A Brief History of the
Village of Earlville
Quincy Square Museum
East Main Street
Earlville, New York
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The first settlement was in the Town of Hamilton on the East Branch of the Chenango
River (sometimes identified as the Sangerfield River) in the spring of 1792. John Wells,
Abner Nash, Patrick W. Shields, and John Muir traveled here from Paris, Oneida County,
NY. Wells and Nash, originally from Amherst, Mass., and Shields and Muir, originally
from Somers, Conn., had arrived here earlier in the year on snowshoes, selected a location
and built the first log cabin. Before the ice on the rivers melted, Wells, Nash, and Muir
returned with their families and possessions to settle along both the east and west roads
from Earlville to Poolville.
A second settlement was in the area involving what is now the center of the village of
Earlville. The first settlers there were Major Bigelow Waters and Charles Otis, who came
in 1795. It was known as "The Forks" because of the confluence of the two rivers, which
become the Chenango River about a mile and a half south of present day Earlville. The
village and the post office retained the name until the construction of the Chenango Canal
was well underway in 1834. It is thought that the impact of the canal warranted a more
suitable name and the name Earlville was chosen to honor Canal Commissioner, Jonas Earl.
The canal ran just to the east of North Main Street bisecting the village from north to
southwest. This canal provided the transportation needed for the village to grow and
By the time James Smith wrote the history of Chenango County in 1870, Earlville had
three active churches, a graded district school, a newspaper office, two hotels, seven
stores, a tannery, a grist and saw-mill, two wagon shops, two blacksmith shops, a leather
finishing establishment, two shoe shops, two meat markets, four harness shops, two
jewelers, and a population of about 400.
Railroads also contributed to the growth of Earlville. At one time the village had two
through railroads and was on the southern terminus of a third (the DL&W, the O&W, and
the short-lived West Shore). They connected Earlville to consumers and shippers in the
major metropolitan centers from NYC to Buffalo through the southern tier ("The Route of
the Phoebe Snow"), and those that paralleled the Erie Canal to the north. Coal trains direct
from the coalmines in Pennsylvania provided a convenient, inexpensive energy source to
the expanding economy of our area.
On your visit to Quincy Square Museum, you will learn more of our history. Be sure to
ask about that area of Earlville known a "Red City". Several of our volunteers have spent
most of their lifetime in the area and descend from the early families. Reminisce with them
and share their stories. Quincy Square Museum volunteers are dedicated to educating
and informing the public about Earlville's grand history and people.