As the Oneida County Historian, I am very interested in the preservation of local places that have historic significance attached.
It is my penchant to announce the following whenever I have a listening ear: Oneida County has as much people and events connection to America’s history as any region in the nation.
We lay claim to the following important connections to America’s development:
Great Pass (gateway to a new empire);
French & Indian War (with strategic ford of the Mohawk River);
Revolutionary War (Fort Schuyler/Fort Stanwix - fort that never surrendered and the Battle of Oriskany-thwarting the British 3-point plan);
Oneida County served as the “Breadbasket” for the early war;
World’s leading manufacturer of textile products for over 100 years;
World leader in the shoe manufacturing industry;
Site of the beginning of the Erie Canal and location of the completion for its first section;
Development by Samuel Morse with production of the first commercial telegraph company with headquarters in the Ballou Block in Utica;
Home of the production of the commercial telegraph key by Samuel Chubbuck;
Supplier of many generals and officers with troops for the Civil War;
Home of the 19th century wealthiest man in America, Gerrit Smith, who financed many social causes such as abolition and the women’s rights campaigns and being recorded as a member of the secret six who financed John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry lighting the fuse that led to the explosion of the Civil War;
Home of the newspaper that gave birth to the modern newspaper industry-Saturday Globe;
Home of both the co-composer of TAPS General Daniel Butterfield and Francis Bellamy author of the Pledge of Allegiance;
Location of the headquarters for the American Express Company with Utican John Butterfield as its Vice President;
Suppliers of many tools, weapons and material for the successful completion of WW I and WW II, including the Savage Arms weapons, Bendix mechanical parts, Utica Cutlery bayonets and mess kits and a special lubricant developed by Indium Corporation for fighter planes;
The home of General Electric where the development and production of space equipment/space program instruments existed as a secret endeavor in the age of the “space race.”
The above is an incomplete list. There is much more, and with this impressive array of accomplishments in Oneida County, one must be careful in making decisions of what can be destroyed and what has importance and must be preserved.
Oneida County has been a major factor in America from the pioneer days in the wilderness to the space age of today. That does give credence to Oneida County being referred to as “America’s County.”
A stumbling block for those in decision-making positions is two-fold. First, too many folks are not cognizant of the importance of local history, Secondly, there is no system available to help in making a judgment about what should and should not be saved.
Let the following be a guide.
“Every blade of grass, scoop of dirt or stone wall that has significant history attached is not worthy of impeding legitimate progress. However, progress should not have the over-arching right to denigrate our valuable and beneficial legacy.
Some events are nationally or internationally important and must be given extreme consideration when making a decision to destroy these places - or the memory of their existence. Some events are local or esoteric in nature and require careful contemplation as to whether they are worthy enough for preservation, and thus allowed to prevent progress.
One must keep in mind that progress is not merely change, but change for the better for the whole community. It is especially vexing when the source for removing history is from outside the community or for the benefit of an influential few.”
Sadly, it is not too difficult to name too many history places that have been destroyed, in a rush to judgment with a less than a noble purpose.
If the proprietors of the future car wash want the location of the venerable, old school house, a period of proper deliberation will not deter their desire.
All too often, “acting in haste brings one to regret in leisure.” Too many people in decision-making positions have demonstrated a lack of vision or planned purpose for old buildings and neglected places.
May I humbly suggest a check with the master plan be completed? Following this prudent exercise, a wise decision for the betterment of all should be rendered. It is my hope that all will “do the right thing, because it is the right thing to do.”