Town of Hamlin Historian
The Town of Hamlin lies in the northwest corner of Monroe County, bounded on the west by Orleans County and on the north by Lake Ontario. It is the County's second largest town with a land area of 44.4 square miles and is largely agricultural, containing no incorporated villages. As one of the "outer ring" towns relatively far from the City of Rochester, Hamlin has, until recently, experienced a slow rate of growth.
The terrain is level throughout most of the Town, although in the northern portion and in the vicinity of Sandy Creek, it is slightly rolling. Toward the lake, as the land descends to the water, an extensive 1,200 acre recreational facility, Hamlin Beach State Park, exists.
The soil in the Town is rich and well-suited for growing fruits, vegetables, and grains. In fact, much of the land bordering the lake is classified and mapped as Class 6 soil, the best possible for agricultural purposes. Dairy farms are also prevalent.
Hamlin was originally part of the Town of Northampton. In 1807 this large town was divided, and Hamlin became part of the Town of Murray. Clarkson and the land to become Hamlin separated from Murray in 1819 and this arrangement remained unchanged until 1852 when the Town of Union broke away from Clarkson. In 1861, Union changed its name to Hamlin after Hannibal Hamlin, the vice-president under Abraham Lincoln.
Eventually, areas of the Town were cleared of trees and drainage to the lake was established. Once the swampy areas were made tillable, the soil of the Town was found to be unusually fertile. This, combined with a mild climate due to the proximity of the lake, assured Hamlin's development as a prime agricultural area. The lack of transportation facilities, however, remained a serious detriment to prosperity. The construction of the Erie Canal in the early 1820's provided some relief, although roads to the canal were few and difficult to travel.
By the 1830s, there was one sawmill for every mile of Sandy Creek and two grist mills – one close to the lake. In spite of all this industry, the first real influx of population to the waterfront area did not occur until 1844 when members of the Clarkson Phalanx (a Fourier Commune) purchased 1600 acres of land at the mouth of Sandy Creek. Ultimately, they hoped for a Federal grant to open the mouth of the creek to light shipping. The grant never came and the group disbanded in 1846. Some of the 400 plus members, however, remained in the area.
In the early 1870's grain raising continued to be a major occupation, but by this time the growing of fruit became equally important. In 1875, prompted by the success of this new industry, the Lake Ontario branch of the Rome, Watertown and Ogdensburg Railroad was extended through the Town, providing a much needed transportation route to commercial markets. Soon thereafter Hamlin could boast the largest twenty ounce apple orchard in the world, just north of North Hamlin Road and entirely within the township.
Before the Civil War, people from the surrounding towns would travel to Troutburg, a small community on the lake at the Hamlin-Orleans County line. Here they would picnic or stay in the Ontario House. Some would even take a cruise to Canada on the steamboat that tied up at a large pier there. After the Civil War, and with the help of the railroad, a new group joined the pleasure seekers in Hamlin. This group was most interested in the mouth of Sandy Creek. Many sportsmen clubs and hotels to accommodate the influx sprang up all along the Hamlin shore of Lake Ontario. Only three buildings from the nine or ten resorts involved remain today – the Cady House at Troutburg, the Morgan House east of the mouth of the Creek, and the Brockport Yacht Club.
In the summer of 1935 the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), a federally funded program growing out of the Great Depression, moved into a seven year old county park on Lake Ontario in the Town of Hamlin and began a six year building project. They transformed Northwest Beach Park into what officially became Hamlin Beach State Park in 1938. The work camp, located just east of Moscow Road, closed in 1941 but was used briefly as a farm labor camp and prisoner of war camp before the close of World War II. In 1961, the last section of the Lake Ontario Parkway was completed which connected the park with the City of Rochester. In 1962 additional land was purchased east of Yanty Creek, bringing the total parkland acreage to 1117.73.
Early in its history, the Town was traversed by groups of Indians in search of fish and game. In 1651 the Iroquois Indians took control of the area.
There is also evidence of the existence of archaic Indians in the area of the town going back to 9,000 BC Of particular interest, because of their age, are two Clovis points found in what is now known as Areas 4 and 5 of the Hamlin Beach State Park. The area due south of Devil's Nose just south of Cook Road, and another area south of Priem Road on Sandy Creek, also have archeological value because of archaic point findings. Large quantities of these points can be found almost anywhere in the area from Sandy Creek east to Walker and Lake Ontario roads and north of North Hamlin Road. Evidence of the most recent occupation by archaic Indians was found close to the inland roads. According to Brian Nagel of the Rochester Museum and Science Center, there are significant Native American sites on both sides of Sandy Creek as it flows into Lake Ontario, and there is every reason to believe that similar sites can be found at the mouth of Yanty Creek.
In 1806, Aretas Hascall established residence in the Town, becoming Hamlin's first permanent white settler. A few other pioneers followed, but emigration to the Town was extremely slow and difficult. No major transportation routes existed, the vast swamps induced unhealthy conditions, the area was remote from even small commercial centers, and the forests were practically impregnable. As a result, Hamlin was the last of Monroe County's towns to be permanently settled and organized.
Farming and farm-related businesses have continued to be the major economic activities within the Town, although currently many of the Town's residents are employed in and commute to nearby metropolitan Rochester employment centers.
The population of Hamlin has, until recently, been remarkably stable: in 1900, 2,188 people lived in the Town; in 1930 there was a slight decrease to 2,079 people; the figure 2,080 for 1940 showed no change, but in 1950, the Census Bureau counted 2,321 people. In 1950, the Lake Ontario State Parkway was completed all the way to the State Park. Resort property greatly increased in value. Population increased too. By 1960, 2,755 people lived in Hamlin. By 1970, the number jumped to 4,167. The biggest jump ever, came with the 1980 census figure of 7,675. In 1990 the census taker counted 9.203 which rose to 9,355 in 2000.