Contributed by Deborah Engelke
OSWEGO, NY – Filling two of the largest rooms in the Richardson-Bates House Museum (the Oswego County Historical Society) recently, local residents came to learn more about George Scriba and the Scriba Patent.
Peg Peck, local historian from Constantia (then known as Rotterdam), detailed how the land speculation boom of the early American frontier impacted our region.
Peck is currently the co-historian of the town of Constantia located in the southern part of Oswego County, where George Scriba once lived.
She dropped familiar names such as Duer, Robinson, Franklin, Henderson (as in Henderson Harbor) and numerous others that residents now think of as street and town names.
Outlining the history of the land patent within the Iroquois region, better known now by its native name, Haudenosaunee, for the Six Native Nations, she went into detail on how these men ‘speculated’ on the improved value of these lands, resulting in great wealth, and occasionally financial ruin.
The Scriba Land Patent totaled 500,000 acres of land east of the Oswego River.
An immigrant from Germany, Scriba came to United States in the late 18th Century and opened a successful banking business in New York City. He soon turned his attention to land speculation when the State of New York began selling large tracts of land.
Audience members were fascinated to learn of the ‘shady dealings’ by many prominent men including lawyers and a judge.
Court cases often went on for years as creditors attempted to reclaim lost investments.
A portion of the talk outlined Scriba’s plans for a canal route that would go through Constantia to Mexico (or Vera Cruz in Scriba’s day), and onto Lake Ontario.
Political pressure (based on the economic aspirations of other town officials), eventually derailed Scriba’s vision for a prosperous Oswego County.
Speculators saw Oswego as a region of harsh climate and long winters!
The 90-minute lecture covered a variety of topics on the economy of the 18th Century, and many questions were asked at the end.
Peck revealed that she has been involved in this research for only three years and hopes to compile the materials into a future book.
The Oswego County Historical Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation and promotion of the rich history of the county.
The society maintains and operates the Richardson-Bates House Museum, a historic landmark listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Beginning in April the museum will be open Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 1 – 5 p.m. and other days by appointment.
For more information visit the museum website at www.rbhousemuseum.org for regular updates or call during regular hours at 343-1342.