Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The old VanDemark Tavern in Junius

The old VanDermark Tavern stood at the corner of Pre-emption Road and what is now State Route 318 in the Town of Junius, Seneca County. Pre-emption Road north of this corner was closed in 1953 when the New York State Thruway was built. Photo courtesy of the Waterloo Library and Historical Society.

                                      Vandemark's Tavern
(As described by J.O. Phillips in 1857 while a student in school. Copied from the original which was penned in ink on two sheets of legal sized lined paper, on both front and back and signed by him at West Junius,  N.Y. Courtesy, Waterloo Library & Historical Society.)
Ladies and Gentlemen of this Composition Class.
   The place that was given to me by our teacher to describe is Vandemark's Tavern. This house is painted white and stands on a four corners about six miles eastward of this Place; the road running northward leads to the Village of Lyons, the one running southward to Geneva, and the run running eastward to what was once called the Free Bridge. This building is two stories in height and was erected in the year 1826 by Henry Vandemark which makes its age at present just 31 years.
   On the northwest corner of the road stands this said building, also a carriage house and two horse sheds; directly opposite on the southeast corner is another shed and two barns. About midway between these buildings namely the house and barns is a pair of scales not unlike the great Fairbanks  world renowner for telling the exact weight of all and everything that steps on its platform.
     About six feet eastward of said scales stands the noted sign which tells the neighbor and the weary stranger that he has at last arrived at the travelers home and also telling as it does the year in which it was erected and the owner of the surrounding premises. On each side of the road running north and south directly westward of the signpost are two iron hubs surrounded by two or four iron quoits, left there by the last quoit pitchers; near one of these iron hubs you will generally see a pine shingle which has been whittled to the shape of a knife blade by the last tally keeper, with seven notches on one side minus the difference on the other.
     On the southwest corner of these roads is a small oak grove composed of the different kinds of oak varying in size from six to twenty inches in diameter. Near its center is a swing surrounded by seats made of plank which were fastened between the trees in their younger days and are no so strongly embedded that it is impossible to extricate them. In the bar room you will find eight chairs, a wooden settee, a sink and a small cupboard which is called the West Junius Post Office and whose commissions are from four to five dollars per quarter. To describe this place of resort as it was in the bygone days would be for me a difficult task. In the morning of a fast day, an eye could see wending their way toward the door "no admittance except on business," the scientific card gambler. Near the well in front of the stoop you might see the horse traders looking at horseflesh and hear them bartering for a trade.
   In the bar-room will be the liquor drinkers. In the dining room might be sen the whortleberry pie eaters and this composes the company of this place which bears the name of the Vandermark Tavern and is the sportsman's festival.
     At one o'clock in the afternoon is the hour for the shooting match. A turkey is fastened on a stool as a target, at the distance of 30 or 60 rods from the gunners by the stoolman on the condition that he who shoots shall pay the sum of one shilling for every shot. If the bullet draws blood the turkey is his but if another one shoots; in this way some poor turkeys have drawn for their owners from ten to fifteen shillings. After the turkeys are all killed they are taken into either the barn or the carriage house; a barrel is placed on its head then four, five or six give a sixpence apiece for a chance in; seven coppers are then placed in an old straw hat then everyone shakes three times, the heads of everyone are counted separately, and he who threw the most heads is entitled to the turkey, from ten to fifteen is an average number. This is called raffling the turkeys.
    The next and last thing that salutes the ear is Hurrah for a horserace, bet fifty dollars, twenty-five apiece. Morgan & Blackhawk are to try their speed, distance eight rods measure the ground and make the marks. The money is put into a certain person's hands who is called the  stakeholder and who is to deliver the money according to the judge's decision. Each party next chooses two persons to start the horses and the other two decide which horse is the winner.  Boys 16 years old are  frequently chosen to ride the fast nags, who minus their hat, coat and boots are firmly seated on the backs of the horses which they are to manage. At the word "go" they start and everyone seems to hold his breath for fear the horse which he or they are interested will get beaten.
   The poor horses are whipped by their riders from the beginning to the end of the course but for all this one or the other must be the loser. After the judges have made their decision a feeble cry is raised by those who lose that the race was not fair, our horse can beat yours and I'll be damned if I'll give up the money. One word brings on another and finally the fruit of running horses terminates with several black eyes and a few bloody noses. As it is expected the loser sues the winner for his money and called in all of his fellow associates who weep and mourn with him to sustain his case. This gives the legal gentlemen at the bar an opportunity to try their abilities as a lawyer, whither they can sway the minds of a jury by their eloquence or whether they must submit to the old adage that might sometimes make right. 
     The present condition of this world renown house wears on its countenance a different smile. Where the fast boys used to assemble to smoke, treat and be treated is only known in name. Age has at last crept  on its form, its limbs are beginning to bend under the heavy load which it has been supporting. The smooth countenance which it used to wear resembles that of an aged man. The 'lubile emetic' which this house took in the month of September last was a deadly blow to it and its inmates. Doctor, law counselor, warrant and giving bail were consulted in their behalf but its disuse was worse; the only remedy left was for it to confess its sins with the life and make its peace with its God. The premises are now vacant. While standing at the depot last Saturday, who should I see drive up but the last member of the family who last occupied it. They went westward in the cars but where is unknown to me.
                                                                                                                                   J.O. Phillips
West Junius, N.Y.

