Utica (pop. approx. 62,000) is the county seat of Oneida County. Utica began as a river settlement, then a canal, and later a rail boom town.
Mid-nineteenth–century Utica was a town divided between abolitionists—Utica was a principal waypoint on escaped slaves’ route to Canada—and pro-slavery agitators determined to preserve the flow of cotton to the city’s prosperous textile mills. An 1835 antislavery meeting in a Utica church was disrupted by a pro-slavery mob. Attendee Gerrit Smith invited delegates to complete the meeting in Peterboro, his hometown. Smith thereafter became a major leader (and funder) of the abolition movement.