Hamilton is one of the five townships in the southern tier of Madison County in Central New York, and encompasses 41 square miles. The Town of Hamilton is composed of two villages (Earlville and Hamilton), as well as the hamlets of Poolville, Hubbardsville, and East Hamilton. Hamilton’s rolling hills are broken by the pleasant valleys of the Chenango and Sangerfield Rivers. The Oneida Nation of the Iroquois Confederacy camped along these rivers.
In 1794, Colonel William Smith purchased the area, which had been named for the American patriot Alexander Hamilton. Colonel Smith sold a considerable portion of his holdings resulting in early settlements along the Sangerfield River near where the village of Earlville now stands. Situated at the point where the Chenango and Sangerfield Rivers meet, Earlville was first known as “The Forks”. Four Towns – Hamilton, Lebanon, Sherburne and Smyrna – join here, and two counties – Madison and Chenango. Construction of the Chenango Canal through the village in 1834 inspired its new name, Earlville, in honor of Jonas Earl, a state Canal Commissioner.
Poolville is roughly three miles northeast of Earlville on the Chenango River. It takes its name from the Pool family who came to the area from Plainville, Massachusetts, in about 1810. Hubbardsville, also on the Sangerfield River, is about four miles north of Poolville. Its name commemorates Calvin Hubbard, a native of Northhampton, Massachusetts who moved to this location in 1813 and soon became one of its leading residents.
Among the village of Hamilton’s first settlers in 1794 were Samuel Payne and his wife, Betsey, from Oneida County. Elisha Payne, Samuel’s brother, and other homesteaders joined them the following year. The village marks its establishment date as 1795, and was originally called Payne’s Settlement or Payne’s Corners in honor of Elisha’s work in settling the area. It was incorporated as the Village of Hamilton in 1816.
According to the 2010 census 6,690 people make the town of Hamilton their home. In 2000, the census was 5,733. The region remains well adapted to agriculture with dairy and beef farms dotting the countryside as well as new small-scale farming ventures. Colgate University is situated in the village of Hamilton and brings over 2,800 students to the village each school year.
(Derived with permission from Hamilton, Yesterday and Today by Howard D. Williams and Robert H. Kuiper, 1985)
Town Historian: Jack Loop
Contact through Town of Hamilton Office: Phone (315) 824-3380
History of the Town of Hamilton – Timeline
1784 – Treaty at Fort Stanwix gives NY property West of Albany to the US. The land was originally inhabited by the Oneida Indian tribe, members of the Haudenasaunee nation.
1792 – John Wells and Patrick Shields move to the Hamilton Township. It is under debate where exactly they first settled, but it is somewhere in the Earlville/Poolville area of the town. Nash and Wells were living in Paris, NY, but decided to move down the Sangerfield River to the township territory. John Muir and Abner Nash would settle with them the next year. Shields was a former British soldier from the Revolution who was wounded and captured during the battle at Bunker Hill.
1794 – Samuel Payne founds “Payne’s Corner” in what is now the village of Hamilton. His farm was on the campus of current day Colgate University. A memorial can be found on the spot which Payne’s house rested. His brother Elisha and friends Theophilis and Benjamin Pierce would follow him to the area.
March 5, 1795 – Township of Hamilton officially separates from Paris, NY.
1795 – William C. Rhoades and family moves from Connecticut to “Porter Hole” now known as Hubbardsville.
1796 – First Baptist Church of Hamilton started. It is the first church in the area. The church and its people will have an enormous influence on the growth of the area from small hamlet to thriving village. For more information, visit http://www.firstbaptistchurchhamilton.org/Home_Page.html
1800 – The first hotel in the area is built. The Park Hotel would give travelers a place to rest on their way to/from the East. The hotel helped populate Hamilton and aide in its economic growth.
1807 – Hamilton Township divided into 4 separate regions; Hamilton, Eaton, Lebanon, Madison. These regions have remained very similar to this original divide.
1810 – Abijah Pool moves to Poolville area. More of the Pool clan would follow, earning the naming rights of the hamlet. Justus Shattuck would partner with the Pools as a clothing maker and trader.
