The Naming of Rome, New York

There are several theories as to how Rome, New York got its name; none are definitive.  The community that would become Rome started around 1796, near the ruins of the former Fort Stanwix, which had been destroyed after wars between white settlers and Native Americans and the British.  The land area that was to include Rome was then called the Expense Lot, because of the large expense of surveying this rough, unsettled territory.  Irish-born entrepreneur Dominick Lynch, a personal friend of George Washington, bought the Expense Lot and planned a town there, to be called Lynchville, named after Lynch himself.  Lynch was an innovative, ambitious, entrepreneurial powerhouse, founding several industries in the new village, businesses ranging from a gristmill to a cotton mill to a sawmill and a woolen mill.  Lynch’s intention to name the town after himself, however, was apparently frustrated by townspeople who were angry at some of Lynch’s aggressive policies, one of the main examples of which was refusing to sell lots of land outright, but instead issuing “durable leases,” which indentured tenants into paying annual fees for years for the right to use the land.  

     The people of the village Lynch founded voted in 1819, when the time came for the village to be officially incorporated, to name the community, “Rome.”  The name, “Rome,” apparently first had been applied to the township to which the village belonged.  The township was formed in 1796 from Steuben township, and named “Rome” as part of what is now called the Classical Naming Period, a time when upstate New York communities were being named after classical European cities.  This type of naming was, for some reason, a popular trend at the time.  Some people believe that a partial reason why the village was named “Rome” was related to Dominick Lynch’s native Irish Roman Catholic heritage.  

     A more frequently quoted explanation is that George Huntington, a prominent citizen of the village at the time, spoke of the many classical names that had been given to upstate New York communities but remarked that none had been named after the “Eternal City,” Rome, Italy.  Thus, the village may have been named “Rome” from a combination of Huntington’s suggestion and the fact that the township containing the village had already been named “Rome.”  It has also been suggested that the particular classical city name “Rome” was adopted because Rome, Italy is famous for its military history, and the village that became Rome, New York was built on a heroic, military site, namely the former Fort Stanwix.   —Christopher Zackey


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