Incorporation



Incorporation of the village:
copied from one of
Walter Wolcott's notebooks
in the collection of the Oliver House Museum

After the lapse of about thirty years from the time of the first improvement within the limits proper of Penn Yan, the village was found to contain a sufficient population to justify its people in assuming municipal character. In fact such course became necessary in order that certain established interests might be protected; that there might be regulated its internal police; that a fire department might be established and controlled, and that necessary improvement be made without first obtaining the sanction and consent of the town of Milo, the people of which town were not willing that their moneys should be appropriated to uses or improvements from which they derived no substantial benefit. To accomplish this end the citizens of the village caused to be presented to the State Legislature a bill which was enacted into law on the 29th of April, 1833. The enacting clause was as follows:

"All that district of country hereinafter described shall be known and distinguished by the name of the 'VILLAGE OF PENN YAN' that is to say, all that part of the town of Milo, and all that part of the town of Benton, in the county of Yates, bounded as follows: Beginning at the northeast corner of lot No. 37, township No. 7, first range, thence south 21 1/2 degrees east, 60 chains, 50 links, to the northwest side of the highway leading by Samuel Gillett and Robert Shearman's to the Crooked Lake; thence along the northwest side of the highway, south 16 1/2 degrees west, 15 chains; thence 38 degrees west, 2 chains to the north side of Gillett Street; thence on the north side of the highway, south 59 degrees west, 27 chains, 42 links; north 21 1/2 degrees west, 26 chains to the south side of lot No. 37; thence along the west line of said lot. north 3 degrees, 27 minutes east, 64 chains to the town line between Benton and Milo aforesaid; thence along said town line south 80 degrees east, 1 chain, 25 links, to the southwest corner of lot No. 64 in township No. 8, first range; thence along the west line of said lot, north 3 degrees, east 24 chains and 25 links; thence south 87 degrees east, 49 chains; thence south 3 degrees west, 24 chains, 50 links, to the place of beginning."

The second section of the act declared that "the inhabitants of said village shall be a body corporate by the name of 'Trustees of the Village of Penn Yan.'"

The first annual meeting was provided to be held on the first Monday of June next [1833] at the court-house, at which time the voting population were authorized to elect five trustees, one clerk, one treasurer, three assessors, one collector, one police constanble, and five fire wardens.

The seventeenth section of the act divided the village into three fire districts, viz.: District No. 1, to include all that part of the village lying north of Court Street; No. 2, to include all the village lying south of Court Street ... and north of the Outlet; No. 3, to include all that part of the village lying south of the outlet....

The officers chosen at the election above referred to were as follows: Trustees, Abraham Wagener, Roderick N. Morrison, Russell R. Fargo, Morris F. Sheppard and John Brooks; assessors, Eben Smith, John W. Squier, Edward J. Fowle; clerk, Henry Eno. The whole number of votes cast at the election was 252. Abraham Wagener was elected president of the board of trustees....

 

 

resident transplanted into Penn Yan in 1830 from the present would recognize a few buildings, and the basic street pattern. The stores were nearly all still wooden buildings, but these were gradually being cleared out by fire. Before the end of the decade several would be replaced by brick structures that remain to this day, though they'd still not look too familiar to a modern viewer.

The biggest event in Penn Yan's history -- actually the two biggest events -- happened more or less simultaneously in 1833: the Crooked Lake Canal was opened for navigation, and the village was finally incorporated, becoming a legal entity in its own right.

The gap between the two disparate settlements at the foot and the head of Main Street wasn't completely filled in, but at least there were a few buildings in there. The business district was still only one full block long, though a short row of wooden stores extended north from Elm Street on the west side; this was called "Brimstone Row" for good reason, as it was entirely destroyed in 1836 by fire.

A number of stores still stood at the head of the street, rebuilt after the Red Building burned in 1831. Morris F. Sheppard completed his stone mansion in 1830 on the site of his burned Mechanics' Hall, but merchants were still rebuilding and opening new stores at the corners right through the decade; some (like Ira Gould) at the same time opening stores at the foot of the street.