Cooperstown Crier - Your Source for Hometown News - Cooperstown, Baseball Hall of Fame

May 1, 2014

Lecture tells history of Burlington

Cooperstown Crier

---- — Members of the Fly Creek Historical Society heard about the history of nearby town Burlington on April 23 at the Grange Hall in Fly Creek. 

Richard Graham, the co-historian for the town, spoke and shared pictures and information about the origins of the area. 

The presentation itself answered many questions about Burlington’s origins. Graham started out as an amateur historian but eventually put enough resources together to head up the historical division of Burlington.

According to Graham, after fires burned the town records, interest in the past developed during the 1950s. But, by the 70s, the effort fell apart when Harold Kringle, who started the society, died. Introducing his presentation, Graham stressed the importance of local history.

“Everybody has a lot of interest in their hometown history” said Graham.

He went further, describing the settling of Burlington. The area was a hunting ground for the Iroquois. There was no proof of settlements but there were artifacts found that supported this theory, Graham said. The excavated items suggested 20 to 30 Native Americans used the land to camp and hunt.

The facts suggest the Native Americans stopped coming to the area in 1835, but the reason is not clear. There was a wedding between Native Americans in the Indian Union Church, which is no longer standing. The church stood across from the Baptist Church. Graham mentioned newspaper articles at the time stated that the “Indians” were much more behaved than their white counterparts.

Burlington North was settled by William Cooper. He brought Richard Smith, a friend, to join him. Smith was from Burlington, N.J.. which was named for Burlington, England, where Smith’s ancestors originated.

Eventually, from these beginnings three different villages emerged; West Burlington, Burlington Flats and Burlington Green.

“These villages have an identity of their own, and the townspeople have loyalty to their villages,” said Graham, while showing pictures of old homesteads and farms.

Businesses included saw mills, paper mills and cheese factories. In 1800, Cooper offered $400 to any group who would build a church in Burlington. Ebenezer Hubbard responded by building the first Baptist Church of Burlington. It was the second organized Baptist Church west of the Hudson River.

There was early scandal in Burlington, Graham said. There was an incident at the Taylor Hill School when a teacher got angry with his niece for not being able to pronounce words correctly. He snapped and whipped her to death.

There was to be a hanging down by the river, but at the last minute, in front of a crowd of up to 12,000 people, the governor handed down a stay of execution.

Graham covered the ensuing years as being especially difficult. The area was rampant with disease. There were letters describing massive deaths of the people in the area.