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Early Fulton County History
- In 1772 a county was set off from Albany and named after the Governor, Tryon. Sir William Johnson was behind this move and personally erected the buildings for the county's business at his own expense at the town known by his name. When the victorious Americans in 1784 wanted the name of the county changed from the hated Tryon to Montgomery, there were no dissenting voices. There was some objection by Sir William* to the retaining of the buildings for which he had paid by the new named county, but his hasty departure to Canada led to the confiscation of his estate, including the county buildings in question.
(*Editor's note: Sir William Johnson died in July of 1774. This may refer to his son and heir to his title and estate, Sir John Johnson.)
The years following the Revolution were followed by a great migration to the Mohawk Valley. Towns sprang up everywhere; those already founded made great growths. Naturally the increase of population was along the valley of the river. Johnstown, the county seat, soon became too far off the main line of settlements to suit some, with the result that the seat of justice was removed from its original home and placed at Fonda in 1836. Objections came thick and fast from the northern Montgomery residents. The Legislature was petitioned to set up a new county with the old county seat as its shiretown, which petition was granted and the county known as Fulton, named after the famous inventor of the steamboat. The county, as erected April 18, 1838, contained nine towns: Bleecker, Broadalbin, Ephratah, Johnstown, Mayfield, Northampton, Oppenheim, Perth and Stratford. Caroga became the tenth when added April 11, 1842, being formed from parts of Stratford, Bleecker and Johnstown.
The new county was, of course, separated from the Mohawk River by the north line of Montgomery. The Adirondack county, Hamilton, forms its north boundary, with Herkimer to the west and Saratoga County on the east. As created, Fulton has an area of 540 square miles, or about 350,000 acres. The upper section of the county, the district Iying north of Johnstown, is the more hilly, in some places approaching the mountainous, rather too rough and rocky to encourage cultivation. The more southerly towns are in the same fertile territory which is found along most of the Mohawk Valley. The main stream within the county is Sacandaga Creek, along which, near the mouth of Mayfield Creek, is an extensive swamp. There are many small streams and lakes, many of the latter being very charming. Farming has been the backbone of the county's prosperity. Because of the nature of the land, dairying has been the main interest agriculturally. But the growing of vegetables for canneries, and the creation of fruit orchards are the more modern developments. The accessibility to markets not only aided agriculture, but encouraged the multiplication of factories and the growth of manufacturing.
Notice may be taken here to the peculiar type of manufacture which came to be associated with Fulton County and its towns. It is none other than the making of leather gloves. Fulton is said to be the center of this industry in the United States. As early as 1809 buckskin gloves were favorably known over quite a district as a Fulton product. The old Indian formula for tanning was used, skins were brought in by trappers and farmers, and the makers who had learned their trade, many of them abroad, shaped the gloves. The primacy thus attained in this trade has always been kept; as improvements came out they were introduced into the county shops.
Although Fulton did not become a county until 1838, to get an idea of its growth one must take the census of the towns which formed it prior to its erection. As nearly as may be worked out, there were 6,831 people in this district in 1800, indicating how rapidly had been the movement of settlers into the Mohawk Valley, once the danger of the Indians, with their white allies, was abated. In 1850 the population had increased to 20,170, by the end of the century, 42,842, and the 1920 census credits the county with 44,927.
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Copyright © 1996 by Richard Frisbie -- All rights reserved.