TIOGA COUNTY HISTORY
Tioga County's history is well documented in the various historical societies, preservation organizations, museums, libraries, schools and communities. Tioga County and her people have played important roles in regional, state, and national events.
Tioga County was once home to the Cayuga and Onondaga tribes of the Iroquois confederacy. Owego saw events from the American Revolution unfold as the contingents of the Sullivan and Clinton Armies burned the Iroquois villages in August 1779. By 1784, James McMaster, a veteran of the revolution who came through the area with the Sullivan and Clinton campaign, began to cultivate crops and trade with the Native Americans living on the banks of the Susquehanna River.
McMaster, and Amos Draper, an itinerant trader, and the first permanent white settler were soon accompanied by other pioneers in Tioga County. Samuel and William Ransom, Prince and Andrew Alden, Samuel Brown, Isaac Harris, Ebenezer Ellis, Pelatiah Pierce, James Cole, Daniel Ball, Elisha Wilson, Ezbon Jenks, and Asa Bement were just a few of the hearty pioneers who would clear the land and establish roots before 1800.
As more people settled in the area, there became a need for law and order. James McMaster would become Tioga County's first sheriff in 1791. The political boundaries of the county would fluctuate through time as the state and nation began to grow, industrialize, and diversify.
As the first half of the 19th century drew to a close, Tioga County sent men to fight the War of 1812 and the Mexican-American War. It had established infrastructure consisting of roads, turnpikes, bridges, toll roads, steamboats, ferries, stagecoach lines, and the second oldest railroad in the state. County residents learned of events and news via newspapers, such as the Owego Gazette, or heard from family and friends through the mail service traveling along the Catskill Turnpike.
As the second half of the 19th century began the winds of controversy grew stronger over sectional diversity, states rights, taxation, and slavery. After four years of bloody strife had ended in 1865, Tioga County celebrated her heroes and mourned her losses. Men from Tioga County would serve in all branches of the military during the Civil War. Many would comprise the companies of the 109th and 137th New York State Volunteers. Men such as Generals Tracy and Catlin of the 109th, and Captain Barager of the 137th. Many of these men such as Sergeant Amos Humiston would lose their lives at Gettysburg, the Wilderness, and Peach Tree Creek.
With the reconstruction of the nation came the industrial boom and new ideas about commerce, society, and the rights of women. Women who had served on the home front during the war between the states such as Sarah Palmer, affectionately known as Aunt Becky by her boys of the 109th, and Esther McQuigg Morris, the first woman to hold a public office in the U.S., began to question their status in life. Vast amounts of money were being made by the Captains of Industry, or as the newly forming labor unions called them, the Robber Barons. Men like John D. Rockefeller of Richford who would create the Standard Oil Company, becoming the richest man in the world.
Still others, like Raphael Pumpelly, made contributions to the field of geology. Henry Martyn Robert would revise his Robert's Rules of Order used in parliamentary proceedings, and Thomas Collier Platt, New York State Republican Boss and later U.S. Senator, would determine who would remain in power and become the next president of the United States.
By the time Theodore Roosevelt was sworn in as President of the United States after the assassination of William McKinley in 1901, Tioga County was prospering. Men had once again answered the call of duty during the Spanish-American War in 1898, railroads spanned the country, slavery had been abolished, telephone and electric lines were being strung, the Owego Champion Wagon Works had begun building automobiles, and reunions for the veterans of the Civil War had been held on Hiawatha Island at the Hiawatha Hotel. The dawn of the 20th century would bring new challenges to the next generation.