Office of the County Historian
Williamson, New York
The town of Williamson was formed from the town of Sodus on February 20, 1802. It included the present towns of Ontario, Walworth and Marion. Ontario was taken off in 1807 and Marion in 1825. Walworth was formed from the town of Ontario in 1829. Williamson lies on the northern border of the county, with Lake Ontario forming the town's northern border. Williamson is comprised of slightly over 20,200 acres, and its surface is level in the north, with a gentle slope toward Lake Ontario. In the southern portion of the town, the land rises into low ridges. The town was named for Capt. Charles Williamson, the first land agent for the Pultney Estates.
The first settler in Williamson was Daniel Russell, who built a log cabin near Pultneyville in the Spring of 1794. He is believed to be the only settler at that time in the region north of Palmyra. His son, Daniel W. Russell, was the first white child born in Williamson.
The hamlet of Pultneyville lies on the lakeshore near the center of the northern border of the town of Williamson. It was, at one time, a United States port of entry in the Genesee District and played an active part in commerce on Lake Ontario. Prior to the opening of the Erie Canal, the area served by the port reached as far south as Canandaigua. It was here that one of only two military battles in Wayne County occurred. On May 15, 1814, the British landed at Pultneyville. Representatives of Pultneyville met with the British and agreed to surrender public stores in the local warehouse. These stores were of inferior quality, as the best had been hidden inland through the foresight of the local citizens. The British, however, exceeded the terms agreed upon by the local militia and were fired upon by the locals. The British fleet then began firing on the hamlet. The British on shore beat a hasty retreat taking with them two prisoners of war: Richard White and Prescott Fairbanks. The British ships moved on and the prisoners were taken to Halifax. They were released several months later.
Pultneyville also played an important role in the underground railroad. It is thought that the main route coming into western New York came from Philadelphia to New York City, north to Albany and west to Syracuse and Rochester. Of course, there were many branches off these main routes. The route that led to Pultneyville was believed to have come north from Canandaigua into Palmyra to the home of Pliny Sexton. The journey would continue on to a station in Marion, and, then, on to the home of Griffith Cooper in Williamson. Griffith Cooper was a well-known Quaker and great advocate of the runaway slaves.
From the home of Griffith Cooper, the slaves were sent to Pultneyville to the home of Samuel Cuyler, until such time as they could be transported to Canada by ship. One of the captains who transported slaves was Capt. Horatio N. Throop. My Cuyler would, invariably say to Capt. Throop, "Capt. Throop, I have some passengers for you." Capt. Throop would always reply, "My boat runs for passengers."
In 2002, Williamson will celebrate the bicentennial of its founding with celebrations and festivals throughout the year. Pultneyville Historical Society Museum, 4130 Mill Street, Pultneyville
- The museum features displays of local artifacts, archives and the Capt. Throop Exhibit which will be on permanent display. Museum open throughout summer on Saturday & Sunday. Call museum for more information. (315) 589-9892
* Pultneyville Historic District, Lake Road & Jay Street
- The Pultneyville Historic District has been compared to an ocean seaport of the early 1800s. It includes the original hamlet that was laid out in 1806.
* Gates Hall, West Lake Road, Pultneyville
- Built in 1825 as the Union Church of Pultneyville, this building has served the residents of the hamlet as church, meeting hall and community playhouse for over 175 years. In 1967, it was designated as the second oldest little theatre in the United States by the Library of Congress. Known today as Gates Hall, it has been placed on the New York State and National Registers of Historic Places and was dedicated on July 15, 2000.