March 16, 1821 is the birthdate for the Town of Ira. On this date the military township #3, Cato, was divided into two whole towns and the north portion of two more towns. Ira contains the northeast 36 military lots of Township #3, with Ira "Hill" the hub of the town in the early days. The topography of the area includes the drumlins, that were created by the receding ice age, and wetlands and creeks in the valleys plus a lot of the land is forest.
Many of the people that settled here came from the New England states, eastern New York State and later from the European countries. They all hoped to better their lives. Some of the people stayed for a few years and then ventured on to Michigan, Illinois and other points in the West. Some of the family names that stayed include: Baldwin, Ferris, Benton, Matson, Phelps, DeForest, Terpening, Southard, Andrews, Barnes, Rich, Burgess, Blake, Daratt, Dutton, DeGroff, Follet, Kellogg, Megraw, Titus, Stockwell, Sturge, St. John, Peck, Spoor, Smith, Dudley, Sprague, Ells, Wormuth. Descendants of many of these families still reside in the town today.
In the 1800's, the hamlet of Ira had a hotel, stores, at least two churches at a time, blacksmith & carriage shops, cheese factory, Post Office, doctor and lawyer offices. In the year 2000, during a drive to the hamlet of Ira, one can see that many of the buildings still exist as they were in the 1800's, except for those consumed by fire.|
Another hamlet within the town is Bethel. This was a thriving area midway between the villages of Hannibal in Oswego County to the north and Cato on the south edge of the Town of Ira. One of the best known buildings in the hamlet was the Methodist Church, started ca 1824 and closed in the 1990's. This building was taken down. Bethel is basicly a bedroom community in 2000.
Farming was the main occupation of people that settled the town. Sideline occupations included sawmills, tanneries, surveying, proprietors of stores, blacksmith and carriage shops. Other early industries include cooperage and limestone quarries and a kiln.
The country one-room schools were the means of educating the children for about 125 years in the Town. Ira had up to 14 school districts for many years. These schools also served as a culture center for the neighborhood, such as a library, for picnics, Church and a meeting place.
Men and women from the Town have served their Country during the War of 1812, Civil War, WW I, WW II, Korean & Vietnam wars, and peacekeeping duties around the World, some paying with their lives.
The early Town government included a Supervisor, four Justices of the Peace, who were the Town Board, and a Town Clerk. There were many other vital officials that took care of roads, schools and the poor. The present Town government includes Supervisor James Lunkenheimer; four councilman, Ricky Wilson, Larry Wallace, James Edelstein, and Roy Campbell; and Town Clerk, Jill Campbell. Over the years the Town officials have met in taverns, homes, Churches, the Town Hall/Garage, and now the Town of Ira Municipal Bldg. at 2487 W. Main St. Cato, NY.
After several big fires in the area, the Ira Fire Department was formed in 1943 and incorporated in 1945. In 2000, the fire department has a complex on the northwest corner of the hamlet of Ira. They hold meetings, dinners, have had Old Home Days there and house their trucks there.
There are several new facilities along the eastern edge of the Town that train, board, and raise horses. Plainville Turkey Farm, Inc. has a growing facility for young turkeys at the junction of the Towns of Ira and Cato in Cayuga County and Lysander in Onondaga County. Nutricuticals (formerly Incredameal, Inc.) makers of nutritional food bars, is the town's main industry.
The major activities within the town now, take place along the Rt. 370 corridor which includes the Village of Cato, one-half being in the Town of Ira. In this corridor between the Villages of Cato and Meridian sits the Cato-Meridian Central School campus. Started in the late 1930's with one building, it has expanded/enlarged over the years, with the High School housed in a separate building. In the mid 1990's during expansion of the elementary wing a state-of-the art community recreation center was added. This center includes a swimming pool, running/walking track, physical training room, gymnasium, and a community meeting room.
There is now a History Room at the Town of Ira Municipal Bldg, 2487 W. Main St. Cato, NY.
Open hours: Tuesday 9:30 AM - 12:00 noon, Wednesday 1:00 PM - 4:00 PM
Town of Ira Historian
Updated by Dorothy Southard