Thursday, July 23, 2015

Early History of Roads in Cazenovia

By Jabez W. Abell
(Published in the Cazenovia Republican, June 24, 1925)

 In a treaty made by the Iroquois Indians with Governor George Clinton, September 12, 1788, at Fort Schuyler, the central part of the state was ceded by the Indians to New York State. 
  This enormous tract of land when it became the property of New York State had boundaries which were reasonably well known but as to the land itself few white men had knowledge of what it contained. 
 With a view of selling it the state caused an immediate survey to be made dividing some of it into townships, with an idea of selling to land jobbers, or companies as the opportunity should offer. That is to say, the State wished to wholesale the lands in large quantities to individuals or companies who could raise sufficient money to make large cash payments. 
   In the history of Cazenovia we are told that Mr. Lincklaen examined some of the lands which the state had offered for sale, and spent a considerable of his time in the new country during the summer and autumn of 1792. 
  The result of these explorations was the purchase for the Holland Land Co., of the "Gore," or Road Township and one of the twenty towns, (Nelson).  The "Gore" or Road Township, took its name from the circumstance of its being sold by the state to lay out and open the great Genesee Road from Utica to Canandaigua. This would indicate that the sale of this land in the town of Cazenovia produced money to build the first road in the County of Madison. This is the earliest record we have of raising money for road building. 
 The gore was about four miles wide from east to west extending from the military tract on the west which is the county line, between Madison and Onondaga Counties to the town of Nelson, and extending as far south as the town of German, a short distance southeast of Cincinnatus. 
  This tract of land contains approximately one-hundred thousand acres and its north boundary is the Petersburg Line running through Seminary street. At the time of the purchase, 1793, the Oneida Indians owned all the land north of Seminary street. 
   A little side show connected with this deal is amusing and perhaps instructive. 
During the first few years, one or two perhaps, Mr. Lincklaen was so thoroughly occupied with the business of selling land and locating settlers that he did not observe that his town had a tendency to work toward the Petersburg Line and encroach on the Oneida Reservation but a neighbor of his did. Peter Smith knew a good thing when he saw it. The land was for sale and Mr. Smith bought it as he had a perfect right to do and said nothing about it. He was also a land jobber. He and Mr. Lincklaen were on the best of terms and visited back and forth. 
   When more land became an imperative need in order that his City could expand in the direction it seemed inclined to go Mr. Lincklaen applied to what he thought was the proper authorities and was told that Peter Smith was now the owner. 
   In an interview with Mr. Smith soon after, he informed Mr. Lincklaen that be was in the land jobbing business to make money and that the land was for sale, "at a price," all he wanted of it. 
  In a letter which Mr. Lincklaen wrote to one of his friends he said: "I bought 2,684 acres of land of Peter Smith and settled for it at a round price, $10,000."  (It probably cost Smith half this sum). 
  The earliest record we have of any road in this section was in 1790 when William and James Wadsworth with an ox-team passed through the county going to the Genesee country where they planted a Colony. 
  They followed an Indian path known as the Great Trail which entered Madison county at Oneida Castle, passed through Lenox by the way of Wampsville and Quality Hill, through Sullivan by Canaseraga and Chittenango leaving the county at Deep Spring. In 1797 this Indian trail became a state road extending from Fort Schuyler (Utica) to Geneva. 
   In 1793-4, the beginning of settlements at Cazenovia, most settlers followed the Wadsworth trail to Chittenango, but as this route extended through swamps and low ground it became about impossible to travel it with any wheeled conveyance. Naturally the New England settlers began to look for a better route which would keep on high ground and avoid swamps and streams as much as possible. 
   Next to the Wadsworth route no trail was of any more importance than the one commencing at Herkimer and extending west to the Skaneateles Outlet, passing through Cherry Valley, Bridgewater, Madison, Morrisville, South of Nelson, Delphi, Tully, Otisco Lake and then to Skaneateles outlet. 
    Herkimer being the county seat at that early date, all of the town of Cazenovia was a part of Herkimer County, deeds and valuable papers had to be taken there for recording. Rough and difficult as it was, being mostly on high ground rains had little affect on it and the first axmen through made a path which could be traveled by animals and wheeled vehicles. Such was the beginning of the Cherry Valley Turnpike. Many changes in location took place, but essentially the same route has been maintained even to the present day. 
   If we read the papers and letters of Sir William Johnson pertaining to his dealings with the Indians as Indian Agent for the English Crown, we will learn of many messages sent to the western tribes among which are mentioned the Senecas, the most warlike, also of many personal visits to the Onondagas and Oneidas, the most intelligent tribes of the Confederacy. 
    If a message were to be sent to any of the western tribes by runner, would it not be reasonable to assume that this route would be considered-starting on the Mohawk and leading west to the Skaneateles Outlet. 
