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Yates County in 1855


The ninth and final town was added to Yates County in 1851, being the town of Torrey, organized at that time in hopes that Dresden, at the eastern terminus of the Crooked Lake Canal, would continue to grow. The map shows the boundaries of the nine towns as they are today. 

By 1855 the county also included two incorporated villages: Penn Yan, the county seat, formed from parts of the towns of Benton and Milo in 1833 at the Canal's western end near the foot of Keuka Lake; and Dundee, wholly within the town of Starkey at the edge of the town of Barrington, site of a Big Stream milling industry, incorporated in 1848. 

The county's population in 1855 was the same as it is now, about 23,000 persons. It was squarely in the middle of what was then America's breadbasket, the wheat-growing region that boomed with the opening of the Erie Canal and turned Rochester into the Flour City. The county grew more wheat per acre than any other in the United States. 

This would all change within a few years, with the depression of 1857, new insect and disease pests wiping out the wheat crop, changes in agricultural practive that depopulated the countryside in favor of cities, and the holocaust of the Civil War. "Little Yates" would not recover its population numbers until the 1970s, more than a century after its early peak; a silver lining not discernible at the time, since its farms remain still, the lakes and the air are unpolluted, the roads are uncrowded and the views from the long hills unmarred.