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history of boonville

During the American Revolution, while settlers in the Mohawk Valley were massacred in murderous attacks by the British and their Native American allies, the wilderness area to the north that would become Boonville remained unexplored. The 1782 Treaty of Paris granted independence to the colonists, but it would be another 13 years before the first settlers arrived in what was originally called Kortenaer.

In 1795, Gerritt Boon and others representing the Holland Land Company arrived in this area. The sawmill they constructed on Mill Creek burned. The following spring they returned, rebuilt the sawmill and a gristmill, and thus in 1796 founded the settlement that was to become Boonville.  

The 19th century featured several historic events in Boonville’s history, starting with the incorporation of the Town of Boonville in 1805, with the incorporation of the Village of Boonville in 1855.  The construction of the Black River canal began in 1839 and is credited for the prosperity brought to the area until its abandonment in 1921.  The Boonville Herald and Adirondack Tourist originally started as the Boonville Ledger in 1852 as a weekly paper.  In 1855, along with the incorporation of the Village of Boonville, the Utica-Black River Railroad was completed. 

On April 12th, 1861, the Civil War began with the bombardment of Fort Sumter in South Carolina, and in 1862, Colonel Charles Wheelock left with the 97th, New York State Volunteer Infantry towards Civil War battlefields.  In 1871, the Boonville Union Agricultural Society held the first fair, with the Boonville-Oneida county fair succeeding the event in 1888.  Cornelius B. Erwin passed in 1885 and left many donations to benefit local churches and to construct a library and park, the Erwin Library and Institute was built in 1890.  In 1898, twenty-five carbon electric streetlights were installed, with the first telephone lines following in 1900.  The Boonville Municipal Commission was founded in 1902 as a means to provide electric lights to village residents, with Rural Free Delivery mail routes being established the same year. 

The 20th century also held a number of significant events including a milk strike of 1933, the construction of the WBRV radio station in 1955, a record breaking 55-below morning in 1957, the last passenger train to leave Boonville in 1961, the first Woodsmen’s Field Days, construction of numerous churches, schools, an art and community center, and a state highway.  This century endured a number of natural disasters including destructive fires explosions, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and a microburst. 

Thus far, the 21st century has seen several high and low points.  In 2002, the dedication of the flagpole in the Little Village Park took place on July 5th, 2002, and the dedication of the old-fashioned covered bridge connecting the Black River Feeder Canal trail to the Erwin Park on September 24, 2005.  In 2004, Ethan Allen closed the Boonville manufacturing plant, leaving 266 without work.  In 2013, Delta Hardwood Flooring took over the plant with the hopes to bring 35-40 jobs to the area.  Other notable events include the reformation of the Main Street – Schuyler Street intersections and the demolition of the former Dollar General on Post Street in 2016.

Credit Judy Druck Routson for information - parts of it were originally published in her Boonville Herald column on August 24, 2005 and was featured on the Boonville Historical Club website!

View additional history in archives of the Boonville Herald, Boonville Ledger and Black River Herald newspapers - now available online! (Courtesy of funds from the Erwin Library and Institute).

Access The Boonville Ledger 1853 - 1855

Access Black River Herald 1855 - 1866

Access Boonville Herald 1872 - 1885

Access Boonville Herald and Adirondack Tourist 1885 - 2020

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