November is NYS History Month

There is history to discover in Cortland County. 

Did you know…

  • Cortland was first settled in 1791 and incorporated as a city in 1900?
  • the city was named after Pierre Van Cortlandt, the first Lieutenant Governor of New York State?
  • the leading industry in Cortland in the late 19th and early 20th centuries with the Wickwire Brothers wire factory?
  • Cortland was nicknamed “Huskie Town USA” as it was home to Brockway Motor Company, a pioneering truck maker?
  • the rural garden cemetery Cortland Rural Cemetery is the final resting place for 18,000 people, the current population of the City of Cortland?
  • famous residents included Ronnie James Dio (former frontman for Black Sabbath), Gary Wood (former NFL player), Elmer Ambrose Sperry (inventor of the gyroscopic compass), and the infamous Chester Gillette who in 1906 was convicted of murder of his girlfriend Grace Brown and executed by electrocution in 1908.

There is no doubt a rich and diverse history in Cortland County awaiting discovery.

Why not start your Cortland County history journey to celebrate New York State History Month! 

  • Be an active museumgoer, not a passive one. Visit with deliberate purpose and intention. Do you want to know more about pterodactyls or to finally understand Cubism? Decide to learn.
  • Think of a museum as a human place. Despite all the glass-encased objects, it is people who make museums and they are always eager to tell their stories. I always say hello to the guards–talk to them! Those folks stand in those galleries all day, and you might be surprised at what their favorite painting is.
  • When visiting a museum, especially for the first time, check its website for building layouts, current exhibitions and events. Prepare your spirit to be fed before the meal is served. And speaking of meals, you might try eating in the café upon arrival; you’ll have more energy and it’ll give you a chance to fine-tune your visit.
  • Museums are multi-faceted–they collect, preserve, research and exhibit–but, the average visitor only takes advantage of the exhibits! If you reach out to museum personnel–say, an expert in Egyptian mummies–via email (addresses are usually available on the website), they might show up to answer your questions in person.

via Don Wildman for I LOVE NY 


Take some time this month and explore local Cortland County History

Cortland County Historical Society There is more to discover here than their amazing archives and research room. Explore their late 19th-century kitchen almost untouched and have fun deciphering what objects you can still find in today’s kitchen. Also find a hair album, an arrowhead collection, and more.

The 1890 House Museum  Built for late 19th-century inventor and industrialist Chester Wickwire, the mansion at 37 Tompkins Street is a large time capsule that illustrates the lifestyle of the wealthy Wickwire family, the servants, and the story of those who worked at the factory. There are many intricate architectural details, original Wickwire artifacts from photographs, letters, and items from the factory found across the five floors open  to the public.

CNY Living History Center A massive museum complex with a diverse collection from larger than life Brockway Trucks, including a 1925 Brockway Fire Truck that traveled back to Cortland from Argentina, to an impressive 10,000 items collected and curated by the late Ken Eaton illustrating America’s Civil War to rare items of local and national political significance, and the massive collection of antique tractors.

Cortland Rural Cemetery Established in 1853, this beautiful 19th-century Victorian garden cemetery is 50 acres and is the final resting place for 18,000 people. A fine example of the rural cemetery as a solution to the problem of overcrowding urban cemeteries, the Cortland Rural Cemetery was designed as a garden cemetery that was carefully planned using architectural and landscape design. Walk the cemetery yourself with an interactive cemetrail tour and admire the beauty of the headstones and the impressive diverse species of trees to discover those who helped shaped Cortland history.


Wander historic Homer, NY with a historic walking tour. Explore our connection to the Civil War era with local ties to Abraham Lincoln through the Village of Homer’s native sons, Francis B. Carpenter, William O. Stoddard and Eli DeVoe. Travel a little further a field and visit the William H. Seward House and Harriet Tubman Home in Auburn.


Be adventures with history and try the Experience Cortland GeoTour with historical gems around Cortland County to discover.



Tag your adventures #CortlandHistory