200 Years of Cortland County History:

A Musical Narrative  

6:25 p.m. – Announcements about fire exits, etc… Eric Mulvahill

 6:35 p.m. Introduction of Bicentennial Committee and Judges of the Brothers of the Brush – Jeremy Boylan

 6:40 to 6:50 p.m. – Presentation of Awards to the Brothers of the Brush – Cher Vormwald

 Opening remarks: John Daniels ( County Legislature ), introduced by Eric

 Hi, I’m John Daniels, the chairman of your Cortland County Legislature. Two hundred years ago a group of proud men petitioned New York State , requesting a new county. Today, Cortland County has become a place that we can all take pride in. From the Maple Festival in Marathon to the Cincinnatus Corn Festival, Cortland County has built its own story. Tonight you will hear that story, and meet some of the people that have made Cortland County what it is today. A county that I am proud to represent, and a place I am happy to call home.

 6:55 – Introduction of John Hartsock, the Cortland County Bell Ringer.

Narrator: Thanks to the work of John Hartosck, more than 36 churches rang their bells today at noon, commemorating the Cortland County Bicentennial. Here to open the beginning of tonight’s program, is the official Cortland County Bell Ringer, John Hartsock.

 6:57 - Open to My Country ‘Tis of Thee– performed by: Fiddlestix

 Lights Dim



 Narrator: The year is 1808. The lower portion of Onondaga County has been booming and nearly 750 inhabitants petitioned the state, requesting to become an independent county, because the trip to Syracuse to do business was a long and difficult one. On April 8, Cortland County was incorporated and named after Pierre Van Cortlandt, the first Lieutenant Governor of New York State. At the time it consisted of five towns: Homer, Virgil, Solon, Cincinnatus, and Preble. Truxton also became an independent town later that year. 

 Many of those who lived here at that time were farmers. Elkanah Watson, a local land developer, and namesake of the hamlet of Port Watson, had seen the difficulty local farmers had in trying to grow crops and increase their herd size.

 Enter Elkanah Watson(Bill Lee)

 Watson: Hello, my name is Elkanah Watson.  In 1818, I helped to set in place a state board of agriculture to direct and finance county agricultural societies. This Society was responsible for pulling together Cortland County ’s first County fair, making this county’s fair one of the oldest continually running county fairs in the United States .  Though I never officially came to Cortland County , a small port on the Tioughnioga River was named after me, and a city street still bears my name.

 Old Joe Clark performed by Fiddlestix

 Narrator: One key development in farming techniques at that time was the steady move into dairy farming, which made good use of the county’s varied and hilly terrain.  With so much milk available, a cheese factory that still stands today was built in the town of Taylor by Charles and Willis DeLong.

 Enter Charles DeLong (Russ Ruthig)

 Charles DeLong: My name is Charles DeLong, and my brother and I began the Taylor Cheese Factory.  Ice cutting was a major part of this business, as we had to keep the products cold. We would cut the ice from the nearby pond and hook it up to a team of horses to get it up the hill. Our factory was sold several times to other local cheese producers, before ultimately being purchased by the Reid Ice Cream Co. of Cincinnatus.”

 Reel Medley, performed by Fiddlestix

 Narrator: After seeing the success of the new county and towns, other municipalities began to arise. Starting with only five towns, Cortland County now has 19 towns and villages, including the city of Cortland . In 1829, Cortlandville was created from the southern half of the town of Homer thanks to the help of Samuel Baldwin and Joseph Freer.

 Enter Samuel Baldwin(Dick Crozier)

 Baldwin: In 1829 Joseph Freer and I, Samuel Baldwin, nailed a petition to the door of the Homer Baptist Church , then located where the hospital is today. This petition was signed by 204 men, requesting to create our own town. On April 11, 1829, the Town of Cortlandville was created from the southern half of Homer. Others were soon to follow. The towns of Lapeer and Harford were set off from Virgil in 1845, followed by Taylor from Solon in 1849 and finally Cuyler from Truxton in 1858. 

 Fiddlestix performs another song

Immigrants and Industrialists

Narrator: Beginning in 1854, railroads took precedent over former modes of transportation such as toll roads and the Tioughnioga River . With the railroads came prosperity.  Farmers could ship products by rail, and new factories started up. The Wickwire Brothers Factory, Hitchcock Wagon Company, several Corset companies and others gave local people jobs, but also employed many immigrant families coming to Cortland from around the world.

Beginning in the mid-1800's, groups from Ireland began to emigrate to the county, followed by Italians, Ukrainians, and Lebanese, melding a rich culture that continues to make Cortland unique today.  Many immigrant males gained employment at factories such as Wickwire's Roller Mill and local canneries, while the large number of corset factories in the area employed Italian women already skilled in fine needlework.

Enter Italian family (Stephanie Passeri)

Short comment from Stephanie

Caderna March performed by Old Timer’s Band

 Narrator: And now, representing the Irish Heritage in Cortland , the Montague School of Irish Dance. PLAY CD

 Enter Montague School of Irish Dance - Traditional Irish Dance performed


Narrator: Fiddlestix will now share with us a traditional Ukrainian song, representing the movement of Ukrainian families to Cortland County .