  Evidence is not wanting to show that this trail was well defined when the earliest settlements were started. Such is tradition. 
  In the beginning of the settlement of Cazenovia the Holland Land Company opened the following roads. 
  • From Cazenovia to Chittenango.
  • From Cazenovia to Manlius Square.
  • From Cazenovia to Brackel Land Office which had been established twenty-six miles from Cazenovia, now in the town of Pitcher.
  • Through the first and second townships easterly to Utica via. Paris and New Hartford.
  • From Cazenovia to Pompey Hollow.
  • From Cazenovia on the east side of the lake, to intersect the Genesee Road near the Deep Spring.
      The road from Manlius to Cazenovia was first opened as a matter of necessity. Captain Jackson's saw mill being at Manlius, the boards for finishing the first log houses were brought from there, a distance of fifteen miles. 
   At about the same time the west road was laid out and cut through from Cazenovia, commencing at a point east of Cazenovia at what is now the Cherry Valley Turnpike, extending over Stone Quarry Hill and continuing south to the Brackel land office, and ending at German, the southern boundary of the Holland Land Company's purchase.  Mr. Lincklaen designated it as the "west road" as it extended near the west side of his tract.  Later a similar road was laid out on the east, running parallel to the other near the east boundary of this purchase. 
    The west road took a direct course to Sheds Comers, Quaker Basin, Pitcher and Brackel, bearing to the east slightly to avoid Crumb Hill, but in all its distance maintaining a southerly direction, finally reaching German some twenty-six miles from Cazenovia.  The road was on high ground thus avoiding swamps and streams, going over some hills, which at a distance seemed impossible to negotiate.  The only streams of any size necessary to cross were the Otselic at Pitcher and the Chittenango a short distance south of Cazenovia. 
    The construction of this road over steep hills, and along high ridges seems to us of the present day a big mistake, now that the country is cleared of a large share of its timber, and the valleys are open, dry, and furnish routes for roads of easier grades.  But with dense forest covering all of the country, the valleys containing the water courses were swampy and unfit for roads, much less for habitation.  When a road was cut through it had to be mainly self sustaining.  We often see the marks where roads have been and wonder why they were ever used, but they were doubtless needed and only abandoned when a better route was established. 
    While this road was laid out as the west road and so designated on early maps, it has been known to many as the "Joe Road" especially that part extending from Quaker Basin, (east of DeRuyter), south to German.  As few people who use the name know just what it means, an explanation may not be out of place. 
    Hammond's History of DeRuyter [1872 History of Madison County, pages 248 to 249] states:
  •    Joseph Messenger and Samuel Thompson settled in DeRuyter in 1795.  The former located on lot No.20 and built the first tavern in town.  It was a large, double log house and stood but a few rods from the present dwelling of George Lewis who now occupies the farm (1872). 
  •   The Messenger Tavern was for many years the famous stopping place for the numerous immigrants corning in to settle the Lincklaen purchase and many a wayworn traveler had cause to remember with gratitude the kindness of the proprietor. 
  •   Mr. Messenger was employed by Mr. Lincklaen to cut through the west road, (which runs on the ridge east of DeRuyter) to the town of Lincklaen, and which the older inhabitants remember to have long born the name of the "Joe Road." 
  •   Upon the farm that he took up, cleared, and cultivated Joseph Messenger died and was buried.  Upon the head-board above his remains the following epitaph was written, which, although not transferred to the marble his family reared in affectionate memory was never the less true.
    • Here lies the remains of old Uncle Joe, 
    • A messenger here a long time ago. 
    • Pioneer of the woods and worker of the way, 
    • He did a great deal of work for a very little Pay.
    The road from Cazenovia to Manlius spoken of as being laid out first as a matter of necessity was a convenient way of reaching "Salt Point" as it was called. 
    This necessary article was made in large quantities at the springs and the settlers came from far and near to obtain it. (Syracuse). 
     The road laid out through the first and second townships to Utica, via. Paris and New Hartford, often spoken of as the Utica road, was of vital importance in the beginning of qie settlement of Cazenovia.  The Mohawk river had been so improved that large bateaux or boats propelled by poles could carry merchandise from Albany to Utica, which was the nearest market for what little produce the settlers first had to dispose of. 
    One of the persevering and finally successful farmers in school district No. 9 said "I have drawn loads of wheat to Utica over the roughest kinds of roads and sold it for fifty cents a bushel." 
    The road on the east side of the lake connecting with the Genesee Turnpike near Deep Spring was a convenient way for these who wished to reach the turnpike by the shortest route, but it was not popular as the gorges and woods about Green Lake were said to be the rendezvous of road agents, horse thieves and other gentlemen of a shady character who did not care to have their records looked into by an officer of the government. 
   As the settlement increased and something was raised which could be marketed there was an insistent demand for better roads.  In 1803 the Cherry Valley Turnpike company was chartered. It was several years in building extended from Cherry Valley to Manlius. When completed, a good road was available to Albany. 
