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The West Monroe Historical Society is open each Thursday and Friday from Noon until 4 PM unless an appointment is made by calling 676-7414 and leaving a message
The earliest record of the land that became West Monroe is
that in 1768 an English representative made an agreement with the Mohawk and
Oneida tribes that lands west of Rome were not to be open for white men to
purchase. In 1772 western boundaries of
New York were established. After the Revolutionary War, the lands in what
became Oswego County were transferred from Indian to New York State possession
in a treaty. Provisions were made in 1788 that the Oneidas retained one half
mile square every six miles along the north shore of Oneida Lake for fishing
The tract where West Monroe is located was purchased by
George Scriba. Scriba began a settlement
in Rotterdam, which was his name for what is known today as Constantia. He
built a road to the mouth of the Salmon Creek completed about 1795. A section
of the road went through land that became West Monroe. Scriba laid out his
tract to an average of 40 square miles each. Scriba named Township # 12 Delft
for his native land in Holland, later to become West Monroe. The area became
settled in 1806 by five farmers for $2 to $2.50 per acre.
They cut down trees for homes and fuel for warmth and began
life with the barest essentials. IN 1810 the first school was built as well as
the first hotel in the area operated by Deacon Smith who operated it through
the war of 1812. For the next few years new settlers came into the town. Log
dwellings were replaced with frame construction and gradually cleared more land
for farming. The County of Oswego was formed from Oneida and Onondaga Counties
1820 saw an increase in population. Between 1830 and 1840
the population grew to 908 people. In
1830 another school was built in Union Settlement. By 1834 Charles Jewell built
the first store on Rt. 49 and Co. Rt. 11. Another hotel was built and ran by
Eleazer Slocum until his death in 1850.
A hotel built by Captain Owen and Captain Allen, who were seamen and
boat builders located in the Toad Harbor area.
The Free Baptist preacher, Rev. William Nutting came to town
in 1825 and was responsible for mapping out and cutting many of the roads in
town. Peter Phillips was a boater on the Erie Canal. A Mr. Freeman Burr came to West Monroe in
1845. He was one of seven children of Aaron Burr.
In March 21, 1839 West Monroe became the township #12 by the
NYS Legislature law. A town meeting was
held and officers were elected. No church buildings or religious societies were
yet organized, but services were occasionally held in private buildings. A Presbyterian Church was located on Whig
Hill road and A Free Will Baptist Church was located on Rt. 49 across from
where the WMHS is located. The Methodist church was organized in 1890 and is
still located on Rt. 49 in West Monroe.
In the years 1840-1850 lumbering became an important
business. Several mills were built and a landing was made on the shore of
Oneida Lake to provide a place to ship logs and wood products across the lake
to Salina. The 1850 census showed that there were 1197 residents in west
Monroe. There were lumbermen, laborers,
coopers, shoemakers, sawyers, carpenters, blacksmiths, millwrights, 2
clergymen, a stone mason, an innkeeper, one merchant, one tailor and 4 boatmen,
and many farmers, wagon makers, merchants, teachers and fishermen. Most
settlers came from France, Germany, Switzerland, England, Ireland and Canada.
Oneida Lake was prime reason for people to settle along the
shore in West Monroe. Salmon fishing, transportation, and boat building were
In 1860 the population had reached 1416 people. At that time
there were eight school districts with 513 children. The first Post Office came
to West Monroe in 1885 located north of what is now Rt. 49. The Post Office has
had six sites during time. First PO was located in the Slocum Hotel, the Jewell
Store, the Dupre Store, the Dodge property on Rt. 49 in a mobile home on Depot
Road and the present newest one on Rout 49.
In time came a cheese factory a mercantile with agricultural implements
came to West Monroe.
In 1869 rail service , Ontario and Western – the
O&W, or commonly known as the the Old and Weary, came to West Monroe with a
station located on Depot Road, which lead to the appearance of several
businesses locating there. Among them a blacksmith shop, a feed mill, a silo
factory, cheese factory, a slaughterhouse, a milk plant, an ice house and a
creamery, which became the town barn (they used to roller skate on the second
floor). All businesses benefited from the rail line for passenger travel and
the shipping of farm products in and out of town. It also provided many jobs to
At this time in history, The Grange #735 established for the
benefit of farmers became an important social activity including square
dancing, local musicians, medicine shows, plays, dinners, and wrestling
matches. There was even a West Monroe Band comprised of men from the town.
Farming was the sustenance of most families in the 1850 to
1950 timeframe. The farmers kept small farms with oxen or horses, cows,
chickens, and growing crops as hay, straw and oats as well as a family garden
for food. The muck land in Toad Harbor was used to grow celery, onions and
other vegetables. One farm on Whig Hill
Rd. was famous for the strawberries, sent by railroad. Cheese, butter, milk, and other vegetables,
and meat were also shipped by rail.
Many men from West Monroe served in the military during the
Civil War, WW 1, WW 11, and the more recent conflicts across the globe. The
WMHS has recorded all the men and women who have served from this area.
Electric lights came to West Monroe in 1938. In 1952 Roads in West Monroe were given
names. In the 1940s, the main route
through West Monroe was paved, with gravel roads throughout the town. Today
there are mostly paved roads. Many small
businesses now dot Rt. 49 and some rural roads. It was exciting in the 1960s
when the Arlo Green farm was made into a golf course, now there is another
across the highway. West Monroe established its own Fire Department in
1977. The town Hall was built anew and
moved to Co. Rt. 11 in 1989.
As farming began to wane in West Monroe, people began to
commute to Syracuse for employment at factories. At the present time, West
Monroe seems to be a bedroom community, with Oneida Lake used mostly for
recreational boating, fishing and camping.
With the completion of I-81, and modern cars, people travel greater
distances for jobs and recreation. People can now run out to a movie, grocery
shop at Walmart and avail themselves of fast food restaurants and a great
variety of services and goods just a short distance away.