Village of
Bridgewater
History

History

A Brief History of Bridgewater From the Oneida County Historical Society:
 
The Town of Bridgewater is the southernmost one in Oneida County. It is rather small, having an area of 24.4 square miles. Settlers came rapidly, so that by 1830 the township was divided into holdings of various sizes, mostly farms.

Bridgewater began as part of the Township of Sangerfield in what was then Herkimer County. The Town of Bridgewater was taken from Sangerfield in 1797. Community life had begun, as the Masonic Lodge was in being by that time and in 1798 the Congregational Church was organized.

The construction of the Utica to New Berlin plank road made a four-way point at the center of the village where today’s Route 20 intersects Route 8. It became a stage coach station with several inns, blacksmith shops, sawmills, stores, and small industries. The roads permitted the shipment of grain, hides, pork, and whiskey. Large droves of cattle and hogs passed through on their way to Utica and Albany.

The high water mark of the town was in the 1830s, with a population of more than 1600. A decline set in with the opening of the Erie and other canals. This decline was increased later by the building of railroads. The spread of manufacturing in factories gradually led to the disappearance of many craft shops. By the outbreak of the Civil War the area’s population was down to 1258.

The Civil War period was a trying one, as the township furnished at least 100 men for the Union forces, of whom 13 or more lost their lives while in service. The townspeople were involved in the national issues, particularly slavery. There was a station on the “underground railroad” run by Dr. Trowbridge in the village.

Soon thereafter the town had a railroad built through it to Richfield Springs. To facilitate the project the locality sold $50,000 worth of bonds. This railroad became part of the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western system. Another railroad was completed from here to New Berlin in 1893, known as the Unadilla Valley Railroad.

Agriculture has always been the life of the town and has taken several overlapping forms. In the early years some grain was converted into whiskey and some into food for hogs and cattle. Sheep raising soon was quite prevalent. Beginning in the early 1800s and steadily growing was the hop-raising industry. Dairy stock became more numerous by 1850, with butter and cheese for market. This led to cheese factories.

The social life of the town was lively, with plenty of music, dancing, and sports. For many years the town fielded good baseball teams, beginning in early 1880. There was a band also.

World War I failed to change the town much. World War II followed, with approximately 125 area persons seeing military service. Three young men did not return. Quite a few were in service in Korea, one of whom was killed in action.

Over the years the numerous district schools consolidated. In the 1890s the Bridgewater Union School, later known as the high school, came into being. In 1929 a central school district was established and a new school built. It was dedicated in 1932. It was taken into the Mount Markham District in 1969. The building is now a grade school in the larger district.

The need for fire protection led in 1914 to the formation of a local fire company. This organization, beginning with little equipment, has steadily grown to become a well equipped force, capable of protecting the town.

Within the last 25 years considerable but not generally recognized changes have come upon the townspeople. The widespread practice in the past of many family-sized dairy farms has largely disappeared. A small number of larger farms operate instead. Large area s of former dairy farms have gone into comparatively few enterprises devoted to crop farming such as grains, beans and potatoes on a large scale.

Beginning about 1965 the generally stable population of the area began to increase. From a figure of roughly 800, which it had been for many years, by 1973 the population increased to about 1260. The reason for this was the appearance of mobile homes here in the early 1960s.

Bridgewater today remains mostly agricultural. It has some of the most fertile flat lands around. The village has raised many of the old abandoned and fire damaged buildings and they are now being replace with profitable business. The town population is at a slow but steady growth. The Bridgewater Historical Society was formed in 1992 with the interest centered on gathering and preserving the towns history.


Note: The above excerpts are from the article "Bridgewater" by Janice Jaquish Town Historian. If you would like to learn more about this topic, the complete text is included in Exploring 200 Years of Oneida County History
 
© 2009

Oneida County Historical Society

  1608 Genesee Street, Utica, New York 13502-5425
315-735-3642, e-mail: ochs@midyork.org
An Older History of the Area - Published in 1862:

History of Bridgewater, NY
FROM: Gazetteer and Business Directory
OF Oneida County, N. Y. For 1869.
Compiled and Published By Hamilton Child, Syracuse, NY 1862

(Reprinted here courtesy of http://history.rays-place.com)

 


BRIDGEWATER was formed from Sangerfield, March 24, 1797. It lies in the south-east corner of the County. The surface is uneven, consisting of the valley of the west branch of the Unadilla, which runs through it from north to south, and the adjacent hills. This valley is known as “Bridgewater Flats” and is. about one mile wide at the north border of the town, but decreases to about half that distance at the south. These Flats are celebrated for their fertility and are highly cultivated. The hills rise on the east and west borders, from 300 to 500 feet above the valley, their declivities being often very steep. The soil in the east is a gravelly loam, and in the west clayey. In the north-east part is a quarry of excellent limestone, for building purposes. The quarry extends over some 300 or 400 acres, and lies about thirty feet higher than the flats opposite. The excavation which forms the valley of the west branch of the Unadilla, has been filled to a great depth with drift, and no rock is found within a great depth from the surface. Cedar swamps extend along many of the streams.

Bridgewater (p. v.) is situated in the south part of the town, and contains two churches and about. 300 inhabitants.

North Bridgewater, (p. v.) in the north part, contains about twenty houses.

Babcock's Hill (p. o.) is a hamlet in the north-east part.

There are several mills in various parts of the town. At the center of the town is a saw mill and a grist mill, on the west branch of the Unadilla. There is also a horse-rake factory in connection with the saw mill.

The first settlement was commenced in 1788, by Joseph Farwell, at a place known as “Farwell’s Hill.” In March, 1789, Mr. Farwell, in company with Ephraim and Nathan Waldo, removed their families from Mansfield, Oonn., to Farwell Hill. They came via Albany and the Mohawk Valley to Whitesboro, thence to Paris Hill. From Paris Hill they were obliged to make their own road, following a line of marked trees. Their team consisted of two yoke of oxen and a horse, and their vehicle an ox sled. On their arrival, March 4, the snow was about one and a half feet deep, but soon increased to four feet. Their team, with their two Cows, subsisted on browse until the spring opened. Their house consisted of four crotches set in the ground, with a roof of split slabs and hemlock boughs, and siding of blankets. These families lived in this shanty till midsummer. About three years after this Mr. Farwell built the first frame house in the town. Ezra. Parker settled in the north part of the town in 1789, erected a log house and kept the first tavern. A Mr. Lyman, Jesse, Joel and Abner Ives, were among other early settlers. For the first two years the settlers were obliged to go to Whitestown to mill, a distance of twenty miles. Mr. Farwell built the first saw mill, in 1790, and Mr. Thomas the first grist mill, in 1792, on land now occupied by George L. Foot. In 1792 Ephrairn Waldo built the first store and blacksmith’s shop in the town. Soon after the settlement of the town, a son of Ephraim Waldo, eight years of age, discovered a young bear asleep in the woods by the side of a log. - Eager to secure so valuable a prize, he retreated a short distance to a small elm tree, from which he peeled a piece of bark with which he made a noose, and, creeping softly up, slipped it over the head of the young sleeper and started for home. He had taken the precaution to draw his noose so tight that the cub could make no noise, and though soon followed by the mother of the cub, reached home in safety, the old bear being shot by Jesse Waldo as she approached their residence.

The population in 1865 was 1,252, and its area 14,702 acres.

There are eight school districts, employing eight teachers. The whole number of children of school age is 425; the number attending school, 312; the average attendance, 142, and the amount expended for school purposes, $1,937.69.