Town of

Ray Ball
History of the Town of Marcy by Ray Ball:
The First Settlers to the Area In 1773, the first settlers came to this area with their families, namely George Weaver, Mark Damuth and Christian Reall. They built cabins, cleared land for farms, and lived peacefully for nearly three years until the colonies revolted and the revolution began. A friendly Oneida Indian named Blue Back warned the settlers of an impending attack by Torries and their indian allies. The settlers fled for their lives back down the valley to "Little Stone Arabia," a small fort in Schuyler near Palentine. This event was later dramatically portrayed in the book and the film Drums along the Mohawk. In the summer of 1784, after the Revolutionary War, these three families returned to the little settlement of Deerfield and rebuilt their farms. Soon, others followed them and in just a few years there were close to a dozen farms settled. All of the land had been owned by English landowners, but over time it was subdivided by grants from the British Crown and later by governors. This area consisted of five such patents; all of Gages, part of Cosby Manor, Sadaquahda, part of Oriskany and Serviss. All the early settlements were along the rivers or the streams. The Nine Mile, Crane and Reall's Creek were all much larger than we know them today, and provided ample water for household use, fishing, transportation and power. In the next few years, water power was turning several water wheels which were driving saw mills, grist mills and carding mills. One such saw mill was built in 1778(more likely 1788) on Nine Mile Creek about six miles north of the Mohawk. Pioneers came to the area which became known as "Red Mills". Subsequently the saw mill was enlarged and a grist mill added. There were even more mills built on Reall's Creek, which was a very powerful stream having abundant water funneled down through a deep gorge(now called Deerfield Ravine). Wilson-First Marcy Settler The Annals of Oneida County states that John Wilson was the "first settler of what was to become the town of Marcy". He and his family came from Vermont in 1793. They settled on a river front farm a half mile east of Nine Mile Creek. He died later that same year. The following year, some of his brothers and their families came and settled in the same area, but within a few years they all left and moved further west. The settlements in Marcy were mostly near each other, and extended back up to what we now call the Old River Road to the areas where the prisons and the Wal-Mart Center now stand. Of course, there were other farm settlements scattered throughout the entire Deerfield area. Log homes were numerous, although in just a few years some frame homes were built. The most prominent house was on the Richards farm, built by James Wilson, the brother of John. The settlers relied on each other for help and support. Once a year some either volunteered or were elected to make the journey to the Onondaga salt beds to bring back the year's supply of salt for the whole community. The early settlers were plain people who made do with what they had, and they even made their own clothes. Farming was a way of life for almost everyone and they seemed to enjoy a reasonable degree of prosperity, thanks to the very fertile soil. One problem was the large number of black bears in the uncleared , dense woods. It was not unusual to see five or six hides nailed on barns at various times. Indians were not a problem, since by treaty at the end of the Revolution, the Indians were moved further west. However, some early settlers had occasional visits from Indians who came back to the area on hunting trips. The story is told of one family, living on what is now Morris Road: Upon hearing that the Indians were approaching, they quickly hid their children in nearby cornfields. They discovered that there was nothing to fear. The Indians just left a freshly killed rabbit or pheasant, in return for a fresh baked pie or cake that had been left to cool on an open windowsill. People of Faith The early settlers were largely religious people. The first to organize in 1808 was a mission group. They originally met in members' homes, and then built the Church of the Holy Cross in 1838 on top of Bell Hill Road in what is now Deerfield. The congregation grew to four or five hundred people-especially during the times of year roads were passable. In the next few years, several other churches were built by Methodists, Baptists, and Welch Presbyterians. A Look at Business The Deerfield Ravine was home to a good assortment of small businesses, all of which had employees and were providing services to the rural community for many miles around. An industry was started around 1812 to manufacture window glass. This factory is credited as the first industry in Oneida County to have a production line system. Despite its ups and downs it lasted 27 years. At first sand was found on the property, but after it was all used up, sand had to be hauled in from other sources. An enormous amount of wood had to be burned to melt the sand, and this came from the dense woods on adjoining property. This gave them heat and provided the wood ash needed in the glass mixture. The Utica Glass Company,as it was called left us a heritage-the large, clearing of land from Route 12, extending on both sides of Glass Factory Road all the way to Morris Road. This industry became known as "Glassville", and it was they who cut the "Glassville Turnpike" through the wilderness in order to make a shorter and smoother road to Trenton Road. Today we call it Glass Factory Road. The plant finally merged with the Oneida Glass Factory and moved there after it became too costly to haul sand and wood. It was also located too far from the newly opened Erie Canal. The Township of Marcy