DeWitt’s history dates to the Revolutionary War when soldiers were offered 500 acres of virgin land in exchange for three years of military service. DeWitt was created in 1835 by the division of Manlius. The name honors Major Moses DeWitt, judge and soldier.
DeWitt’s growth reflects the adventurous spirit of the industrial revolution. The Erie Canal opening in 1825 was followed closely by railroad construction through East Syracuse in 1839. Together these events populated the Town of DeWitt with over 2,800 residents as people and commerce moved west.
Soon, the Syracuse and Utica Railroad became the major east/west transportation route. In northern DeWitt the New York Central Railroad bought land in 1872 for its rail yards in what would become the incorporated Village of East Syracuse.
The earliest pioneers settled three hamlets: Morehouse Flats – above the present day hamlet of Jamesville; Youngsville – later to be named Orville and now central DeWitt; and Britton’s Settlement at the present day Collamer hamlet.
Jobs were principally in agriculture and natural resources such as lumber, gypsum and limestone – the latter coming from the rich Jamesville quarries. In these small agricultural hamlets settlers built the first houses, shops and taverns for travelers and their neighbors.
Expansive residential growth followed both world wars, with DeWitt’s population peaking in 1970 at 29,000 people. Today, DeWitt has a stable resident population of 25,000 with 43,000 workday residents.
DeWitt Town Historian: Eleanor Johnson (315) 446-2234