Carved from the town of Sullivan, Lenox was established on March 3, 1809, and is situated in the north central part of Madison County, NY. The town was named after Lenox Township in western Massachusetts and for many years was the largest township in Madison County.
The first partition of Lenox occurred in 1836 when 5,000 acres in the southeast corner was partitioned to help form the town of Stockbridge. Sixty years later in 1896 the second division occurred when more than 25,000 acres was partitioned from the eastern and southern part of the town to form the towns of Oneida and Lincoln, respectively. The town of Oneida became the city of Oneida in 1901.
The early days of present-day Lenox Township saw the construction of the Erie Canal across its entire width. Canastota, the largest community in Lenox, which bisected the Erie Canal became an important canal port. By 1840, the railroads would be a competing factor to the Erie Canal.
Farming was the main occupation in the early years prior to the Civil War. Wheat was grown extensively south of the canal while apples was the major crop north of the canal. After the Civil War, the focus was in industrialization. Like most areas across the Empire State, factories sprang up in Canastota.
In the mid 1880s, the Great Swamp just northwest of Canastota was drained and agricultural endeavors commenced. This area came to be known by the locals as “The Muck or Mucklands.” The first crop in 1887 yielded 3 acres of peppermint. Later, celery and onions would be the chief crop on thousands of acres.
The Crouse, Bauder and Wilson families owned large plantations on the Mucklands during the 1890s. After 1900, these large muckland plantations were broken up and sold to mainly Italian immigrants who had settled in Canastota in the early 1880s to work on the railroad. At one point in the early 1930s, these mucklands were the second largest onion-growing district in the United States.
The highways in Lenox have been a pioneer to tragedy. The first fatal automobile accident in Madison County occurred in 1909 in Lenox as well as the first fatal automobile accident on the New York Thruway in the 1950s. Both fatalities were the result of driver error. However, Lenox has for years and at the present time maintains one of the finest town highway systems in the state.
At the present time there are two incorporated villages, Canastota with a population of 4,400 and Wampsville, the county seat with a population of 800 located in the Town of Lenox.
Running through the center of Lenox and Canastota is the Erie Canal. The Erie Canal is the source of much of the history of the area and is the reason that most villages up and down the canal even exist.
For approximately a century the canal was the primary transportation hub moving raw goods from across upstate New York into New York City and distributing finished goods from New York City out through the Erie Canal into the Great Lakes and on to the rest of the country.
In addition to the only Skate and Bike Park in Madison County, the area is home to the International Boxing Hall of Fame. It is located just outside the Village of Canastota, off Exit 34 of the NYS Thruway.
Each June, thousands of fans are attracted to the annual induction to the Boxing Hall of Fame.
(The section, “About the Town of Lenox” was written by David L. Sadler, who is the Village of Canastota historian and the Town of Lenox research historian.)