Formed In the meantime, the main settlement was still going along the old River Road. A school house had been built and a post office opened and more settlers moved into the area. Now, if a man had a good horse and buggy, he could make the round trip to the main corners of Deerfield, conduct his business, and be home by dark-except in the rainy seasons when the trails through the woods were almost impossible. Early in the 1820's, the feeling of isolation from the main village of Deerfield led to the formation of a new independent township of Marcy on March 30, 1832. It was formed by taking off the lower west section of the large "L" shaped town of Deerfield, and was named after the then Governor of New York State, William Marcy. For a few years the area prospered and grew. The original school burned down and was replaced with a stone school. The trails were greatly improved by adding gravel. When The Annals of Oneida County was published in 1851, the statement that the Wilson family settled first in "what was to become the 'town'of Marcy" seemed to be coming true. But the end was in sight. The 'town' was doomed. The Railroad Changes Outlook In 1853 a group of investors from Boonville obtained a state charter and proceeded to build the Boonville-Utica Railroad. Early studies convinced the investors that it was impossible for any locomotive to pull a train up over the Deerfield hills, so a route was selected to go through Marcy, following the least slope, through the Crane Creek lowlands and on to Stittville. The route was chosen and in just three years the line was open to Remsen, and shortly thereafter in Boonville. A station was opened near Berean Baptist Church(now Marcy Community Church) and another station in Stittville. Farmers could now ship their milk and produce to the outside world. Formerly one was born, married and died all within the rural environment. But now you could get your chores done early on a Saturday and catch the train to Utica where young people could promenade up and down the city streets, see all kinds of people, and feast their eyes on store merchandise. They discovered that factory jobs in the city were paying six to eight dollars a week, and you only had to work sixty hours a week. Why that was even better than the dollar and a half a day you could earn during the haying season. The world was a big inviting place once you got beyond the farm fences. Rural life would never be the same. And so, as the railroad changed the outlook for young rural people, it also changed "what was to become the Town of Marcy" into another of the many hamlets of the 'township' of Marcy. The action shifted to the railroad station at Marcy Station and Stittville Station. Soon, both of these areas grew. They developed as passenger depots and shipping points for farm produce and manufactured goods from Stittville factories, and receiving depots for goods coming into the area. The Churches Marcy has always been a religious community and has had several churches, three of which are still in use. And one new denomination recently moved into town. The original Methodist Church on Maynard Drive was built in 1839 at a cost of $925.00. This building was of such historic significance that it was dismantled and rebuilt as part of Erie Canal Village outside of Rome a few years ago. A new church was then erected on the site of the original building on Maynard Drive. The Schools Schools and education have always been important in Marcy, ever since the first classes were conducted in homes and the first school was erected on Old River Road. There were ten school districts in Marcy and one in Stittville. Each district built its own school at prices from $127.00 to as much as $400.00, not including the land which was either donated or purchased at $10.00 and acre. Heat was supplied by a wood stove and a year's supply could be as much as $15.00, but in some cases, when money could not be raised, each student would bring in a chunk of wood for the daily fire. Teachers were paid $50.86 for teaching 70 pupils for six and one half months; however by 1891, the rate of pay was up to $5.50 per week and sometimes included room and board in a nearby farmhouse. For several years they even threw in a bolt of cloth so the teacher could make her own dresses. These small one room schoolhouses continued in use right up until the late 1920's, but a few were still in use until the 1940's when consolidation began. The Transportation System A big problem in Marcy, or any rural community was always the building and maintaining of roads and bridges. In 1836, $14.00 out of every $15.00 raised in taxes was spent on roads. In 1838 the Town Board resolved that $190.00 be spent, 'if necessary', to repair the bridge over the Mohawk River. In 1843 conditions were so bad that the Town Board instructed the Overseer of the Poor to hand over whatever money he had to the Overseer of Roads for necessary repairs. High water often washed away bridges over the river and creeks, so in 1868, the Town Board resolved "that we do not accept any additional territory that includes any expensive bridges." By 1910, the town voted to spend $10.00 per mile on the towns 68 miles of roads. By 1906 the first State Road in Marcy was under construction on River Road. In 1917 the state built a new canal through Marcy to provide a low cost method of transportation of oil, raw materials and farm produce. Although officially designated as the new "Erie Canal", the more popular name of "Barge Canal" has been used throughout the years because of the large number of barges used to haul the materials. In 1928 the City of Utica purchased large tract of land for an airport up on the River Road where the original settlers had first come. It opened with great fanfare in 1929 and for many years was a hub for aviation