|Evolution of a County
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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
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
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 Pennsylvania line.
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 1836.
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 it today.
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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