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In 1854 the celebrated reciprocity treaty was negotiated
between the United States and Great Britain, by which
most of the natural products of the United States and
British America were admitted into each of those countries
respectively duty free. Oswego, the great entrepot of the
Canadian trade, was greatly benefited by this treaty, and
all the steamers, propellers, schooners, mills, elevators, and
canal-boats were crowded to their utmost capacity by the
grain and other products of Canada superadded to those of
the west.

During the five years from 1850 to 1855 the population
increased from twelve thousand to near sixteen thousand,
a growth more rapid than that of any other city in the
State. Sixty-nine Oswego vessels, including steamers, pro-
pellers, and schooners, with an aggregate tonnage of twenty-
one thousand two hundred and seven tons, rode in and out
of her busy harbor, besides the numerous ones belonging to
other ports.

From that time till the beginning of the Rebellion,
Oswego continued its onward course. Even the panic of
1857, which seriously aifected the trade of the country at
large, but slightly checked that of Oswego. In 1860 the
population was sixteen thousand eight hundred and sixteen.

The stirring events of the next four years, the march of
gallant battalions to the seat of war, the story of their hard-
ships and their valor, the return of their thinned but vic-
torious ranks, have all been recounted in the general history
of the county. While a host of gallant volunteers left the
little city built on the classic ground of the old French and



tho Revolutionary wars, the thousands who remained pushed
on the more prosaic but equally necessary business of every-
day life with scarcely diminished vis^or.

A new iron bridge was built, in place of the wooden one
on Utica street, iu 1807, and other improvements were not

But with the abrogation of the reciprocity treaty in 18GG
came a decided check to the prosperity of the city. The
population in 1870 was but twenty thousand nine bundled
and ten.

The financial crisis of 1873, though far less disastrous
than that of 1836, yet had a seriously' depressing effect
upon Oswego, as well as upon the rest of the country.
From that depression the Frontier City is now slowly but
steadily arising. Notwithstanding the " hard times," the
population increased to twenty-two thousand four hundred
and fifty-five in 1875. Commerce lifts her drooping head,
and once more essays, though not yet with her old-time
vigor, to make the shores of the Oswego the home of
industry, enterprise, and wealth.

Yet those who look upon the turbulent river, rushing
with rapid pace towards the lake, and aifordiug a water-
power unsurpassed upon the continent, cannot doubt that
commerce alone will never accomplish the " manifest des-
tiny" of Oswego. Even the milling business, important as
it is, cannot occupy a tenth of the power which runs to
waste at Oswego and in its vicinity. With more than the
capacities of Lowell and Lawrence combined, with greater
facilities than those towns for the gathering of materials
and the distribution of products, there is no good reason
why Oswego should not outdo both Lowell and Lawrence
in the number and magnitude of its establishmonts, save
that they already have those establishments and Oswego
has not. But the star of industrial as well as of political
empire is taking its way westward. New Lowells and Law-
rences must arise in various parts of the continent, where
natural advantages and intelligent enterprise point out the
location, and nowhere do the natural advantages ofter stronger
inducements to enterprise than on the shores of the rushing

We have passed very rapidly over the later history of
Oswego, for the reason that we give separate sketches of all
its important institutions, its schools, churches, societies,
banks, mills, elevators, etc., and to those sketches we now
call the attention of the reader


The elegant and substantial building known as tho city
hall was erected in 1869-70. It is of Onondaga lime-
stone, three stories high, with a Mansard roof, the whole
surmounted by a tower in which is placed the city clock.
Its dimensions are sixty-one by one hundred and six feet,
and its cost about one hundred thousand dollars. The
lower story is used as the city jail and the offices of the
police department ; the second story contains the offices of
the municipal authorities, and the upper story the offices
of the board of education and the council chamber. On a
tablet in the interior of the building we find inscribed the
subjoined :

"eoKSF.ii STcivF. i.\in jii.vK 21, 1S70.

" Hon. Alansoii Page, Miiyi>r.

"Aiaormim Morgan M. Wheeler, Alderman Charles Poolittle,
Aldcriuan Goorgo Gohio, Ahlcrman Juhii Eilland, AUlcrinan John
Kaligan, Al.lcrman .fames H. Murdoek, Alderman William Black-
wood, Aaron Calnon, Uuilding Committee.

