Historian

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Margaret Hadsell
Town Historian
(607) 321-6038
mhadsell@vestalny.com

As Town Historian, my responsibilities are divided into four broad categories; research and writing, teaching and public presentations, historic preservation, and organization and advocacy.

 

My office is organized as a research center with resources available to those performing historical or genealogical research relating to the Town of Vestal.  These resources include, but are not limited to:

  • Surname Files
  • Topic Files
  • Census Records
  • Vital Records
  • Town Minutes
  • Published Documents
  • Photographs
  • Maps

Office:     Vestal Public Library - 320 Vestal Parkway E.

Hours:     Tuesday - 1:00 PM - 7:00 PM
                  Wednesday and Thursday - 9:00 AM - 2:00 PM 




Cemeteries
Churches
Commerce
Early Residents
Education
Government
Historical Articles
Historical Dates
History of Vestal
Research Sources
Town Seal

Cemeteries

All but one of Vestal's eight cemeteries date to the 1800's.  The following list indicates the date of the earliest burial and the location of the cemetery.

Earliest Burial
Cemetery
Location
1813
Vestal Center
Route 26 South
1825
Bunn Hill
Jensen Road
1826 or 1831*
Vestal Park
Main Street
1827 or 1832*
Tracy Creek
Tracy Creek Road
1833
Rounds
Front Street
1838
Crumm Road
Crumm Road
1810
Willis
Vestal Road
1935
Vestal Hills Memorial
Vestal Road

 

 * Additional research is needed to determine which date is correct.

The Historian's office has burial information for some of these cemeteries.


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Churches

VestalChurch
These are Vestal's early churches followed by the date of establishment:

Tracy Creek Memorial Church - 1820
Vestal Methodist Episcopal Chapel - 1831
Vestal Center Baptist Church - 1834
Tracy Creek First Reformed Methodist Church - 1838
Vestal Center Methodist Episcopal Church - 1845

Vestal residents of faiths other than Methodist or Baptist crossed the river to attend churches in the town of Union or traveled east to Binghamton.  Today more than a dozen faiths are represented in the Town of Vestal.


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Commerce

Farming and lumbering were two of the principal forms of commerce in early Vestal.  Oak, pine, hemlock, chestnut and hickory were lumbered and milled in Vestal before being shipped by raft down the Susquehanna to Baltimore. Daniel DuBois operated the first mill in Vestal.

As the population increased and commerce expanded, supporting businesses opened; wagon and blacksmith shops, general stores, flour mills, a tanner, fishery, cabinetmaker, and a ferry to cross the Susquehanna.

Dairy farming, a small cheese factory, shad and eel fishing, a brick yard, cigar factory, paint factory, safety pin factory, and an overall factory were some of the businesses that helped Vestal flourish.

Many of the small businesses in Vestal were eventually replaced by larger ones in the surrounding communities.  During the early 20th century, Endicott Johnson would tan hides and make shoes while cigars, clothing and bricks were manufactured in Binghamton.  IBM became a technology giant across the river in Endicott.

Homes began to spread across Vestal's hills and valleys as it became the "bedroom community" for workers in the surrounding towns.  Today, along with numerous small and medium size businesses, professional services, and the Binghamton University campus, Vestal is known for its large shopping complexes on the Vestal Parkway.


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Early Residents

Descendants of Vestal's early settlers can be found among the town's current residents.  Many town roads still bear their names.  The following settlers are just a few of those that played an integral role in the development and growth of the Town of Vestal.

Benjamin Camp Card Castleman
Crane DuBois Eldridge Ellis
Fairbrother Foster Gates Grippin
Jones LaGrange Landon LaTourette
Layton Mersereau Murdock Noyes
Osincup Peabody Pierce Plough
Ross Rounds Seymour Tracy
Weston Winans Whitaker Yarrington

 

Population

Vestal's largest periods of growth occurred during the 1940's and 1960's when the population doubled.  From 1970 to the present, the population has remained fairly constant.

Year Population   Year Population
1825 784   1920 1910
1830 946   1930 2849
1840 1253   1940 5710
1850 2054   1950 8902
1860 2211   1960 12,804
         
1870 2221   1970 26,909
1880 2184   1980 27,238
1890 2076   1990 26,733
1900 1850   2000 26,535
1910 1618   2010 28,043

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Education

schoolhouse
Although records indicate that John Boutch taught students as early as 1793, the location where they gathered is unknown.  In 1823 when Vestal separated from the town of Union, four school districts were formed to accommodate 210 students between the ages of five and fifteen.

