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County History

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125 East Court Street
Ithaca, NY  14850
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County History

Tompkins County History

Simeon Dewitt
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Following the Revolutionary War, Simeon DeWitt, the State Surveyor General and the man who developed Ithaca, included the northern portion of what became Tompkins County in the New Military Tract, land given to veterans in payment for their military service. The southern portion of what became Tompkins County fell into the Watkins and Flint Purchase, a private land development company with headquarters in Owego.
Exploratory visits to the headwaters of Cayuga Lake began in 1786. Settlement followed the 1790 dispersal of Military Tract lots. Some who came were squatters willing to take a chance on the land—and who eventually lost title to it. Others came seeking their military allotments. Some traveled from the east through the dense forest, or came up on rough roads cut into the wilderness by order of the state.