"The Church With The Lighted Steeple"
Sennett, New York

The Town of Sennett, New York

This little history of the Town of Sennett is presented to you, as a newcomer, by the Sennett Federated Church. We trust you will find it interesting and instructive.

The town of Sennett was formed on March 19, 1827, by taking the northern part from Brutus and the southern part from Aurelius. In 1859 part of Sennett was set off to become part of Throop, and another part was taken to enlarge the city of Auburn. The town received it's name from a prominent citizen, Daniel Sennett, who was a circuit judge. His remains lie buried in the Sennett Rural Cemetery. (1) A memorial stone was erected, in his memory, in the cemetery, by the town's citizens and dedicated on Memorial Day 1953.

Some of the early settlers in the town came here from the East, many of them from Connecticut and Massachusetts. Traveling to Sennett was by horse and wagon and on feet. It must be remembered that there were no railroads - not even the Erie Canal was in existence. Traveling was very slow through the woods over roads that were not much more than trails. In 1794 families of Healy, Atwell and Morley settled here. The following year families of Sheldon, Bennett, Barnes and Sennett came. In 1797 the names of Hicks, Miller, Phelps, Remington, Freeman and Johnson were added. The area must have been very attractive to these settlers, for shortly there after the families of Bullock, Greene, Soule, Crossman, Tanner, Douglas and Fellows were added. For the most part these names do not appear in the 1968 record of familiar names. Many of these names, however, appear on stones in the cemeteries located in our town.

The Old Genesee Road, now part of Route 5. was the first road constructed, in 1790. This road saw many caravans of settlers moving through the town to make their new homes in the western part of the state.

The Old Chenango Road, believed to have been the second road built, started in Chenango County and came northerly, skirting the east side of Owasco Lake, thence into Hardenburgh Corners, later named Auburn, with branches to Skaneateles and through Sennett to Cato.

The Great Northern Turnpike, the shortest route to Cayuga, built in 1791, ran through Sennett Corners. A wooden bridge, supported on piles driven in the water and mud at the foot of Cayuga Lake, Provide a Crossing place, as the Montezuma Marshes were strictly impassible. An inn, located on this Turnpike, now used by the town as a storage place for highway equipment, provided a stopping place for weary travelers over night.

Another road westward from Utica, passing through Skaneateles, continuing through Sennett to Hardenburgh Corners, later Auburn, became Genesee Street. Some of these roads had toll gates at intervals and required the payment of a few cents to help build and maintain the right of way. At one time one of these toll gates was located near the Harry Mead home. Tolls received paid for and helped maintain a road built of hemlock planks which ran though Sennett village to Auburn.

In the early days there were many taverns in town. The first one to open its doors was in the village, furnishing food and liquid refreshments to the western travelers, and fodder for the tire horses, mules and oxen. Another inn was located near where Route 5 and the Depot Road meet. Others were located at the Healy home and one at McMasters Corners. (2) Drovers stopped with their cattle and sheep at the Bowen place (3) on the Great Northern Turnpike.

Stage lines were set up as an accommodation for the western travelers. The busy one was, of course , the Turnpike through the village, and many weary travelers stopped at the village inn over night. It was in the year 1820 that a right-of-way was purchased through the town of Auburn to Syracuse on which to construct a railroad. The road was not ready for operation, however, until 1839. The first coaches were drawn by horses and were carried on wooden rails. This road was the first to operate west of Syracuse. In 1841 the road had been extended to Rochester, and in 1850 these two railroads became The New York Central Railroad. As late as 1915 there were no less than thirteen passenger trains daily through the Sennett station. (4) Thousands of carloads of farm produce, including potatoes, cabbage, hay and grain, found their way to the city markets, having been loaded by produce buyers at the Sennett station. The last passenger train on the road ran in 1958, the automobile had just put the rails out of use as a means of travel.

The electric trolley line was built from Auburn through Skaneateles and Marcellus to Syracuse. The first car ran over this road on January 1, 1901. The last run was April 15, 1930. But electric car transportation, like the steam railroad, had to yield to the automobile. The road was sold, the rails taken up for junk. As of this date no signs of this short-lived means of transportation are visible. The road followed the present Franklin Street.

