 1787 when Revolutionary War veterans from Plymouth, Connecticut settled in Clinton. Pioneer Moses Foote brought 7 other families with him to the area. The new inhabitants found good soil, plentiful forests, and friendly Brothertown Indians in southern Kirkland along with Oneida Indians who passed through on trails.
Named after New York’s first governor, George Clinton, an uncle of Erie Canal builder, DeWitt Clinton, the village had a gristmill on the Oriskany Creek on College Street the first year and slowly developed as a farming and mercantile center.
Originally in the Town of Whitestown and then the Town of Paris, Clinton became part of the newly-formed Town of Kirkland in 1827, and became an incorporated village in April 1843 with its own board of trustees, officials, employees, and status as a taxing jurisdiction.
Rev Samuel Kirkland , a missionary to the Oneida Indians, was an early arrival who started the Hamilton-Oneida Academy for white and Indian youth atop College Hill in 1793. This school was chartered in 1812 as Hamilton College by the New York State Board of Regents and was the third liberal arts college in the state.
Elihu Root, secretary of war and state under presidents McKinley and Roosevelt, was born in a building on the Hamilton College campus and is probably Clinton’s most famous son.
Never a factory town, Clinton did have the Clinton Knitting Company on the site of the Clinton House Apartments on Kirkland Avenue in the first half of the 20th century as well as the Clinton Canning Company to process local vegetables in the late summer and fall.
In business history, in addition to the iron ore industry, world-famous Bristol-Myers Company began in Clinton in 1887 on the second floor over the CVS drug store at 3-5 West Park Row and moved to Syracuse after three years. Both William Bristol and John Myers graduated from Hamilton College.