Note* Historical information on this page
has been gathered from many sources over the course of many years.
Unfortunately, the sources of information prior to 1960 were not well
documented and it is likely some of the un-credited historical information
was obtained from local newspaper clippings. It is known that some of
the early historical information (1800's) is derived of
a paper authored by John J. Walsh - Trials and Tribulations, A
Judicial History of Oneida County 1798-1900
acknowledge that un-credited pre-1960 information may not be original, and
credit sources unknown
1788 Herkimer County is formed. The area includes what is now
1794 The first meeting of the court is held in January at the
Presbyterian Church in what is now the Village of New Hartford. Colonel William
Colbraith, presently of Herkimer County, attends this first session. The church
is not finished when court is held and a story is related that the court
convened on this very cold day and the bench announced that it would have to
adjourn because of the cold. Colonel Colbraith is equal to the problem and
produces a bottle of gin that revives the circulation of the men, and court
1798, March 15 The County of Oneida is created by an
act that sets provisions for holding courts and the erection of a
courthouse and jail. The establishment of Oneida County includes in its
boundaries, the present counties of Lewis, Oneida, St. Lawrence, Jefferson and
1798 Colonel William Colbraith of Rome is appointed Sheriff
of Oneida County. A genial Irishman, Colbraith is a veteran of the
revolutionary war and was previously Sheriff of Herkimer County. Colbraith is
appointed to a one-year term. (Walsh)
1800 Dominick Lynch donates a site for the Rome courthouse
and jail, located one mile from the Fort Stanwix in the Village of Rome.
1801 Hugh White donates land in Whitesboro (on what is
presently Park Ave.) for the building of a courthouse.
1802, January The Countys first jail, with walls three feet
thick, is built in Whitestown, near what is now the Village Park. Prior
to this, prisoners were housed in Herkimer County. The Rome jail follows
1806-7 - Courthouses are built near the jails in
Whitestown and in Rome. (The Whitestown Court building is still used
today as the Town Hall and Court.) It is said that it will cost
$4,000.00 in taxes to do both courthouses.
1808 The Rome Courthouse opens. The courts are now to be held
alternately in Rome and Whitesboro.
1813 It is proposed to build the first Utica Courthouse on
Chancellor Square near John Street.
1817 Prisoners of the Rome Jail attempt to escape by setting
fire to the jail. As related, It was long before the doors opened, and they
came near dying. One was killed in attempt to get out or suffocated.
Five of the prisoners are indicted for arson, tried, convicted, and sentenced
to be hanged. The day of execution is mid-winter and it is related that men,
women and children came in sleighs from Boonville and other directions, riding
all night to be present at the spectacle. Hours before the execution
time, a reprieve arrives from the governor, commuting the sentences to
imprisonment in the state prison. Being deprived of the real hanging, a number
of the spectators erect a gallows in the woods and hang the prisoners in
1818 Proposed in 1813, the first Utica school, Courthouse and
Town Hall are built on Academy Street at Chancellor Park. Utica was
annexed as a separate town from Whitesboro.
1821 John Hinman becomes the first elected Sheriff. He
is elected to a term of three years. The Sheriff keeps the jails, serves court
papers and transports prisoners. These roles continue to be the primary
functions of the department until the 1940s.
1846 The County Court system is enacted by state
1847 A new Rome Courthouse is opened on the east side of
1848, March 17 The Rome Courthouse and Jail in this village
were entirely destroyed by fire on the afternoon and evening of March 15,
1848. The prisoners, three men and one woman, are removed safely.
The fire started in the jail and spread to the courthouse forty feet away
and connected by a one-story building. (The Courthouse appearance is similar to
the building currently in use in Whitestown.) (The likely source of
this information is the Rome Citizen)
1848 Utica becomes a half shire town, but the courts continue
to meet in Whitestown until 1852.
1851 A replacement for the Rome jail and courthouse destroyed
by fire is built at a cost of $12,000. The construction uses columns from
the burned courthouse. (The courthouse is in use to this date. It was
enlarged in 1897, and again in 1903.)