" II. N. White, Arehitect,

" Henry W. Secbor, Julius A. Sccber, Master Builder.«.

"John Ratigan, AutUony Culkins, Michael Culkins, Master

" James Randall, Thomas NcsdcU, Stono Cutlers."

The building is conveniently located, being in the public
square, opposite the post-office. It is an imposing structure,
and constitutes one of the finest architectural nionunieiits
iu the city.


This substantial structure was erected in 1857, and first
occupied in 1858. It is of limestone and iron, and is as
near fire-proof as possible. Its dimensions are fifty-eight
by eighty-six feet, and its location Oneida street, between
First and Second streets. It is a three-story building, with
a basement. The first floor is occupied by the post-office
department, the second by the custom-house officials, and
the third is used as the United States court-room.

was established in 1806, and the first postmaster was Joel
Burt, appointed October 7, 1806. Ilis successors, with
the dates of their respective appointments, are as follows :

William DoUoway, June 2, 1815 ; Nathan Sage, Janu-
ary 17, 1816; John Grant, Jr., June 22, 1825; Samuel
Hawley, January 10, 1831 ; John H. Lord, September 24,
1839; James Cochian, September 27, 1841; David P.
Brewster, July 2, 1845 ; Robert H. Martin, January 19,
1849; Cheney Ames, May 17, 1849; Samuel H. Beards-
ley, May 4, 1853 ; Alfred B. Getty, July 6, 1858 ; Henry
Fitzhugh, March 27, 1861 ; Aaron J. Cowles, July 7,
1865 ; Samuel R. Taylor, October 26, 1866 ; David W.
Erwin, March 2, 1867; George Hugunin, April 15,1869;
John A. Place, May 10, 1873; Cheney Ames, June 9,

The business of the office fur the fi.scal year ending
June 30, 1877, is represented by the subjoined statistics;

Received — Letters, 728,000; postal cards, 160,000;
newspapers, 300,000 ; miscellaneous, 75,000.

Forwarded— Letters, 750,000; postal cards, 200,000;
newspapers, 130,000; miscellaneous, 117,000.

Number of registered letters received, 1605; forwarded,
804 ; transit, 2040.

Total receipts for sale of stamps, stamped envelopes,
postal cards, and box rent, $18,353.

Number of money-orders i.^sued — Domestic, 2578 ; for-
eign, 55 ; amounting to 833,968.

Number of money-orders paid— Domestic, 2625 ; foreign,
125 ; amounting to $49,458.


as before stated, is located in the second story of the gov-
ernment building. Oswego was made a port of entry in



1803, and Joel Burt was appointed the first collector on
the 1st of August of the same year. His successors, from
the expiration of his service until the present, have been
as follows: Nathan Sage, appointed June 12, 1811 ; John
Grant, Jr., June 1, 1826; George H. McWhorter, May 1,
1834; Thomas H. Bond, August 2, 1841; George H.
McWhorter, May 24, 1843; Jacob Richardson, June 5,
1849; Enoch B. Talcott, May 23, 1853; Orville Robin-
son, April ], 1858; John B. Higgins, April 1, 18G0;
Charles A. Perkins, October 1, 1861 ; Andrew Van Dyck,
September 1, 1864; Charles C. P. Clark, April 1, 1869;
Elias Root, May 1, 1871 ; Daniel G. Fort, June 30, 1877.


The first light-house was built in 1837, and rebuilt in
1869. The present structure is built of gray limestone.
The tower is sixty-six feet high, and is octagonal in shape.
It is situated five hundred feet from the pier-head. The
light is of the third order of lens apparatus, fixed, and is
visible fifteen miles. On the pier-head, five hundred feet
north of the above, is an octagonal iron tower, the focal
plane of which is thirty-three feet above water, and con-
tains a beacon-light which is visible eleven miles. It is so
constructed as to be removed to the outer breakwater when
the latter shall be completed.