In the early days children learned their three R's by attending one of several small district schools located at strategic spots throughout the town, Cobblestone (5) school was located near the Jeffers farm and was opened in 1835. The ruins of this school are still in evidence. Mudcoe (6) and Pantico (7) schools were established by 1845. In 1815 land was conveyed to the school trustees on which was built he village school. This was on the site of the present fire station. Other schools were set up at Soule (8) Cemetery, McMasters(9) Corners, Mutton Hill, one on Freeman Street(10) near the Webster Farm, one on Genesee Street,(11) and also one on (12) Franklin Street. One by one these schools were discontinued, beginning about 1920 to 1937, when they were absorbed by the Central Schools of Weedsport, Elbridge, Skaneateles and Auburn.

Sennett was at one time known as Fellows Corners. An old map shows the post office of Brutus located there, established in 1806. A post office was located at Pantico(13) on Franklin Street in the early days.

The Sennett Cheese Manufacturing Company was incorporated October 21, 1869, with $3,300 capital. The first trustees were William Sheldon, Albert W. Bowen, J. M. Healy, Horace Sunderlin and P. M. Healy. In 1879 They were making 240 pounds of cheese per day. The cheese factory was located between the present Turnpike Road and Route 5, about where Kenneth Bush's barn or garage is situated. A map of 1875 places the "cheese factory house" where his house is. There was also the Sennett Cemetery at the corners, the building brought by the Town of Sennett in 1914 to be used as the Town Hall.

This little history of Sennett would not be complete unless we included the churches. It is to the everlasting credit and honor of the settlers of our town that they considered the establishment of places where God could be worshiped as a necessary part of their existence in a new land. The first church organized was of Baptist denomination. It came into being on September 12, 1799. There have been three edifices. The first one was a wooden building and was erected in the back part of what is now the Sennett Rural Cemetery. This church faced the road which has long since been abandoned, but ran from a point on Route 5 near the Evan Webster home and continued southwardly back of the cemetery and joined the Healy Road near the large brick apartment house. The road scar is still visible. The second Baptist church was of stone and stood where the pound was. The third one is the present brick building and was erected in 1875. The Congregational Church (now Federated) was organized November 12, 1805. The minute book containing the minutes of the organization is still in existence and in good legible condition. At about the time of the Civil War the church became Presbyterian. The original building was erected in 1815. This was extensively remodeled and enlarged in 1848 at a cost of $3,269.00: the contractors were to furnish all materials and labor was to be "in a good workman-like manner". The two churches, Baptist and Presbyterian, federated on December 2, 1928, and at present it is one of the oldest and most successful Federated churches, A Methodist church existed for a short time, but moved to Skaneateles Falls in 1873.

Sennett is an agricultural town in the true sense of the word. A mixed type of farming was carried of for over 100 years, but, with the advance of power farming, the crops of potatoes, cabbage, peas, beans, and barley are no longer grown. The past decade has seen the small diary farms discontinue their operations and have been sold to adjacent farms to enlarge their operations. Sennett is now almost wholly a dairy section with some herds numbering nearly 100 cows.

The soils are naturally fertile, being of glacial till formation and high in lime requirement, favoring the growth of corn and alfalfa as roughage for the cattle.

Many families living here commute to jobs in Auburn and some even to Syracuse.

The Sennett Federated Church is in almost the exact center and is surrounded by churches in Auburn, Skaneateles, Elbridge, Weedsport and Port Byron, which last one is only seven miles distant. One might think a church here in Sennett would have a difficult time to survive, but such is not the case. We have roughly 300 members and a Sunday School enrollment of about 140.

As a newcomer to our community, we cordially invite you to make our Federated Church your church home if you are of the Protestant faith. If you are Catholic, you will find a hearty welcome at Catholic churches in Weedsport and Auburn. Episcopal churches are located in Auburn and Skaneateles. If you have a church membership in another town, we cordially invite you to transfer your membership by letter to our fellowship.

Compiled and edited by:
Elsie G. Smith, Town Historian
Charles H. Riley, Clerk of the Session
Originally composed circa 1977 - Re-transcribed into a digital format May 1997

Thanks to Linda Beyor for transcribing the information on this page into a digital format.

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