"Souvenir of Ilion" - 1904

Historical Sketch

Source: "Souvenir of Ilion," Ilion, N.Y.: Citizen Print. 1904. No Author.

In the days preceding the American Revolution there were few settlers scattered along the Mohawk river in the vicinity of the present village of Ilion. A block house then stood nearly where the typewriter factory now is, which proved a place of refuge when troubles arose with the Indians. What was called the old Helmer house, which until within a few years stood on the north bank of the Erie canal about opposite the Jacob Myers place, (now the residence of John Hoefler), was the first house built, and a part of the old block house was used in its construction. Slowly a small hamlet grew, surrounded by large farms owned by men of well-known names, such as Morgan, Dygert, Clapsaddle and Steele or Staley. Through the farm of the latter ran the stream called Steele's creek, whose waters turned the first wheels of the great gun factory in the "old forge," located about three miles south of the present armory. Until very recently the remains of this forge and the Remington residence were to be seen nearly opposite the United States hotel.

In 1825 Eliphalet Remington, Sr., bought the Clapsaddle farm and built and moved into a tavern on the spot now occupied by O. B. Rudd's store. It was while drawing logs to build this tavern that his father was so badly injured that he lived but a short time. During the building of the tavern Benjamin Harrington, father of Mrs. Caroline Hooker Doty, and Brace Pelton, father of J. B. Pelton, built a double house, a cooper shop, and a packing house opposite the present armory office. In 1828 the Remington armory consisted of a small structure now lost behind the massive buildings on Otsego street. In 1838 E. Remington, Sr., built a large forge just above the Harrington pond, which he and Benjamin Harrington operated in partnership ,for eighteen years, when all the gun work was moved to the present armory site. What has for many years been called the "old yellow armory" became the centre around which grew the little village. Soon a house was built where now stands the store of Ogden & Downs; then followed the three dwellings directly south.

Various denominations were represented in the community and religious services were occasionally held in a little school house on East Main street. In 1840 Daniel Dygert, father of the late James M. Dygert, deeded the lot where the Baptist church now stands for an undenominational church, with the reservation that if it became denominational it should revert to his heirs. This church was purchased by the Baptist society in 1869, James Dygert and sisters giving them a valid title.

Already a post-office had been established in a building on the site now occupied by John Giblin's office. Hitherto mail had been delivered at Bennett's Corners, (now Mohawk), and from there to the new post-office the mail was carried, tied in a pocket handkerchief, as it came in scant quantities with postage rate twenty-five cents for a single letter. David Devoe, a greatly respected citizen, was the first postmaster.

The time came when a name must be chosen for the fast growing village. A meeting was called for this purpose in 1840 and attended by farmers and all business men of the surrounding district. After many names were proposed and discussed E. Remington, Sr., very modestly but decidedly refused to allow the name Remington to be used. Samuel Remington urgently suggsted the classical name of Ilion. The vote was cast in its favor and to Samuel Remington belongs the honor of selecting a fittingly dignified and historically great name for the village whose manufacturers have spread as world-wide as the learning and tradition of ancient Ilium or Troy. The village was incorporated in 1852, and the Ilion bank was incorporated in the same year.

Just west of the lumber yard was located London, then the glory of this section. It consisted of a hat factory, a paint and wagon shop, (now a tenant house of W. H. Grimshaw), some dwellings, (one of which, the Tucker house, still remains), a milliner shop, a store and two taverns, also the county house. The most beautiful and palatial residence of this section was built in the early forties by E. Remington, Sr., which, shorn of its architectural beauty, is now transformed into the present Main street ofice of the Remington Arms Co. As business increased an old path through Selden Morgan's farm was changed by a survey into Morgan street and four Morgan houses were erected. The old Philo Remington house, now the home of Mrs. Philo Osgood, was built in 1846. In 1848 a house was built by Eliphalet Remington, Sr., where the Presbyterian church now stands, for Alfred Whitfield, father of James A. Whitfield. An inventor, William Jencks, supervised the first E. Remington & Sons contract, and built the brick house known as the Rasbach home on the north side of the canal, about 1846. Residences soon were scattered about, and in the early fifties many were erected, among them that of Dennis Dygert, on the corner of John and Second streets. Mr. Dygert, who is 86 years old, is still a resident of our village, and enjoys talking of Ilion's early history. John street and vicinity was included in the Ingersoll farm.