1851 The Whitestown jail is closed and a new one is created
on Mohawk Street, Utica. This jail will be used until 1883. The
Whitestown Courthouse and jail revert back to the heirs of Hugh White, as
accorded by the original deed. The property and buildings are then sold
to the town for use as a Town Hall, which is still used today. The jail is
converted to a dwelling.
1851 A new Utica Courthouse on John Street is completed. This
building is built immediately to the rear of the old one, built in 1818. The
County Board of Supervisors meets alternately in Utica and Rome.
1882 A new jail is built in Rome on North James Street in
back of the courthouse. It is actually on the corner of Stanwix and
1909 A new Utica Courthouse opens on the corner of Elizabeth
and Charlotte Streets. The Board of Supervisors opposed this new
construction. A planning commission appointed by the state legislature
took the County Board to court to get the necessary funding totaling 1 million
dollars for the project.
1908-9 New York State creates the probation commission and
probation services are now provided to courts in Oneida County.
1911 A new county jail is built at 731 Bleecker Street,
Utica. It is fronted by a Victorian house that serves as the Sheriffs
residence. (A present day Utica Observer Dispatch article reports that this
house was built in early 1880 and torn down in 1967.) Sheriffs receive no
salary and are allowed to keep fees from serving legal papers and transporting
1911, July An escape from Rome Jail results in a search in
Rome that proves negative. There are escapee sightings near Delta Dam and the
Black River locks in the canal.
1911, August 23 A resolution is proposed and passed before
the County Commissioners. This may have been the first Oneida County Work
Whereas, Many non-residents of the county of Oneida are being
sentenced to the county jails at Utica and Rome for trivial offenses and,
Whereas, All prisoners retained in said jails are supported in
idleness at an expense and without profit to said county,
Resolved, That the Sheriff of Oneida County be hereby empowered
and instructed to procure and keep on hand a constant supply of stones
purchased in the open market at the lowest cost to said county, together with a
sufficient number of stone hammers for use by all able bodied prisoners
retained in said jail and be it further,
Resolved, That said Sheriff hereby is instructed to keep all
able bodied prisoners confined to said jail on sentences employed breaking
stones for at least 8 hours per day on all days excepting Sundays and that he
sell said stones, when broken, for the best price obtainable, therefore the
proceeds thereof to belong to the county of Oneida New York and to be expended
toward the maintenance of said jails and prisoners, and be it further
Resolved, That the forgoing be put into operation forthwith.
1912 The experience of stone breaking does not appear to
accomplish what it is designed to do. It is not expected to be
financially profitable, but to justify itself by keeping the population
down. Stone breaking is discontinued.
1913 A State prison commission reports that the Utica jail is
housing 106 prisoners with 30 cells. It further notes that none of the
jails, lockups and police stations in Oneida County are modern except the city
jail in Rome.
Vernon lockup OK. Camden lockup condemned. New Hartford in basement fairly good
with little use. Present quarters in Boonville are objectionable. Clinton
lockup not satisfactory. No facilities for sanitation in Oriskany Falls.
Recommend that Waterville provide a sanitary lockup without further delay.
The report shows admission for the Utica jail from January to July is 1,634 and
in Rome jail "but 223"; showing a need for a larger jail in the county.
It is also noted with regret that the County Commissioners had removed 2 guards
and thus the breaking of stones by the prisoners had ceased, causing a loss to
the county besides not giving the prisoners proper exercise. The report
recommends building a newer, larger jail.
1913, July The prison commissioner visits the Rome jail.
Population ten male sentenced, twenty male held for Grand Jury, two female
sentenced prisoners. Recommended new boiler and new mattresses.
1913, August Headline in Rome Daily Sentinel A
Jail Breaking Plan Frustrated. Saws to be used in escape were secreted in a
shoebox and found during a search. Jailer John A. Collins became suspicious of
the package that was addressed to a prisoner in the jail in Roma,
NY. "The use of the word Roma indicated that the sender was Italian and
all such packages are given the closest inspection."
