Dryden is a town in Tompkins County, New York, United States. The population was 14,435 at the 2010 census. The town administers an area that includes two villages, one also named Dryden and one named Freeville, as well as a number of hamlets. The town is on the county’s eastern border, east of Ithaca, in the Finger Lakes region. The region was part of the Central New York Military Tract, land given as compensation to soldiers of the American Revolution. Robert Harpur, a Clerk in the office of the New York State Surveyor General who named numerous New York townships in 1790 based on his own classical studies, named Dryden for John Dryden (1631–1700), the English poet and a translator of the classics (including the works of Virgil, with the town of Virgil being the next town east of Dryden).
Dryden was also the translator of Plutarch‘s work Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans, which Harpur likely sourced for many of the names in the Military Tract. The first settler arrived around 1797. The town of Dryden was established in 1803. In 1856, some areas in the far southwest part of Dryden were ceded to the growing village of Caroline, New York, created from the Town of Spencer in 1811. In 2009, Dryden’s Southworth Library sold an original manuscript of an Abraham Lincoln speech that had been delivered at the White House after his re-election. The document had been in the library’s possession since 1926. It sold for $3.44 million, a record-high selling price for an American historical document at an auction.
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