History of Geddes, NY
FROM: History of Onondaga County, New York
With Illistrations and Biographical Sketches.
By: Professor W. W. Clayton
Published By D. Mason & Co., Syracust NY 1878


This town and village derive their name from Hon. James Geddes, who first visited Onondaga in 1792. He returned and formed a company in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, for the purpose of manufacturing salt, and in the year 1793 came on from that place by way of Seneca Lake and River to fix upon a location for his works. He selected a site at the head of the lake where a portion of the village of Geddes now stands, and took possession of it in April, 1794. The other members of the company came on in the month of June following. (See History of the Salt Interest.)

At the time Mr. Geddes settled here the Salt Works at Salina were accessible only by a road from Onondaga Hollow, passing through a swamp which is now Syracuse. It became necessary for the company at Geddes to connect with this road, and by the aid of moneys from a road fund in the hands and under the control of three County Commissioners, and by large contributions, Mr. Geddes made the road from his village to the road from Onondaga Hollow to Salt Point, cutting a part of the timber with his own hands. The owners of the Salt Works at Salt Point were not at all friendly to their new neighbors, whom they considered in the light of rivals, and carried their resentment so far as to withhold assistance in raising a bridge over Onondaga Creek, and to throw out hints that it could not be raised without them. But necessity became the mother of invention, and made the resources of the directors more fruitful than their most sanguine friends had anticipated. The first bent was put together and shoved off the bank of the creek, the mud-sills being placed at the foot of the bank, and by levers was so managed that one man could exercise the power of many applied in the ordinary manner. The bent was set upright, the stringers from the top of the bank to the bent placed, and so much planked over, affording a foundation from which the next bent was raised, and so on till the bridge was finished and the road completed.

Mr. Geddes continued at his first landing place only about four years, when he located on the farm now occupied by his son, Hon. George Geddes, Fairmount. (See Biography of Hon. James Geddes.)

In 1799, Mr. Freeman Hughs, from Westfield, Massachusetts, located at Geddes. He was then only eighteen years of age. The only buildings then in the place were the Salt Works, which had been abandoned. Here Mr. Hughs took up his abode three days and three nights, all alone, and not an individual nearer than Salt Point-a lonely time indeed, considering the state of the country, the dark and dreary swamps, the wolves, bears and wild-cats, by which he was surrounded. But Mr. Hughs, young as he was, had an eye to business. During his residence at Geddes he filled almost every station connected with the salt business. He bored for salt, pumped the brine, constructed pumps, made and laid aqueducts, tubed wells, boiled salt, made barrels, packed salt, inspected it for six years, was a receiver of duties for two years, boated salt, and as a Justice of the Peace, tried those who had evaded the payment of duties. The balance of his useful life was spent in Geddes, where he died some ten years since highly esteemed and respected as a citizen and a man.

One of the earliest and greatest improvements about the village of Geddes was the construction of a road from that place to Salina, across a piece of ground which was a perfect quagmire, filled with thick cedar timber and low brush-wood. It was so miry, so thick with underbrush, and so much covered with water, that it was completely impassable, and could not be surveyed by the ordinary methods. The plan adopted by the surveyor was to set his compass at the house of Samuel R. Mathews, at Salina, and take the bearing of Mr. Hugh's chimney above the trees on the Geddes side. From this observation the route of the road was commenced, by cutting brush and laying them crosswise on the line of the road, and covering them with earth. The process was slow, but time and perseverance resulted at last in an excellent road, perfectly straight, between the two villages. The clearing of the swamp lands ordinarily cost about one hundred dollars an acre, the surface being covered with logs mixed with peat to the depth of six feet, and stumps sometimes far below that.

James Lamb built the first frame house in Geddes in 1803 and kept a tavern.

At the time of the first settlement an old military road was traceable across the Onondaga valley at Geddes. It was cut through by a party of about two hundred men sent from Fort Schuyler to aid General Sullivan in his Indian campaign of 1779. The road extended to the Seneca River below Montezuma, along which traces of the march of these Revolutionary soldiers were plain to be seen, young trees having been cut close to the ground and bushes in many places filled into the path. Mr. Clark refers to several Revolutionary soldiers in attestation of this fact, "and particularly a Mr. Hobart, late of Salina, who was one of the expedition."

