Hannibal Village Square Early 1900's
A Brief History of Hannibal, NY
Originally, land comprising the present Town of Hannibal was Indian
territory. In 1788, the State of New York purchased all the lands of
the Onondaga and Oneida Indians except for some small reservations. A
good portion of this land became part of the Military Tract which was
set aside for the purpose of making land grants to veterans of the
Revolutionary War. The Military Tract was divided into townships of one
hundred lots of 640 acres each. Robert Harper, then serving as New
York's Assistant Secretary of State, was schooled in the classics and
drew upon this background when he provided names for the towns in the
tract. For instance, Cato was a Roman statesman, Lysander was a Spartan
general and of course, Hannibal was a great Carthaginian general.
The Military Township of Hannibal included all of the present County of
Oswego lying west of the Oswego River, except for 33 lots of the
Township of Lysander. In 1791, Hannibal became part of Herkimer County
having previously been included in Montgomery County. In 1794, when
Onondaga County was formed, the three Military Townships of Hannibal,
Lysander and Cicero were placed under the jurisdiction of the Town of
The first settler in what is now the Town of Hannibal was Thomas
Sprague, Sr., a Revolutionary War veteran who brought his family from
Connecticut in 1802 to settle near Bethel. In 1805, other settlers
located at Hannibal Center including Orren Cotton and Watson Earl, who
in partnership constructed the first grist mill in the area.
The Military Township of Hannibal was separated from Lysander on
February 28, 1806. The first town meeting for Hannibal was held the
first Tuesday of April, at the home of Matthew McNair, an innkeeper in
the Village of Oswego. William Vaughan was elected the first Supervisor
and the first Town Clerk was Edward O'Connor.
The first structure built within the current village limits was a log
structure constructed by Henry Jennings in 1808 as a hotel, near what is
now the Village Square. Arvin Rice settled near the outskirts of the
Village in 1809, constructing himself a log cabin on Oswego Street. In
1815, the first store in the Village of Hannibal was opened by Benjamin
Phelps. About the same time, Amos Field from Vermont, built the first
On March 1, 1816, the Town of Hannibal and the north 33 lots of Lysander
were taken from Onondaga County and made part of the newly created
Oswego County. With the annexed 33 lots, the Town of Hannibal then
consisted of all of Oswego County lying west of the Oswego River. On
April 20, 1818, by act of the New York State Legislature, the Towns of
Oswego and Granby were set apart from the Town of Hannibal. The
boundaries of the Town of Hannibal have remained fixed ever since and
include an area of 27,786 acres.
The completion of the Oswego Canal in 1828 stimulated further growth.
By 1835, the population of the Town of Hannibal was up to 2,204 people.
It was during this time that the Western Emigration Company was formed
in Hannibal for the purpose of establishing a new settlement in the
West. As a result, Hannibal residents were directly responsible for the
founding of Kenosha, the fifth largest city in Wisconsin.
The Village of Hannibal was incorporated on April 7, 1860. The
boundaries of the Village enclose an area of 732 acres and 110 rods. At
the time, the population of the Village of Hannibal was 416 residents
while that of the Township was 3,246.
From the time of the earliest settlers until World War II, the
predominant industry in the Town of Hannibal was farming. Agricultural
pursuits in Hannibal have generally fallen within three broad categories
dairy farming, vegetable farming and fruit growing.
Agricultural activities, especially dairy farming, began to decline in
the Hannibal area following World War II. However, there are still some
significant dairy and produce farms currently operating throughout the
Township. Today, the majority of the Town's working adults have become
wage earners in factories and businesses, traveling to Oswego, Fulton,
Syracuse and beyond for employment.
According to the 1990 census, 613 people live in the Village of Hannibal
and 4,616 residents live in the Township. Today, Hannibal remains
somewhat a bedroom community although there has been an increase in
residential and commercial growth recently. Hannibal offers a good
school system, fine churches and an assortment of small businesses. For
those who wish to experience life at a little slower pace, it can be
truly a pleasant place to live.
Find out how to acquire a comprehensive history book on
the Town of Hannibal.