The Syracuse area was first seen by Europeans when French missionaries came to the area in the 1600s. A group of Jesuit priests, soldiers, and coureurs des bois (including Pierre Esprit Radisson) set up a mission, known as Saint Marie Among the Iroquois or Ste. Marie de Gannentaha, on the northeast shore of Onondaga Lake, at the invitation of the Onondaga Nation, one of the five constituent members of the Iroquois confederacy.
The mission was short lived, as the Mohawk Nation hinted to the Onondaga that they should sever their ties to the French, or the Onondaga's guests would suffer some horrible fate. The men in the mission caught wind of this and left under cover of a cold night in March. Their entire stay was less than two years. The remains of the mission have been located underneath a restaurant in nearby Liverpool. There is now a living history museum in Liverpool that recreates the mission.
Just after the Revolutionary War, more settlers came to the area, mostly to trade with the Onondaga Nation. Ephraim Webster left the Continental Army to settle in 1784, and Asa Danforth, another revolutionary war hero, and Comfort Tyler, whose engineering skill contributed to regional development, arrived four years later. All three settled in Onondaga Hollow south of the present city center, which was then marshy. Salt was discovered in several swamps in Syracuse, which brought more settlers to the area, and eventually gave the city the nickname "Salt City".
19th century: industrial growth
The original settlement went through several name changes until 1824, first being called Salt Point (1780), then Webster's Landing (1786), Bogardus Corners (1796), Milan (1809), South Salina (1812), Cossits’ Corners (1814), and Corinth (1817). The U.S. Postal Service rejected the name Corinth upon its application for a post office, stating there was already a post office by this name in New York. Because of similarities such as a salt industry and a neighboring village named Salina, the name Syracuse was chosen, after Syracuse, Sicily.
In 1825, the Village of Syracuse was officially incorporated. Five years later, the Erie Canal, which ran through the village, was completed. In 1848, Syracuse merged with nearby Salina to become the City of Syracuse. The opening of the canal caused a steep increase in the sale of salt, not simply due to the improved and lower cost of transportation, but because the canal caused New York farms to change from wheat to pork, and curing pork required salt. As salt production climbed, the processing became increasingly mechanized, and local industry became more generalized; population grew to 5,000 by 1850, from 250 in 1820, making it the twelfth largest city in the Union.
The Village of Syracuse and the Village of Salina were combined into the City of Syracuse on December 14, 1847. Harvey Baldwin was the first mayor of the new city.