This county was formed from Ontario, Feb. 5, 1823, and named
from Joseph C. Yates, then governor. Barrington and Starkey
were added from Steuben, April 6, 1824. It is centrally distant
172 mi. from Albany, and contains an area of 370 sq. mi. Its
surface consists of a series of ridges extending from Steuben co.
in a northerly direction, and gradually declining from a height of
about 1,700 ft. above tide, upon the s. border, to a level of the undu¬
lating region near the foot of Seneca Lake. The first or most eastern
of these ridges lies between Seneca and Crooked Lakes, and occu¬
pies the towns of Barrington, Starkey, Milo, Torrey, and a part
of Benton. The highest summit is about 900 ft. above Crooked
Lake and 1,200 above Seneca. The slopes are generally gradual
and the inclination uniform. The second ridge occupies the high peninsula between the two
branches of Crooked Lake, and extends n. through Jerusalem, finally losing itself in the rolling
upland of Benton. The s. part of this ridge is known as “ Bluff Point,” from its abrupt termi¬
nation. It is about 400 ft. above the lake. The third range lies between the w. branch of
Crooked Lake and Flint Creek, and occupies the w. part of Jerusalem, the e. part of Italy, and
the s.e. part of Potter. The highest summits in the s. are about 700 ft. above the lake. A fourth
ridge lies between the valleys of Flint Creek and West River, and extends n. through the w. part
of Potter. A fifth range occupies that portion of Middlesex lying between West River Hollow
and Canandaigua Lake. The declivities of the last two ranges are mostly very steep; and their
summits are 800 to 1,000 ft. above the valleys. The uplands, except in the extreme w. part, are
smooth and arable to their sumniits. The valleys between them are wide and exceedingly fertile,
and the n. part of the co. is a fine rolling region.
The lowest rocks in the co. are the upper series of the Hamilton shales, cropping out on the
lower course of the Crooked Lake Outlet. Next above these, upon the same stream, appear the
Tully limestone, Genesee slate, and Portage groups. The first of the three, furnishing lime, is
the most valuable mineral in the eo. The Portage group near Penn Yan furnishes a good quality
of flagging stone, and is extensively quarried for that purpose. The shales and sandstone of the
Chemung group occupy the summits in the s. part of the co.; calcareous tufa is found upon
Crooked Lake Outlet, and marl in the swamps near the foot of the lake. Iron pyrites have
been found in considerable quantities at Bluff Point. The soil for the most part consists of a
fine quality of gravelly loam, intermixed with clay and the disintegrated shales of the Portage
group. It is well adapted to either tillage or pasturage.
The principal streams in the co. are Crooked Lake Outlet, Keshong Creek, Big Stream, Rock
Stream, Flint Creek, and West River. Seneca Lake, forming the e. boundary of the co., is 447 ft.
above tide, and Canandaigua Lake, forming a part of the w. boundary, 668 ft. Crooked Lake,1
near the center, two-thirds of it lying within the co., is 718 ft. above tide and is 18 mi. in length.
Its n. part is divided by Bluff Point into two branches, each of which is from one to two mi. wide.
Owing to the depredations of the midge winter wheat is less grown than formerly, while spring
grains, root crops, stock, wool, and fruit are much more extensively and profitably produced.
The outlet of Crooked Lake affords large water power for manufacturing purposes,—as yet but
The county seat is located at the village of Penn Yan,2 on the line of Milo and Benton.3 The
first courthouse4 and jail combined was erected in 1824; and in 1834 it was burned. In 1835 a
new brick courthouse was built, on a public square, at a cost of $12,000. A jail, detached, was
erected the same season. The latter was destroyed by fire in Feb. 1857, and was rebuilt the same
year, at a cost of $10,200. A clerk's office was erected some years previous, upon the public square
1 Called by the Indians O-go-ya-ga, a promontory projecting
into the lake.
2 The commissioners who located the co. seat, were John Sut¬
ton, of Tompkins co., George H. Feeter, of Herkimer co., and
Joseph B. Walton, of Otsego co.
2 The first court was held at the house of Asa Cole, in Penn
Yan, on the first Tuesday in June, 1823. The first board of su¬
pervisors met at the same place. The first co. officers were Wil-
’iam M. Oliver, First Judge ; James Taylor, Dist. Atty.; Abraham
John Sutton, of Tompkins, Geo. H. Feeter, of Herkimer, and
Joseph B. Walton, of Otsego cos., were appointed commissioners
to locate the co. buildings, and Wm. Shattuck, of Benton, Geo,
Sherman and Samuel Stewart, of Milo, to erect them. The
courts were to be held at the house of Asa Cole until the court-
house was finished.