Harbor Brook in this town is also associated with Revolutionary reminiscences. Sir John Johnson, in 1779, with his Tories and Indian allies, made an incursion into the MGhawk Valley. The party forming the expedition proceeded from Niagara along the Ontario Lake shore to Oswego and up the river to Onondaga Lake. For fear of discovery, if their boats were left on the lake shore, they ran them up this small stream among the thick bushes and brakes. A party was sent from Fort Schuyler to destroy them, but did not succeed in ascertaining where they were concealed; during the search they were surprised and taken prisoners to Canada. On the first night of their departure, they encamped at Three River Point, where the prisoners were bound and tied to trees till morning. Capt. Patrick McGee was one of the prisoners, and was so much pleased with the beauty of the place at this time at the junction of the rivers, that at the close of the war he selected it for his residence, spent the residue of his life there, and was buried on the spot he had selected .under such very peculiar circumstances.


In 1848, Geddes was erected into a town by itself, including all that part of the town of Salina west of the lake not embraced in the city of Syracuse. The first election was held at the house of Stephen W. Smith, on the fourth Tuesday in March, 1848. Elijah W. Curtis was elected Supervisor; Edgar Vrooman, Town Clerk; George E. Tefft, Henry G. Stiles, and James H. Luther, Justices of the Peace. (Charles Carpenter, Justice for the village, had been previously elected.) Horace Ellis and George E. Teift were elected Assessors Christopher Kitts, Collector; Edwin R. Smith and Albina Woolson, Overseers of the Poor; Ogden H. Osborn and Ervin Hammond, Superintendents of Schools; Thomas Owen, Horace Bailey, Guy Terry, and Richard Barrett, Constables; William W. Tripp, Matthew Van Vleck, and Harvey Stewart, Inspectors of Election.

In 1849, Henry G. Stiles was elected Supervisor; William Punderson, Town Clerk. Justices-George E. Teift, (to fill a vacancy,) Simeon Spaulding, (regular term,) and Horace Ellis. Superintendent of Schools-Thomas S. Truair. Overseers of the Poor-Edwin R. Smith and Albina Woolson. For the complete official list of the town since 1849, the reader is referred to the town records in the hands of the present Town Clerk, Mr. E. R. Smith, of the village of Geddes. These records being kept in a separate place, escaped the fire which consumed the village records in 1850.


The village of Geddes appears to have been partially laid out as early as 1807. In the SurveyorGeneral's office at 'Albany is a map, No. 407, entitled a "Map of the village laid out at the settlement commonly called Geddes Works, Onondaga county, with the pasture and marsh lot belonging to the manufacturers at said village. Surveyed for William Kirkpatrick, Esq., Superintendent, by James Geddes, December 31, 1807." Mr. Kirkpatrick was then Superintendent of the Salt Springs, and the "manufacturers" referred to were those making salt at that time at Geddes. The lands then belonged to the State and were laid out into village lots, pasture lots, marsh lots, &c., for the convenience of the salt makers.

The first plot of Geddes laid out and mapped in i 807, contained some twenty lots along both sides of Genesee street. The village was resurveyed and mapped by Mr. Geddes in 1812, and enlarged in 1821. (Map No. 248, Secretary of State's Office, Albany.) In 1822, Mr. John Randel, Jr., Deputy Surveyor-General, laid out the village of Geddes substantially as it is at present. The streets were laid out 100 feet wIde. Genesee street has since been straightened, and some other trifling changes made.

John Randel, Jr., surveyed the whole Salt Springs Reservation, except the "Walton Tract," and made the first map of it. He began his survey in 1821 and finished it in 1824.

The village was incorporated by act of the Legislature passed April 20, 1832. (Chapter 185.) The first election of officers took place on the first Tuesday in June following, or such at least was the time appointed by the act of incorporation. Unfortunately the village records were destroyed by fire on the night of the 8th of February, 1850, and it is now impossible to ascertain who the first village officers were. None of the old citizens now living in the village, nor any one of whom we can hear, has any definite or reliable recollection on the subject, and after diligent inquiry, we have been obliged to abandon the hope of rescuing them from oblivion.

Elijah W. Curtis, Esq., a prominent citizen, and the first lawyer in Geddes, was member of Assembly in 1832, and drew up the village charter. Other prominent names were John Dodge and Joel Dickinson, merchants. Probably some of these, if not all, officiated at an early time as Trustees of the village. From 1850 the records are complete and furnish the following list of village officers:


