Broome County is defined by the valleys and hills surrounding the confluence of the Susquehanna and Chenango Rivers and the rich contrast between urban living in the Greater Binghamton area and the surrounding rural environment.
Native Americans inhabited this area until the end of the American Revolution. Two main settlements were Onaquaga, near present-day Windsor, and Otseningo, located along the Chenango River, north of present-day Binghamton. Part of the Iroquois Confederacy, it was considered a threat to the revolutionists. The Sullivan-Clinton campaign removed the Native American population. After the Revolution, land was divided among many land speculators, including William Bingham, who obtained over ten thousand acres at the confluence of the Susquehanna and Chenango Rivers.
In 1806 the area was separated from Tioga County, and the new county was named after Revolutionary War veteran and then Lieutenant-Governor John Broome.
With the opening of the Erie Canal, this area sought their own canal to connect to the Erie. The Chenango Canal, a 97-mile long engineering marvel connecting Binghamton with Utica and the Erie Canal, opened in 1837. New development followed the route of the canal. Despite the economic failure of the canal, the county benefited by the arrival of new settlers and merchandise, as well as the shipment of finished goods in and out of the area. Mills sprang up along the end of the canal, and department stores and hotels rose along the retail corridor. In 1848, the Erie Railroad arrived, but the coming of the ironhorse spelled the end for the canal. Within two decades the area had become a transportation hub, with north-south and east-west railroad lines and the canal, and in 1874, the Chenango Canal route closed in Binghamton.
The period surrounding the Civil War saw great change for the area. The needs for munitions and other war products brought assembly – line factory work to the area, and guns and other products were developed in this region. The area enjoyed the fruits of the Industrial Revolution, and new major industries opened. The lumber industry was transformed into a large furniture and wagon business.
By far, however, the county was truly changed with the arrival of the first cigar manufacturing company in the 1870’s. By 1890 over fifty factories were operating with five thousand people involved in the manufacture of over 100 million cigars each year. Binghamton ranked only behind New York City as the top cigar-making city in the country.
The area’s population was doubling every ten to fifteen years, as were its municipalities. By 1900 the county had sixteen towns, six villages and one city. Binghamton had the largest population. Despite the largeness of the cigar making industry, it had disappeared by 1930 due to the rise in popularity of the cigarette, automation, and labor unrest. Many of the former cigar workers took solace in finding employment in the factories of the Endicott-Johnson Shoe Corporation.
At the same time Johnson City (formerly Lestershire) and the planned community of Endicott (incorporated in 1906) were growing, so too was a firm that started in Binghamton in 1889 as the Bundy Manufacturing Company. Involved in time clock production, it merged with several other firms and went through a variety of names before hiring Thomas Watson, Sr. in 1914. His corporate leadership moved the company into a new era, and in 1924 he changed the name of the company to International Business Machines. IBM became the area’s leading employer.
During the height of the Great Depression Edwin A. Link followed his dream to develop the pilot trainer, or flight simulator.
Despite our rich business history, it has always been the story of our people – the thousands of immigrants and their distinct ethnic food, costume, languages, “Gold Dome” churches, and heritage that have made this region a true melting pot. The legacy of our businesses, the strength of our education and cultural agencies, and our continual ethnic and business heritage make this region a strong and vibrant part of the Empire State.