Slab City Historic Marker (Preble, NY)
The area around the town of Preble, NY was first settled in 1796, and the town itself was organized in 1808 during the same year Cortland County was created. Preble named after Commodore Edward Preble, a naval war hero. Slab City refers to a hamlet, a small settlement that exists in a larger town, where people first began to settle. This marker originally stated “Slab City: Site of Saw Mill 1800, Grist Mill 1806, School District No. 4 organized 1813, Present School built 1843” These were all important structures vital to the success of the town in its earliest stages.
Backstory and Context
The surrounding area of what we know as Preble, New York today was originally settled in 1796. The town was formally organized and created in 1808. This was at the same time that Cortland County was also established. Preble is named after Commodore Edward Preble, a naval war hero who fought in the Barbary Wars, and later in the War of 1812. The historical marker was originally implemented to pay homage to important structures built between 1800-1849, this would have been when the town was beginning to develop and come together. Slab City, the title of the marker, is what is referred to as a Hamlet, which is a smaller settlement that exists inside a larger town. These smaller settlements would often end up coming together in order to establish larger towns. Even now, these areas represent different subdivisions that make up the Town of Preble today.
The Marker first points to the site of a sawmill created in 1800. These were important in the early stages of settling and expanding into new areas in the United States as they allowed for lumber to be extracted at an increased rate. The Tioughnioga River was used to power the mill due to its proximity to the town. This paved the way for other structures to be rapidly built in the area and helped aid in further expansion. The sawmill was a vital structure in the success of settling these areas. Along with this, a grist mill, established in 1806, is also noted on the marker. A grist mill is a building with a machine that is most often powered by water that grinds grain into flour, along with cornmeal. These proved vital in feeding growing populations, along with livestock. The original grist mill was taken down in 1827, it proceeded to be replaced and upgraded for the following decades.
The rest of this marker refers to the education system along with the schools of the area. It states that “School District NO. 4, Organized 1813” This refers to when, just previously in 1812, a law was passed in New York that established statewide school districts. What may seem commonplace today had its precedent started back then with the beginning of common schools and districts taking shape around their inhabitants. Finally, on the marker, it gives reference to the present school that was built in 1843. Most of the small schools in the area, now the Homer School District, closed in 1906 with a new one being opened in the center of town to better localize the educational process. This only furthers exemplifies how important education was valued. Being one of the few things listed on this marker the people of this area saw how important education is in furthering the success and longevity of their area. Although not commonly thought about today, the points that these particular marker highlights were essential to the success in early American settlements.
Local History, Town of Preble. Accessed November 12th 2019. https://www.preble-ny.org/index.php/local-history.
The History of Preble, Cortland Businesses . Accessed November 13th 2019. https://web.archive.org/web/20060110135147/http://www.cortlandbusiness.com/county/profiles/preble.html.
Smith, H. P. History of Cortland county, with illustrations and biographical sketches of some of its prominent men and pioneers. Syracuse, N.Y., D. Mason & co..