Atwell's 1928 Cazenovia, Past & Present
A Descriptive and Historical Record of the Village
pages 21 to 24
Daniel H. Weiskotten
Last Modified 3/21/2005
Click here to go back to the Cazenovia, Fenner, and Nelson RootsWeb Main Page
Click here to go back to the History Texts Main Page
Atwell, Christine O., 1928, Cazenovia, Past & Present,
A Descriptive and Historical Record of the Village. Florida Press,
Inc., Orlando, FL
Some spelling corrections have been made and a few notes to update
or clarify the text are added in square [ ] parentheses. Atwell's
Footnotes and my Comments and Notes follow at the
end of the text.
Founding & Settlement
Industries and Institutions
pages 21 to 24
<:21> The location of
the village must be regarded as a fortunate one, being 1,250 feet above
sea level and almost surrounded by water; the lake on the west, the outlet
of the lake on the south, while to the east and north flows Chittenango
Creek (Footnote III-1).
Cazenovia Lake is the principal
inland body of water in Madison County, and is one of the most beautiful
minor sheets of water in the state. Viewing the country about the
village from the high ground at the head of Sullivan Street, one sees on
every side, except the south, that the hills have a gentle descent, forming
somewhat the make of a valley, and yet the lake is four and a half miles
long, from a half mile to a mile wide and about sixty feet deep.
It discharges its waters into Chittenango Creek which was a feeder for
the Erie canal. It occupies an elevated basin 900  feet above
tidewater and is fed apparently by springs as there is no inlet to supply
the water wider than one can step over and the outlet is large except in
very dry seasons. when a traveler arrives, he is greeted, as it were,
with the smiles of a beautiful sheet of water, seemingly basking in the
sun on the summit of the land - the fish in their element and the inhabitants
of the village basking in the sunshine of prosperity on the earth.
The lake is well stocked
with fish; perch, trout, sunfish and bullheads are native. At one
time 43 small pickerel measuring about four to nine inches long were brought
from Leland's Pond in Eaton, and put in the lake. An agreement was
made by the inhabitants that no person would take any within three years.
At the expiration of that time they had multiplied beyond all expectations
and were in abundance, but they destroyed the smaller fry, except the horny
bullheads. The lake, formerly called Lincklaen Lake, also bears the
Indian name "Owahgena" meaning "The lake of the yellow perch."
Cazenovia, like many other
towns in the county, is rich in incidents suggestive of the occupancy of
this region of country by a race of people anterior to those from whom
the present inhabitants are descended (Comment).
In various localities, and notably so at the head and upon the outlet of
the lake, the plow has disclosed evidences that the aborigines camped with
more or less permanency and at places in considerable numbers, and pursued
their domestic avocations, hunted, fished, trapped, tilled and buried their
dead; while to the west of the foot of the lake is a locality of no little
interest <:22> to antiquarians, known as Indian Fort (Footnote
III-2). It is situated on the west line of the town, partly
in Cazenovia and partly in Pompey, upon a slight eminence, nearly surrounded
by a deep ravine.
Previous to the treaties
of 1788, the lake was the especial property of the Oneida Indians, who
had established themselves near the head of it. They were undoubtedly
one of the six families of the great Confederacy which may have been driven
from here at last by some invading foe or perhaps they abandoned their
fortifications for some more congenial spot. At any rate, in September,
1861, a sunken canoe or "dug out," filled with stones, was discovered in
the take by a party of three gentlemen fishing (Comment).
They succeeded in getting the canoe to the surface and towing it ashore.
Its antique appearance excited much interest among the Cazenovians, and,
thereupon was kindled a flame of enthusiasm for the departed nobility of
the race once the unquestioned lords of Lake Owahgena, who had sunk their
canoes that the invading foe might not possess them. It was decided
to return the relic to its bed of aquatic weeds, where it had evidently
long rested, with ceremonials befitting the occasion. Accordingly,
on the 12th day of the succeeding October, all Cazenovia gathered at the
lake to witness the unique proceedings, in which thirty-one persons from
among the most prominent citizens, dressed in aboriginal costume, took
part. The Indians who were dwellers of these localities had mostly
disappeared before the advent of the white settlers in 1792.
There was a thrill of pride
and pleasure among the early inhabitants of the village when the first
little steamboat was built and launched in 1808 (Comment).
Other and larger boats came later, and so for many years the take was not
without steam craft. There was a $2,500 steamer on the lake in 1870.
Two years later, a small steamboat named "Lottie," which was about thirty
feet long and would carry thirty or forty passengers, was launched.
Lake fetes, or regattas, were held often. As many as forty sail and
oar boats filled with "beaux and beauties" glided over its surface to music
on the water. The steamer was trimmed in colors; the boats, decorated
with Chinese and colored lanterns and flags, moving about, reminded one
of the Venetian gondolas with their beautiful reflections in the water.
Fire works were sent up from the middle of the lake.
The beauties of Owahgena
rake are portrayed in the following verses by Rev. Dwight Williams:
Owahgena, I have seen
All thy moods from storm to sheen
Parked about with avenues
Leading to thy charming views,
Nook, and cove, and lawns of green,
Villas, which a reigning queen
Far from courts or royal mien
Might for rest and beauty choose,
Here old forests' monarchs lean
O'er thy crystal depths serene,
Where thy spray-like crystal dews
Bathes their feet, or sparkling, woos
Summer birds that come to preen,
Nearly the entire shore line
of the lake is owned now by private interests. Summer homes, with
expansive green lawns, have been built; a few camps on either side, a club-house
at the outlet, a public pier where the village has a pumping station to
force the spring water from the take to the reservoir some distance away.
