A Brief History of Tyre
In 1776 Congress enacted a provision for granting lands in lieu of cash payments, to soldiers who would engage in the military service of the United States until the war ended, they were discharged, or died in battle. The Military Tracts were established in New York State to entice soldiers to enlist in the battalions needed in the Revolutionary War. In 1782 the boundaries of this area became known as “The Military Tract of Central NY”. In 1783 the war ended but it was not until 1790 that the military lots were finally assigned to soldiers or their heirs. The Town of Tyre, in northern Seneca County, was formed from Military Lot #26, the Town of Junius, on March 26, 1829. Presumably, the town’s name was taken from the Mediterranean city of Tyre, now in Lebanon.
The first settler was Ezekiel Crane who came from New Jersey in 1794 and since the time of the early settlers the population of Tyre has stayed around 1000 people. According to the census of 2000, the population is 899. Jason Smith, an early settler, named Tyre after an ancient Phoenician City where Hiram reigned as King for 47 years, commencing in 980 B.C. Tyre is comprised of 21,376 acres of land of which more than 6,500 acres are part of the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge. The Montezuma Refuge originally named the Montezuma Marsh, is an effort of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect, restore and enhance wildlife habitat.
About one-third of Tyre is marshland, which is now the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge; the rest of the land is mostly flat with drumlins (north to south ridges from the glacial formation). The soil is mostly clay in the east section of the Town and is a gravelly loam in the west. Early residents of Tyre cleared the land, built log homes and it became, over the years, best suited for agriculture. Currently, there are several small businesses in Tyre primarily along the Routes 414 and 318 corridors. Of the ten towns in Seneca County, Tyre is the smallest. It is predominately a rural, agricultural community and those who work in industry commute to Geneva or Auburn, or to Rochester or Syracuse.
The hamlet of Tyre, located in the center of the Town of Tyre, is referred to as “Tyre City”. There are about 20 homes, a church, and near the Highway Department buildings is a building called the “Tyre Band Hall”. It is an old structure that was a church in the 1830s, abandoned in the 1860s, after which the members of the Tyre Cornet Band acquired it through squatter’s rights. It was used as a rehearsal hall, a community center for square dances and parties in its original location. It is now owned by the Town of Tyre and was moved to its present location in the 1970s. It has been renovated and is used as a community and event center.
In 2015, after the passage of a New York State law allowing commercial casinos, the town was approached by Wilmorite Properties, Inc. to allow construction of a resort and casino just north of NYS Thruway Exit 41. So began a two-year process to vet and eventually approve del Lago Resort and Casino. The town had just completed a comprehensive plan that recognized the potential of commercial development close to the thruway exit. Subsequently, the town developed a master plan for that area and is implementing it as commercial development occurs. The town’s efforts were to encourage commercial in a confined area but keep the majority of the town consistent with its historical roots – a quiet, rural, agricultural community.
The Town of Tyre is a small community but can claim an interesting history part of which is in the buildings and structures that were built in the early years of the Town. A portion of the Erie Canal runs through the Montezuma Refuge in the northeast corner of Tyre where it connects with the Cayuga and Seneca Canal. With the building of the Erie Canal came the need for an aqueduct that a portion of Tyre and the Town of Montezuma in Cayuga County. Only part of this aqueduct is still standing. Tyre is within the Erie Canal National Heritage Corridor.
The Traver Home and Ward’s Tavern were both constructed in the early 1800s and are still in existence today as residences. The Traver home was built in 1810 by Nicholas Traver from timbers cut from trees on his property. It is located on Traver Road west of Gravel Road. It is presently owned by Bob and Carolyn Seem.
Ward’s Tavern-stand was built on land acquired from Daniel Cady in 1825 and was an operating tavern in 1830. It was sold to Benjamin Nearpass in 1833 and became a farmhouse with substantial renovations and an addition to the original tavern. It was sold in 1940 to Richard Sutterby, in1954 to Sy and Marion (Sutterby) Christopher, and in 1970 to Don and Marge Fahrenholz, the present owners.
The Dr. Thomas Magee House is located at the intersection of State Routes 318 and 414. It was built in 1829 and is the earliest example of a Federal-style brick home in Seneca County. It has several unique features such a limestone lintel above 12 over 12 windows in the front and a spiral staircase in the front room. Dr. Magee was an early physician in Seneca County who established a hospital in a cobblestone building (now gone) across the road. Dr. Magee became involved in town and county government and was the first supervisor of Tyre. The house was occupied until 2016 when commercial development encroached from all sides. Fortunately, the Seneca County Chamber of Commerce acquired the building to create is new headquarters and visitors center. The structure was modified slightly but retains most of its historical features.
There are 3 cobblestone homes in Tyre that are residences today.
Tyre Band Hall
Music has been a big part in many of the early families in Tyre as can be noted in the existence of the Tyre Cornet Band. There are many stories related to this group and a community Band Hall that is still used as a community center today. Located in the Band Hall are a few of the instruments used by band members and a picture of one of the Bands.
The Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge
The Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge was created in 1938 by the Bureau of Biological Survey, later known as the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service, with the purchase of over 6,ooo acres of the former Montezuma Marsh for the purpose of providing a refuge and breeding ground for migratory birds and other wildlife. MNWR offers observation towers and an auto loop to observe birds and other wildlife in their natural settings while not disturbing the wildlife. The Esker Brook Trail is a walking trail for people to observe wildlife. A concern of the residents of Tyre that as the Refuge takes more land, there is less of a tax base for the Town. While there is a program from the Federal Government to help lessen the burden for taxpayers, the program has proved inadequate.
There are five recorded cemeteries in Tyre and one burial ground on private property. There were other private burial plots but some were lost in the building of the NYS Thruway. Many names of the early settlers and their families can be found in these cemeteries. Records of the five cemeteries (Big Crusoe Island, Goodwin, Traver, Tyre, and Tyre Reformed Church) are available upon request.
The first church in Tyre was the Baptist Church in 1807. It was on the southeast corner of 318/414 but has since been razed. The Methodist Episcopal church was legally organized in 1833 and is still an active church in the hamlet of Tyre City. The Dutch Reformed Church proposed a union with the small Tyre Presbyterian Church and this was organized in 1835. It also has an active membership today. In 1831 there was a church on Gravel Rd. by the Nearpass Cemetery, which was called the Campbellite Church, but the members left the community and abandoned the building. The Tyre Cornet Band secured this by Squatter’s Rights in 1860 and it has since that time been called the Tyre Band Hall.
The Volunteer Fire Department
Magee Corners, Tyre City, and May’s Point are the three firehouses in Tyre. The first meeting to form a fire department was in 1947. In 1958 the Tyre City building was completed and the third building at May’s Point was completed in 1971. The Fire Department also answers to calls from a designated section of the NYS Thruway.
While all of Tyre students today are bused to one of three school districts – Waterloo, Seneca Falls, or Clyde-Savannah, many years ago Tyre had its own one-room schoolhouses many are still standing today. The schools were in each of the districts #1 – #9.