enthusiasts. Airmail was flown in and out and even American Airlines landed regularly for passengers. The hamlet of Stittville since it's beginning, was a part of the Town of Trenton. The boundary line with the Town of Marcy ran through almost the center of the Village and caused a lot of problems. So in December 1891, the boundary line was moved to the north which put the entire hamlet in the Town of Marcy. In 1910 the hamlet of Stittville had it's greatest fire which burned the largest part of the community to the ground. There had been several fires before in various mills, but this fire was so disastrous that the story made all the newspapers all over the country. There were no water lines, no fire department, and the only source of water was the mill pond. This led to the forming of the Stittville Fire Department in 1925, which protected Stittville and northern Marcy for many years. In 1911 the State Legislature authorized a branch of Utica State Hospital be built in Marcy. By 1912 two farm colonies were in operation on the grounds. By 1931 the hospital had grown so big that it was broken off from Utica and made a separate institution. But like the canal and the airport, the State Hospital served it's purpose and was abandoned in favor of more modern facilities. Modern Marcy Following the war came the chapter of what might be considered the modern history of Marcy. In the early 1950s began the end of our agricultural predominance. returning military people from the war were now young family people. New jobs, new careers, a shortage of goods,and a housing shortage all came together to put Marcy farmers in the position of having land that was worth far more as building lots than it was for crop production. Several developments came into being; the section off River Road near Flanagan Road; the south side of Glassfactory Hill; the area off State Road; and the section aroung Morris Road. It was these housing developments that led to the need for zoning laws, planning departments, water lines and sewer systems. This was the beginning of the Marcy growth era indeed, and era that seems to have no end. Since 1925 the only Fire Department in Town was the one at Stittville, and they were limited to covering the north end of Marcy. So in 1953, a new fire company was formed, known as the Maynard Fire Department. This is a "people" organization made up of volunteers whose services have been available to the area through the unselfish efforts and dedication of those "who care". Never-ending Road Projects The 1950's were the beginning of seemingly unending road projects. In 1955 the thruway was built taking a huge slice of our farm land out of production and cutting farmers off from access to other parts of their land. Then came the Glass Factory clover leaf which didn't make sense to anyone until the great Route 12 Arterial Road Project came to be. It took over twenty years to link New Hartford to Barneveld and then Alder Creek. That project was no sooner finished when work began on the Marcy, Utica, Deerfield road, commonly called the MUD project. In 1957 the Cary's Corners cloverleaf was built and the new four lane road(Rt.49) to Rome. The MUD project continues today. Our ever-changing road systems seem to be a part of present day Marcy life. From Hospital to Prison Just as Marcy farmers are slowly disappearing from the scene, the same thing happened at Marcy State Hospital, where in 1961 it was found that produce could be purchased cheaper than it could be grown. This resulted in the closing of the farm colony. It was also a signal of changes that would soon happen in the care of the mentally ill. Improved medicines and the need to reduce costs led to discharging more patients to outside care. Soon both Utica and Marcy State Hospitals would be almost totally closed, affecting the employment of Marcy area residents. In the 1980's a new era began, making use of the former hospital buildings by converting them into prisons. This activity has grown so extensively that another prison was soon built on the grounds once used by the farm colony. An End to Aviation Era in Marcy Our original Utica Airport ceased to exist over twenty years ago when the new Oneida County Airport opened in Oriskany. For awhile, our smaller Riverside Airport and School of Aeronautics was doing well, but the school is gone and soon the airport will give way to a new road project. This will apparently be the end of Marcy's aviation history. Education Plays a Prominent Role It is interesting that education continues to be a prominent part of the Marcy scene. Our eleven school districts have consolidated and are now mostly a part of the Whitesboro School District. Marcy Elementary was built to handle grade school students and Whitesboro Central High School was built in Marcy for the older grades. Our crowning achievement is the State University of New York Campus, now in Marcy and continuing to grow. Marcy-Power Supply Center It might be said that Marcy is the center of power. The town is home of the New York State Power Authority Distribution Center, on Glass Factory Road, as well as two Niagara Mohawk power stations on Edic Road. From here, electrical power is received from Niagara and St. Lawrence power sources, and redistributed over much of New York State. It is ironic that the location of the first settlers in Marcy is now the home of our newest large scale business adventure. If only John Wilson(of 1793) could come back and look on his old neighborhood and see the Wal-Mart Distribution Center, with its over 800 employees, and 400 or so trucks moving merchandise in and out. Would he be amazed? Would he be shocked? Or would he simply say, "See, I told you this was a good location!"
"Happy Birthday, Dear Marcy, Happy Birthday to Us" 174th Anniversary March 1832-March 2006:

The town was very large, and in the shape of an L, extending from the West Canada Creek on the north, down to the Mohawk River on the south, and from Schuyler on the east all the way to the Nine Mile Creek on the west. In the summer time, it was a sea of multicolored greens as the leaves of a million trees rustled in the western winds, providing a home to all kinds of birds, while on the ground below, a multitude of rabbits, deer and black bear wandered about. Scattered among this lush green carpet, especially near the Mohawk, were gaps, as if a giant hand had come along and plucked out the vegetation. But it was not a giant that had created these moth-like clearings in God's great carpet of green. It was, rather the first settlers who arrived in earnest in the 1790's. Such was the Town of Deerfield.

In the next twenty-five years the clearings increased especially about the end of Realles creek, where the land leveled out and a wagon trail had come into use, leading to old Fort Schuyler (Utica). A few hundred feet to the east was another trail where not many years before a group of settlers marched with musket inhand and fear in heart spurred on by their neighbor, Nicholas Herkimer, to historic destiny and Oriskany

The settlers were becoming more numerous now, and as always, they looked to the west and vast land recently vacated by the Indians. And so it was that families came to western Deerfield, where the soil was rich and the Nine Mile creek came tumbling into the Mohawk with what seemed to be an endless supply of fish.

The crops thrived, the farms prospered, and the lumber was there waiting for a sharp axe and a man with muscle. Life was good, and the main hardship was the long, all day trip to Deerfield Corners to get supplies, mail and news.

This annoyance was in time pacified by the opening of a post office on the western side of Snake Hill, as it was called.  And during the dry season, a man and a good team of oxen could make the round trip to the corners in six or seven hours if he followed the trail.

By 1830, these western Deerfield settlers had had enough.  People at The Corners looked upon them as being way out in the wilderness and the settlers felt like forgotten souls with no representation.  A petition for seperation was circulated and submitted to the State Legislature.  It took two years of lobbying but finally on March 30th 1832 the Legislature granted a charter for a new town.  By mutual agreement the bottom of the L-shaped Deeffield was cut off by a  dividing line going down to the Mohawk.

What to call this new township?  The answer was to be found in the person then serving as Governor, William L. Marcy.  He was a very popular man who had served as U.S. Senator, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, State Comptroller and had helped develop the new canal systems.

And so it was that our early settlers chose the Governor's name for our new town.

Happy Birthday Marcy on your 174th Anniversary!

Written by Historian Ray Ball