As has been stated in the previous sketch of the city,
the first school in Oswego was taught in a log house near
the corner of West First and Seneca streets, about 1798,
by Miss Artemisia Waterhouse, from Oswego Falls (now
Fulton). The school was subsequently taught by Captain
Edward O'Connor, and, as early as 1807, by Dr. Joseph
Caldwell, a physician by profession, who, not finding patients
enough to give him a comfortable support, turned school-
master. We have also narrated how, in 1806, a school-house
was built by Mr. Bradner Burt, with the proceeds of a sub-
scription, on what was then known as the Court-House
block, on the corner of West Third and Seneca streets.
The block was afterwards sold, and the proceeds applied
to the erection of a court-house on the east side of the
river, and the building was removed to the opposite block
on the corner of Second and Seneca streets, then the corner
of the public square. It here served the triple purpose of
school-house, meeting-house, and court-house. It was occu-
pied for school purposes until another building was erected
on Fourth street next north of what is known as the Acad-
emy building. It was destroyed by fire in 1865.

About this time, or soon after, the subject of the erec-
tion of an academy building was agitated, and in 1831
the foundation of the building just referred to was laid.
The ground on which it stands was at first leased, it being
a part of a reserve for a public square.

Fears being entertained that two schools of a somewhat
different character, brought into such close proximity,
might interfere somewhat with each other, the trustees
decided to sell the new building and purchase a house on

» For this sketch wo are entirely indebted to the reports of the
board of education, and the courtesy of their secretary, Mr. Vir;;!!
C. Douglass.

Fourth street, between Seneca and Van Buren streets.
This building was converted into a school-house, and occu-
pied for that purpose until 1851, when it was sold, and the
academy building, which had long been occupied for a
boarding-house, was purchased and fitted up for school

Up to 1834, this was the only district school within
the limits of the village of West Oswego. In this year a
district was formed, which we find described as follows ;
" Commencing at the Oswego river on Gemini (now
Cayuga) street, in the village of West Oswego, running
westerly along Gemini street to Third street, thence so\ith-
erly along Third to Scorpio (Albany) street, thence easterly
along Scorpio street to the Oswego river, thence north on
said river, at low water mark, to the place of beginning."

This was district No. 12. The first meeting for organ-
ization was held at the "Welland House, on the 18th day of
January, 1834; Gideon H. Wuodrufi', Henry White, and
Edmund Hawks were elected trustees. The first school in
the district was taught in an old building on the corner of
Second and Bridge streets, originally erected for a tavern.
A new brick school-house was built on West Third street,
near Mohawk, in 1836. This house has since been twice
enlarged, once by the trustees in 1850, and afterwards by
the board of education.

In the same year, 1836, the district called No. 14 was
created, including all the territory west of Fourth and
north of Cayugas streets, within the village limits. A lot
was purchased and a house erected before the close of the
year. The first trustees were Jacob N. Bonsteele, Leonard
Smith, and Peter Hailigan. In 1848 the title of this dis-
trict was changed to No. 6, by order of the city superin-
tendent. In the year 1852 the old school-house and lot
were sold, and another lot purchased on the corner of West
Eighth and Schuyler streets, on which the house at present
occupied by primary school No. 1 was erected in the same
year. The entire expense of house, lot, and appurtenances,
was nineteen hundred and sixty-seven dollars and thirty-
six cents.

In about the year 1841 or 1842 a stone school-house
was built on West Bridge street, between Sixth and
Seventh, for the district designated as No. 13, which
included all the territory west of Third street, between
Albany and Cayuga, within the village corporation. For
some time previous, the school of this district liad been
taught in a hired room west of the present site of tlie
Methodist church. The now school-house was small, con-
sistinir of but a single room.

In 1843 another district, styled No. 17, was taken off
from the east end of this district, including all the territory
lying between Albany and Cayuga streets, and Third and
Sixth streets. A house consisting of a single room was
built on Fourth street, near Bridge, for the use of this
district. In 1856 this building was enlarged to its present
size by the board of education.

In the fall of 1848 another colony was formed from the
parent stock, and from the southwesterly part of No. 13
was created a district embracing all the territory lying
between Albany and Oneida streets, and west of Sixth
street. This new district was created by an order of John


B. Purk, town superiiifciKiont, issued October ;5, 1S4S, and
was designated district No. 21. la December of the same
year the title was changed by Mr. A. H. Dunham, the suc-
ces-sor of Mr. Park, to No. 10, by which it wa^ designated
at the time of the organization of the board of education.
In the winter and spring of 1849 a new house was erected
on West Mohawk, near Tenth street. Tiiis also was a
single room, and is still known by the name of " White
School-House," being occupied by primary school No. 3.

