Lost Settlements: Fort Schuyler and the Town of Tryon

Three hundred years ago, Great Britain and France were locked in a struggle for control of North America, with its bountiful land and resources. That conflict did not end until the signing of the Treaty of Paris (1763), which ended the French and Indian War (1754-63). The terms of the treaty ceded most of the continent to Britain and set the stage for the American Revolution to follow (1775-1783).

While relations were still tense between the two powers, in 1721 the Assembly of the colony of New York passed an act to establish a trading post in this section of the state. The site was Indian Landing, in what is today Ellison Park. The ostensible purpose of the post was for trade with the local Iroquois, but a secondary element of its charge was to provide a defense against possible French attacks from Canada. Eight men were appointed to staff the fort, one of whom was Capt. Peter Schuyler, for whom the post was named (Fort Schuyler). Difficulty in supplying Fort Schuyler from Albany led to its abandonment after only a year.

Tryon- fort schuyler

Historical reenactment of Fort Schuyler (1999)

Two generations later, another effort was made by White settlers to inhabit the former Indian Landing/Fort Schuyler site. Unlike other early settlers, brothers Salmon and John Tryon were not just interested in a place to live for themselves and their family. They planned to make themselves rich by establishing a planned community–they called it a “city”–at the Indian Landing site, where Irondequoit Creek meets Irondequoit Bay. The site had everything they could possibly want:  water power, timber, a navigable harbor, and a strategic location on land and water.

Tryon- Indian Landing marker

Historical Marker at Indian Landing (Ellison Park).
Across Irondequoit Creek from the marker is the site of
Fort Schuyler and the Town of Tryon,
remains of which are no longer extant.

The first brother to settle was Salmon Tryon, who purchased 315 acres in 1796 and subdivided the land into half-acre lots. In 1797, he sold his holdings to his brother John. The latter opened a general store. He also developed a business complex that included mills, a warehouse, distillery, ashery and shipping docks with boats. The ashery housed the ashes from the cleared timber, which were then used in the manufacture of gunpowder. The distillery made liquor, which was cheaper to ship than the grain used in its manufacture. Initially, the store employed the barter system, with Seneca Indians exchanging furs and skins for trading goods. Before long, however, White settlers moved into the area. The surviving account books include the names of 426 customers.

Why did the town of Tryon not succeed as a community? The beginning of the end occurred with the death of John Tryon in 1807, which necessitated settling his estate between his business and his family. Much of the business involving his various enterprises was done on the basis of barter or credit and resolving the debts took time. In 1812, the first executor passed on and two others were appointed to succeed him. When they relinquished responsibility, still another executor was appointed. The disorder associated with administering the estate did nothing to inspire the confidence of Tryon residents.

Another factor was that Tryon’s children had no interest in the settlement and were unwilling to take over management of his various enterprises. Arguably the chief reason, though, was the impending arrival of the Erie Canal.  As it became clear that the canal was not going to be placed in the vicinity of Irondequoit Bay, it also became clear that the long-term viability of the settlement was in doubt. The site was abandoned by 1818.


-Christopher Brennan









Published in: on October 10, 2017 at 10:00 am  Comments (1)  

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  1. […] Creek. As with many of the region’s parks, reading in advance about its history—including Fort Schuyler and the Lost City of Tryon—adds a dimension when exploring the […]

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