We made a quick trip across Route 5, and sped through the little town of Fayetteville, NY; this small, cosmopolitan village is only a few minutes from Syracuse. The root word “Fayette” is a very popular name for Upstate New York towns and streets. These places are named for the electrifying young nobleman from France who aided George Washington during the American Revolution– the Marquis de Lafayette. After the Revolution, in 1824-25, Lafayette victoriously toured across the United States and was met with parades of people, fireworks, flowers, and other celebrations. He was and still is a highly-celebrated national hero, for he epitomized the youthful purity and energy of the American cause of liberty. He was, obviously, a devoted darling of George Washington and all the founding men of our country. And here’s a little trivia tidbit for you: when U.S. general John Pershing landed the American Expeditionary Force in France during World War I, his first words were “Lafayette, we are here!”
I don’t think Lafayette ever visited his Upstate NY namesake town, but Fayetteville is historical in its own way. Fayetteville was first settled in 1792, (originally known as Manlius Four Corners). It was incorporated as a village in 1844, and renamed in honor of Marquis de Lafayette.
Fayetteville was along the path of the Erie Canal, which brought incredible prosperity to all Upstate cities along the towpaths. Fayetteville also sits on precious limestone deposits from which cropped up mills and mines. Today, Fayetteville is a goldmine of prosperous and educated people, boasting a median household income of $50,598 and the median family income reportedly at $66,201, with only 1% of its population below the poverty level. It sits in a convenient spot, so close to one of Upstate’s largest cities (Syracuse) with nearly a dozen colleges and universities within commuting distance. 81% of Fayetteville residents 25 and older have college degrees.
This is a snapshot of Fayetteville’s Presbyterian Church on Route 5, built in 1859. It merged with Baptist congregation in 1933 and is known as the United Church.
Fayetteville was the boyhood home of President Grover Cleveland. His father, Reverend Richard Falley Cleveland, was pastor of the Presbyterian Church when Grover was four years old. The Clevelands lived there until they moved to Clinton, NY, in 1850, when Grover was about 13 years old.
The Fayetteville Library website at fayettevillefreelibrary.org has an excellent page about Grover Cleveland, including photos of his boyhood possessions.
It was difficult to tell exactly which house was the Cleveland’s. The traffic was heavy and big snowbanks on the sides of the streets didn’t leave me much time for investigation. I snapped a photo of this house, the one that held the historical marker. Was this the Cleveland home?
Update: No, upon investigation, I see that the Cleveland home is on Academy Street and looked like this in 1899.
Fayetteville was also the home of Matilda Joslyn Gage, an active abolitionist and womens’ rights advocate.
Some of the older photos are courtesy of the Fayetteville Library webpage.