July 4, 2004

Dryden from 1812 to 1822

I suspect I'd be irate if I had to go to Albany because my credit for buying nails here was no good, and Albany is far easier to get to today than it was in 1816. In this installment, George Goodrich examines the first known printed description of Dryden, formation of school districts, the question of which county would contain Dryden, and census figures that had Dryden peaking in 1835 at 5851 before declining to 3912 in 1897. (The 2000 figure was 13,352.)

Chapter XI.

Events from 1812 to 1822.

In the year 1813 there was published at Albany the first edition of "Spafford's N. Y. State Gazetteer," which contains the early description of the town of Dryden which we have found, and probably the first ever printed, which we therefore reproduce here in full as follows:

"DRYDEN - A post-township in the southeastern extremity of Cayuga county, 35 miles S. of Auburn, 170 west of Albany; bounded N. by Locke, E. by Virgil in Cortlandt county, S. by Tioga county, W. by Seneca county [which then included Ithaca] and the town of Geneva [Genoa (?) the part now Lansing.]

"It is 10 miles square, being one of the military townships, and has a considerable diversity of surface, soil and timber.

"Fall Creek of Cayuga Lake with several branches spreads over the northern and central parts, and Six Mile creek, a fine mill stream, rises in the S. E. corner, runs into Tioga county and returns across the S. W. towards the head of Cayuga Lake. There is also another small stream, and there is an abundance of mill seats with considerable tracts of alluvion; though the general character is hilly with pretty lofty ridges. The soil of the alluvion is warm, rich and productive; that of the uplands rather wet and cold, but excellent for pasture and meadow. There are two grain mills and carding machines. There are some congregations of Baptists and Presbyterians who have houses of worship, but I am not informed of their number; and 4 or 5 school houses. The settlements were commenced about 1800, and in 1810 the population amounted to 1890, when there were 310 families and 213 senatorial electors. The whole taxable property, as assessed in 1810, $84,099. There are 3 turnpike roads that cross this town, besides common roads in various directions. The inhabitants are principally farmers whose farms and looms supply much of their common clothing. - N. T. R. P."

In the year 1814 at a special town meeting a board of town school superintendents was first elected, consisting of Joshua Phillips, Peleg Ellis and John Ellis. Afterwards in the same year they met and divided the town into fourteen school districts, which have since been increased to twenty-seven. The amount of public school money disbursed by this board to all the districts in 1814 was $192.47, not one quarter of the amount now annually received by the Dryden village district alone. In no department of public affairs has there been such a marked and continual improvement as in the matter of education in the common schools. Our young people should realize that in school opportunities they have a great advantage over the school children of even twenty-five years ago, while their privileges in this respect are not to be compared with the very meager opportunities which were offered for school education in the Pioneer Period of Dryden's history.

The year 1816 was known as the "cold season," in which nearly all of the crops were destroyed by summer frosts, and great scarcity, almost a famine, resulted. It should be borne in mind that there were no such means of transportation then as now to relieve a section where the crops had failed, and no great supply of produce was carried over from year to year.

In this year, 1816, Elias W. Cady moved in from Columbia county and located on the farm near Willow Glen which he owned and occupied for more than sixty years, becoming one of the most prosperous farmers of the town. He was a member of the State Legislature in 1850 and 1857, and his grandson, John E. Cady, has in recent years twice held the same position. Elias W. Cady in his later years used to delight to tell how, when he first came to Dryden, Parley Whitmore, who kept a store in Dryden village near where the M. E. church now stands, refused to trust him for a few pounds of nails and he was obliged to take a load of produce to Albany to get them.

In the next year, 1817, the new county of Tompkins was formed, and Dryden became a part of it, instead of being the southeast corner of Cayuga county. Cortlandt county (so spelled in those days) had been formed in 1808 and an unsuccessful effort was made in the Legislature in the same year, supported by petitions from some of Dryden's citizens, to make this town a part of it.

A state census made in 1808 shows that the number of electors at that time in the town of Dryden whose farms exceeded in value £100 (about $500) each, was seventy-four; two others had farms exceeding in value £20, while the number of electors who rented tenements of the yearly value of forty shillings was returned at 174. The census of 1810 having shown a population in the town of 1890, that of 1814 shows an increase to 2545, while that of 1820 returns a population of 3995, showing a very rapid increase and reaching, near the end of the first quarter of the Century Period, a number slightly exceeding that of the present population, the highest number ever reached being 5851 returned in 1835, while the latest returns, according to the census of 1892 after the loss of seven lots in 1888, show a present population of 3912. The causes which have influenced this sudden increase and afterwards the gradual decrease of our population will be treated of in a separate chapter hereafter.

Goodrich, George B. The Centennial History of the Town of Dryden, 1797-1897. Dryden: Dryden Herald Steam Printing House, 1898. Reprinted 1993 by the Dryden Historical Society. Pages 33-35.

(The Dryden Historical Society, which sells this book, may be reached at 607-844-9209.)

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