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THE EVOLUTION OF A COUNTY
Provided by Fulton County Historian:
William G. Loveday, Jr.
In the beginning, the land, and especially the northern land, of our
present Fulton County evolved from the violent upheaval of the earth in
the form of lofty mountains. Then followed the extended glacial period
when these high mountains were worn down, their earth redistributed,
and beautiful valleys and riverbeds scoured out by the moving glaciers.
Then came the forest growth and the abundance of wildlife which freely
roamed this area. Soon, early Native Americans entered this pristine
picture and found our area to their liking for hunting and fishing grounds.
Eventually, these early native tribes joined together along the fertile
Mohawk Valley just to our south and formed the Iroquois Confederacy.
The Mohawk Nation acted as "Keepers of the Eastern Gate" for this
powerful Confederacy and continued to rely on this northern area as a
source for their food and clothing supply.
The first European influence arrived on our shores in the early 1600's
with the arrival of the Dutch who promptly named all of the area to the
north New Netherlands. They soon spread their influence up the Hudson
River and west along the Mohawk River until 1664 when the British took
over the Dutch lands and renamed them New York after the Duke of York.
In the early 1700's, the German Palatines started to arrive and actually
became the first settlers of today's Fulton County. They and their Dutch
neighbors tilled the rich soil of the Palatine region in our western regions.
Just prior to 1760, Sir William Johnson, the Crown's Indian Agent and
Baronet, started recruiting immigrants to settle the lands which he had
acquired. These mostly Scottish immigrants became the nucleus of
today's city and Town of Johnstown near the manor which he had built in
1762 and named Johnson Hall.
John's Town, named after his son, and the surrounding area, flourished
until 1772 at which time Johnson petitioned the Provincial Assembly in
Albany to have the huge Albany County, which had been formed in 1683,
broken up so that Johnstown could become the county seat of a new
local county and thereby have it's own convenient courthouse, jail and
local administration. Because of Sir William Johnson's widespread
influence, this was approved and our Fulton County area became a part
of the still large but new Tryon County, named after the New York
Colonial Governor William Tryon. A small Albany County remained and
Charlotte County was formed in the Champlain-Vermont area.
This new Tryon County stretched from the western boundaries of the now
much smaller Albany County west to the Canandaigua Treaty Line of
1768 near Rome, NY, north to the Canadian Border and south to the
Tryon County remained so named until 1784 when the now onerous
British name of Tryon was changed to Montgomery County, named after
Gen. Richard Montgomery who was one of our first heroes of the War,
killed while attacking Quebec. Many of our local men served with
Montgomery and knew and respected him as a leader.
The Montgomery County seat remained at Johnstown and now the
county stretched all the way west to the Great Lakes.
As western migration took place, this large Montgomery County soon
became sub-divided into new counties with their own county seats.
Further, the operation of the new Erie Canal and the building of new
roads along the river attracted new settlements to the Mohawk Valley
and population growth soared in that area of the county south and
southwest of Johnstown.
Because of this shift in the population center, the people in the Mohawk
Valley area petitioned the NY State Legislature to have the county seat
of Montgomery County transferred to Fonda. This was approved in
This move generated a great deal of dissatisfaction in the northern part
of Montgomery County and soon a petition was made to the NY
Legislature by a group led by Judge Daniel Cady of Johnstown to have
the county divided into two counties. On April 18, 1838, this request was
approved and the northern half of the divided county was named Fulton
County after Robert Fulton of steamship and Erie Canal fame and
Johnstown once again became a county seat. After a few internal Town
boundary changes and divisions, Fulton County was formed as you see
Today, Fulton County maintains the oldest courthouse in NY State and
one of the oldest in the country still being used for court proceedings.
We have many interesting historic sites, led by Johnson Hall, and are
rich in other early history as well.
Fulton County is also a growing Mecca for tourists interested in outdoor
activities such as hunting, fishing, boating, skiing, swimming, etc. Our
Recreational Rail Trail is nearing completion and will soon connect with
other trails throughout the Mohawk Valley.
We are still proud of our rich farmlands, friendly cities and villages,
industries and heritage. Fulton County has a proud past and a
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