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August 2001


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"A LISTSERV list for discussions pertaining to New York State history." <[log in to unmask]>
Edward Knoblauch <[log in to unmask]>
Tue, 28 Aug 2001 13:20:59 -0400
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Edward Knoblauch <[log in to unmask]>
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Suzanne et al!

To clarify and confuse the issue:

If your non-cyber colleague means to ask "what was the first non-native
settlement within the current borders of New York State?" what are now
Albany and New York City are the strongest contenders; both having trading
posts before 1615. NYC is the longest continuously occupied, as Albany's
Fort Nassau was flooded out in 1617.

NYS didn't divide itself into towns until 1788, when all counties were
completely subdivided into towns, save the cities of New York and Albany.
Before that, local subdivisions were a hodgepodge of districts, cities,
boroughs, manors, and towns. Before 1788, except for the "Dutch
towns" --including Breuckelen-- of what is now Kings County, granting "town"
government tended to be an accommodation to Yankee immigrants. The early
Kings County towns are now all part of NYC.

The question of "oldest town" is problematic. The oldest settlements with
continuous local governments (NYC and Albany) are no longer towns, but are
cities and have been since the 1680s, when they were granted city charters.
Recognizable pre-conquest "town" governments that survive include the Yankee
towns of Long Island (which weren't part of what is now NYS from the Treaty
of Hartford in 1650 to the conquest of 1664) and the Town of Kingston (which
was Esopus under the Dutch and part of which is now the City of Kingston).

See Langdon G. Wright's Cornell PhD dissertation _LOCAL GOVERNMENT IN
COLONIAL NEW YORK, 1640-1710_ for the best discussion of what a "town" and
other local governments were.

I'll also mention Shinnecock and Onondaga, among other native "towns," both
continuously occupied and under continuous local government since before
Europeans came to what is New York State. Onondaga is now a federal
reservation and Shinnecock a state reservation.

Edward Knoblauch, Managing Editor
The Encyclopedia of New York State

----- Original Message -----
From: "Pullen, Sharon" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Monday, August 27, 2001 12:57 PM
Subject: Re: Oldest/First Town in NYS?

> Both Southampton and Southold in Suffolk County on Long island were
> c. 1640.  Each of these claims the "earliest English-speaking settlement",
> dutch settlers were in the NY city area earlier, I believe.
> > -----Original Message-----
> > From: Suzanne Etherington [SMTP:[log in to unmask]]
> > Sent: Friday, August 24, 2001 10:50 AM
> > To:   [log in to unmask]
> > Subject:      Oldest/First Town in NYS?
> >
> > I pass this request for info along for a non-cyber colleague - Can
> > tell me which is the oldest town in NYS?
> >
> > Thanks, Suzanne