Those same settlers recognized the potential of Otsego County when giving it a name. Otsego means “meeting place.” The area’s rich soils and abundant waters drew early adventurers to establish farms and later the lumber industry thrived. Sawmills were built along the shores of Otsego Lake about the time local government was established. The Village of Otsego Lake was founded in 1872 and Otsego County in 1875.
Eventually, the Village of Barnes became the county seat. It was later renamed Gaylord to honor A.S. Gaylord, an attorney for the Jackson, Lansing & Saginaw Railroad. Other county villages established during this period were Waters, Elmira, Vanderbilt and Johannesburg.
At the turn of the century, the Gaylord Manufacturing Co. used locally-produced lumber to manufacture wagons and other wood products. The company went on to produce about 300 “Gaylord 30” automobiles between 1910 and 1913.
Otsego County also held riches underground. Ancient seas that once covered the area had deposited shale, limestone and dolomite, and the bedrock also contained natural gas and oil deposits.
The area’s assets spurred growth, making way for the state’s modern highway system. New highways provided a fast and inexpensive way for people in the state’s southern urban centers to journey north to enjoy the natural beauty and abundant recreational opportunities. Tourism became, and remains, a major contributor to Otsego County’s economy.
We welcome you to become a modern-day pioneer, discovering Otsego County assets much as the early settlers did.