History of Madison NY
 

Since the arrival of our first settlers, we have taken pride in our leadership in business, education, agricultural pursuits and innovation.
  Samuel Mott founded a company in 1868 which has become synonymous with quality in the apple products line. An apprentice lawyer in Madison, named Samuel Nelson, took his learning experiences and went on to become a United States Supreme Court Justice, helping to decide the Dred Scott case among others.
  Business has always been at the forefront of township interests. From the Motts Apple Cider Vinegar plant, grist mills and cheese manufacturing of the past, to restaurants and the various individual business venues today, the Town of Madison continues a rich business tradition in Central New York. 

  Agriculture in our area continues a progression that has seen the evolution from grain to hops to dairy and beyond. Today, an emphasis on "green foods" has seen the emergence of "organic produce farms," which supply local and regional demand.

Whipple Bridge with people on the banks. ca. 1920's

  The rich tradition of education in the Town of Madison has seen one-roomed schools grow into a centralized school system that is an area leader. Students from Madison have gone on to varied walks of life and have found that the strong educational foundation they received has led to success in a variety of fields of endeavor.
  Innovation has also found fertile ground in the Town of Madison. It has come from the agricultural arena with inventions to increase hops production patented by William W. Edgarton, from the skilled masons who contructed both the locks for the Chenango Canal, the historic Landmark Restaurant building in Bouckville and some of the most beautiful cobblestone homes in New York State, or the invention of the collapsible bumper for autos by Madison native Richard Bicknell.
  Innovation is also displayed annually at the Madison/Bouckville Antiques Show, attracting crowds in excess of 40,000. And it appears in our commitment to "green technology" with the recent construction of two windmill projects and more planned for the future.

  The Town of Madison owns a public beachfront for town residents to enjoy on Madison Lake; a natural gem carved out during the Wisconsin Ice Age."
  Visit us at our many "Bed and Breakfast" locations, shop at the new Madison Marketplace, talk to our friendly people and most of all enjoy the country setting of a true slice of rural America. We are proud of our contributions to the Central New York region.

 
Hops in Madison

In 1808, James D. Coolidge (or Cooledge) began cultivating hops in Bouckville with roots gathered from neighbors’ gardens. By the fall of 1816, Cooledge took the first western hops to market in NYC. His neighbor, Solomon Root sold two tons of hops in 1817 or 1818 at $1,000 per ton. After that, local farmers included growing hops on their farms.

By 1859, New York State produced 80% of all hops grown in the United States. In 1878, the Town of Madison was the second largest hop producer in Madison County.

Bouckville Original Site: "Hop pickers circa late 1800s at the original home of James D. Coolidge, Route 12B South of Route 20, Bouckville."

"Original hop yard located in the field behind where Troops Scoops, Bouckville is today. Ernest Dahn identified as third from left."

A hop kiln on Scenic Route 20, going west in Bouckville (a dirt road back then). The pointed top let the smoke out from the fire that burned in a stove on the main floor. The top floor consisted of slats with hops laid over them to dry before baling and taking to market.

Read more of the hops story, and see the historic marker awarded to the Town of Madison Historical Society by the William G. Pomeroy Foundation.

https://www.wgpfoundation.org/historic-markers/first-hop-yard/

 
Motts Apple Cider Vinegar in Madison

MOTTS APPLE CIDER VINEGAR PLANT -- 1869 -- Samuel Mott or “S.R.” Mott established a cider mill to ship apple cider vinegar on the Chenango Canal. By 1871, S.R. produced 9,000 barrels of vinegar a year. Clipper ships laden with 100 case lots of Mott’s vinegar sailed around Cape Horn to California.

 

Mott grew his business to be called, among other names, the Genesee Fruit Company and Duffy-Mott Company where high quality apple cider, champagne and vinegar were produced from apples shipped in from around the country. Eighty bushels of apples were squeezed at each press. Mott built a large complex of buildings on Route 20 where the Cider House Show field is today to produce 20,000 barrels annually.  Railroad tracks ran past these buildings across Route 20 to ship to Boston, San Francisco, New York, Chicago and other distributing centers; one in South America.

Motts original cider vinegar plant on Chenango Canal, Bouckville.

Workers in building on east side of Chenango Canal. After running as a cider mill, this building still stands today known as New York State's longest-running feed mill. The Bouckville Feed Mill closed in late 2019.

Genesee Fruit Co. Plant: Part of Mott complex, consisting of a cider mill, bottling plant, cooperage and vinegar works built on Route 20, Bouckville where Cider House Show field is today. Side rails held boxcars of apples to be processed. 

