The Amusing History of Syracuse, NY
Syracuse, NY is an interesting city that has a rich and amusing history in industry as well as social justice. Syracuse has also been a major hub of education throughout its time. The city has gone through a long journey beginning as Native American lands and ending up as the fifth most populous city in the state of New York.
Early Beginnings in Syracuse, NY
Syracuse, NY began as lands belonging to the Onondaga Indian tribe. This tribe was one of the founding nations of the Iroquois Confederacy. The Confederacy allowed a mission by the name of Sainte Marie de Gannentaha to be established, bringing the first people of European descent to the area.
However, this establishment was short-lived because not all the tribes of the Confederacy were as accepting of these European visitors. The first European settler in the area was Ephraim Webster who set up a trading post in 1786. From that time forward, the area continued to steadily develop.
Discovery of Salt
In the mid-16th century, the missionaries in the area reported salt deposits near the “salt lake,” which is known as Lake Onondaga today. However, it wasn’t until 1788 that the Treaty of Fort Stanwix was signed, turning what would one day become Syracuse into a commercial salt-producing powerhouse.
The brine from the springs around the edges of the lake could be collected in wells and developed into a viable product that shaped the history of this area. This industry gave the city its nickname of “Salt City”.
As this area continued to develop it went through several name changes: Salt Point, Webster’s Landing, and South Salina, just to name a few. Finally, the name of Syracuse was settled on when the village became incorporated in 1825.
In 1830, the village saw a huge development in the completion of the Erie Canal. This canal allowed salt production to skyrocket because it considerably cut shipping prices.
The success of this industry caused the population to explode. It increased 100-fold in a mere thirty years from 1820 to 1850. In 1884 another industry came to the town: the Solvay Process. This process created soda ash from salt deposits, but unfortunately caused severe pollution and was obsolete by the late 20th century.
Abolition and the Underground Railroad
The city became instrumental in the abolitionist movement of the United States in the mid-19th century. The Unitarian Church along with nearby communities of Quakers were some of the most instrumental groups in the condemnation of slavery.
Syracuse became known as the Grand Central Depot of the Underground Railroad because of how many people passed through the area on their way to safety and freedom.
Syracuse, NY Today
While the salt industry was a huge part of the city’s history, it eventually began to decline and was replaced by the manufacturing industry, which has only recently begun to decline because of outsourcing and business failure.
Syracuse University was founded in 1870 and continues to be one of the premier universities in the country with national recognition in both sports and academics.
Now the city’s top employers are hospitals and universities. Syracuse has made a dramatic transformation from a small mission to a growing city that is progressive and sophisticated.
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