1810 – Ebenezer Crane moves to Earlville. His deed is the oldest residential land title found in the Township.
1813 – Calvin Hubbard settles in Hubbardsville and starts a distillery. He and Garrett Smith will become the two most prominent abolitionists in the area. Hubbard will eventually be published in a short memoir.
1816 – Village of Hamilton officially incorporated.
1817 – Baptist Education Society is found. It is given a charter in 1819. The school would rename to Madison University in 1846, then Colgate University in 1890.
1817 – Hamilton Recorder is first newspaper in the town. It is moved to Morrisville in 1829.
1824 – Chenango Canal construction begins. Forks is renamed Earlville
1826 – First school house built in Earlville, a log building on Fayette Street. It would be home to all elementary and secondary education in the village.
1830 – Poolville establishes post office, area finally named such.
1832 – Hamilton Fire Department begins. It is the first fire department in the town and would aide many fires during the 19th Century.
1832 – Fire in Poolville burns down Samuel Pool’s hotel. It would be rebuilt but another fire would take it down in 1879.
1836 – Chenango Canal opens. The canal would allow agriculture in the area to thrive, especially the hop business, which began in 1820. The Township would be one of the premier growers of hops until the 1920s. Poolville would thrive from this time until the 1860s with many shops and mills that saw great business using the canal for shipping.
1853 – Union School District is formed within the town.
1853 – Poolville store opens, now the site of the Poolville Country Store. Check out the store at http://www.poolvillecountrystore.com/
1853 – Hamilton Bank becomes the first bank started in the town. It is no longer in existence.
1860 – Hamilton helped Central New York produce 88% of the nation’s hops
1868 – First railroad through Hamilton arrives, the Utica, Chenango, and Susquehanna RR. Followed by NY/Oswego Midland RR in 1869, then the Syracuse and Chenango RR in 1873. These would revolutionize shipping and allow the area to expand its reach across the country.
1879 – Poolville’s own newspaper comes into print, called the “The Weekly Pioneer.” Publication ends abruptly after O.H. Jackson attempts patricide on the paper.
1886 – Great fire erupts in Earlville, burning 50 buildings and leaving 22 families homeless. Other smaller fires occurred in 1859, 1866, 1870, 1890 and 1892
1889 – Canal Service ends. Chenango Canal would dry up shortly after. For more information on the canal visit their website: http://www.chenangocanal.org/index.html
1895 – Great fire erupts in Hamilton, 60+ buildings are destroyed, but are rebuilt by October. Important documents protected by fireproof safe, but fell into a large cistern after the fire, making the documents illegible.
1899 – First Township history published and edited by John E. Smith. It can be found online here: http://history.rays-place.com/ny/hamilton-ny.htm
1904 – First telephone comes through the town starting in Earlville, about 40 years after the first telegraph.
1920s – Hops disease strikes the region. Hops stop being grown in the Township. Dairy becomes the new leading industry for the farms.
1922 – Poolville Community Center opens. It will quickly become the home for various events and gatherings for the town.
1955 – Great Chocolate Train Wreck occurs as boxcars containing Nestle chocolate bars spilled onto the Hamilton streets. No one was harmed in the wreck, but sweet tooths came away with some chocolate goodies. A festival still celebrates this odd event. Check it out at http://www.thegreatchocolatefestival.com/
Late 1950s – Railroad service ends, hurting the township’s ability to ship easily and thus greatly harming the Hamilton economy.
1960 – Hubbardsville fully integrates into Hamilton School District. Hubbardsville formerly had a K-8 education.
1980s – Earlville and Poolville were combined with the Sherburne school district leaving Hamilton Central Schools as the only place of secondary education in the township.
Timeline created by Brendan Walsh, Colgate University ’15. Special thanks to the local collections from Earlville Free Public Library, The Hamilton Public Library, and Colgate University Library and Special Collections. Also thanks to Jim Surkamp, producer of ‘My Hamilton’ and John Parsons, author of “Memoirs of Earlville.”