Before white explorers or settlers, central New York was occupied by
the nations of the Iroquois Confederation.
United in the sixteenth century by the great orator and statesman,
Hiawatha, this league of five (later six) tribes or nations controlled west to
the Mississippi and south to the Carolinas at the height of its influence.
The region of present-day Oneida
County was land of the Oneida tribe deriving
their name from "Onei" (stone) and "Ta" (living) - a sacred
endowment of life and intelligence. The
first white men were probably French and the soldier-explorer Champlain fought
a battle against the Oneidas
in 1615, which influenced the long affiliation of the Iroquois with the British
during the French and Indian Wars.
The lands in the English colonies were considered owned by
the Crown and were periodically given in grants or patents to favorites, often
Royal Governors, one of these being Cosby Manor, 1734, upon which most of Utica
was built. In 1769, 25,000 acres north
of Cosby Manor was given to Peter Servis and twenty-four others, thereafter
being known as the Servis Patent. This
grant eventually passed to Sir William Johnson and it, with other grants, was
seized in 1783 at the end of the Revolutionary War and resold by the State of New York.
Between 1763, the date of the Treaty of Paris ending the
French and Indian Wars, and the leaving of the British in 1783, the lands in
central New York were largely unsettled and
unexplored except for small strategic posts such as Fort
and Fort Schuyler
(Utica). The areas north of the Mohawk
River were unsettled even by the Iroquois and except for
infrequent military excursions, no accounts remain of white men in these
areas. With the end of the Revolutionary
War came the end of more than a century of constant hostility and warfare and
finally opened the land from the Mohawk to Lake Ontario
The state took title to British-owned lands and all
unoccupied land and began selling it for a shilling an acre, sometimes
less. Some of the old patents were
quickly bought by speculators. Others
were given as gifts to war heroes (the Steuben tract, etc.). The Servis Patent was purchased by the
Holland Land Company in 1792 (the adjoining Holland Patent takes its name not
from this company but from Lord Holland).
The Holland Land Company eventually accumulated holdings of 3.6 million
acres in central and western New York.
In 1793, Gerritt Boon, an agent of the Holland Land Company,
pitched his tent in a quiet valley at the junction of two streams. Some say he was attracted by the abundance of
maple tree syrup, which he presumed flowed year-round. He called the new settlement "Olden Barneveldt" in honor of a
seventeenth century Patriot of the Netherlands. It is now the site of the present Village of Barneveld,
Oneida County, New York.
From this date can be traced the rich history of the village whose
residents, some internationally and nationally famed, influenced the
development of surrounding settlements and left a legacy of distinctive
buildings and churches in their own village and in the region.
The company soon built a saw mill, a grist mill, a store and
an inn to eliminate the need for frequent journeys to Fort
Schuyler (Utica) fourteen miles south. By 1810, the village was a center of trade in
northern Herkimer County and eastern portions of Oneida County.
In 1795 Boon explored new company land to the north and
started the settlement now known as Boonville.
In 1798, another Hollander, Colonel Adam G. Mappa succeeded Boon as
agent in the settlement. In the same
year, Boon returned to his birthplace, Leyden, Holland, somewhat in disgrace for a financial
disaster in the maple syrup business and because of the slow returns from the
company's land ventures.
Mappa was joined by a friend and countryman, Francis van der
Kemp, who was once called "the most learned man in America"
by John Adams. The two had fled an
unsuccessful revolution in Holland
in 1786 and easily found comfort among like-minded Americans. Van der Kemp had been a highly educated and
internationally known clergyman in Holland
and Mappa had been a military leader.
Mappa and van der Kemp each carried on active correspondence with such
notable people as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and
John Adams. Van der Kemp was employed by
Governor Clinton to translate New
York's old Dutch records and was appointed as
Assistant Justice in the County Court of Oneida. He is commonly remembered today as Judge van
The population of Olden Barneveldt by 1804 was estimated at
between 200 and 300. An 1802 account
mentions a school of fifty children. In
1850 there were 60 private dwellings and in 1876, the population was
The United Protestant Religious Society, an
interdenominational body, was organized in the village in 1804. The first church, Unitarian, was erected in
1816, which remains the oldest Unitarian
Church west of the Hudson
River. The church remains
active today. Also still active are the Methodist Church, erected in 1848, and the
Episcopal Church, established in 1904.
An 1817 description by Jacques Milbert, French Artist, mentions the Unitarian Church:
(the settlement) is surrounded with hills covered with luxuriant and varied
vegetation, and through the valley
winds a pretty brook. A church newly
constructed by its whiteness contrasts with the laughing verdure and around it
are grouped pretty houses, one of them remarkable for its elegance, the
residence of the agent of the Holland Land Company. On this day the roads from different
directions terminating in the village, were covered with a file of wagons and
saddle horses from the surrounding country."
Rev. John Sherman, grandson of Roger Sherman, the Connecticut signer of the Declaration of Independence,
became pastor at the Unitarian
Church in 1806. He was intrigued by a nearby falls and in
1822 purchased 60 acres surrounding it from the Holland Land Company and built
the Rural Resort on its banks. In 1825
the Rural Resort expanded to accommodate sightseers to the falls, the lowest of
which is still called Sherman
The village was incorporated by the legislature in 1819 as
"Oldenbarneveld" (combined into one word). In 1833, it was again incorporated as the Village of Trenton, with a slight change in
boundaries. Since then the boundaries
have changed twice, first in 1864, and again in 1870. In 1970, village residents voted in favor of
eliminating the village charter and operating under New York State Village
Objections to the name Trenton
were due to a considerable amount of mail and freight which was sent to Trenton NJ
by mistake. In 1903 the Federal
government granted the request for a change and gave the name of Barneveld to
the Post Office and Rail Road Station.
From that time on, the village was blessed with two names, Trenton, its legal name,
and Barneveld, the more popular one. In
1975, the residents voted in favor of changing the legal name of the village
from Trenton to
The local fire company was organized in 1834 and the
Barneveld Library Association was formed in 1874 and a library built in
1877. The village first proposed a
municipal water system in 1910. Several
propositions were presented to the residents, with the majority against the plan. In 1934, another proposal was approved and
the project finally competed in 1940.
The village originally had three water troughs, which served as a main
source of water when private wells and springs went dry. These tubs also served as public drinking
fountains and for watering livestock.
One of these tubs is still in use.
Boon erected the first frame house in the settlement in
1794. Also in 1794, Thomas Hicks built
and occupied a house beside Cincinnati Creek.
The third oldest house, also erected in 1794, was built for Francis
Adrian van der Kemp. In 1809 Mappa
constructed the stone Mappa Hall at a cost of $13,000. All four houses still stand. Since 1900, only about a dozen new houses
have been constructed in the village, giving the village a distinct,
well-settled and richly historic atmosphere.