The Question (by SG 11/5/1997)
I live on Tinsley Hill Road in the Town of Nelson (just northwest of Erieville) and I know that my area is a historic area. I was wondering of the origin of the name Tinsley and any interesting facts of the outlying areas.

Dan Weiskotten's Answer (11/6/1997)
Tinsley Hill Road (THR), located just northwest of the hamlet of Erieville in the Town of Nelson, Madison County, NY, is one of those unique but typical roads that are found throughout this section of NY state. Presently it is a narrow, unpaved, dead-end road and is about as near to the middle of nowhere as you can get (although the stars are beautiful up there almost any night), but it is clear that this part of town was once pretty important - probably no more important than any other part of the town, but important enough to have quite a bit of history.

Today THR is only a fragment of its former self, with only 1.6 km (1 mi) remaining open. The whole road originally extended 3.5 km (2.2 mi) from NY 80 (Erieville-New Woodstock Road) on the south to Holmes and Irish Hill roads on the north. A pleasant walk up the hill and into the DEC lands past Wasilewski's will lead you down the former course of the road where you can still see the grade of the old narrow bed.

If we were to step back to the early years of settlement, say about 1800, we would have a hard time finding our way around, not so much because the area was still very wild, but because the road systems we know today had not yet developed. As the area was being settled roads were opened to meet contemporary needs, and it wasn't for many years, perhaps by 1820, that our present network of roads had finally developed. In the early years, 1793 to 1810, many odd roads were opened to meet the needs of the time, only to be abandoned when more important destinations developed.

THR is one of those early roads that is at least traceable today. The road was formally surveyed in 1803 (Cazenovia Town Road Book 2:66 - Nelson was part of Caz. until 1807), but it probably existed well before that. If you look at a modern road map of Cazenovia and Nelson you will see that THR is just a segment of a much longer traverse. I don't think that this is a random occurrence, and many other similar connecting roads led to various particular destinations. Unfortunately, I'm not really sure what particular destination anchors either end of the THR traverse. To the south THR almost feathers out of NY 80, but THR was in place before that road was opened as the Hamilton and Skaneateles Turnpike in 1811 (this may have followed an existing path). Erieville didn't matter much when THR was opened, so I'm not sure what was to the south or east that led to this point. To the north THR leads to Irish Hill Road and Holmes Road. Irish Hill Road then leads north to the Hardscrabble Road house of Ebenezer Lyon, Nelson's first Supervisor, but it ends there. Holmes Road, on the other hand continues the THR bearing northwestward toward the small community of Belmont (in Caz. at the very south end of East Road where it crosses over Chittenango Creek) where Samuel S. Forman had built a saw mill by 1800. From Belmont a traveler could have gone in several directions.

In looking at the early road surveys and mid-19th century maps, it is interesting to find that several other roads once intersected THR.  From near Wasilewski's a road ran directly south to NY 80. Another road ran from just below Giardina's and, following the lot lines in a direct line northward, crossed Hardscrabble Road and the swamp, and connected with the Nelson-Erieville Road, from where it continued on to Nelson Flatts. It may be that this northward road was not open very long, or perhaps had never been opened, as it is gone by the time a detailed map was made in 1853 (I have not worked with the Nelson Road Records to find about this road). The road south from Wasilewski's is present on the maps of 1853 and 1859, but is gone by the time of the 1875 atlas. Parts of this road are still traceable.

I'm running out of time, so I'll have to get back to you on the families that have called Tinsley Hill Road home. Back in '94 I wrote an article for the local Rag on the history of local roads, but I don't presently recall the date that it appeared. I'll also get back to you on that.

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