In an attempt to stop the decline of Bainbridge’s the first impression early Bainbridge was giving to the rest of the world, in the days before towns could manage their reputations on social media, one early resident made a bold move to help Bainbridge start on the right foot.
By 1812, the area that eventually became Bainbridge was already on published maps, and people identified with being from this place known then as Jericho: a Biblical name that meant promised land for new inhabitants who had broken through the wilderness, and now called this place home. Jericho had big shoes to fill with a name like that, and, in this case, perhaps the shoes were too big for this upstart village.
Jericho began as a small settlement near where Route 7 and the Guilford Road meet. While that area was Jericho proper, some early inhabitants were settling further away, near the crossroads of state routes 7 and 206. In the new area, a group started building a meetinghouse where the Village Park is located, but the structure was never finished, and in 1813, it was mysteriously destroyed by fire. Shortly afterwards, a Jericho merchant was in the Hudson Valley and was asked where he was from. When he told them Jericho, they exclaimed, “Oh, that wicked place where they burned the church.” Upon his return home, he started proceedings to establish an act of the Legislature to declare a new name for Jericho.
The following year, the Legislature passed the law to change the name on April 15, 1814, that would take effect on June 1: “… from and after the first day of June next, the town of Jericho, in the county of Chenango, shall be called and known by the name of Bainbridge.” The legislation goes on to note that – “the name of Bainbridge will be held dear by every American, who loves his country and admires the heroes who defend it. The inhabitants of Jericho have evinced much patriotism in the alteration of the name of this town. We have now counties and towns bearing the names of Washington, Clinton, Gates, Jay, Preble, Decatur, Perry and Bainbridge, besides others in honor of our revolutionary and naval heroes.”
Commodore Bainbridge was a naval hero from the War of 1812, commanding the frigate Constitution, and on Dec. 29, 1812 defeated the English frigate Jave in a 2/1/2 hour battle. He sailed back to Boston where he received a hero’s welcome.
To commemorate the 200-year anniversary of this name change “after the first day of June next,” there will be a box social in the Village Park on Sunday, June 1, 2014. Music, games for the kids and a baseball game will provide a relaxing afternoon of entertainment from 1 – 3 p.m. Click here for details.