Brief History The Town of Middlefield is located in the heart of the Leatherstocking Region of New York State. It runs along the east side of Otsego Lake, the beautiful "Glimmerglass" of James Fenimore Cooper's Leatherstocking Tales. It is a gently hilly area divided by the meandering Cherry Valley Creek and Red Creek as they wind their way to the Susquehanna River.
In the mid-eighteenth century Middlefield was divided into several large tracts of lands, called land patents, which took their name from the individuals who purchased them through Royal Land Grants. The Godfrey Miller Patent encompassed much of the northwest portion of Middlefield, the John Bowers Patent was on the southwest, and the Volkert Outhout, or Long Patent, was a narrow strip of land running the entire length of the eastern side of the town. The Long Patent straddled the Cherry Valley Creek as it runs its course through Middlefield, and was acquired by George Clarke, lieutenant governor of New York, in the 1740s.
A mere twenty years after John Lindsay settled with a small group of people in Cherry Valley, the first pioneers entered the area that later came to be known as Middlefield. Among these early settlers were Alexander, Benjamin, Daniel and Reuben McCollum, Samuel and Andrew Wilson, William Cook, Andrew Cameron, and Andrew Cochran. They settled in Newtown-Martin, an area of Middlefield which became the hamlet of Middlefield Center, located on the road leading west out of Cherry Valley.
During the Revolutionary War the area was under constant threat of Indian attack since the Indians were aligned with the British. In 1779 the settlement at Cherry Valley was nearly wiped out by Indians in what is known as the Cherry Valley Massacre. Although the region was virtually evacuated at this time, after the conclusion of hostilities eager settlers flooded back to the area. Among these post-Revolutionary War settlers were some notable men who shaped the early history of Middlefield.
The early nineteenth century saw some significant business activity in the town. In 1815 the Phoenix cotton mill was established and its original building was replaced in 1835 by a stone building. It became a woolen mill about 1866. Middlefield Center became home to a shoe last factory which was one of the largest in New York State. Also, in 1828, the Otsego County Farm, or Poor House, was set up along the Susquehanna River to help care for those who had fallen on hard times. Business growth coupled with population growth induced the United States Postal Service to open offices throughout the town. Post Offices were established in Clarksville (renamed Middlefield so as not to conflict with an earlier Clarksville in Albany County), Middlefield Center, Westville and Lentsville.
Despite all this business activity, though, agriculture remained the backbone of the economy. The early settlers grew a variety of grains, particularly wheat, for sale. However, as the 1820s dawned, farming began to steadily convert to dairying and its ancillary products such as cheese making. This diversity in agriculture almost completely vanished as hop growing mania swept Otsego County. Farmers quickly took to this cash crop, hoping for fantastic profits in a risky business: fortunes were made and lost. As soil exhaustion took its toll on the land, farmers returned to dairying as the century ran its course.
With the coming of the Civil War, many men from Middlefield were mustered in to the 121st Infantry Division of the Union Army, although others enlisted in the 42nd, 43rd, and 76th Regiment. These men saw action at Antietam, Bull Run, Fredericksburg, Wilderness and Salem Chapel.
After the Civil War there was a need for a larger schoolhouse in the hamlet of Middlefield. This schoolhouse was built on a rise of land near the mill in the hamlet. It opened in 1875 and ran until 1954 when it was centralized with the Cherry Valley district. Forty years earlier, four small school districts had consolidated at Middlefield District No. 1 and several had consolidated at Westville District No. 2. A new building was erected in Westville to accommodate these students.
Although many people and businesses left Middlefield by the mid-twentieth century, the town has witnessed resurgence in activity as the century came to a close. The Old District No. 1 Schoolhouse became headquarters for the Middlefield Historical Association and host to a variety of activities in the summer, the two churches in the hamlet of Middlefield formed a cooperative parish and began alternating services at both buildings, and, in the 1980s, the hamlet of Middlefield was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Throughout its history the town of Middlefield has remained a picturesque and quiet rural town. Referred to as the "Land of Steady Habits," its residents have been industrious and content in the place they call home.
Town of Middlefield, New York PO Box 961 Cooperstown, NY 13326 (607) 547-5093