All south of Albany street constituted district No. 9.
About the year 1841 a new district was cre;itcd from
tills extensive one, embracing all between Albany street
and the old viUage line ; and a stone school-house, with a
single room, was erected in 1842. This was enlarged in
1850 to its present capacity. The cost of enlarging was
fourteen hundred dollars. It stands on or near the corner
of West Fourth and Erie streets, and is occupied by pri-
mary school No. 5. The district was known as No. 18
until the year 1848, when its title was changed to No. 9.
It has since been changed to No. 7. This house was
burned in the winter of 18(51. The walls, however, were
left standing, and it was rebuilt by the Northwestern insu-
rance company the same year.

The first public school on the east side of the river was
taught by. Miss Philomela Robinson, in a hired room near
the river, in the Second ward, about 1817. The location
of the school was frequently changed; the second one was
near the cove; the third near where the Columbia mill
now stands ; the fourth on the west side of First street, at
the foot of Cayuga ; the fifth in Mr. Elias Park's house,
on the corner of Second and Seneca streets. Among the
early teachers of the school who succeeded Mis.s Robinson
were Mr. Morton, Miss Daggert, Mr. Dwyer, Miss Ora
Coate, Lydia Miner, Richard Parsons, and Eliza

Some time in the fall of 1828, a school-meeting was
called at the store of Milton Harmon. At this meeting
were present James Sloan, Milton Harmon, and Joseph
Turner. Being progressive and liberal-minded men, they
voted that it was " absolutely necessary to have a school-
lujiisc," and resolved that one be erected at once, at a cost
not exceeding one hundred dollars ! On the morrow a great
breeze was raised about their ears by some of their more
wealthy but parsimonious neighbors, who neglected to guard
their pecuniary interests by being present at the meeting.
They were severely rebuked for presuming to levy so heavy
a tax on the district. They were warned that they would
surely ruin the town by such oppressive taxes.

We have already told in the sketch of the city how the
three persons present voted that a school should be built for
a hundred dollars, how their neighboi-s afterwards opposed it,
and how the latter finally yielded on condition that the
greatest economy possible should be used. The contract
was accordingly made with Mr. Luther Palmer to erect the
house and put in all the furniture complete for one hundred
dollars. It was a slab or plank house, about twenty-five by 1
thirty feet, battened on the inside, adorned with neither [
paint nor mortar. The seats were of the same materials as I
the rest of the structure, with a board fastened around
against the wall to serve as a writinir-Jesk. This i

stood until about the year 1840, when it gave way to a very
respectable one-story stone structure, with a hall, two school-
rooms, and a basement. The building was consumed by the
great fire of 1853, and the following year the present two-
story brick building, with a hall and ten school-rooms, in-
cluding two in the basement, iiside from furnace-rooms and
closets, arose from its iuslies, under tlie auspices of the board
of education. This house accommodates about five hun-
dred pupils, and is tilled to its utmost capacity.

In the year 1851 a wooden school-house was built on the
corner of Ninth and Seneca streets, designed the
younger children of this part of the di.strict. This build-
ing is now occupied by primary school No. 8. It appears
to have been erected by Jas. H. Dow, for the sum of four
hundred and sixty-five dollars. The cost of the lot was one
hundred and eighty dollars.

About the year 1832, we are informed that Mrs. Wells
taught a public school in a room rented of Mr. O'Harra, on
East Third street, near Oneida. As near as we can ascer-
tain, this was the first public school taught in that part of
the town. For the next two years the school was taught by
R. P. Grossman. The territory south of Bridge street had
been set off as a new district about 1830 or 1831.

For nine or ten years this school was taught in hired
rooms, and in the old court-house for some time. It was
not until 1841 that a new building was erected. This was
a very respectable frame house, with two school-rooms, and
was located on the site of the present elegant brick structure
on East Fourth street, between Mohawk and Utica streets.

In the same year this district was divided by the county
superintendent, in answer to a petition of the trustees, and
all that portion of the village east of Sixth street and south
of Bridge street constituted district No. 19. For some-
thing more than a year the school of this district was taught
in a rented house belonging to James Cochran, on Oneida,
below Tenth street. In 1842 a new house was erected,
consisting of a single room, located on Tenth street, near
Oneida. This house has since been twice enlarged by the
board of education.