Simeon Spaulding, Stephen W. Smith, Isaac R. Pha. ris, Albina Woolson. - 1850.
Daniel D. Smith, R. Nelson Gere, Edgar Vrooman, Daniel Coykendall, Albina Woolson.- 1851.
Thomas Sammons, Joel F. Paige, Hiram Slade, Sullivan H. Morse, John Whiting.-1852.
Joel F. Paige, Albina Woolson, Joseph Sheppard, Jr. Thomas Robinson, William W. Tripp.-1853.
Elijah W. Curtis, Daniel Coykendall, Edgar Vrooman, Wm. J. Sammons, John Y. Phares.-1854.
Elijah W. Curtis, Daniel Coykendall, Wm. J. Sammons, Mills P. Pharis, Wm. Boulian.-1855.
Thomas Sammons, R. Nelson Gere, Isaac R. Pharis, Henry Duncan, Elijah W. Curtis.-1856.
James W. Patten, A. Cadwell Belden, Henry Case. John D. Stanard, Henry Duncan.-1857.
B. F. Willey, E. R. Smith, Win. J. Sammons, Norman Yrooman, Wm. W. Tripp.-1858.
Wm. H. Farrar, Burlingame Harris, R. Nelson Gere, Francis H. Nye, Ferris Hubbell.-1859.
Francis H. Nye, R. Nelson Gere, Gardner Woolson, Harvey Stewart, Joel F. Paige.-1860.
Joel F. Paige, R. Nelson Gere, Francis H. Nye, Gardner Woolson, Harvey Stewart.-1860.
Joel F. Paige, Harvey Stewart, Francis H. Nye, R. Nelson Gere, Isaac R. Pharis.-1862.
Joel F. Paige, Harvey Stewart, Stephen W. Smith, Perry C. Rude, Hiram Slade.-1863.
Thomas Robinson, Mills P. Pharis, Richard G. Joy, Wm. H. H. Gere, Wm. D. Coykendall.-1864.
Thomas Robinson, Mills P. Pharis, Richard G. Joy, Wm. H. H. Gere, W. D. Coykendall.-1865.
Samuel E. Barker, Harvey Stewart, Charles F. Gere, Gilbert Sweet, John Y. Phares.-1866.


R. Nelson Gere, Mead Belden, Samuel E. Barker.-1867.
Samuel E. Barker, Mead Belden, Charles E. Pharis.- 1868.
Samuel E. Barker, Charles E. Pharis, Mead Belden.- 1869.
Charles E. Pharis, Mead Belden, Reuben C. Holmes- 1870.
Mead Belden, Reuben C Holmes, Charles E. Pharis.- 1871.
Reuben C. Holmes, Charles E. Pharis, Mead Belden.- 1872.
Charles E. Pharis, Mead Belden, Reuben C. Holmes.- 1873.
Mead Belden, Reuben C. Holmes, Terreuce E. Hogan.- 1874.
Reuben C. Holmes, Terrence E. Hogan, Richard Tremain.- 1875.
Terrence E. Hogan, Richard Tremain, George C. Gere.- 1876.
Richard Tremain, George C. Gere, George A. Cool. - 1877.


J. W. Woodard, 1850; James H. Luther, 1851; Ferris Hubbell, 1852; Edgar Vrooman, 1853; Charles E. Pharis, 1854; Ferris Hubbell, 1855; N. Stanton Gere, 1856; Stephen Duncan, 1858; E. R. Smith, 1859, to the present time, except 1863, when B. G. Lewis was Clerk.


The following persons, in the order named, have held the office of Postmaster in the village of Geddes: David W. Hollister: Elijah W. Curtis; Joel Dickinson; Simeon Spaulding; Thomas Sammons; Sirneon Spaulding; Ferris Hubbell; Simeon Spaulding; Hubbard Manzer, present incumbent, (1877.)


The first Justice of the Peace was Henry Lake, Esq. Since him the following named gentlemen have filled that office in the town and village: Thomas Sammons, Simeon Spaulding, four years; William W. Tripp, four years ; Charles Carpenter, four years; James H. Luther, four years; Simeon Spaulding, thirty-one years in succession to January 1, 1878.

The present Justices in the town of Geddes are James T. Hamilton, Henry Jerome and William D. Coykendall.

Simeon Spaulding, Esq., and William W. Tripp, Esq., are the oldest citizens now residing in the village. Both came to Geddes in 1825. John Y. Phares, still living here, is an old and prominent resident. Ferris Hubbell came here from 1825 to 1830, and is still a resident of the village. John G. Dodge, Charles L. Skinner and Joel Dickinson were early merchants-the last named acting as agent for James Mann.

Dr. Salmon Thayer was the first regular physician, and came here from Onondaga. Dr. David M. Benson came afterwards, and practiced here till his death. He died in 1854.


The growth of the village of Geddes has been remarkable. In i868 it contained less than one thousand inhabitants. Now it is the largest incorporated village in the county, and contains a population of 5,408.