 
Madison Lake

   Carved out by glaciers to 100 feet deep during the Wisconsin Ice Period, this lake has provided our community with blocks of ice for refrigeration and recreational horse races in the winters of late 1800s – early 1900s. In the summers, people enjoyed fishing, swimming and boating. From 1893 to the mid-1900s, it developed into a resort area for people from the cities to gather in the country air. Madison Lake’s shore sported the Leland Hotel, Lewis Pavilion, rental boats, photography shop, bandstand, merry-go-round, water slide ride, docks, baseball field, ice cream stand and stables for horses. The hotels brought in popular local bands and military bands. The Knights of Pythias, church groups, Colgate University, Hop Pickers, Good Templars of Madison County and Utica factory workers booked picnics here for their groups. It is said that up to 6,000 people were here at a time.

   Beginning in 1922, Grove Hinman owned and improved the land and eventually offered a roller skating rink in the Lewis Pavilion and a roller coaster ride called the “Whip”. During prohibition, the bar was raided three times by the FBI and State Police while the “hootch” was dumped in the lake.

   Today, this lakefront property belongs to the Town of Madison (purchased in 1984) and is enjoyed by the town residents for swimming, boating, fishing and large gatherings reserved in the pavilions.

Cabin on Madison Lake with family enjoying the fresh air.

Lewis Pavilion – Built in 1893, the pavilion featured a saloon, dining room, dance hall, shooting gallery, concession stand and rooms to let. In 1894, apartments were added and a bowling alley. This building later became a skating rink.

Leland Hotel – Built in 1893 by D. W. Leland. This hotel had a dining room, dance floor, parlor/reading room and rooms to rent by the day or week. A large swing set sat in front with a huge elm tree.

 
Chenango Canal

The people wanted a canal to bring coal from Pennsylvania to southern and central New York State. Construction started on the 97 mile long canal in 1834. Immigrant workers from Ireland and Scotland were lured here by a pay scale that was three times a common laborer’s wages: $11 per month. Skilled workers from the Erie Canal brought new inventions, such as an ingenious stump-puller, using oxen or mules for animal power. As many as 500 men stayed in each area, hand-digging the 97-mile canal through quicksand, swamp and rock, using pick axes and shovels. At a time where there was no engineering school in the country, John Jervis was appointed Chief Engineer of the project and with Holmes Hutchingson, helped design 17 ½ miles of feeders, 116 locks, 19 aqueducts, 52 culverts, 162 bridges and 7 manmade or enhanced natural reservoirs to feed enough water without taking it from Oriskany and Oneida Creeks. Not using a river to feed the summit was never done in America before. They had to prove by timing a rain gauge with a weighted wooden ball in a sluice that there would be enough water retained from rainfall to keep replacing water lost through locks and damage on the summit (a 5-mile flat stretch from Bouckville to Hamilton). This canal would only succeed by getting almost 100 miles of water uphill from Binghamton with a 706’ incline, to the summit and back down a catastrophic decline of 303’ to the Erie Canal in Utica. The state-owned canal operated from 1837 – 1878.

Whipple Bridge over Cherry Valley Turnpike (Rt 20), Bouckville: “Squire Whipple patented the bowstring arch steel-truss bridge in Troy, NY. Many of the canal’s bridges were the wooden William Burr truss bridge and replaced with this more durable design. Located on Scenic Rt. 20, Bouckville, it lasted until 1925 when it caved in with a car still on it. The people were OK, but got wet and walked to the nearest farm to dry out.”

Chenango Canal Lock #68: “Located on Valley Road between Solsville and Oriskany Falls. Limestone was most likely mined from the Putnam quarry in Oriskany Falls and dry-laid in place with oxen and block and tackle. The lock’s chamber was 90 ft. long and 15 ft. wide with another 30 feet arched out from the openings to protect the stone from the swell of water rushing in and out.””

Chenango Canal with Chicken Coop 1921: “This is on the corner of Cherry Valley Turnpike (today’s Scenic State Rt. 20) and Crow Hill, Bouckville. A chicken coop was built here after the canal closed in 1878 (a goat can be seen, if you look closely). The towpath is on the right.”

 

Photos and information are credited to the Town of Madison Historical Society (TMHS), a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that meets every third Monday of the month at 6:15 pm in their own building at 3606 South St, Madison (the old American Legion). The TMHS offers a monthly speaker program, country dances, dinners and a place to gather for the community. They also provide a tour guide shuttle bus driver during the annual Bouckville-Madison Antique Show. Local research may be done by appointment in their Archives Room. Contact Town of Madison Historian Diane Van Slyke at chenangocanaltowpath@gmail.com, 315-729-8323 (cell).

© 2020 by the Town of Madison, NY

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