The Village of Herkimer, NY — A Brief History

(Scroll Text to Read More)
Located midway between Syracuse & Albany, near the confluence of the Mohawk River & West Canada Creek, the Village of Herkimer, NY has a long & colorful past. Centuries before the Palatine Germans, refugees from religious wars in Europe, were granted a lease to purchase this land, the region was settled & built up by the Iroquois Mohawk Native Americans. The village is named for the Herkimer family, Palatine German immigrants who settled in the area in 1723.

The memory of Nicholas Herkimer, a general of the Tryon County militia who died from wounds received at the Battle of Oriskany in the American Revolutionary War, is not only memorialized in name but by the Statue in Myers Park, the likeness of which also appears on the county, town, & village seals. The village seal can be viewed at the top left of this web page. An oil painting, eventually turned into a US postage stamp, depicting these events is presented below.

In 1791, Herkimer County was organized, & the Village of Herkimer was established as the county seat. It has served in that capacity to this day. By 1797, the village had a courthouse, a jail, & a Reformed Dutch Church, about 40 houses & a population of approximately 250. The Village of Herkimer was incorporated in 1807.

The Erie Canal, built from 1817 to 1825, which opened up expansion into Ohio & the west, also served villages & towns, including Herkimer, along the Mohawk River, carrying increased traffic & trade between the Hudson River & the Great Lakes. By the mid-to-late 19th century, the village was served by the New York Central & Hudson River Railroad. Both the railroad & the canal are very much in use today. Along with the New York State Throughway (I-90) the Mohawk Valley has become a living museum of transportation history.

In 1834, the Herkimer County jail was erected on what today is called the Historic Four Corners. Its most famous inmate was Chester Gillette who was accused of murdering Grace Brown in 1906. The ensuing trial quickly drew nationwide attention, & Chester Gillette became the basis for the fictional character, Clyde Griffiths, in Theodore Dreiser’s 1925 novel, An American Tragedy which, in turn, became the basis for the 1931 film of the same name & the 1951 film A Place in the Sun.

Today, the Village of Herkimer boasts a population of about 7,500 residents. The Village of Herkimer is located in the Town of Herkimer which, in turn, is located in Herkimer County making it one of only 2 villages in New York located in a town & county of the same name.

There is plenty to see & do here in our village: prospecting for Herkimer diamonds, golfing at the local country club, visiting our community college, or our Historic Four Corners. Canal cruises, boating, & fine food can all be found here in Herkimer. Though we may be the gateway to the Adirondacks, there is plenty of reason to spend some time right here in the Village & in the surrounding area.

If you are interested in learning more about our area, here are some references to get you started:

Also, you can visit the Herkimer County Historical Society web page for more information on our area. Information about the Historical Society is posted on this web site.

Oil painting titled Herkimer at the Battle of Oriskany. Although wounded, General Nicholas Herkimer rallies the Tryon County militia at the Battle of Oriskany on August 6, 1777. By Frederick Coffay Yohn - Public Library of Utica, New York.