Some of the heaviest manufacturing establishments in this section are located in Geddes. They are the following:

Onondaga Iron Company, north of the canal, near Quince street. J. J. Belden, President; R. Nelson Gere, Vice-President; W. H. H. Gere, Secretary and Treasurer.

Onondaga Pottery Company, Furnace corner of School street. N. Stanton Gere, President; Chas. E. Hubbell, Vice-President; George Oliver, General Manager.

Sanderson Bro's Steel Company, south of Magnolia street. Capital $450,000. Robert B. Camp. bell, New York, President; Samuel Wm. Johnson, New York, Secretary; Wm. A. Sweet, Syracuse, General Manager.

Syracuse Iron Works, Furnace, north of Magnolia street, Geddes. R. Nelson Gere, President; Charles E. Hubbell, Secretary and Treasurer.

Sterling Iron Ore Company, north of the canal near Quince street. J. J. Belden, President; A. J. Belden, Vice-President.

The above works will be found written up fully under the head of Syracuse Manufactures.

Geddes has also the following Salt Companies:

Western Coarse Salt Company, Turk's Island Coarse Salt Company, Geddes Coarse Salt Company, Union Coarse Salt Company, Cape Cod Coarse Salt Company; W. & D. Kirkpatrick, No. 7 Wieting Block; James M. Gere and others; Draper & Porter, W. B. Boyd; Mrs. S. O. Ely, J. F. Paige.


The founders of the village of Geddes showed their appreciation of education by reserving a lot for a public school house east of the park or public square, on which a log school house was first built among the cabins of the primitive settlers. This was superceded by a brick school house at an early day, but only of sufficient dimensions to answer a temporary purpose. The narrow street or lane running from the public square east close to the residence of William W. Tripp, Esq., was opened as a means of access to the school. Simeon Spaulding, Esq., taught school in this house in 1825, and again in 1833 and in 1836. In 1846, it was torn down and the school temporarily kept in the base. ment of the Episcopal Church on the square, while the new school house which stood on the site of the present elegant Union Free School building was being got ready. This house was finished and occupied and was the principal school building of the village till the completion of the present building in 1870.

Up to 1862, the schools of the village had been conducted under the old rate bill system, the disadvantages of which were so painfully felt that Dr. W. W. Porter, then President of the Board of Trustees, resolved, with the concurrence of the Board and the District, to effect a reorganization under the law providing for the establishment of Union Free Schools, passed in 1853. A meeting for that purpose was accordingly called, and Dr. Porter personally distributed the notices to all the electors of the district. At the meeting it was found that one more vote was wanted to constitute the majority required by the law. Dr. Porter went out and brought in another elector from one of the stores, whose vote in the affirmative carried the day in favor of the Union Free School.

This district is now known as the Union Free School District No. 3, town of Geddes. The law under which it has been established is a recognition of the free school principle involved in the old law of March 26, 1849, and which after having been twice ratified by the people of the State, was repealed, and the old rate bill system reestablished, in April, 1851.

Ebenezer Butler, now of Whitehall, Washington county, this State, was Principal in 1864, and was succeeded by J. W. Hooper in 1865, who continued to act as the efficient Principal of the schools till January 1, 1871, when he resigned to take the office of School Commissioner, to which he had been previously elected. He was reelected, and is now serving on his second term. Mr. Hooper took the school in 1865 with 210 pupils and 4 teachers, and left it at the close of 1870 with 960 pupils and 19 teachers.

In 1870, the present school building was erected. It is of brick, three stories and basement, heated throughout by steam, and cost $26,000. It has two large seating rooms on each floor, with two recitation rooms adjoining each, and will accommodate about 1,000 pupils.

The schools are graded in three departments- Primary, Junior and Senior-occupying respectively the lower, middle and upper floors. A Winter Department has been organized in the basement of the building for the accommodation of about ioo boys who cannot attend school during summer. This department opens December 1. In addition to this main building, there are two branch primary schools-one situated on Magnolia street, with accommodations for 200 pupils, and the other on Frazer street, with accommodations for 180 pupils.

The corps of teachers now number 25, including male principals of the General and Winter Departments, the rest being lady teachers, 23 in number. The whole number of persons of school age in the village, (between 5 and 21 years,) is 1,641 ; number attending school, 1,200; average daily attendance, 836; amount of money raised and expended during the year ending Oct. 1, 1877, $13,110.

N. D. Bidwell is the efficient Principal and is assisted by an accomplished corps of teachers.

Those holding State Certificates are the following: N. D. Bidwell, J. W. Hooper, Miss A. M. Coit, Miss Nellie Annable, Mrs. Sarah Phelps.