Five years later in 1828, the first school, built of logs was constructed on the east side of Main Street just south of the intersection of Front and Main Streets.  A second one-room school was built on the west side in 1851 after a fire destroyed the first school.  A two-story wood frame school was built in 1881 on the west side of Main Street next to the one-room school. 

Vestal began phasing out its one and two room schools after centralization in 1936.  By 1939, all fifteen country schools were closed and students were bused to either the Main Street, Vestal Center, Willow Point or Ross Corners schools.

Vestal alumni fondly remember the three room Willow Point school, the larger Willow Point school on Gates Road, and the "Red Brick Building" on Main Street.

Today the Vestal School District ranks among the highest in the country. 

Vestal is home to the following public and private educational facilities:

  • African Road Elementary School 
  • African Road Middle School
  • Clayton Avenue Elementary School
  • Glenwood Road Elementary School
  • Tioga Hills Elementary School
  • Vestal Hills Elementary School
  • Vestal Senior High School
  • Hillel Academy of Broome County
  • Ross Corners Christian Academy
  • Binghamton University

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Government


Established on January 22, 1823, Vestal held the first town meeting on February 11, 1823 in Rounds Turnpike Tavern.

Elected by caucus, the first officers were:

Supervisor - Samuel Murdock
Town Clerk - David Mersereau
Assessors & Commissioners - Daniel Mersereau, James Brewster, and Nathan Barney
Postmasters - John Layton and Elias Morse
Collector - Nathaniel Benjamin
Constables - Ephraim Potts and Nathaniel Benjamin
Justices of the Peace - Lewis Seymour, John Seymour, and Ezekiel Taylor

Other early Supervisors included Samuel B. Foster, Daniel M. Layton, Cornelius Mersereau, Jacob L. Rounds, Edward Barton, Samuel H. Wee, George E. Ross, Washington I. Weed, George F. Cogswell, John Wheeler, Lucius A. Mason, D.H. Plough, E.B. Mersereau, and A. Winans.


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Historic Articles

The following series of articles celebrating Vestal's 190th Anniversary, 1823-2013, have appeared in the Vestal Town Crier.  Additional information and sources are found at my office.  I hope you enjoy discovering some new and interesting facts about Vestal's history!  Each of these articles is being expanded for future publication.

 

These articles have been published in the new Vestal Life Magazine:  


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Historical Dates


The following list identifies a small portion of the key events that have shaped Vestal’s history. A more complete list is available at the Historian’s office.
 
18 Aug 1779
Burning of Chugnut Indian village by General Poor’s Army
1783
Draper’s Choconut Trading Post built
16 Feb 1791
Tioga County and the Town of Union formed
1793
First Teacher – John Boutch
28 Mar 1806
Broome County formed from Tioga County
 
 
22 JAN 1823
Town of Vestal established from Town of Union
1825
First store owned by Jonathan Crane
8 Aug 1825
Post Office established in Vestal
1828
First one-room school on Main Street 
1831
Vestal Methodist Church
 
 
1835
Physicians – Dr. Ira W. Peabody and Dr. A.A. Witherill
1844
Drover’s Inn built by Jacob and John Rounds
1864
Chenango Canal to be extended through Vestal
1866
Batcher Hotel and Tavern built in Vestal Center
1870
First free bridge between Vestal and Union
 
 
1881
Vestal Railroad Depot built
1887
First U.S. mail delivered by railroad – 8 letters
1895
Rounds House built by Fayette L. Rounds
8 Jun 1901
Train wreck – dynamite explosion
1922
First paved road
 
 
Jan 1922
Fire Company #1 formed – Paul Stewart is Fire Chief
1927
Business buildings destroyed by fire
1927
Vestal water district formed
1936
Major flood
1936
Vestal Booster is first newspaper – Ted Moore publisher
 
 
19 May 1936
Vestal schools centralized
1939
Vestal High School opened
16 Aug 1946
Police Department established – Donald Knapp Acting Chief
Nov 1947
Vestal News published
1948
Vestal Theater built
 
 
16 Feb 1949
Vestal Free Library opens
7 Oct 1954
C. Fred Johnson Bridge bet Vestal & JC opens
1954
Ground breaking for Harpur College
13 Oct 1954
Recreation commission formed
30 June 1955
Town Hall dedication
 
