Historical Papers by Jabez
W. Abell Jr.
from the Cazenovia Republican,
Daniel H. Weiskotten
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Early Local History, Roads
by Jabez W. Abell in the Cazenovia Republican
June 24, 1925
see the introduction
here to go to the Alphabetical List of Titles
here to go to the List Arranged by Date
(typographical errors corrected, additional notes by DHW in square
brackets [ ])
Early Local History, Roads
(reprinted in two chapters February 21 and February 28, 1929)
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
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
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.
From Mrs. Hammond's History
of DeRuyter [1872 History of Madison County
, pages 248 to 249] I
copy the following:
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
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
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 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
In 1873 the 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 not necessary 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.
END of Jabez W. Abell's "Eary History, Roads"