Otego, whose name comes from a Native American word meaning “where there is fire”, is a town located in Otsego County along the Susquehanna River on the western edge of the Catskills Mountains. Otego Creek enters the river just above the eastern town line and the Otsdawa Creek flows southerly through the town and village of Otego. The area around Otego was first settled by Europeans in the 1770’s. The township began with the issuing of three colonial patents in 1770 that consisted of what is now the Town of Laurens, the greater portion of the Towns of Milford, Oneonta, Otego, and a small part of Morris. Initially called Huntsville, and for a short time Hamburg, the town did not achieve its present boundaries until 1830.
Once considered as a “busy, thriving little place”, by 1842 Otego had three taverns, four stores, three churches, two blacksmith shops, two doctors and about 300 inhabitants. The farms that spread up the creeks either produced or processed cash crops in addition to providing food and shelter. When the Albany and Susquehanna Railroad came through in 1866, access to distant markets turned dairy and hops farming into major cash crops. By the turn of the 20th century, Otego boasted a weekly newspaper, four hotels, an opera house, mills and factories. But the rapid change and the advent of the motor vehicle would eventually lead to the end of small dairy farms and a self-sufficient community.
Today the Town of Otego is home to over 3,000 residents and encompasses approximately 45 square miles. It is situated between Albany and Binghamton along the I88 corridor. Described in 1770 as a “beautiful country with fertile soil and well timbered; deer were as numerous as cattle on a thousand hills, and the river was alive with fish”, Otego remains a very viable and attractive place to live, offering its residents a connection to the past and opportunities for the future.
For more information, please visit the Otego Historical Society, located at 6 River Street, Otego, NY.