Village History

Village History

Horseheads is the first and only town and village in the United States dedicated to the service of the American Military Horse. A twenty-eight square mile memorial, unparalleled in American Military History, is the proud distinction that enshrines the town and Village of Horseheads, New York.

September 24, 1779 - this date hallmarks the time and hallowed ground where lie the true relics and sun-bleached skulls of the American Military Pack horses of the armies of Major-General John Sullivan. These peaceful servants of General Sullivan and his officers, with about 5000 “ragged rebels” (as expressed by King George III) brought forth a gallantry in the American Revolutionary War’s western campaign against the Six Nations of Native Americans (Iroquois).

Burdened down with heavy military equipment in their 450-mile journey through a wooden wilderness from Easton, PA over to Wyoming, and on up the Susquehanna River Trail to Elmira, NY, they continued north through Horseheads to the Finger Lakes Region and west to Geneseo. Returning the same route to Horseheads, these military pack horses had reached the end of their endurance. Here, General Sullivan, through humanitary reasons was compelled to dispose of these partners in the cause of American freedom.

A few years later, the skulls of the horses were arrayed along the trail in defiant fashion by a few returning Native Americans, as a gesture that the same fate would be met by any settler, should he attempt to homestead on this location. The first settlers, reading these Native American signs, promptly built their homes on the spot. The Town and Village of Horseheads rose in tribute to glorify the event. This location, first known as “The Valley of Horses Heads” was later changed to Horseheads, New York.

Our Village was incorporated on May 15, 1837 as “Fairport”, not Horseheads originally, because of its location on the Chemung Canal which had then been in operation nearly four years. The sixteen-mile feeder canal coming down the valley from Corning joined the Chemung Canal just a short distance northeast of Hanover Square. The important office of the Toll Collector was located here, and all boats and barges were required to stop, have their cargoes weighed and pay tolls on same. There was a lock on West Franklin St. where old and young gathered to watch the boats “locked through”.

There were many people who loved the old revolutionary-born name and urged its return. Due to their efforts, the name Horseheads was restored in 1845. Again in 1885 the name was changed to North Elmira. Just one year and much political fireworks later the old name was returned.

The Horseheads Historical Society

Hours: Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from 12PM to 3PM or by appointment.
Phone: (607) 739–3938

The Horseheads Historical Society was established to preserve the history of our village. Among the facilities the society is responsible for are Zim House, the Museum at the Depot and the bandstand in Teal Park. The village owns the bandstand but the Historical Society has a special interest as Zim (Eugene Zimmerman) designed it.

The Teal Park Bandstand was designed and built by “Zim” and his father-in-law in 1910. Located on S Main St, it has weekly summer band concerts. Plans to celebrate its’ 100th anniversary are underway for 2010. It has been placed on the National Register.

Zim House was conveyed in 1980 to the Historical Society by Laura Zimmerman. The home includes all of the contents consisting of papers, sketches, correspondence, furniture and many fine mementos of Zim’s life. It is also on the National Register.

The Railroad Depot, located on W Broad Street, was purchased by the Historical Society and restored for use as a museum. displaying artifacts of our local history. There is also a display of local schools and graduates.

We are proud to have had Eugene Zimmerman as a resident of our community. “Zim” was a political cartoonist in the 1800’s working in New York City but married a Horseheads Girl and built his home here.