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Posted by: Chris Schaller | July 08, 2014

Horseheads Railroad DepotWhile creating stories for the HistOrigin™ database, we often come across especially interesting events and situations related to a location that are worth investigating a little deeper.  The location we are talking about today is, Horseheads New York. Horseheads is located in Elmira New York, just east of Corning.  The story of how this town became known as Horseheads is, to say the least, really interesting.

In 1779, Major General John Sullivan and Brigadier General James Clinton were sent by the Continental Congress to engage the Iroquois nation that had taken sides with the British during the American Revolutionary war. The expedition began on June 18 when the army marched from Easton Pennsylvania into the finger Lakes region of Western New York, north of Elmira. The ensuing battle, that became known as the battle of Newtown, and the Battle of Chemung, destroyed the economy of the Iroquois nation. Survivors fled the region and sought British military protection near Fort Niagara.

As the expedition was returning home three weeks later, a large number of the horses that had been utilized during the expedition had done all they could and could go no further. With the horses ailing and food stores in short supply, the decision was made to put down most of the disabled and injured horses.

Later, as nature took its course and the bones of the large number of horses lie strewn across the fields bleaching in the sun, the Iroquois who had come back into the area collected the horse skulls and placed them in a line along that section of the Sullivan Trail. They did it as a warning, hoping the site would strike fear into any would be attackers that would come that way in the future. The Iroquois named the place, the Valley of the horses heads, from then on.

The community that sprang up here became known as the village of Fairport and was Incorporated on may 15 1837. It was named Fairport due to its location on the Chemung canal. The citizens of the community, knowing the history of the area, wanted to have their village renamed in order to link themselves with the events of the past. And so it was in 1845, the village was renamed Horseheads. In 1885, the name was changed to North North Elmira, but that only lasted a year and the name was again restored to Horseheads New York.