Willow Avenue is named after the 14 willow sprouts that were planted on both sides of Otter Creek by Horace Dibble sometime between 1847 and 1852. That is a very short street story, so maybe we should take a look at Horace Dibble, the man responsible for the trees.
Horace Dibble was born in Greene River, Columbia County, New York on November 21, 1801 to Lucy King and Ebenezer Dibble. The Dibble family moved to Moravia in 1809. In 1821, young Horace visited the Cortland area to look for work. He had recently completed his apprenticeship of wool carder and cloth dresser. He stayed at David Merrick’s hotel overnight (see our story about Merrick Street), and the next day saw a property located on the Plank Road (North Main Street) that was perfect for a carding mill. The place was located on Otter Creek and was then being used as both a sawmill and a nail-making factory. William Sherman occupied the nail factory portion and had invented a nail making machine that fed the iron into the press where nails were cut and stamped on the head with an “S.” Dibble vowed to buy the property and convert it into a wool carding mill if he ever got the chance.
As luck would have it, in about 1824, Martin Merrick purchased the building and fitted it up with wool carding machinery. He conducted a business there until 1833 when he put it up for sale. Horace Dibble was working in another county when he heard that his dream property was on the market. He lost no time buying the property and setting up shop. Dibble was probably quite busy with his business since sheep farming was an important part of life during the 19th century. Wool was versatile and plentiful.
Dibble owned and operated the carding mill on North Main Street for about 50 years. During that time, he and his wife Emaline A. Scranton raised 6 children in their house which is located at 90 North Main Street. This picturesque home has weathered the years well. There is a whole folder at CCHS on this historic home.
The map from 1888 shows a “Farm Road” alongside Otter Creek, and that could be what eventually became Willow Avenue. Over time the willow trees were trimmed back and then finally cut down, but the name Willow Avenue remains as a testament to their existence. ~Tabitha