 
Apr 1958
V Drive-in Theater opens
1960
Arnold Park
1960
Senior High School built
14 Nov 1962
Vestal Plaza opens
1 Oct 1963
Route 26 extension over Pierce Hill opens
 
 
3 Dec 1966
Vestal Nursing Home opens
1973
Vestal Sesquicentennial celebrated (150 years)
4 Jun 1974
Vestal Historical Society established
16 Jun 1974
Kopernik Observatory opened
6 Oct 1974
Vestal Public Library moves to former Loblaws store
 
 
Nov 1979
Vestal Theater demolished

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History of Vestal


Broome County was formed from Tioga County on March 28, 1806.  Originally part of the Town of Union, the Town of Vestal was established on January 22, 1823.

Documentation of the origin of the name Vestal has not been found.  Most historical articles attribute Robert Harpur with naming the town after Vesta the Roman goddess of the fire and the Vestal Virgins who kept the sacred fires.

Located in the southwest corner of Broome County, Vestal is bordered on the north by the Susquehanna River, on the south by the state of Pennsylvania, on the east by the town and city of Binghamton, and on the west by Tioga County.

The town is 52.5 square miles or 31,892 acres in size.  There are approximately 135 miles of roads within the township.  Vestal's lowest elevation of 828 ft. is found at the Susquehanna.  Rolling hills rise to 958 ft. at Vestal Center, 1187 ft. at Tracy Creek, 1687 ft. at Ridge Road, 1849 ft. at West Hill, and 1860 ft. at the French Tract in the southeast corner of the township.

In addition to the Susquehanna River, there are four major creeks in the township; Choconut, Tracy, Sugar, and Fuller Hollow.

Archaeological excavations along the river have established Vestal's earliest inhabitants as Native Americans from the late Archaic period (2500-2000 BC).  The small chert projectile points with side notches excavated along the Susquehanna in Vestal from this period are documented as Vestal Points.  Native Americans living in the Chugnutt encampment at the mouth of the Choconut Creek around 1755 were from the Oneida and Tuscarora tribes, two of the Iroquois Federation's Six Nations.  Their encampment was burned by General Poor's army on 18 August 1779.  Native American graves have also been found along the Susquehanna at Willow Point.

Hamlets within the Town of Vestal:

  • Ross Corners is named for a prominent lumberman, David Ross, who was a storekeeper from 1838 to 1890 and operated rafts on the Susquehanna.
  • Tracy Creek, named for Thomas Tracy, is located on Tracy Creek in the southwestern corner of the town.  The most prominent hamlet in the mid-1850's, it was known for its lumbering operations and large farms.
  • Twin Orchards, located in the northern portion of the town along the river, was named for its large apple orchards.
  • Vestal Center, previously Vestal Centre, is located four miles south of Vestal's main district.  The Big Choconut Creek flows through the hamlet where grist, saw, and planing mills, along with a wagon shop and hotel, once operated.
  • Willow Point, located along a bend in the Susquehanna was named for the many willow trees growing there.

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Research Sources


The Historian's office contains the following research resources for Vestal.

  • Topic Files
  • Surname or Family Files
  • Census Records from 1790 to 1930
  • Extracted Birth Records from 1800 to 1907
  • Extracted Marriage Records from 1881 to 1907
  • Extracted Death Records from 1881 to 1913
  • Cemetery Records for Vestal cemeteries
  • Photographs of Vestal people and places
  • Town Board Minutes
  • Various Planning Studies
  • Genealogies
  • Reference Books for NYS, Broome County and Research Techniques

The 35 Topic Categories include in part; Agriculture, Education, Environment, Fire Department, Vestal Government, Highways and Roads, Land and Property, Landmarks, Organizations and Clubs, Parks, Religion, Scouts, Transportation, Utilities, and Vestal History. 

Surname Files contain information gathered about the name and may include:  vital records information, engagements, marriages, obituraries, news stories, deeds, research completed by others, and references to photographs or topic files associated with the person.


Town Seal
VestalCoin
The Town seal, displayed above, exemplifies a tradition of united community effort for the common good. The circular motif signifies enduring public initiative. The sun, which actively depicts life and hope, symbolizes a continuing undercurrent of concern for a better community. The sprig in the center of the seal symbolizes both orderly new growth and adaptation to the environment of a changing world.

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