1913, August A news article reports 28 men, not one a
resident of this county and most of them giving their place of residence as
outside the state, have been taken from trains in the Town of Verona the past
few days by railroad detectives. The hobos are usually taken as they are just
on the point of leaving Oneida County. They are then rushed to the
justice of peace and sentenced to jail for five to twenty days. In that,
additional burdens are heaped upon the taxpayers of the county who must board
the prisoners. To board a prisoner a week, including the cost of board,
salaries of jailers, matrons etc., will exceed $3.00. A prisoner
committed for twenty days means that taxpayers have to pay from $11.00 to
$15.00 additional for him. Those who have to pay the bills say they would
much prefer to have the train riders get out of the county than become burdens
of Oneida County. Sheriff Donnelly would also much prefer to have some
other county bear the burden of all these arrests that are made about this time
each year. The population of the Rome jail is fifty-five men and three
women; of that twenty-one are court prisoners.
1914 New York State recommends closing of the Rome jail.
1918 Due to a coal shortage during below zero weather
in January, prison crews cut wood from the county farm on Bell Road to fuel the
Rome jail in the winter. Jail trusties act as firemen, keeping track of
the boiler. In the spring, prisoners plant crops on the Bell Farm,
demonstrating that the prisoners earn their keep and also save the county
money. (Rome Sentinel)
1922, November 28 The County has its first woman supervisor
appointed to the Board of Supervisors.
1934 New York State Law requires Sheriffs be paid a salary
and that fees (previously kept by the Sheriff as his wages) revert to the
county. The first Oneida County Sheriff paid a salary is Sheriff J.
Bradbury German, who is paid $6,000.
1948 The Sheriffs Department enters a new phase of public
service when it establishes a two-car night highway patrol housed at the
Airport terminal building. Development of the patrol leads to reports of
controversy from the State Police.
1958, May 7 An Oneida County Grand Jury, apparently powerless
to develop legal evidence upon which to act against crime and corruption in
Utica, has left behind an indictment against the apathy of the citizenry.
In an unusual letter to Utica Clergy, the Grand Jury states, We have found. a
lethargy on the part of a sizable group of citizens to follow through on things
that need to be done to make this area a better place to live-in... The
lethargy of the citizens of Oneida County and past lack of action is perhaps
the great strength of the organized criminal element alleged to be with us
1960 New York State passes a law requiring that all police
officers must have completed at least 80 hours of training.
1960 A Water Patrol is established in the Sheriffs
Department; the patrol is expanded in 1962 and 1966.
1961, September Oneida County is preparing preliminary plans
for a new jail to be built in the Town of Whitestown.
1961 New York State Family Court System established.
1965, August Old Rome jail demolished. It is 83 years
old. Some of the handsome gray granite blocks of the 83-year-old
structure will be preserved and transported to Fort Bull in Rome.
1965 Public Defenders Office opened.
1965, May Sheriff Archie G. Eastman dedicates a new facility
at Judd Road, Town of Whitestown. It is named the Law Enforcement
Building and it includes a jail and Sheriff's Department
Headquarters. The Highway Patrol is installed in this new facility and
radio communications are moved from the airport. The facility has 164
cells, 20 female cells and cost 1.7 million dollars. The Utica and Rome
jails are closed and later demolished. This officially ends the old dual
jail system; one in Utica and one in Rome.
1968 Former Utica Police Inspector Joseph Picolla is
appointed Sheriff. He increases staff and institutes the civil service
system for appointment of new Deputies.
1969 Juvenile Aid Training, and Criminal Investigation
Divisions are established.
1975 New York State requires that all counties provide a
non-secure detention facility for children awaiting court. Oneida County opens
its facility in 1975, in the former superintendents home at Broadacres.
1980 An Emergency Response Team is created in the Law
1984 The Sheriffs Department establishes patrol K-9 Teams.
1985, November Sheriff William A. "Wild Bill" Hasenauer opens
a new forty-cell cellblock at the Oneida County Jail on Judd Road, Oriskany.
