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Palmyra (New York)
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02:07, 5 June 2012
In the late 1780s, a group of settlers from Connecticut tried to stake the state's claim to land in northwestern Pennsylvania, due to overlapping provincial charters. Among those Connecticuters was one '''John Swift''', a Revolutionary War veteran. In 1789, with the venture in Pennsylvania bearing little fruit, Swift decamped for Western New York, where the Phelps and Gorham Purchase had large tracts of land for sale.
He purchased a tract (as did his fellow John Jenkins, though Swift soon bought him out) and in 1790 became the first permanent resident of what is now the Town of Palmyra. Swift's land was centered on '''Ganargua Creek''', and the community that sprouted up was initially known as '''Swift's Landing'''.
After a brief period known as '''Tolland''', Swift's brother-in-law proposed the name '''Palmyra''', and that is how the town was incorporated in 1796. The town center grew slowly until 1825, when the '''Erie Canal''' opened. The canal's route took it right through Palmyra, necessitating an aqueduct over Ganargua Creek. Energized by the new waterway, the village was quickly incorporated, in 1827.
During the period in which the Canal was built, at the height of the Second Great Awakening, the area between Rochester and Syracuse became a hotbed for religious fervor, known as the '''Burned-Over District'''. Palmyra was a particularly prolific source of the newly devout. In the mid 1820s, a local young adult named '''Joseph Smith''' (whose family lived just over the county line in nearby Manchester) claimed to have been visited by an angel, and directed to a set of buried artifacts on Hill Cumorah. Among those artifacts, it is claimed, was a set of golden plates, which Smith alone could translate. His translation became the '''Book of Mormon''', which was published for the first time in Palmyra in 1830.
Despite that milestone, the area never embraced Smith's nascent religion (he had moved away in 1827 and never returned), and it wasn't until the year 2000 that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints built a temple here. But the founding is commemorated every year with the '''Hill Cumorah Pageant'''.
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