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History of Williamson

Learn more about Williamson's

interesting History 

The Town of Williamson, New York, was established in 1802 and named after Charles Williamson. Mr. Williamson served as a land agent for Sir William Pultney, who owned significant portions of Central and Western New York. His responsibility was to encourage settlers to come to this area. Notably, Williamson played a role in the Underground Railroad, with abolitionist Griffith Cooper’s home serving as a hiding place for fugitive slaves. Pultneyville, within Williamson, was a prominent lakeport for shipping local produce to Canada, sometimes including escaped slaves seeking freedom. Today, Williamson remains an important agricultural area, producing apples, cherries, and other crops. Lake Ontario’s northern border attracts tourists, and the annual Apple Blossom Festival celebrates the town’s heritage.  During the Prohibition era, which began on January 16, 1920, Williamson, like the rest of the United States, became “dry” due to the 18th Amendment. However, unlike other areas, Prohibition was not fully repealed in Williamson until 1996, more than six decades later. The town experienced the complexities of enforcing this restrictive law, with locals navigating the subtleties of what was truly criminal and what was not. Moonshiners, speakeasies, and smuggling across the Canadian border became part of the norm in the backwoods of Northern New York during that time.


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