VILLAGE OF ILION
HERKIMER COUNTY, N.Y.
The following is taken from "Ilion 1852-1952." We thank the Mayor and
other officials of Ilion for granting us permission to provide this
information to our visitors.
A request by the Central New York Telephone and Telegraph Company to
install poles, fixtures and wire through and over the highways of the
village was granted in 1883. Thus began the telephone exchange.
Widespread success was elusive for in 1897 an application for the maintenance
of a telephone system by one Elmer Sunny was again granted, the Osgood
House and the Citizen office among the few benefitting by its service.
By 1911 there was a great deal of criticism by townspeople in regard to
maintaining two telephone lines. The Bell Company had controlling
interest in the Utica Home Telephone Company. The Bell provided long
distance service while the Home maintained a large social list, many
subscribers paying for both lines. With a charge of $1.00 a month for houses,
there were 400 in 1900, enjoying, by then, continuous twenty-four hour
service. The Bell Company spent $70,000 in 1902, on improvements in
the Mohawk Valley, of which $5.000 was paid for installing underground
conduits in Frankfort and Ilion. In 1910 an application for placing all
wires in the business section underground, by the Home Service, as were
the Bell, was granted thus eliminating a hazard for fire apparatus. At
this time the telegraph office was located in the McGowan building.
The remarkable development of Ilion during World War I was reflected in
the increased number of subscribers. During 1915 the No. 8 switch board
was replaced by a No. 1 Western Electric, one having an ultimate
capacity of 3500 subscribers. That same year new stations were added, to a
total of 204. By early 1917 there were 1,008 telephones in service.
In 1952 - with 3700 subscribers with daily calls of 26,000 the local
telephone exchange has reached maximum capacity.
The local telegraph is almost as old as the Corporation of Ilion. At
the request of citizens in 1857 a telegraph was installed in a store
conducted by a Mr. Turtelot. The Ilion Independent said, "It works
admirably, and the messages fly on wings of fire in less than no time from
one end of the land to the other." The name of this early company was
not given but Western Union is the first company mentioned by the local
paper in 1880 with George Trowbridge as manager. The office was moved
many times, being on First Street in several locations, Union Street,
Bank Block, Main Street, the Osgood Hotel and during World War I it was
moved to its present location 27 East Main Street with Frank
Postal Telegraph also maintained an office for several years in the
90's and early 1900's.
We have no records to show when Ilion first had the service of an
express company. In 1883 the Citizen said "For 27 years the express
business has been in the hands of L. L. and Seward Merry" which shows its
presence as early as 1856. The manufacturing establishments furnished the
bulk of this business. For example "The Remingtons sold and shipped
$250,000 worth of arms Tuesday night last week between the hours of 6 p.
m. and 6 a. m. destination unknown" 1870.
In 1950 delivery and pickup service was consolidated with the Herkimer
office which now serves the four neighboring villages.
ELECTRIC POWER - GAS
Requests from residents for street lamps were received year after year
from 1875 when $500 was voted for the purpose. Both gas and oil were
used, with rude gas pipes laid just under the surface of the ground.
When a householder desired to install gas he would simply attach a pipe
to the one nearest him. For lighting street lamps every dark night, a
lamplighter was employed at $40 per month. He was the cause of many
complaints; either there were too few lamps, they were too dim, or the
lamplighter put them out too early, if he remembered to light them at
In 1884 electric lights were installed in the center of the village
and in the Reading Room on First Street. The electricity, paid for by
the merchants, was manufactured by the Remington electric system in the
Armory. The next year a forty horse power engine was placed in the
Armory for the use of the electric light department.
But Ilion as a whole was not lighted until 1890 when a contract was
placed with the Mohawk and Ilion Gas and Light Company to furnish power
for lighting. The lights were of the carbon type and flickered badly.
The first arc light was installed on the corner of Main and Otsego
Streets and maintained free of charge for one year by the company. At the
same time the Village Board placed one of the new lamps at the corner
of So. Fourth Avenue and Second Street, as an experiment. In 1896 the
gas companies of Herkimer, Ilion and Little Falls consolidated to form
the Herkimer County Light and Power Company.
The village electorate, at a charter election in 1899, voted for the
establishment of a Municipal Electric utility plant. An Electric Light
Commission was appointed by the Village Board. By 1914 the plant had
deteriorated to such an extent that the Commission contracted with the
Utica Gas and Electric Company to furnish light and power.
This relationship still exists and the wisdom of the move has been
demonstrated through the years in the fact that during periods of abnormal
expansion additional current has been immediately available. The
efficient and exemplary management of the Commission has provided Ilion
with the lowest rate of any village of the size in the State of New York.
The first gas used in Ilion was manufactured in the gas works by the
Mohawk and Ilion Gas Light Company organized in 1869. In '98 it was
sold to a New York syndicate. The company is now known as Niagra-Mohawk
Power Corporation and is located in its own building, corner of Union
and Main Streets. On September 10, 1951 Natural Gas was turned into the