 Traditional Ukrainian song performed by Fiddlestix

 Enter Lebanese family: Nabila Khazzaka family PLAY CD

Message from Nabila Khazzaka-


Narrator: Education in Cortland County has a long and proud history. The earliest school was believed to have been founded by Joshua Ballard in Homer around 1798. Higher education was established with the Cortland Academy in Homer, followed by the Cortlandville Academy in Cortland Village .

Pomp and Circumstance played by Old Timer’s Band

Enter Cortland Academy President Jedediah Barber (Jeremy Boylan)

School President: Allow me to introduce myself. I am Jedidiah Barber, prominent Homer merchant.  For over thirty years, from 1836 to 1869, I served as president of the Cortland Academy on the Homer Green.  I am delighted that the charter documents of our prestigious Cortland Academy were recently found in storage in the basement vault of a local bank. Apparently, these historic documents were thought to be lost, or at least forgotten by many. These documents create a link between the history of our educational system and today. They now belong to the Homer School District .

Narrator: The Cortlandville Academy sold its property to the Cortland Normal School which was established in 1868.  This school in turn became a State School in 1948, already well known as a physical education school. And In 1967, Cortland County government officials joined Tompkins County in creating “ South Central Community College ,” later renamed  Tompkins-Cortland Community College ” or“TC3.”

Not to be forgotten, despite its short tenure, is the New York Central College at McGrawville. It was founded in 1848 with express intent to serve students of any race or religion.  When the school opened the following year, 150 students had enrolled.

Enter Samuel Ringgold Ward (Pastor Nate Wright)

Ward: My name is Samuel Ringgold Ward, and I was the head of the Congregational Church, and a an active member of the area’s anti-slavery movement. I was also a teacher at the NY Central College. It was a fine establishment that allowed students of all backgrounds to learn. It was also one of the first colleges to allow blacks and women to be professors. There are some who say the college had a link to the Underground Railroad.

Narrator: Cortland County is now home to five school districts, Cortland, Homer, McGraw, Marathon and Cincinnatus. With us tonight are a Cortland High School string band, Fiddlestix, to perform the Cortland High School alma mater to honor all our county districts, and tonight’s host

Fiddlestix performs  CHS alma mater



Political and Social figures

 Narrator: The Cortland High School used to be in what is now the Cortland County Office Building. You already heard from Legislative Chairman John Daniels, but there were many before him with ties to the local, state and even national political scene. Nathan Miller was a Cortland native who served as governor of New York State from 1920-1922.  While Miller was successful in his campaign, another famous Cortland resident was not so lucky.

 Hail to the Chief played over PA system in the background:

 Enter Alton B. Parker(Kevin Yard)

 Parker: Perhaps none from Cortland County are as famous as I. My name is Alton B. Parker, and I ran for president in 1904. I never made it to the Whitehouse though. I was defeated by one Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt. The Cortland Community still remembers me today, as the Alton B. Parker School is named in honor of me. As you see, I was not a career politician, but earned my living as a judge.

 End Hail to the Chief

 Narrator: There were also a great number of Cortland County residents who, while not politicians, helped shape the social and political scene of their time. Lydia Stowbridge, from Freetown, was a physician at the Hygeio Therapeutic Medical College in New York City. She specialized in diseases of women and children. She was one of the first female doctors in Cortland County and was an active member of the suffrage movement.

 Enter Amelia Jenks Bloomer (Michelle Ryan)

Bloomer: Ms. Stowbridge was not alone in her fight for women’s rights. My name is Amelia Jenks Bloomer. I was a very active suffragist in my time. I had only two years of formal education, but took that knowledge to write a bi-weekly paper called “The Lily” in support of women’s rights.  I am best known for advocating change in women’s dress, and made popular an item of clothing outfit already worn by some- called “bloomers.”

 Narrator: While Ms. Bloomer changed our social norms through activism and fashion, other Cortland residents did so through art and culture. One of these men was Will Dillon, a nationally known song writer and band leader, whose expertise can be heard here by the Old Timer’s Band.

 “Old Times Theme ” song performed by Old Timers Band

 Narrator: Colonel Arnald D. Gabriel was a Cortland native who served as Director of the U.S. Air Force Band from 1964-1985, creating for the first time a guest artist series as part of the band’s program. But again, before Col. Gabriel was a Homer man named Patrick “Patsy” Conway. A major influence on the history of military marching bands, Conway came to Homer as a child and learned to play the cornet while working in a factory.  He and his band gave concerts all over the United States.  He taught music at Cornell and would found the Conway Military Band School at Ithaca College in 1922, where he would teach until his death. 

 Patrick Conway March, performed by Old Timer’s Band

 Narrator: Homer’s Francis Bicknell Carpenter painted the famous work “The Emancipation Proclamation,” which depicts President Lincoln signing the historic document. The original painting can still be found in Washington.