Ground was broken in August 1984 for the $3.4 million improvement
project. Besides the new cellblock, an Administrative Building was
built to house Sheriffs Administrative Offices, Law Enforcement and
Communications. Moving the administrative offices away from the main building
makes room for another fourteen cells, plus a contact visitation area.
1987, Spring - The department obtains its first personal
computer, an IBM 8086.
1987, July 3 As of this morning, 202 male prisoners are
housed in a jail that is designed to hold 195 male inmates.
1987, Fall - The department suffers its first hard disk
crash and nine months of data is lost. A lesson in backups is learned.
1989 Portable Dormitory Detention units, a guard station and
connecting corridor have been installed at the rear of the jail to provide
temporary housing due to overcrowding.
1991 Sheriff Gerald F. Washburn announces that the first
Sheriffs Patrol Field Office will open in the Village of Waterville. This is
the first time Law Enforcement deputies will be stationed at a location other
than the Law Enforcement Building in Oriskany.
1992 The Sheriffs Department begins a D.A.R.E. program for
elementary school students throughout Oneida County.
1993 Offender Work Program becomes operational; an
alternative to incarceration that diverts jail bound offenders into supervised
1995 Sheriff Daniel G. Middaugh appoints Lieutenant Karen
Szczesniak the first female Captain of Corrections Division.
1995, December 11 The countys 911 Emergency telephone system
is activated, with four Public Safety Answering Points; one each in Utica,
Rome, New Hartford and at the Sheriffs Law Enforcement Building.
1996, April 7 More than $23 million in contracts are awarded
so work will begin this month on the long awaited project to expand the cramped
and over-crowed county jail.
1996, May 13 The county jail is made tobacco free.
Inmates and employees will soon be prohibited from smoking or chewing
tobacco. (Once prohibited, tobacco products become a popular contraband
item and result in many arrests for those attempting introduction of
tobacco into the facility.)
1996, August - The Oneida County Sheriff's Department
website goes online. The site is hosted by Utica's borg.com Internet
Services, at no cost. The site is one of the first police agency sites to
appear on the web.
1996, October 13 Already having spent nearly $30 million on a
jail for 592 adult inmates, the county discusses construction of a lockup for
some troubled juveniles. The county presently averages six to eight
juveniles housed elsewhere daily, at a cost of about $1.8 million per year.
1996, October 24 Four temporary modular units called Arthur
Buildings open. These units are dorm style and will operate under the
new Direct Supervision method (no physical barriers between staff and
prisoners) that will be utilized in the forthcoming expanded jail. The opening
of these units increases bed capacity to 401 from 359. Seven portable dormitory
detention units installed in 1989 are removed to make room for the jail
expansion project. These units originally added seventy beds to the 289 bed
jail and were anticipated to be usable for only five years.
1997, February 8 A $1.4 million federal aid package for the
county jail means the jail facility under construction will house up to 35
1997, July 26 The Village of Camden; as the village looks to
make up shrinking revenues, considers dropping its police department and having
deputies patrol the village.
1997, August 20 Camden Village residents turn out in force to
oppose any move to eliminate their police department.
1998 The City of Rome consolidates its public safety
communications at the Oneida County 911 center located at the Sheriffs Law
1998, June Sheriff Daniel G. Middaugh opens the newly
constructed Correctional Facility which is designed to house 600 inmates.
1998, July 29 - The Sheriffs Department celebrates its 200th
1999, July 21-25 The former Griffiss Air Force Base
hosts the Woodstock 99 Music Festival. Law Enforcement Deputies
work 12 hour shifts to provide security at the event and additional patrol
coverage. The "peaceful" festival ends on Sunday, July 25, with
fires, looting and a riotous crowd.
1999 Oneida County Department of Emergency Services begins
construction of a new 911 Center building to be located to the rear of the
Sheriffs Public Safety Complex.
2002, October 11 - The department's new ID card system produces
its first public id card. The card is provided to the recipient free of
charge. The first employee card was produced September 20, 2002.
2004 Sheriff Daniel G. Middaugh designates the term Oneida
County Sheriffs Office as the organizations official title. Previously, the
terms Department, Agency and Office were used synonymously and