Historical Papers by Jabez W. Abell Jr.
from the Cazenovia Republican, 1925-1942
Daniel H. Weiskotten
posted 7/11/2000
 
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Cherry Valley Turnpike,
Built Before Syracuse was even a Village
by Jabez W. Abell in the Cazenovia Republican
 September 30, 1926
 
 Please see the introduction
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(typographical errors corrected, additional notes by DHW in square brackets [ ])
 
Cherry Valley Turnpike,
Built Before Syracuse was even a Village

        The important part Cazenovia had in the building of the old Cherry Valley Turnpike back in 1803 is shown by the fact that the president of the original corporation together with the secretary and treasurer and a majority of their associates were all residents of this village and the old records indicate that Cazenovia always bad a controlling interest in the road.  This was back only ten years after Cazenovia was founded by Colonel John Lincklaen [1793] and twenty-two years before Syracuse was even incorporated as a village [1825].
        Soon after the settlement of this country, it became evident that if progress was to be made in its development, roads were necessary.  As Cazenovia in particular felt the necessity of having means of communication with Albany the legislature was petitioned to corporate what was afterwards known as "The Third Great Western Turnpike Company" which was to be an extension of turnpikes already made from Cherry Valley to Manlius Square.
        The old records say:

        It was soon discovered that there were onerous conditions in the charter that prevented the sale of the stock, and the directors proceeded to petition the legislature for an amendment to the act of incorporation.
        It seems by this petition, that there was great objection to the clause empowering the Governor and Council of Appointment to appoint commissioners to have a general supervision of the road at their discretion, the directors having them to pay for the services which they might see fit to render or charge for rendering.
        That Legislature looked out for a chance for the governor to have a soft place to bestow upon supernumerous politicians - "Political scavengers who are too lazy to work and too cowardly to steal."
        The western terminus was also to be where the Seneca turnpike crossed the outlet of Skaneateles Lake, which we will state in the words of the directors in the petition -         It was doubtless the intention at the start to run the turnpike over the hill at the foot of the lake, into Pompey Hollow, over the continuous hills and into the intervening valleys [the route of present US 20], that might well discourage even a more energetic class of men and it would have rendered the road at that time and for the immediate purpose wanted, nearly worthless.  [The Hamilton & Skaneateles Turnpike, chartered in 1806 and running just to the south, covered much of this territory].
        When the Cherry Valley Turnpike was completed to Manlius (1810-1811) the embargo was raised and everything desirable in facilities for travel seemed to be accomplished.  It was not at that time supposed that better facilities for travel could ever be provided.
        It was the ne-plus-ultra [pinnacle of achievement] of the time.
        A line of stages was run, "Four Horse Post Coaches" they were called at the Post Office Department, and no one was allowed to carry the mails on such routes without means for conveying passengers, nor even then without buying the existing line, thus effectually guarding the interest of the parties first taking the venture and giving them an undisturbed monopoly.  That monopoly which might have assumed odious and perhaps dangerous proportions was effectually crushed and extinguished by later improvements in travel and transportation.  It was supposed to be necessary to secure the parties who took the risk of putting on the first line of stages.  It was a bonus to secure an important service.
        A stage passenger was considered to be above the common herd and was charged double price for what he had at the tavern, and like McGregor, where he sat was the head of the table.
        Those of us who used to sit in front of Hikok's tavern (now Cazenovia House) [Joseph Hickox, first in tavern 1817, died 1821] during the intermissions of the meeting Sunday noon have seen Jerry White, who drew the reins over the foaming steed for many a long year, drive up with prolonged toot of horn and crack of whip.  The landlord would open the door of the coach, let down the steps and assist the exhausted people, who were sufficiently wealthy to afford a ride in a stage coach, into the sitting room, the wonder of the gazing crowd of children of all ages from ten to four-score years.  Then might be seen the obsequious landlord with a salver containing goblets of prepared beverages to renew the flagging spirits of the aristocratic, but wearied stage passengers.
        Meanwhile the ‘lackeys" that always hung around the tavern, would bring water for Jerry to water his team of which he would allow each one a prudent share, rubbing their noses with it first, adjusting their headstalls, and portions of the harness that seemed misplaced.  Then a boy would bring the Great Western Mail from the post office nearby (often swinging it around his head by way of amusement) which he would toss up to Jerry to be deposited under his seat.
        When "all board" would ring out in stentorian tones, the refreshed passengers would resume their seats in the coach, Jerry placing the four reins properly between his fingers, the long lash of the whip would crack like a horse pistol, and away with dashing speed would go this most brilliant equipage, the stage coach.  How boys used to crave and aspire to be elevated to the position of stage driver!  Two days and nights were required to reach Albany, one hundred and thirteen miles distant.
        Before the Presbyterian meeting house was moved from the "Green" to its present site [1828], one standing in front of Hikok's tavern (now the Cazenovia House) [Joseph Hickox, first in tavern 1817, died 1821] could see the stage approaching from the west as it came down what is now known as McCarthy hill [NY 92] the other side of the lake.
        The 113th mile board from Albany stood at the southwest comer of William Whipple's front yard at about where the south entrance to the basement of the Lincklaen House now is.
        The stage driver never gave half of the road to any team he met, but common teamsters invariably gave up the road.  Not that the stage had any lawful right to it, but it was yielded voluntarily.  It is homage weakness pays to power and is seldom refused at the present day.
        The first dividend was declared in 1811, eight years from the passage of the first act of incorporation, and soon after the road was completed, being about 70 miles long.  Toll gates were established 10 miles apart.
        The Presidency of the Cherry Valley Turnpike was continuously in the hands of Mr. Lincklaen until he resigned a short time previous to his death in 1822 when General Ledyard became president until the final collapse, when turnpike roads and turnpike gates became a thing of the past and now, at this present time there are comparatively few who know anything about this corporation that died so quietly that none but the stockholders really knew whether it was buried alive or not.  They kept on taking at the gates the six pences and shillings as long as any one would pay, and it would greatly gratify our idle curiosity to know who paid the last expiring fare.
        The last toll gate on the road to disappear is said to have been just this side of Morrisville at the top of the hill, and here is the story passed down as to how it disappeared.  A farmer is said to have come along and upon refusing to pay the toll and being denied passage, hooked a rope on the toll gate and drew it back in the lot.  And there it stayed.  We don't vouch for the accuracy of the story but it was told us by an older resident to whom it was told by a still older resident long since dead.  [I believe that the toll house on the west side of Cazenovia Lake stood until the 1890s].
 
END of Jabez W. Abell's "Cherry Valley Turnpike ..."