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Town of Marathon, NY History

September 20, 2022

From Town Historian Laurie Tebbe:


The Town of Marathon is located in the southern part of Cortland County and in the Southern Tier region of New York State. According to the 2010 census, the population was 1,967. The village of Marathon and the hamlets of Galatia and Texas Valley are within the town boundaries.

Marathon is within the bounds of the former Central New York Military Tract, which was a large area of land set aside in central New York to compensate New York soldiers after their service in the Revolutionary War. On July 3, 1790, Revolutionary War veterans drew for lots in the Military Tract, which consisted of 28 townships with 100 lots of 600 acres in each lot. The original townships were predominately named after famous Greeks and Romans. Towns that were formed later were typically named after towns in the New England states, officers in the Revolutionary War, or members of the Continental Congress.

The first settler was Dr. Japheth Hunt who traveled north with his family in canoes on the Tioughnioga River in 1794. This area was first part of the Town of Cincinnatus, which was divided in 1818 to create the Towns of Willet, Freetown, and Harrison. The town was first called the Town of Harrison, but its name changed to Marathon in 1828 because another town in New York was named Harrison. The Village of Marathon was incorporated, and it was set apart from the town in 1861.

The Tioughnioga River flows south through the town and is part of the Chesapeake Bay watershed.  It is the main waterway in Cortland County and the river was declared by law a public highway in 1814.  

The Syracuse and Binghamton Railroad opened on October 18, 1854.  Today, it is a branch of the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad. Even though passenger service ended in 1958, freight is still carried by this railroad line today.

Other main thoroughfares are Interstate 81 and U.S. Route 11, which run north and south, and New York State Route 221, which runs east and west.

Marathon is home to the annual Central New York Maple Festival every spring and the annual Union Fair in September.


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