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Town Historian - Ruth McMullen

Historian's Web Site:   Fenton Chronicle    
Phone:  (607) 648-4800 Ext. 119
Updated January 2, 2020

Office Hours: Thursday at 10:00 -1:00 or by appointment
Town History

During the last glacial period, the advancing ice mass covering our area carved out the valleys in which we now live. Around 12,000 years ago, as the ice receded what was left for us was the Chenango valley. Through that valley and making up today’s western border of Fenton, the Chenango River winds down from its head near Morrisville traveling ninety miles to join the Susquehanna at Binghamton. The river and these lands were home to the original settlers – the Native Americans. Their villages were scattered along both rivers in Broome County. Those along the Chenango included the Onondaga, Shawnee, and Nanticoke. Many young boys in the years following would triumph at the discovery of an arrowhead, lost many years before, along the riverbed. The glaciers also left a land of rocky soil, sand and gravel. Years later as European explorers entered the area; they would find a land now bountiful with trees thriving in that soil; maples, pine, oaks, birch and many others.

At the conclusion of the Revolutionary War in 1783, New Englanders began to venture west with their families to carve out farms and settle here.

The first recorded white settler in the Fenton area was Elisha Pease who brought his family in 1788. Many more families then followed, names still familiar and with many descendants still calling our town home – Page, Williamson, Miller, Yager, Vining, Powers, Hull, Cross, Ketchum, McDonald, Cook, Holt, Shaw, Holcomb, Crocker, Ogden, Randall, McDaniels, VanName, Osborne, Hinds, Lounsberry, Keller, Slosson, Potter, Winn. Some names familiar on road signs or given to waterways, all with a history in the town.

If you were to trace the lineage of the Town of Fenton, you would find that this area in 1788 belonged to the large county of Montgomery. Tioga County, the next “ancestor” was created in 1791 out of Montgomery. Within Tioga County, one of the original towns was Chenango, also one of our “ancestors”. By 1806 when Broome County came about, the Town of Chenango stretched from the southern border of Chenango County to Pennsylvania’s northern border. Its eastern border met the Towns of Colesville and Windsor; on the western side, the town of Union. It straddled both sides of the Chenango and Susquehanna rivers and included the village of Binghamton.

As the populations grew, the Town of Chenango began to have growing pains. In 1824, the town of Conklin was created and broke away from Chenango. Thirty years later in 1855, the towns of Binghamton and Port Crane also broke away from Chenango.

Over the years, I have heard people question how a small “landed village” would acquire a name which included Port when in fact there was no port to be seen. So for those who might not know, here is the answer. Before there was any rail service, transportation of people and goods was by foot, by horseback, or by wagon. To improve commerce in the growing areas of rural New York State, an extension from the Erie Canal was built connecting these areas between Utica, south, to the village of Binghamton. In 1837, following its construction, the Chenango Canal was opened. Villages grew up along the canal and Port Crane, becoming a stop on the canal, was one of them. When you drive along Route 369, you are traveling along a good portion of the canal route as it follows along the river. As it continued along the riverside, the canal went through an area which is now our State Park. Portions of the canal prism are still visible at the Chenango Valley State Park as well as lock 107.

The name Crane was borrowed from Jason Crane, one of the engineers who had been involved in creating the canal. The name Port Crane was used jointly by both the hamlet and Town until finally, on February 2, 1867; a bill was presented in Albany to change the name of the Town of Port Crane to the Town of Fenton in honor of then Governor of New York State, Reuben Fenton.