Verona Springs Sanitarium, destroyed by fire in 1905
The first white settler, George A. Smith, left Dean's tavern at Westmoreland on Christmas Eve, 1791, arriving eight days later at the site of the Tamiami Hotel, where Oneida Creek empties into Oneida Lake. His daughter Eve was the first white child born in what became Verona Township in 1795. Another early arrival was Asahel Jackson, from Berkshire County, Massachusetts, in 1796. He built a pub, trading post, and tavern near the Royal Block House, where Wood Creek empties into Oneida Lake.
The Town of Verona was formed from the Town of Westmoreland in 1802. There were the 102 families, comprising 439 inhabitants. In August of 1805, a typhus epidemic broke out and lasted about a year and about 100 persons died before it was over.
Agriculture has been a mainstay of the town's economy since early settlement. From the 1860s until the early 1900s, milk for cheese-making provided the predominant farm income. Sugar beet growing fizzled out in 1896; again in 1965. For a time Crown Brand canned goods were marketed by T.B. and C.W. Bishop of Verona, and John Wilhelm did a thriving business for some years. The Oneida Canning Factory, formed 1892-3, was operated until 1958 by the Albert Dam Canning Company.
Empire State Canniing Co.
Beginning in the l920s, the Empire State Canning Company, located at Stacy's Basin, processed thousands of cans of locally grown vegetables, giving employment to many until it burned in 1950. In Verona the Willow-Dell Canning Factory operated until 1958. Murphy's Custom Canning operated in the 1950s in Verona.
The original Erie Canal was opened through the town in 1820 and provided transportation for goods produced by local industrialists and farmers and for the shipment of lumber cut from the abundant local resources. This local supply of lumber and the canal combined to create one of the town's most vital early industries — boat building. Boats were constructed and repaired from the 1830s to the early 1900s in New London, Stacy's Basin, Higginsville and Durhamville.
Glass factories thrived from the 1840s to 1890 and were located at Durhamville and Dunbarton. At Durhamville, a large glass works was operated by Fox, Gregory and Son. At peak times, the company employed as many as 125 people, and was one of the largest companies of its kind in the nation. The Dunbarton Glass Works, located near Higginsville, also manufactured window glass.
On the shore of Oneida Lake, Verona Beach has been a recreation area for many years. It was settled about 1840 by four Roberts brothers, Valentine Morris and others. Until 1888 a hand-operated ferry ran from Verona Beach to Sylvan Beach. In 1947, New York State built the Verona Beach State Park along the shore of the lake.
The earliest schools in the town were at Blackman's Corners, Verona Depot and the Happy Valley District School, originally called the Jerusalem School. The Toll sisters, who set up the Home School for Young Ladies in New Hartford about 1876, moved back to the family homestead in Verona and set up a school there.
Durhamville Dry Dock
Durhamville was established before 1813 and then named for Eber Durham, who came from Manlius in 1826. Durhamville prospered during the 19th century with boat yards, the glass industry and many small businesses that provided supplies and services for the canal traffic.
The first industries used the raw materials at hand, lumber and fuel wood. The virgin forest trees grew to 30 feet in diameter. Lumber was shipped out by the millions of board feet. Five boat building yards hummed with one of the largest industries in the state.
Ambrose Jones is listed as erecting the first frame building on the site of the present village of New London. He called it the Eagle Hotel. He was instrumental in having the post office opened in 1825, naming the new settlement after his hometown, New London, Connecticut.
Whalen Farm, Higginsville along the Erie Canal
New London, incorporated in 1848, was a commercial center of 800 permanent residents. Three hotels cared for the hundreds of transients passing through on there way westward. Cheese from three cheese factories, grain, vegetables, and in spring arbutus flowers for perfumers were shipped to New York City. The westbound barges unloaded sugar and manufactured goods at New London to go by wagon train northward to the settlements in Jefferson and Oswego counties.
The opening of the Black River Canal and the new network of railroads drained commerce from the Erie. The industrialization of nearby Rome and Utica drew families to those towns. A serious fire in 1856, another in December 1900, and again nine years later, wiped out the docks and warehouses, hotels, stores, and classic mansions, never to be rebuilt. The wild rough days of the canallers have become part of Central New York folklore.