It has ever been a noted characteristic of Ilion that the advantages for education should keep pace with the business prosperity, and very early the small school houses were supplanted by the stone edifice which ranked high in its day as a district school building, and is still in use among the Morgan street structures. In 1865 the brick school building was erected on Morgan street and many additions have been made in recent years. More school room was needed and in 1897 the large brick building was erected on West Hill.

At present there are six church edifices in Ilion. Already mention has been made of the purchase and remodeling of the "old union church" by the people of the First Baptist society. In 1896 the Baptist people tore down the old church and in its place erected a substantial church edifice. Early in the year 1869 St. Augustine's parish was organized, and on Christmas day of the same year the church, (corner of Railroad and North streets), was opened for services. Rev. Charles Lancaster became the first rector. Rev. William Cook, the present rector, came to Ilion in 1888. The Presbyterians were organized in Janury, 1871, and soon after Rev. D. M. Rankin became their pastor. The church building was erected in 1874. The present pastor, Rev. W. C. Taylor, came to Ilion in 1888. In 1845 a Catholic Mission was organized in Ilion. In 1867 Father Howard became their resident pastor. The land on which Ave Maria church and the parochial residence now stand, was purchased of J. B. Pelton in 1867. The Methodist Episcopal society was organized early in the fifties. Before the church building was dedicated (early in January, 1866), services were held in the "Old Union Church." In 1896 a beautiful chapel, a gift from Mrs. Caroline Remington, in memory of her deceased husband, Philo Remington, was erected. The Free Methodist church was erected in the yar 1900.

Sometime in the sixties the "First Liberal Christian Society" of Ilion was organized. Meetings were held in different halls, and later the old Baptist church. One of the last pastors of this society, Rev. Howard Brown, is now in charge of the oldest Unitarian church of Boston, Mass. A pastor of this society, Rev. Mr. Simmons, organized his people into a Library association, others joining them. This library was opened to the public Wednesday afternoon, Saturday afternoon and evening of each week Many books of value from this first library are still in existence. Many years later a Free Public Library was opened on the second floor of the Grimes & Pelton block, but this was destroyed by fire. In 1893 the present library building was erected at a cost of not less than $30,000. This beautiful building was the gift of our former townsman, Clarence W. Seamans. The Juvenile library is a gift from Mrs. C. W. Seamans.

The first newspaper was published in Ilion in 1855, known as the "Ilion Independent," with George W. Bungay editor. In 1858 the "Loyal Citizen" was established, but subsequently the name was changed to the "Ilion Citizen." Both the "Indepedent" and "Loyal Citizen" were established under the patronage of the Remingtons, who for many years, under successive editorship, maintained the local newspaper. Ilion now has two weekly newspapers, namely: "The Ilion Citizen," published by the Citizen Publishing Co. (C. S. Munger and A. T. Smith of Herkimer, and R. E. King of Ilion) and the "Ilion News", established by C. A. White in 1889, and published since 1891 by C. D. Monsell.

In March, 1888, the firm of Hartley & Graham purchased the E. Remington & Sons' plant, and it has since been operated under the name of Remington Arms Company, with Wilfred Hartley as manager. The manufacture of the typewriter was begun in the Remington works in 1874, and continued there until 1886, when the firm, consisting of W. O. Wyckoff of Ithica, Clarence W. Seamans of Brooklyn, and H. H. Benedict of New York, purchased the plant. The large building that stands where the Remington Agricultural Works once stood, bespeak the rapid growth of this business. The other industries of Ilion are: Sterling Knitting Mills; A. M. Ross & Co., manufacturers of implements; Tucker File & Cabinet Co., manufacturing office and library furnishings; F. Coleman Carriage & Harness Co.; A. N. Russell & Sons, manufacturing store fixtures, and the Bartell Clothing Co. Ilion has five hotels---New Osgood, Caswell, Central, Mansion and Commercial.

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Created 10/22/03
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