   At about the same time the Peterboro Turnpike was completed and this opened facilities for marketing and travel for the second tier of towns. 
  In 1811 the Hamilton and Skaneateles Turnpike was chartered starting from Plainfield, Otsego County, through Brookfield, Hamilton, Eaton, Erieville, Now Woodstock and ending at Skaneateles. 
    Joseph Morse, of Eaton, took more interest in this road than any other one man.  He had at one time $30,000 of stock in the road which but for him would never have been built.  His son, Ellis Morse, was also largely concerned in the enterprise.  It was a source of benefit to the town, but not to the stockholders. 
   While these turnpike roads were a great improvement over the former roads, - "which were very little better then paths through the woods" - still, they were muddy in wet times and rutted easily.  There was a desire for improvement in the condition of travel and the plank road came into existence. Timber was plentiful and the laying of plank comparatively easy. 
   Between the years of 1848 and 1852 plank roads crossed the country with a network of highways.  During this period a plank road was built from DeRuyter to Oneida Lake, through New Woodstock, Cazenovia, Chittenango and its depots, a distance of thirty-one miles.  It was completed at great cost as a portion of it passed the difficult descent at Chittenango Falls, which required expensive grading (the Horse Shoe). 
   The hill of eight-hundred feet in height was made an easy grade of no more then six feet rise to the hundred. 
   The construction which followed the plank road from Cazenovia to Lakeport was a grand improvement having a better route and a broad, handsome, roadbed of stone extending to Lakeport through the marshy "Vly" where the plank so speedily rotted away. 
  Over this boulevard enormous stage coaches drawn by four horses and accommodating ten or twelve passengers making the extraordinary speed of twelve miles per hour, made regular daily trips between Cazenovia and the New York Central railroad at Chittenango Station. 
   In 1873 the Syracuse and Chenango Valley railroad having begun operating between Syracuse and Earlville the stage business began to wane and finally disappeared. 
     The good old days of the stagecoach are gone and the last stage driver on this route lived to see horses as a means of travel on the roads of the country superseded by automobiles. The squawk of the automobile horn is far more frequent than was the peal of the stage coach horn, that musical announcement that the mail would soon be in.
     There were no traffic lights at the junction of Albany and Lincklaen streets and the tanking places were the hotels.  It was unnecessary to practice neck movement exercises until one could turn the head two and one half times around like a screech owl in order to see where the greatest danger lurked.  The stage coach was orderly, and moved deliberately and could be depended on to go through about the same maneuver every time it came to town.  But this is 1929.  We must come out of the past and step lively or we may be ran over and injured or at least called old fashioned and out of date, "Antediluvian." 
     Let as get in step once more and go for an automobile ride.  I wish to start at Chittenango and follow the creek road to Cazenovia as I enjoy this trip the most of any in the country.  But isn't this strange, right in Chittenango Village where the road was frequently muddy is a cement road, literally a boulevard.  We ride along the edge of Chittenango Creek just as we used to, minus the jolts.  It rained last night and the creek is running full and sparkles in the morning sun.
    Did you ever see the frees leafed any heavier then they are this year?  Aren't the lights and shades wonderful this morning?  Here we are at the White Sulfur Spring two miles from Chittenango.  How strong it smells this morning.  Yes, I always stop and drink some of the water.  If it tasted as it smells I can never swallow it.  There, it isn't so bad after all.  Try another glass, doctors say germs cannot live in it.  What a beautiful view of the falls!  Yes, you are looking in the park now.  The falls are wonderful and such a fine view of them sitting right in the car. 
        The park is nice too. Let us drive in front of "Ye Old Mill."  Yes, you may leave your car here while you walk around, and would you like a lunch of hot waffles and maple syrup?  It is so near noon we decide we will have our noonday meal right now.   My! aren't the waffles good, and all you can eat, with plenty of maple syrup.  How natural the store looks at the Falls.  The road certainly has improved things.  But what are we doing at Bingley?  We are going up in front of the Mill and back of the house.  We view the scenery from higher ground and avoid two bridges. I guess it is all right but doesn't it seem queer to be riding through Mr. Atkinson's field.  Look out for these curves.  We are approaching Cazenovia and there are several before we reach the electric light plant.  What a fine ride, would like to go over it again if I had an opportunity, nothing easier.  Farnham street ends at Albany street, which is the cherry Valley Turnpike.  If you travel much in the state you sure know how it connects up with other trunk lines. 
        The history of the early roads of Cazenovia is told, in so far as I can relate.  Some of it is written from memory as told me by my grandmother.  Other data has been taken from old records and some has been copied from Mrs. Hammond's History of Madison County.  In these records we have an opportunity to compare the present with the past and judge for ourselves which are the good times in which to live. 

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