The village also owns a small park space on the east shore where picnics
are held, auto campers may rest, and bathers have the freedom of the water.
Before the extensive use of manufactured ice, the lake supplied a large
part of Syracuse as well as Cazenovia with ice.
Chittenango Creek rises
in the highlands of Fenner and Nelson, eventually emptying into Oneida
Lake. It presents in its course some rare scenes of romantic beauty,
and is altogether the most important stream in the county for hydraulic
purposes. Between Cazenovia and Chittenango it possesses as convenient
and uniform a water power as exists in the State. Every portion of
this eight miles may be conveniently used for hydraulic purposes.
The descent is somewhat more than 740 feet, with one perpendicular fall
of 134 feet at Chittenango Falls, where the water plunges in a beautiful
cascade, over a ledge of limestone rock.
Under Governor Smith, the
property around the Falls, which had been held for some time by private
interests, presumably to prevent the water power from being commercialized,
became a state park. It is intended to include in this park land
between the Falls and Sulphur Springs.
A stranger, coming to Cazenovia
on the stage coach in 1865 said, "The road from Chittenango to Cazenovia
is charmingly picturesque and wild. It conducts one to a village
of white cottages and green blinds, among avenues of maple and elm and
perfect bowers of shrubbery."
<:24> S.S. Forman, in
a letter to the village trustees in 1851 (Comment
said, "The outlet of the lake, uniting in the mill-pond with Chittenango
Creek furnishing a never-failing head of water, forms fine sites for hydraulic
purposes, the whole distance capable of propelling machinery at every few
rods, which it seems your enterprising citizens have already to a considerable
extent improved for years past, and all the distance made of easy access
by a plank road through a valley which was formerly considered wholly waste
land. The prospect now is that you will become a large manufacturing
city that will vie with Lowell. Also your reputed valuable medicinal
springs lately brought into public notice and already in high estimation.
Those Springs and the hydraulic establishments will mutually aid each other."
A Syracuse physician started
a hotel at Sulphur Springs [several miles north of the Village].
There were four or five cottages connected with it with full accommodations
for families. Many invalids enjoyed the comforts of the place, as
well as the medicinal properties of the water.
"Chittenango" means "waters divide and run north." It is a corruption
of the Oneida Indian name meaning, "Where the sun shineth out."
Comments and Notes by Daniel
Also known as Atwell fort. Joseph Atwell was the first white
settler on the adjoining land.
III Waterways, pages 21 to 22
There is no reason whatsoever to suppose that the prehistoric inhabitants
of the lake shore and Indian village sites surrounding were not the ancestors
of the Iroquois who occupied the region when settlement began. This
line of thought is based on the belief that the Iroquois of the 19th century,
lazy and shiftless as they were perceived, could not have been the
descendants of a "race" which made such beautiful stone and bone tools
and ornaments and lived in large organized villages of the far past.
While much of the prehistoric
evidence found near Cazenovia Lake is of the archaic period dating to some
5,000 years ago, there are several large prehistoric village sites which
were occupied by the Onondagas (west of the lake) and Oneidas (east of
the lake). The two mentioned villages to the west of the lake and
its head are both prehistoric Onondaga Villages.
The mutual dividing line
between the Onondaga and Oneida lands was down the length of the lake and
the lake was shared. By the 1784 treaty of Fort Stanwix the dividing
line was formally described as running along Chittenango Creek, thus placing
the lake and its shores entirely within Onondaga territory. With
the formation of the Oneida Reservation in 1788 the bounds of the Oneida
territory were modified to follow the eastern line of the Military Tract
(Onondaga County) and the north line of the Twenty Townships and Road Township
(Seminary Street Line) - this placed all but the very southern end of the
lake within Oneida territory!
The "Indian canoe" found in 1861 had an iron strap on one end and an
iron hoop on the other - it is likely that they were canoes used by the
pioneers to get back and forth across the lake in the earliest days of
settlement and before the roads were firmly established. There have
actually been at least three dug out canoes found in Cazenovia Lake in
the mid to late 19th century - the one here mentioned which was found mid-way
up the west side of the lake, a second at the southwest corner of the lake,
and a third off the village pier. Sinking the canoes in the lake
was a good means of assuring their preservation in the winter months.
The boat launched in 1808 was not a steamboat. It was the first sail
boat, with a mast. Previous to this time canoes had been used. The
first steam boat on Cazenovia Lake was built in 1822 by William Avery who is listed in the 1827 Cazenovia Village Register as a Steam Engine
Maker. It was first launched on Limestone Creek at Buellville, near
Oran, and was then brought up to Cazenovia Lake. How long it was
in Cazenovia is not known, and it eventually ended up on the Erie
Canal. Its Avery-built steam engine was finally used to pump brine in
the Syracuse salt fields. The next known steam boat on Cazenovia Lake
appeared nearly 50 years later when Charles F. Parmelee operated the
small side-wheeler “Parmelee” in the 1870s.
There are several versions of Forman's reminiscence of the first days
of Cazenovia. The version mentioned here appeared in the Cazenovia
Gazette, December 3, 1851. Other versions were written in 1837,
which was published by the Friends of Lorenzo in 1982, and it was also
presented on May 8, 1841 to commemorate the 48th anniversary of the founding
of the village.
Proceed on to Chapter IV
Industries and Institutions