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February 23, 2013

Firearms manufacturing created Ilion in the 19th century


The village grew with the Remington factory. It soon became evident that a post office was needed, as well as a permanent name for the village. It had been called a number of names, including Remington’s Corners, but Eliphalet Remington had refused the honor of the village being named after him. David D. Devoe became the first postmaster and came up with the name Ilion, which he remembered from ancient history as the Greek name for Troy. Devoe sent the name to Washington, D.C without consulting the citizens, and Congress approved the new name. The village was incorporated in 1852.

While guns made for good business, the Remington armory continued making farm utensils and other iron articles. It wasn’t until 1845 that the gun business expanded, with the armory’s first government contract for the Mexican War. The Civil War meant even more business, as Remington received over $2-million for arms delivered. By now, Eliphalet joined forces with his three sons, forming a company called E. Remington and Sons.

By the 1870s a letdown in work at the armory came as other countries began to establish their own munitions factories. According to “Ilion — The Town Remington Made” by Warren E. Schulz, the Remingtons had thought about retiring, but continued operations and diversified their manufacturing into peaceful lines, including agricultural implements, sewing machines, electric light systems, typewriters and much more. The first 100 velocipedes made in the United States were produced in the Remington plant.

E. Remington and Sons had hit grave times by the mid-1880s, and was bought in a sale in 1888 by a firm called Hartley and Graham. The company was reorganized and named the Remington Arms Company. The company continued to struggle, but prosperity returned in 1898 during the Spanish-American War.

During World War I, when the U.S. entered, normal employment of 900 jumped to 11,000, in producing nearly 3,000 rifles per day. The same escalation was true during World War II. Employees came from near and far, some commuting by rail and later by car. Relatives have told me that my grandparents, James and Emma Cleary, met at the Remington factory in World War I. The day after they met, the war was over and they were let go, amongst many others. The couple later married and eventually made their way to southern Otsego County.

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