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French's Gazeteer of 1860
Town of Ithaca

From Gazeteer of the State of New York by J.H. French 1860

Ithaca1---was formed from Ulysses, March 16, 1821. It is the central town in the co., lying at the head of Cayuga Lake. A tract of land 2 mi. long and 1 1/2 broad, low and nearly level, extends S. from the lake shore; and from this the valley of Cayuga Inlet opens to the S.W. and these valleys and surround the low land and the head of the lake. From the summits the surface streams are Fall, Cascadilla, Six Mile, Buttermilk, and Ten Mile Creeks, and Cayuga Inlet. In their course from the uplands each of these streams plunges down down the wall-like precipices which surround the lake, forming series of cascades which for beauty and variety are scarcely equaled elsewhere.2 The soil is a fertile, gravelly loam upon the uplands, and a deep, rich alluvium in the valleys. Ithaca, (p.v.,) 1 1/2 mi. S. of the head of Cayuga Lake, is the co. seat, and the commercial center of the co. It is beautifully situated upon a fine alluvial plain, bordered on 3 sides by lofy hills, and on the fourth by the lake, with which it is connected by a navigable inlet. It contains the Ithaca Academy,3 9 churches, 4 2 banks, 4 printing offices, and a large number of manufacturing establishments.5 The commercial interests of the place are extensive and important. A daily line of steamboats on the lake running between this place and Cayuga Bridge, in connection with the C. & S. R. R., serves to connect the Erie R. R. on the S. with the N.Y. Central on the N.6 The lake is also a link in the great chain of the internal water navigation of the State, and upon it a large amount of canal commerce, centering at Ithaca, is carried on. The transhipment of Scranton and Lackawanna coal brought by the C. & S. R.R. forms an important and constantly growing branch of business. A large proportion of the anthracite coal for the Northern and Western markets is supplied through this avenue.7 The public schools of the village are graded, and are in a flourishing condition. The annual attendance is about 1,200.8 The village was incorp. April 2, 1821. Pop. 4,908. The first settlement of the town was made by Jacob Yaple, Isaac Dumond, and Peter Hinepaw, who located on the present site of Ithaca Village in 1789. The land that they occupied had previously been partially cultivated by the Indians.9 The first church (Presb.) was organized in 1804-05, with seven members.


1Name applied by Simeon De Witt, and borrowed from one of the Ionian Isles, the home of Ulysses. It was originally called "The Flats," and its name was brought into use by being placed upon a tavern sign.--King's Early Hist. of Ithaca. Mr. De Witt, who for more than 50 years held the office of Surveyor General, became the owner of the site of Ithaca and the surrounding country about the time, or soon after, the first settlement. He died at this place Dec. 3, 1834; his remains have since been removed to the Albany Rural Cemetery.

2Upon Fall Creek, within the space of 1 mi., are 5 falls, varying in height from 44 to 125 ft. The deep gorge throught which the stram flows is bordered by perpendicular cliffs. A tunnel 200 ft. long, 10 to 12 ft. wide, and 13 ft. high was excavated through the rock for hydraulic purposes in 1831-32, by J.S. Beebe. Upon Cascadilla, Six Mile, and Buttermilk Creeks are also successions of fine cascades, within the lmits of the town. At Buttermilk Falls the water rushes down at an angle of about 45 degrees, in a sheet of perfectly white foam, the appearance of the water furnishing a name to both the cascades and the stream.

3In 1822 the Genesee Conference of the M.E. Church applied for the incorporation of a college, to be located at Ithaca, and considerable sums were pledged for this object; but the project failed of accomplishment.

42 M.E., Bap., Presb., Cong., Prot. E., Ref. Prot. D., Af. Meth., and R.C.

5The manufactories are as follows: - 3 flouring mills, 3 paper mills, 5 plaster mills, 1 oil mill, 1 oilcloth factory, 1 brewery, 1 lead pipe factory, 1 rake factory, 4 carriage shops, 2 tanneries, 2 sewing silk factories, 3 furnaces and machine shops, 2 sawmills, 1 manufactory of collars, bosoms, and neckties, and 8 boatyards; 25-30 boats are annually built, at an aggregate cost of $50,000 to $60,000. The silk manufactories employ 160 persons, and produce 600 lbs. of sewing silk per week.

6The Ithaca & Owego R.R. - the second R.R. chartered in the State - was incorp. in 1828, and opened in the spring of 1834. It was 29mi. long, and had 2 inclined planes ascending from Ithaca. The first was 1,733 1/2 ft. long, with 405 ft. rise, and the second 2,225 ft. long, with a rise of 1 ft. in 21. The total elevation in 8 mi. was 602 ft., --which was 602 ft. above its S. terminus at Ithaca. A stationary steam engine was used on the first plane, and horses on the other parts of the road. In the first 6 mos. it transported 12,000 tons of freight and 3,300 passengers. The State having a lien upon the road, the Comptroller sold it at auction on the 20th of May, 1842, for $4,500, to Archibald McIntyre and others. For $13,500 it was put in operation, under the name of the Cayuga & Susquehanna R.R. The inclined plane was subsequently changed to a circuitous grade road, and horses were superseded by locomotives. This road is now leased to the Delaware, Lackawanna & Wester n R.R., and it is extensively used for the transportation of coal.

7During the past few years the coal trade has averaged 90,000 tons per annum. This trade will probably largely increase with the increased facilities for moving the coal forward.

8A Lancasterian school was early established here, and was continued to within a few years, when it was superseded by the present system of public schools.

9Among the other early settlers were families named McDowel, Davenport, Bloom, King, Patchin, Star, Conrad, Markle, Sayers, and Brink. The first child born was a daughter of John Dumond, Sept. 1789. The first death was that of Rachel Allen, in 1790. A man named Lightfoot brought a boat load of goods up the lake in 1792, and he continued a kind of itinerating trade for several years. David Quigg opened the first regular store; ____ Hartshorn kept the first inn; and Jocob Yaple built the first mill, in 1790. Dr. Frisbee was the first physician, and ___ Howe the first teacher. The first families were a month in getting from Kingston (Ulster co.) to Owego, and 19 days from thence to their destination.

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