Village of
Clinton's History:

See also, Clinton Historical Society under "Community Groups" and "Links" for the Web Site.


Part of Coxe's Patent,6th division, Clinton began in 1787 when Revolutionary War veterans from Middlebury, Connecticut settled in Clinton. Led by Moses Foote the new inhabitants found good soil, plentiful forests, and friendly Brothertown Indians in southern Kirkland along with Oneida Indians who passed through on trails.


Named after New York’s first governor, George Clinton, an uncle of Erie Canal builder, DeWitt Clinton, the village had a gristmill on the Oriskany Creek on College Street the first year and slowly developed as a farming and mercantile center.


Originally in the Town of Whitestown and then the Town of Paris, Clinton became part of the newly-formed Town of Kirkland in 1827, and became an incorporated village in April 1843 with its own board of trustees, officials, employees, and status as a taxing jurisdiction.


Rev. Samuel Kirkland, a missionary to the Oneida Indians, was an early arrival who started the Hamilton-Oneida Academy for white and Indian youth atop College Hill in 1793. This school was chartered in 1812 as Hamilton College by the New York State Board of Regents and was the third liberal arts college in the state.


Clinton hematite iron ore was discovered in 1797 near the surface and was mined until 1963. Two large blast furnaces in the town turned out tons of cast iron between 1852 and about 1900 when competition from the Mesabi Range curtailed the local iron ore industry. The ore continued to be used as pigment in red paint by the Clinton Metallic Paint Company in Franklin Springs until 1963.


Numerous private schools sometimes called “seminaries”, operated in the 19th century prior to the public secondary school movement. Out-of-town students boarded with Clinton families while day students from this area also attended. Most prominent were Houghton Seminary, Clinton Liberal Institute, Home Cottage Seminary, and Clinton Grammar School.


Notable students who were here included Leland Stanford, founder of California’s Stanford University; Clara Barton, Red Cross founder; and Grover Cleveland, American president 1885-89 and 1893-97. Elihu Root, secretary of war and state under presidents McKinley and Roosevelt, was born in a building on the Hamilton College campus and is probably Clinton’s most famous son.


Ice hockey came to Clinton just after World War I when Hamilton College athletic director Albert Prettyman introduced the sport to college men. Village boys quickly took up the winter sport playing on ponds and the old Chenango Canal. From that beginning the village has hosted scores of teams and games at Hamilton College’s Sage Rink, the outdoor rink on Franklin Avenue at Meadow Street, and the Clinton Arena.


The “Arena” was built in 1948 and it burned in 1953 and was immediately rebuilt. From youth hockey to high school teams to adult amateur efforts and to the famous Clinton Comets, who dominated the semi-professional Eastern Hockey League in the 1960’s and early 1970’s, Clinton players have competed with skill and enthusiasm.

Figure skating has also been a part of winter sports. The Clinton Figure Skating Club began in 1951. Shows are held annually.


With 2000 people, the Village of Clinton today enjoys an excellent public school system centralized in 1932 from 17 one-room districts; diverse and unique stores and shops, three banks, an art center, an historical society, four churches, and a fine public library. Clinton’s citizens freely volunteer their time and skills in many civic, sports, and community organizations. Citizen involvement is one attribute that makes Clinton the fine place it is to live and raise families. Whether or not it’s the Boynton Pool, the Arena, the Kiwanis Club, or the Jaycees, Clinton people join and contribute greatly to these groups.


Never a factory town, Clinton did have the Clinton Knitting Company on the site of the Clinton House Apartments on Kirkland Avenue in the first half of the 20th century as well as the Clinton Canning Company to process local vegetables in the late summer arid fall. More recently the Clinton Central School system, Hamilton College, and Lutheran Homes are the major employers in the area as most residents who work commute to their jobs.


In business history, in addition to the iron ore industry, world-famous Bristol-Myers Company began in Clinton in 1887 on the second floor at 3-5 West Park Row and moved to Syracuse after three years. Both William Bristol and John Myers graduated from Hamilton College. To the near south, Franklin Springs, after the blast furnace era, became notable in the 1890’s when lithia water was discovered; it was used to bottle soft drinks for about 80 years by 8-10 different firms. The Split Rock brand lasted into the 1970’s. Rofin in Clark Mills, Indium Corporation on Robinson Road, and Riverhawk Company on N.Y.S. Route 12B are more recent industries.


While agriculture, particularly dairy farms, continues, Clinton is not the bustling farming hub of 100 years ago when feed mills, a gristmill, milk stations, cheese factories, hops cultivation, and a Clinton Grange chapter occupied hundreds of residents. The present day Clinton remains a residential suburb surrounding the central business area.