We thought that a good place to start our history blog would be with an article about Clinton’s founding. It’s by Village and Town Historian Richard L. Williams and is one of many we will post from his vast collection. So come back often and enjoy 232 years of Clinton’s and the Town of Kirkland’s history.
Clinton Historical Society
Situated in southern Oneida County, the Village of Clinton owes its beginnings to eight Plymouth, Connecticut pioneers who settled in March 1787. Named after then New York Governor George Clinton, the Connecticut Yankees, comprised mostly of Revolutionary War veterans, carved a community out of the wilderness of the Oriskany Valley.
The Founders’ Monument in the village green listed their names: their leader, Moses Foote, Barnabas Pond, Bronson Foote, Luther Foote, Ira Foote, James Bronson, Levi Sherman and Ludim Blodgett.
The land was the sixth division of Coxe’s patent, then in the District of German Flats and the County of Montgomery. Since 1798, Clinton has been in Oneida County and since 1827 has been in the Town of Kirkland. Clinton itself was incorporated as a village in 1843.
Settled as a self-sufficient farm community, Clinton gradually became a diverse local economy. By 1835, the town had two tanneries, a distillery, a trip hammer, two woolen mills, a cotton factory, six carding machines, two fulling mills, seven saw mills, and five grist mills. The population of the village at that time was approximately 700 people.
A plank road connected Clinton to Utica and Waterville from 1849 to the early 1870s and the Chenango Canal was constructed in 1836 enroute to Clinton, Utica, and Binghamton. Never profitable, it closed in 1876. Trains came next in 1866 with the Utica, Clinton, and Binghamton Railroad. Freight trains continued until 1957 on the N.Y.O. & W. and passenger service was discontinued in the mid-1930s.
Discovery of iron ore triggered a 180-year industry. Called Clinton Hematite, it was mined since the late 1790s and originally was sent to blast furnaces elsewhere. From 1852 to 1964, the ore was mined in the town and used at the Franklin Iron Works and later at the Clinton Metallic Paint Co.
In 1812, Hamilton College in Clinton became the third college chartered by the New York State Board of Regents. The campus sits one mile west of the village and is referred to as “The Hill.” During the rest of the 19th century, with Hamilton College as a positive educational influence, Clinton, known as “Schooltown,” was the site of various private schools, boarding schools, and day schools.
Prominent Americans who received part of their education in Clinton private schools were Clara Barton, Leland Stanford, and Grover Cleveland. Cleveland attended the Clinton Grammar School at 86 College Street. Statesman Elihu Root attended Clinton public schools. The national movement to provide public high schools caused the demise of private schools or seminaries, as some were called, by the turn of the century in Clinton.
Clinton has been known throughout Central New York as a nice place to call home. We’re sure that anyone who lives there today would agree.
The Clinton Historical Society mission is to collect, preserve, document, research, and interpret the Town of Kirkland and Clinton community’s past for current and future generations. We encourage you to support the Society and enjoy special privileges by becoming a member. Find out more here.