Cortland County, New York

Cortland County, New York
Cortland County, New York
Seal of Cortland County, New York
Map of New York highlighting Cortland County
Location in the state of New York
Map of the U.S. highlighting New York
New York's location in the U.S.
Founded 1808
Seat Cortland
 - Total
 - Land
 - Water

502 sq mi (1,300 km²)
500 sq mi (1,295 km²)
2 sq mi (5 km²), 0.37%
 - (2010)
 - Density

98/sq mi (38/km²)

Cortland County is a county located in the U.S. state of New York, named after Federico 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.



Early history

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 three different aboriginal cultures hunted the area beginning about 1500 A. D.

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". (

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 (rated #11 on the top partying schools list in Playboy Magazine) and Tomplinns Cortland Community College are located in the county.

Notable county residents

  • William Dillon, Composer, lyricist, and vaudevillian.
  • Ronnie James Dio, former frontman for Rainbow and Black Sabbath. A street is named for him (Dio Way).
  • Nancy Duffy, Syracuse news personality and founder of the Syracuse St. Patrick's Day Parade.
  • John J. McGraw, Hall Of Fame Major League Baseball player and manager from the Town of Truxton.
  • Alton B. Parker, Democratic candidate for President in 1904.
  • Elmer Ambrose Sperry, Prolific Inventor who invented gyroscopic compass and held over 400 patents. USS Sperry named after him.
  • Arthur C. Sidman Playwright and vaudevillian.
  • Joan Jefferson Ames Vrooman, Writer from Toronto, Ontario, Canada who moved to Cortland in 1954 and authored the popular "Cheese and Crackers" column in the Cortland Standard, daily newspaper.
  • Amy Dickinson, "Ask Amy" Columnist and Author of Book

Government and politics

Cortland County is a Republican leaning county but Democrats have come very close to winning it in the past. In 2000 Al Gore lost Cortland County by only about 1%. In 2004 George Bush defeated John Kerry by 5 points. The city of Cortland itself the largest city in the county leans Democratic. In 2008 Barack Obama defeated John McCain 54-45%. [1] The last Democrat prior to Obama was Bill Clinton who carried it with a purality each time. The last Democrat to win a majority in Cortland County prior to Obama was Lyndon Johnson in 1964.

Cortland County's lawmaking body is the legislature which consists of 19 members. All 19 members are elected from single member districts.


Cortland County is somewhat to the west of the center of New York State, south of Syracuse and north of Binghamton.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 502 square miles (1,300.2 km2), of which 500 square miles (1,295.0 km2) is land and 2 square miles (5.2 km2) (0.37%) is water.

Adjacent counties

Major highways


Historical populations
Census Pop.
1810 8,869
1820 16,507 86.1%
1830 23,791 44.1%
1840 24,607 3.4%
1850 25,140 2.2%
1860 26,294 4.6%
1870 25,173 −4.3%
1880 25,825 2.6%
1890 28,657 11.0%
1900 27,576 −3.8%
1910 29,249 6.1%
1920 29,625 1.3%
1930 31,709 7.0%
1940 33,668 6.2%
1950 37,158 10.4%
1960 41,113 10.6%
1970 45,894 11.6%
1980 48,820 6.4%
1990 48,963 0.3%
2000 48,599 −0.7%
2010 49,336 1.5%

As of the census[3] of 2000, there were 48,599 people, 18,210 households, and 11,617 families residing in the county. The population density was 97 people per square mile (38/km²). There were 20,116 housing units at an average density of 40 per square mile (16/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 96.95% White, 0.86% Black or African American, 0.27% Native American, 0.41% Asian, 0.01% Pacific Islander, 0.32% from other races, and 1.18% from two or more races. 1.16% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race. 17.3% were of English, 16.9% Irish, 14.2% German, 13.0% Italian and 9.9% American ancestry according to Census 2000. 96.0% spoke English and 1.4% Spanish as their first language.

There were 18,210 households out of which 31.00% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 49.20% were married couples living together, 10.30% had a female householder with no husband present, and 36.20% were non-families. 26.50% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.40% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.50 and the average family size was 3.00.

In the county the population was spread out with 23.70% under the age of 18, 15.50% from 18 to 24, 26.50% from 25 to 44, 21.80% from 45 to 64, and 12.50% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 34 years. For every 100 females there were 93.50 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 90.00 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $34,364, and the median income for a family was $42,204. Males had a median income of $30,814 versus $22,166 for females. The per capita income for the county was $16,622. About 9.30% of families and 15.50% of the population were below the poverty line, including 16.40% of those under age 18 and 10.80% of those age 65 or over.

Cities and towns

=> Label in parentheses is official political designation.


See also



External links

Coordinates: 42°36′N 76°04′W / 42.60°N 76.07°W / 42.60; -76.07

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