The Binghamton Township Historical Society was created in 1980 by a collective of individuals dedicated to the preservation of local history. The Society's first meeting was held at the Fire Station 1 in Hawleyton, NY, on February 21, 1980 to discuss the its formation. Eighteen people attended: Esther and Lynn Meeker, Karen and Robert Smales, Burt and Marian Cline, Jean and Art VanVorce, Theresa Washco, Carl Larsen, Janice Reynolds, Don Rakow, Marion Shupp, Betty Lindsley, Marcia and Paul Eldred, and Lorena and Robert VanVorce.
At the second meeting on March 6, 1980, the Society name was voted on and passed. The Society's purpose would be to gather, study, and record items of historical interest about the Town of Binghamton and its earlier residents. Officers elected were President: Donald Rakow, Vice President: Robert Smales, Secretary: Phyllis Merriam and Treasurer: Lynn Meeker. By-law committee: Donald Rakow, Dave Darling, Robert Smales and Phyllis Merriam.
At that time, $50 was borrowed from the Garden Club to pay for the charter. Doug Webb designed the present logo. Spaghetti suppers, Christmas cookie sales, flea markets, ice cream socials and bake sales were held as fund raisers.
A Provisional Charter was granted by the State of New York on June 26, 1981, which remained valid until December 14, 1984. The Society qualified with the State and was granted the Absolute Permanent Charter on April 22, 1988. A framed copy of the charter currently hangs in the museum.
In 1985 BTHS began its association with the Hawleyton Methodist Church, renting out the Old Hawleyton Church, utilizing the church itself as a museum to house its artifacts and the Fellowship Hall to host the annual meetings and events.
In the intervening years, the Society has continued on its original mission of preserving local history, expanding its collection and involving a larger portion of the community.
The above information was taken in part from the Society's first newsletter which was a single sheet of paper, published for the months of April-May-June 2004.
The Binghamton Township Historical Society museum is located in the historic Hawleyton Methodist Church, on Hawleyton Road in the Town of Binghamton, NY. The church itself is of great historical significance, having been constructed in 1857 as specified in the will of J.M. Hawley. Construction was directed by Edwin Stearns, at a final cost of $2000, with both labor and lumber being provided by community members. For over a century it remained the only church in the Town of Binghamton, until after 1975 when two additional churches were constructed.
In 1967 the decision was made to construct a new church in order to accommodate a growing congregation. The result was the larger Hawleyton M.E Church. Fortunately, the parishioners elected to maintain the original church and Fellowship Hall, which were used for Sunday School classes and church events.
The Binghamton Township Historical Society began its association with the church in 1985, when it secured the first of several lease agreements with the ME Church. Use of the church and Fellowship Hall were granted in exchange for general upkeep, shared utility costs, and restoration work. The Historical Society began holding its monthly meetings in the Fellowship Hall and started to house its growing collection of artifacts in the church itself.
By 2000, the Old Church housed a full museum of artifacts solicited by the society, both donated and on-loan from Society members and Town residents, among others. Since that time, BTHS has worked wit the ME Church to negotiate permanent ownership of the Old Church and to that end has begun extensive restoration work, including a new roof in 2011.
The Society continues to make improvements to the church and hall, with a long-term goal of completing renovations that will allow for the best display of artifacts and documents. It is the Society's goal to build a first-class museum, accessible by both the community and visitors, who will have access to a full range of artifacts and research materials chronicling the history of the Town of Binghamton.
The Town of Binghamton was formed through the compilation of the 2nd and 3rd New York State Tracts, then owned by Abijah Hammond and William Cooper, respectively. The tracts were purchased from the state in about 1787 and covered 10,880 acres along the Pennsylvania boarder.
The Native Americans had been the first to settle the area, cutting several paths through the landscape. By 1828 a two-horse stage was in place, running from the city of Binghamton to Montrose, Pennsylvania along a former Native trail that came to be known as the Montrose Turnpike.
During the same period, Major Martin Hawley, a Binghamton merchant, purchased 2,500 acres of land in an area known as The Hemlocks, between the city of Binghamton and Pennsylvania. Hawley won a court battle against a number of squatters on the land and, after evicting them, established extensive farms on the property, including a dairy.
In 1839, Major Hawley moved to Binghamton, leaving his son James on the family property. James Hawley built a sawmill near the current junction of Pennsylvania and Park Avenues, on the west fork of Little Snake Creek, damming the creek so as to float logs to his mill.
The area's first road was laid out and opened in 1845-1846, resulting an extension of the Monroe Turnpike known known as Park Avenue. Composed of dirt and crossing several hills, this original road was often muddy and difficult for the coach and wagons to navigate. A later plank road was built by a private company, which charged a toll at the city line.
The Hemlocks area thrived and developed into a burgeoning community. The hamlet was renamed Hawley's Town and again, later, to Hawleyton, in honor of the founding Hawley family. James Hawley donated land for the Hawleyton Methodist Church, which much later became the Historical Society's museum. Additional businesses grew up, including hotels, a blacksmith shop, creamery, cheese factory, and several stores. The mill dam gave away at the turn of the century, ending mill operations. James Hawley converted his home across the street into a boarding house, which still stands today, owned by descendants of it's 1900s owners Robert & Lorena VanVorce.
The Town's dirt roads were replaced with stone in the 1920s, after the Town purchased a stone crusher and began restructuring the roads, beginning with Pennsylvania Avenue (now Hawleyton Road). "Paving" began at the Binghamton City limits and continued to State Line Road, near the Pennsylvania boarder.