Phelps Citizen
August 18, 1921

                                           PIONEER HISTORY 
                  Letter Written for Miss Ida VanAuken in 1901
    My father was a son of Joseph Vandemark, who was a brother of Lodowick, who married Charity Van Auken. Joseph settled in 1796 on the farm where John Salisbury now lives, about three miles east of Phelps, near the Sayre farm. Lodowick settled in 1794 on the Frederick VanDemark farm, how owned by the Hollbrooks. My father had two brothers. one, John, died young. Joseph married but left no children. He had two sisters, Betsy, who married Ambrose Salisbury; Mary who married Mr. Ringer.
   My father, Henry VanDemark, began tavern keeping in 1826. You see I was then very young. For a long time the travel west was all with wagons. Ohio and Michigan were "far west."
    Father's tavern was full every night. All covered wagons. The families had to travel cheap as possible. Some had large families, and I will tell you how most of them did. Carried all their own provisions, families of 6, 8, 10 and 12. They would want a table set for as many but cooked their own meat and potatoes. That was a sixpence each. Often there was more than one family at a time and it took a long table.
    I will tell you of one circumstance. My mother's cousin, Mrs. Brinkerhoff, moved to Ohio and while visiting at a neighbor's, she noticed a silver spoon (large one) marked L.V. (Lucena VanDeMark). She asked her hostess about it. The lady said that it got with her things when coming through York state. Mrs. B. told her of mother and described the tavern. She recalled the place and mother got her spoon. 
   There was much droving in those early days of horses, cattle and hogs from west to east, before railroads. We had to keep a great deal of hay and corn for them. The last spring I was there they fed one night 16 1/2 bushels of shelled corn to five droves of hogs. 
    In 1826 the first bill of groceries my father got for the tavern he bought of John R. Green who kept a store of various kinds of goods at Oaks Corners.
   The tavern at Oaks Corners was of an earlier date than father's When that was started the travel east and west was by there and the long toll bridge at Cayuga. About the time my father began, what has been called the free bridge was built at Cayuga. The travel then all came this road and the Oaks Corners tavern ran own. The staging then was in is full glory. Your grandfather Ottley was engaged in it. The route was from Albany to Buffalo. Through here they ran from Syracuse to Rochester through Waterloo, Geneva and Canandaigua, but extras to take passengers did go by my father's, a nearer road and such nice, fat horses and covered coaches! As a boy I thought them very grand. All that is past and through this neighborhood the magnificent branch of the New York Central railroad where trains pass continually from Geneva to Lyons.
  Note - The famous hostelry kept by Harry VanDemark was famous far and wide. People would travel after dark to reach the comfortable quarters, sure of a welcome from the genial proprietor. In huckleberry time the whole countryside use to drive to "Harry's" to eat  this famous pie. It was a great treat the country swains took their girls a drive and always treated them to huckelberry pie.
   There were large huckleberry patches by the Junius ponds. Mrs. VanDemark and her helpers often made one hundred pies for one evening and by eleven o'clock there would be none left.
   This old tavern was one mile east of Five Points, about five miles east of Phelps.
    You ask me how great-grandfather John VanAuken looked. He was a noble looking man. Quite tall and straight, just flesh enough to look well; weighed perhaps, in his prime, 200 pounds. Your grandfather George was like him; very much, but no quite so heavy. Your great-grandmother, Margaret, was not a large woman. You have seen my mother Lucena, the only daughter. They were about of a size. Grandmother Margaret was a beautiful looking old lady. She went to Michigan after they broke up keeping house. She visited me here.    Grandfather John in his older days was somewhat peculiar. Hew would make appointments to preach in the schoolhouse and many went to hear him, but I never went. He was a drummer boy in the Revolution and I have heard him tell of so many hardships during the war. They had more trouble with the tories than Indians. When they moved from Pennsylvania they brought cows and put the milk in the churn. Traveling over the rough roads churned the butter.
    When he first went on the farm he built a house down on the bank of the old river (Canandaigua outlet). They did not live there long. Indians were frequent visitors. He then built near where the house now is. The cobble tone house was built by Col. George. That too, is now falling into decay, but the farm is still in the family, owned by Henry VanDemark, a great-grandson of John and Margaret.
     Grandfather John loved to joke. When father kept the tavern he lived awhile with us. Then a great many families moving west stopped there. He would tell them of his family: "I have nine boys and every boy has a sister." "What!" they would exclaim, "18 children." "No," he would say, "only ten." Grandmother was homesick and had to go back east to visit. She did go all alone on horseback and carried a little child. I have forgotten which. She made her visit and came back perfectly contented and did not get homesick again.
     J. Spencer VanDemark                                                                                                                         

