Clinton, town of Kirkland’s 19th century boom

Published Aug 8, 2018 at 4:00pm

After five years of religious dissatisfaction, Clinton residents sought the advice of New Hartford pastor, the Rev. Dan Bradley. The reverend recommended the expertise of the Rev. Dr. Edwards of New Haven, Conn.

In August of 1791, Edwards visited Clinton to help organize a church with a congregational form of government. Soon after, a religious society formed within the settlement called the congregational “Society of Clinton,” rooted in Calvinist principles. In accordance with this development, the founders built a log structure on the Village Green where religious services were observed.

In 1796, a better, wood frame church, referred to as the “Old Meeting House” was built on a plot of land close to where the Stone Presbyterian stands today.

Over the course of the next 70 years, churches of various denominations opened their doors in Clinton and the Town of Kirkland. The denominations included: Universalist (Unitarian), Baptist, Congregational (Presbyterian), Methodist, Roman Catholic, and Episcopalian faiths, in that order.

Likewise, following the success of Clinton’s first private school, Hamilton-Oneida Academy, several other secondary schools sprang up in Kirkland during the 1800s. It was during this fertile period that Clinton acquired a grammar school and a liberal institute, both with male and female departments; Miss Nancy Royce’s Seminary, where Native girls from the Stockbridge tribe were admitted; and the Rev. Hiram H. Kellogg’s Young Ladies Domestic Seminary, which admitted African-American girls.

This trend continued throughout the latter half of the century. Miss Louisa M. Barker’s Home Cottage Seminary was established in the 1850s, later being known as the Houghton Seminary.

Another school, called Barker’s Cottage School, which opened around the same time, stood where Clinton Middle School is today. Mrs. Elizabeth D. Marr’s Select School also opened in the early 1860s.

There were plenty of one-room common schools throughout the village as well, with one the first schools being directly on the Village Green. The village fountain stands as a lasting reminder of this prosperous academic period, especially for women.

After the early settlers started clearing necessary timber, plows were introduced for agricultural use. The rich soil and sunlight of Oneida County lead to extremely successful wheat, grass and corn crops in the early days of the settlement. These plentiful crops paved the way for successful barley, carrot, potato, rye and tobacco crops, among others.

The early forerunner to the Clinton Farmers Market was organized by the Kirkland Agricultural Society, which, beginning in 1862, held an annual fair every autumn.

The best apple and pear seedlings the founders could find were brought from New England and planted throughout the orchards and gardens of the village. In due time, other fruits and vegetables were introduced successfully, including cabbage, cauliflower, pumpkin, squash and tomato.

The influence of Andrew Jackson Downing, a prominent landscaper and author, helped spur a “spirit of rural improvement” throughout the Town of Kirkland during the 1840s. A new cemetery was built, roadsides were established, shade-trees were planted in the Village Green and, eventually, Clinton established it’s own fire department in 1866.

All the information used to assemble this article came from the Rev. A.D. Gridley’s book, History of the Town Kirkland, first published in 1874.

Michael Schneider wrote for the Clinton Courier as a student journalist from 2007-09.