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Oswego City

Oswego City Hall is located at 13 West Oneida Street, Oswego NY 13126; phone: 315-342-8140.

Beginnings [1]

The early history of the military post at Oswego was so closely interwoven with that of the northern frontier that it has been given at full length in the general history of the county. The history of modern Oswego begins with the surrender of Fort Ontario by the British, which occurred on the 14th day of July, 1796. John Love and Ziba Phillips were either here when the British left or came immediately afterwards. Little is known of them, except that they were engaged in the Indian trade. Phillips left in a short time, but an individual named John Love was here six years later. He was evidently an obscure person, how- ever, as no mention is made of him by the early settlers, except in a single instance.

"In this year (1796) that part of the present city east of Oswego river was in the town of Mexico, Herkimer county, while the portion west of the river was in the town of Lysander, Onondaga County. The main parts of the city on both sides of the river were in the State reservation, intended to be a mile square, which had been provided for by law while the place was still in the hands of the British. The outer portion on the west side was in the survey-township of Hannibal, of the Military tract (the political town of Hannibal was not yet in existence), while the similar portion on the east side was in the two survey-townships of Fredericksburg and Oswego, of Scriba's patent. The distinction between survey-townships and political towns must be constantly kept in mind by any one who wishes to have a clear idea of the changes of those early days.

That same season Neil McMullin, a merchant, of Kingston, New York, determined to take up his abode at Oswego, where he had previously been on business. Anxious to provide for his family comfortably, he had the frame of a small house constructed at Kingston, and brought it through, with his family, over the long, tedious route by way of the Mohawk river. Wood creek, Oneida lake, and Oswego river, so often traversed by English soldiers and Dutch fur-traders. On their arrival the house was erected on the west side, near the river-bank, in the centre of the ground afterwards occupied by Seneca street. This was the first framed house in the place, and McMullin's was the first family here, after the military occupation ceased, of which there is any account, though Phillips or Love may possibly have had one. Mr. McMullin opened a trade with the Indians, which was the only mercantile business possible here at that time.

That same season came Captain Edward O'Connor, an Irishman of good education and pleasing manners, who had fought for freedom during the Revolution, and had followed the leadership of Willett in the desperate attempt to surprise Oswego in the winter of 1783. He and his family occupied a log house at first, but, being fearful of the terrible winters which prevailed here, removed them to the little settlement at Salt Point, now Syracuse, to remain during the cold weather. His daughter, afterwards Mrs. Alvin Bronson, was born there in the early part of 1797. It is probable the captain taught school at Salt Point that winter, as he certainly did in subsequent years. If Mr. McMullin's family remained at Oswego, which is not certain, they must have been substantially alone.

At the session of the legislature in 1797 an act was passed directing the surveyor-general to lay out a hundred acres on the west side of the Oswego river at its mouth, so as to form a public square or market-place at the most convenient point. Lots for public buildings were to be reserved on the square. House lots to be sixty-six feet front by two hundred feet deep. The principal streets were to be a hundred feet wide, and cross-streets sixty, and a map of the survey was to be deposited in t he surveyor-general's office. The lots were directed to be sold at auction, but the governor was authorized to reserve for public purposes any that he saw fit. It was further enacted that the town so laid out should be " called forever thereafter by the name of Oswego."

The locality was spoken of in the law as being in the town of Lysander and County of Onondaga. That part of the present city on the east side of the river, it will be remembered by the reader of the general history, was then in the town of Mexico and County of Herkimer.

The now village was laid out, in accordance with the law, during the summer of 1797, under the direction of Surveyor-General Simeon De Witt, by Benjamin Wright, the surveyor of Scriba's patent. The plat ran from the river west nearly to the line of Military lot No. 6, now known as the Van Buren tract, and from the lake southward to the neighborhood of Oneida street. The streets running north and south were named — as now — "First," "Second," "Third," " Fourth," etc., but those running east and west received entirely different appellations from those they now bear. Surveyor-General De Witt was as classical in regard to Oswego's streets as he or the land-commissioners had been respecting the townships of the Military tract, and the constellations of the heavens were utilized as freely as the heroes of Greece and Rome had been. Only nine streets were named at the time in question, but the number of appellations taken from the celestial sphere was afterwards increased to fifteen. To promote the clearness of subsequent history we will give the whole number here.

  1. History of Oswego County New York with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches o Some of Its Prominent Men and Pioneers, L.H. Everts & Company, Philadelphia, 1877.
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