Over the past 200 years, the Oswego County town of Scriba has grown from a rural farming community into its important role today as an energy industry hub. In this week's edition of Your Hometown, our Candace Hopkins has a look at the town's journey.
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SCRIBA, N.Y. – Today, when most people picture Scriba, they think of the area's three nuclear plants. But back in 1792, when a wealthy New York banker became interested in this area, there was nothing here.
George Scriba purchased 500,000 acres, with big visions in mind. But it's likely he couldn't have imagined the important role this land would play in modern times. He simply thought of it as a sound investment.
"It stretched from Oneida Lake to Lake Ontario and from the Oswego River northward to the Salmon River and his expectation was that there would be a flood of people coming into this area and as a land speculator he would make a lot of money," said Charlie Young, Scriba Town Historian.
The land was split into several sections and in March of 1812, Scriba officially became a town, with the election of its first town board.
Settlers from New England were drawn to the area, with hopes of setting up farms and building new communities.
Young said, "You have farmers originally clearing swamp land, cutting the trees down, hauling off the roots and utilizing that soil originally for home crops, but then that developed into the growth of the big crop, which was lettuce."
Apples and strawberries were also important crops in Scriba. Nearly every family in the town relied on agriculture to survive. And with the arrival of the War of 1812, came new industry, like ship building, and new residents.
"You had militias coming in to defend the area against the British and many of those soldiers liked the area and when they were discharged, they came back and settled," Young said.
The population continued to grow and was helped along by the opening of the canal system in the late 1820s.
At the time, the City of Oswego was split into two villages, East and West Oswego, and Scriba's property extended down to Fort Ontario. But in 1848, the two areas were joined together, creating the Oswego we know today. But that change meant Scriba lost land, pushing the town's boundary lines miles away from the city center.
For the next nearly hundred years, Scriba's residents continued to rely on farming as one of their main ways to make a living. But by the 1960s, lettuce was no longer a profitable crop, due to competition from other states, like California. That's when farmers turned to onions and today over 1800 acres of muck farms remain in Scriba.
And the biggest changes followed.
In 1969, Unit One of the Nine Mile Nuclear Plant opened. It was only the second nuclear plant in the entire country, behind Oyster Creek in New Jersey. Six years later, the James A. FitzPatrick plant would be added nearby. And in 1988, a second unit was built at Nine Mile.
The addition of the three plants boosted the local economy and changed the identity of Scriba forever.
Young said, "You have the development of more jobs, more people looking for housing, close but not too close to the atomic plants, you have the offering of cheap electric power."
Today, about 1,700 people work at the three plants, making them some of the most important employers in the county. And over the years, many discussions have come and gone about adding another plant to the ranks.
Scriba residents recently celebrated the town's 200th anniversary and many say despite all these changes, this quiet corner of the world remains an ideal community to live and grow in.