 Enter William O. Stoddard (Martin Sweeney)

 Stoddard: My good friend, Frank Carpenter, may never have had the opportunity to paint that picture if it weren’t for me. My name is William Stoddard. I was an assistant secretary and personal friend of President Abraham Lincoln. I grew up in Homer, as did Frank carpenter, and later, in 1860, I campaigned actively to get Lincoln into the White House. There are some that say my editorial for the Central Illinois Gazette was the first that called for Lincoln’s presidential nomination. I also served for a term in the Army after the fall of Fort Sumter, and when requested by President Lincoln, I made handwritten copies of the Emancipation Proclamation document he issued during the Civil War.

 Narrator: Speaking of Wars, there are quite a few war heroes from Cortland County. Someone from our county has served and fought in every American War. Many veterans gravestones can be found in cemeteries throughout the county, including both the Revolutionary War and the Civil War.

 Enter military servicemen and women in uniform

Led by Homer Color Guard

Staff Sgt. Harris of Marines

The Star Spangled Banner performed by Old Timers Band

 Narrator: Monuments to the men and women who served our country can be seen in Courthouse Park and other memorials around our county. It is important that we remember these people who made such a sacrifice for our way of life.

 It is also important to remember those other people who have gone down in history in their own way.

 Calliope carnival music played over PA system in the background PLAY CD

 Sig Sautelle, also known as George Satterlee, selected Homer for his winter quarters while not traveling with the circus. Some people say they can still hear the Calliope music being performed as they travel along Route 11 to Homer.  The "Circus House" antiques store, that large octagonal structure with eight dormer windows and an eight-sided cupola was Sautelle’s home.

 Narrator: Traveling shows had been popular in Cortland County for quite some time: a show with a polar bear and a performing elephant came through in 1849, and a "new united monster show" in 1879. 

 Another show that traveled to Cortland was baseball’s New York Giants.

 Take me out to the ball game, played over PA system PLAY CD

 Enter John J. McGraw: (Tony Kissel)

 McGraw: That’s enough out of you there, rookie. I can tell this story just as well as anyone else can. My name is John J. McGraw. I was born in Truxton and went on to a hall-of-fame career playing with the Baltimore Orioles and managing the New York Giants. My Giants came back to Truxton and put a hurtin’ on a local ball club here in 1938, but, unfortunately I was no longer alive to witness it. But, I’ve seen a mighty fine likeness of me that they’ve put up out there in Truxton in my honor.

 Narrator: Well, thank you Mr. McGraw. You certainly didn’t need an introduction. And, speaking of introductions, there was more than that written about a man from Homer by the name of David Hannum, but you may know him better as David Harum, the character written by Edward Noyes Wescott.

 Enter David Hannum: (John Ryan)

 Hannum: Come one, Come all, pay the price and take a look at the Cardiff Giant. We just recently unearthed this mammoth of a man. If you’re not interested I have some horses I can sell you – best deal you’ll find this side of the Mississippi.

 Call Me Irresponsible performed by: Ageless Jazz Band:

 Narrator: It was said that David Hannum could sell ice to an Eskimo. One man who certainly didn’t need any help selling tickets to his shows was Spiegle Willcox. Newell “Spiegle” Willcox was a pioneer jazz trombonist who made Cincinnatus his home for many years.  He played with such notable groups as Paul Whiteman and the Collegians, and the Jean Goldkette Orchestra, with Bix Beiderbecke. The Ageless Jazz Band is here to perform a selection that Willcox may have played here in Cortland.

 Ageless Jazz Band performs “Startdust”

 Narrator: While I have been happy to introduce you to these historic tales and heroic figures of Cortland County’s past, there are still a few I have yet to introduce, because, well, they need no introduction.

 Enter Elmer Sperry (Bill Lee, again)

 Sperry: Hello folks. My name is Elmer and I was born in Cincinnatus, but grew up in a house at the bottom of this hill on South Main Street. At a very young age I began creating inventions, and by the age of 20 I owned my own factory. Perhaps my most famous invention was Gyroscopic Compass, and many consider me to be the father of modern navigational technology, holding over 380 patents at my death. 

 Fly Me To The Moon: Performed by Ageless Jazz Band

 Narrator: Unfortunately another international best-selling band could not make it tonight, but we can’t go through tonight without mentioning yet another musical artist from Cortland.

 Black Sabbath song played in background over PA system:

 You may have heard about a local guitar hero by the name Ronnie James Padavona who grew up on the East side of Cortland, and now has a street named after him. But, you may know him better as Ronnie James Dio of Black Sabbath. 

 Narrator: And now our evening is coming to a close. But, why listen to me, when you can end your night hearing from one of Cortland County’s most prestigious members themselves – Our very own Catherine Bertini.

 Enter Catherine Bertini

Cathy tells about herself, as an aide to Governor Nelson Rockefeller, and later she was named head of the UN World Food Program and also served as the Under-Secretary-General for Management at the United Nations. She  presently teaches at the Maxwell School of Citizenship at Syracuse University, and is a member of the Old Timer’s Band which you have heard perform here tonight.

 Address from Cathy about her pride of being a resident of Cortland County.

 Narrator: Thank you Cathy. And now it’s time to thank all our actors. Give a hand to: See List

 Ageless Jazz Band performs several additional songs upon exit