                                                  (More on the Vandemark Tavern)

 Auburn Bulletin, April 8, 1905
   An Old Landmark in the Town of Junius Removed
    SENECA FALLS, April 8. - One of the oldest landmarks in the county has recently been disposed of, it having outlived its usefulness, the Vandemark tavern in the town of Junius. The tavern was built in 1826 by Henry Vandemark, who conducted it until his death in 1847. His son, Spencer, conducted it as a hotel for several years.
     It afterwards changed hands until 1860 when Spencer Vandemark bought it back and closed it to the public and converted it to a dwelling. The old hostelry had a wide reputation during its early history, it being the center of attraction for many miles in all directions especially with the young people, with whom it was a favorite place for dancing on winter nights, sleighing parties often driving 20 and 30 miles to enjoy the hospitality of the place.
Geneva Times
Saturday, March 29, 1919
                             Henry VanDeMark
    Waterloo, March 29 - Henry VanDeMark, a life long resident of Seneca county, died at his home, 264 Center St., Waterloo, N.Y., at one o'clock Friday morning, March 28th, aged 68 years. He was the son of J. Spencer and Jane C. VanDeMark and was born in the town of Junius on the site of the old VanDeMark Tavern April 13th, 1850.
   He is survived by his mother, Jane C. VanDeMark, his widow, M. Irene VanDeMark, and his daughter, Blanche V. Bacon. The funeral will be held from his late residence on Center street, Monday afternoon at 2:30. Burial will be in Maple Grove Cemetery.


    Near West Junius, in Seneca county, stands a two-story building, with double veranda supported by stately white columns, once the finest hotel in that section. For years it has remained unoccupied except by the troop of bats and owls that3 fly in and out of the broken windows, and the loosened clapboards flap dismally on a windy day as a reminder of adversity. This was the Henry VanDeMark tavern, built in 1828, and it made a fortune for the owners. Even now, if the old structure were repaired, and as a summer resort, it might be made a very respectable boarding-house.  - P. 184,  Mr. Eagle's U.S.A. by John Livingston Wright and Mrs. Abbie Scates Ames (Hartford, Conn., 1898).

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