Baldwinsville History Mystery: March 7, 2018
Question: Ulysses S. Grant was president when this home was built. Woodrow Wilson was president when this photo was taken. With the exception of ornamental landscaping, this century-old view remains the same today as it was in 1914. Can you identify the house and its location? Do you know anything about its history?
Last week’s answer: We have Simeon DeWitt to thank for the many fine maps of early New York state. For many years, he was the Surveyor General of the state of New York. He held this position during the formative years of the early republic when New York was rapidly expanding into the Native American lands of the central and western part of the state.
During the Revolutionary War, George Washington saw his superior surveyor capabilities and after the war recommended that he be made surveyor general of the United States, but he turned it down and instead became the surveyor general of the state of New York, a position he held for 50 years.
Immediately after the war, Congress authorized the award of 100 acres of land to each volunteer who enlisted and served until discharge. New York state added 500 acres to the 100 already authorized by Congress. Neither Congress nor New York state had much money but they had a lot of land. The award of this much land would also encourage settlement and development of the vast open spaces.
The military tract of about 1.8 million acres was designated in Central New York to meet this commitment. The land extended from Lake Ontario south to the southern end of Seneca Lake and from the east line of Onondaga County to Seneca Lake. DeWitt was responsible for mapping the area.
In 1802, DeWitt produced a detailed map of the state of New York. The map was “meticulously drawn” and “set a standard for American cartography”; it is still considered “the most important map ever made of the Empire State.”
The answer to last week’s question about Lysander’s past is best summed up with a paragraph from Pearl Palmer in her “Historical Review of the Town of Lysander”: “It must be remembered that when set off as a civil town, in 1794, Lysander included three Military Townships: Hannibal, Lysander and Cicero. It was therefore, made up of the territory comprising all of Oswego County west of the river, together with the present towns of Lysander, Cicero and Clay, in Onondaga County.”
Note that means that its northern border was Lake Ontario and its eastern border included Oneida Lake!
Its original acreage was reduced by the formation of the town of Hannibal in 1806, the town of Cicero in 1807 and Oswego County in 1816.
Contact Editor Sarah Hall at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a message at 434-8889 ext. 310 with your guess by 5 p.m. Friday (please leave the information in the message; we are not generally able to return calls regarding History Mystery responses). If you are the first person to correctly identify an element in the photo before the deadline, your name and guess will appear in next week’s Messenger, along with another History Mystery feature. History Mystery is a joint project of the Museum at the Shacksboro Schoolhouse and the Baldwinsville Public Library.