Cortland County is a county located in the U.S. state of New York, named after Pierre Van Cortlandt, president of the convention at Kingston that wrote the first New York State Constitution in 1777, and first lieutenant governor of the state. The county seat is Cortland. As of the 2010 census, the population of Cortland County was 49,336.
The Cortland apple is named for the county.
Located in the glaciated Appalachian Plateau area of Central New York State, midway between Syracuse and Binghamton, this predominantly rural county is the southeastern gateway to the Finger Lakes Region. Scattered archaeological evidence indicates the Iroquois also known as the Haudenosaunee controlled the area beginning about AD 1500.
What was to become Cortland County remained within Indian territory until the American Revolution. It became part of the Military Tract, when, in 1781, more than 1¼ million acres (5,100 km²) were set aside by the State's Legislature to compensate two regiments formed to protect the State's western section from the English and their Iroquois allies, at the close of the Revolution. To encourage settlement in the upstate isolated wilderness, the State constructed a road from Oxford through Cortland County to Cayuga Lake in 1792-94. This, and construction of privately financed roads, were the major impetus to settlement.
When counties were established in New York State in 1683, the present Cortland County was part of Albany County, which encompassed the northern part of New York State and all of the present State of Vermont, as well as indeterminate territory to west. On March 12, 1772, present day Cortland County became part of Tryon County, named for William Tryon, colonial governor of New York. In 1784, following the peace treaty that ended the American Revolutionary War, the name of the county was changed to honor General Richard Montgomery, who had captured several places in Canada and died attempting to capture the city of Quebec, thus replacing the name of the locally unpopular British governor. Present day Cortland County became part of Herkimer County in 1791, then became a part of Onondaga County when it split from Herkimer in 1794. Cortland County was formed by the splitting of Onondaga County in 1808.
Settlement of the county
Eastern New Yorkers and New Englanders, wanting new land to farm, welcomed the opening of this frontier. The first white settlement in the county was made in 1791 by Amos Todd, Joseph Beebe and Rhoda Todd Beebe, emigrants from Connecticut who paddled up the Tioughnioga River from Windsor, to live near the head of navigation in the Town of Homer. Following them came a flood of settlers who, in 1808, petitioned the State Legislature for county status. Thus, Cortland County was created from the southern half of Onondaga County as part of the Boston Ten Towns on April 8, 1808, and was named in honor of the Pierre Van Cortlandt family - Pierre, Sr. having been the first lieutenant governor of the state.
The Nineteenth Century
The 76th New York Volunteer Infantry was one of the most famous of the New York units in the Civil War. It was raised in 1861 primarily from Cortland County and the surrounding areas (about a third of the men were from the Cherry Valley area). The 76th was in most of the major battles the Army of the Potomac fought from Second Bull Run through Petersburg, at which time the three-year enlistment of most of the men ran out and the 300 or so men remaining from the 1,100 who left Cortland either returned home or transferred to other units.
At the Battle of Gettysburg, the 76th New York was one of the first infantry regiments on the field, holding down the extreme right of the Union line on the first day. The regiment took huge casualties in that battle - nearly one-third of its strength - including its commander Major Andrew J. Grover, the first infantry officer killed in the battle.
The Cortland Baking Company (COBAKCO) was the first bakery east of the Mississippi River to make enriched breads, wrap loaves in cellophane and sell pre-sliced white, wheat and rye bread. They invented the phase "the greatest thing since sliced bread". (ref-cortlandtourism.com)
Modern Cortland County
Today, Cortland county is noted for the production of CNC milling machines; hospitality supplies; medical instruments and components; textiles; electrical components; plastic consumer goods; components for NASA and a variety of other goods and services. International exporting is an integral part of many of the corporations in the area.
The county's present reflects its past. Agri-business flourishes yet, consistent with the pattern elsewhere in New York State, the number of farms has declined while farm size and yield have increased. Continued growth in the service and light industry sectors is contributing to the growing strength of the Central New York region.
The loss of many of its local businesses has led to the current economic decline of the region. Cornell University, Syracuse University, State University of New York Binghamton and Ithaca College are all within an easy 45 minute drive of the City of Cortland. The State University College at Cortland and Tompkins Cortland Community College are located in the county.
Notable county residents