The old frame house on Fourth street was removed in
1857, and a three-.story brick building was erected under
the direction of the board of education. This was destroyed
by fire in December, 18G0, and the following year tlio
present building, modeled after nearly the same plan as the
other, but somewhat enlarged, was erected.

For several years a room was also rented of Mr. James
Baker, on West First street, near the tannery, for the
acconimudation of the smaller children in this part of the

Desiring to dispose of this building, Mr. Baker kindly
offered to erect a small house for the accommodation of tlie
school, and rent it until such time as the board could jiur-
chase the same.

The proposition was gladly accepted, and the house which
now stands on East Fifth street, near Erie, was built, and
rented until June 2, 1859, when it was bought by the
board. It has since been enlarged to double its original
capacity. Aside from the districts already enumerated,
there were two joint school districts, — one up the river, on
the west side, in the neighborhood of .^Ir. Sobicski Buit,



and the other in the west part of the town, in the neighbor-
hood of Mr. Lewis A. Cole. As to the time of the forma-
tion of these districts, we have been unable to gain any
reliable data. By the act under which the schools were
reorganized these districts were dissolved.

This brings down the history of the public schools to the
time of their reorganization under a board of education.
Before entering upon a consideration of this period of their
history, it is proper that we should notice a movement, in
itself of comparatively little moment, but which, at the
same time, had an important bearing on the organization of
the present free-school system.

In the fall of 1848, a benevolent association was formed
for the purpose of providing for the education of the poorer
classes : such as from inability to pay the requisite rate-bill,
to purchase school-books, or clothe their children properly,
were practically shut out from the advantages of a common-
school education. This was called the Orphan and Free
School association. The movement enlisted the sympa-
thies and co-operation of many of the best citizens. The
ladies, through the aid of sewing-societies, prepared cloth-
ing for the children. All the dwellings of the poor were
visited, and those requiring assistance selected. A room was
rented (^the basement of what was called the old ■' Taber-
nacle," on West Second street), books were provided, and the
school was opened in the fall of the year above named. The
prime mover of this enterprise was the present principal of
the normal school, E. A. Sheldon, who acted as secretary of
the society, solicited and collected the funds, visited the
families of the poor, distributed the clothing, and taught
the school.

The school opened with one hundred and twenty children,
most of whom had rarely, if ever, seen the inside of a school-
room before. It was continued for eighteen months, when
it was proposed by some of those most actively interested
in the school, to initiate a movement to make all the public
schools of the city free, and thus, in a great measure,
obviate the necessity of this free-school association.

After one or two meetings of the directors for consulta-
tion in regard to the matter, it was resolved to call a meet-
ing of citizens, to take into consideration the propriety of
organizing a system of free graded schools. This was held
in the fall of 1850, and a committee was appointed to pre-
pare, and submit at a subsequent meeting, a plan for the
reorganization of the schools. The plan presented was very
similar in its main features to the present organization ; but
meeting with warm opposition, the project was for the time
being abandoned.

Another eifort was made the succeeding winter, but with
no better success. In the year 1853, through the hearty
CO- operation of the representatives at Albany, Hon. James
Piatt and Hon. D. C. Littlejohn, a local school act was se-
cured, the one under which the schools are now working ;
and the first board was organized May 11, 1853, consisting
of the following gentlemen :

First ward, Leander Babcock, D. S. Goldey ; Second
ward, Wm. F. Mason, John C.Churchill; Third ward, Ab-
ner C. Mattoon, Wm. H. Goit ; Fourth ward, A. B. Coo,
0. J. Harmon. A. B. Coe was elected as the first president
of the board, and E. A. Sheldon as secretary.

At the time of the reorganization of the schools, there
were, as stated in the first annual report of the board,
" twelve school districts, including one joint district, the
school-house of which was located within the city. Each
district was a separate and distinct organization, and all the
children who attended school at all were obliged to attend
the school in their own district, or be subjected to an oner-
ous tuition."

At that time there were in the employ of the board
twenty-one teachers, with an average attendance of thirty-
eight pupils each. The compensation paid was from one

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