Formed Under the General Law in 1865.

Wilfred W. Porter, President; William B. Noble, Clerk; Calvin Pierson, G. J. Griffith, A. C. Belden.

The following have been members since: J. R. Pharis, R. Nelson Gere, J. Henry Clark, E. B. Van Dusen, G. W. Fernold, Mead Belden, Mills P. Pharis, E. Laass, W. R. Chamberlain, E. M. Klock, J. Coady, Samuel Dempsey.

Present Board.-Rev. J. P. Magee, President; E. M. Klock, Clerk; J. Coady, A. Whedon, M. D., Samuel Dempsey.

Dr. N. W. Porter has been connected with the schools of Geddes for the past twenty-five years, and has been an efficient and indefatigable worker in their behalf. In 1852 he was Principal, and was elected Superintendent of Schools for the town of Geddes in 1853, and held the office till it was abolished by law in 1856. He was most efficient in forming the Free School organization, and has been most of the time since, till 1877, President of the Board of Education.


The town of Geddes contains but two churches and these are located in the village, viz: The First Methodist Episcopal Church, and St. Patrick's, Roman Catholic.

A Protestant Episcopal Church once existed here under the name and style of "Apostolic Church of Geddes"-organized in 1832. The same year a church edifice was erected on the public square. For a while the church enjoyed some prospect of permanency, under the labors of several able and devoted ministers, among whom were Rev. Richard Salmon and Rev. M. Whiting. But the Episcopal element not being sufficiently strong in the village and vicinity to maintain a permanent organization, the effort declined and was finally discontinued. After the Episcopalians gave up using the church, it was occupied for a time by the Methodists and the public school was at one time kept in the basement. It was torn down about the year 1855.

FIRST METHODIST EPISCOPAL CHURCH.- Rev. Manly Tooker and Rev. Nathaniel Salisbury preached in the village of Geddes as early as 1822. In 1840, Rev. Ebenezer Arnold began the organization of a pastoral charge here, in connection with his charge at Salina, but not being able to attend to it, requested the Presiding Elder, Rev. George Gary, to employ the services of Rev. Aaron Cross, a local preacher to complete the organization. Mr. Cross labored for a while, and perhaps some others, but with very little success till 1852, when Rev. Charles E. Bragdon, of Auburn, effected a reorganization and also established a Sunday School, of which Dr. Wilfred W. Porter, then recently arrived in the village, was elected Superintendent on the 9th of May, 1852. Dr. J. Arnold, then a druggist in Syracuse, was called to the pastorate and remained in charge about one year, when he was succeeded by Rev. Reuben Reynolds, who was followed by Rev. A. S. Wightman in 1854.

The church attained its legal existence, being incorporated with a Board of Trustees, under the name and style of the "First Methodist Episcopal Church of Geddes," February 6, 1854. Services were at first held in the school house. In 1856, plain wooden church was built, costing about $2,000, which is still standing, though removed from its original site and disused as a place of worship.

Mr. Wightman was followed in the pastorate by Rev. J. C. Vandercook, for two years, since whose ministry the succession of pastors has been as follows: Rev. J. D. Adams, two years; Rev. L. L. Adkins, two years; Rev. M. D. Kinney, two years; Rev. W. S. Titus, one year; Rev. J. C. Vandercook, one year; Rev. W. D. Chase, one year; Rev. G. M. Pierce, three years; Rev. W. H. Anable, two years and a half; Rev. 0. A. Houghton, three years; Rev. D. W. Beadle, one year; Rev. Loreti Eastwood, the present pastor, since October, 1876, now serving on his second year.

The new church edifice, a fine brick structure, was begun in 1871 and finished in 1872- Cost $27,000. The present membership of the church is 175, of the Sunday School, 180. The Sunday School is educating two orphans in India at the Orphanage at Bariley and Shah Jehanpoor.

ST. PATRICK'S CHURCH, Geddes.- About the year 1870, Rev. James S. M. Lynch opened a mission in a hall in the village of Geddes, and soon after commenced the erection of St. Patrick's Church. Before its completion it was given in
charge to Rev. P. F. Smith, who finished it in the year 1873. In 1875, it was transferred to Rev. James P. Magee, the present pastor. The congregation has very much increased under his charge, and now numbers about three thousand. The church is a very fine brick structure, and cost about $45,000. Rev. Mr. Magee is a licentiate of the Provincial Seminary at Troy, N. Y. ; was formerly assistant at the Cathedral in Albany, and pastor at Fort Edward, Washington county, N. Y., where he established a church.

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