John Corbett.

The lake country. An annal of olden days in central New York. The land of gold online

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the foot of Cayuga Lake, and was one
mile and eight rods long, twenty-two
feet wide and the same number of feet
between trestles. It was finished Septem-
ber 4th, 1800, having required eighteen
months for completion at a cost of
$150,000. The bridge fell in 1808, was
rebuilt in 1813, and abandoned in 1857.
Turnpike Roads extended in 1810,
through Owego, Newtown and Bath to
the Genesee River, along the courses
of the Susquehanna and Chemung;
through Ithaca, Catharine's Town and
Bath, toward Lake Erie; over the Ge-
neva Road to the Genesee, thence to the
mouth of Buffalo Creek; from Oneida
Lake, by the site of Rochester to Fort
Niagara. Highways connected these
turnpikes from Owego to Ithaca and
Cayuga; from Newtown to Catharine's
Town and Geneva; from Bath to Penn
Yan, Friends' Settlement and Geneva;
from Bath to Naples, Canandaigua and
Sodus Bay. Over these thoroughfares,


which are yet main routes of travel, lines
of stages were established to flourish
until superseded by the railways.


The Stage-lines were important factors
in the afrairs of the central section of the
State, during the first quarter of the
present century. Everywhere by lake
and stream were they established, link-
ing homes and hamlets with the main
towns, and extending mail facilities to
remote settlements. Though at first con-
fined to the turnpike roads, and like the
toll-gates distinctive features of those
highways, stage-coaches soon began to
thread all thoroughfares connecting the
larger villages, v/liich as head-quarters
of their daily operations, became centers
of marked business activities; the wind-
ing of the drivers' horns announcing the
arrivals on the scene, as do the whistles
of the locomotives of to-day.

The first location of stage-lines by law
in the Lake Country was on March 31st,
1804, when the legislature granted to
Levi Stephens and Jason Parker the sole


right of running' stages from Utica to
Canandaigua, for the term of seven
years. Trips were required to be made
twice each week from May to October;
then the travel demanded three every
week, and finally daily runs. April 6th,
1807, John Metcalf was given similar
privileges for the same length of time,
between Canandaigua and Buffalo.
Stages however, were running from Can-
andaigua and Geneva to Albany as early
as 1797, when a weekly post was estab-
lished; mails having been extended from
Canajoharie to Utica in 1793, the in-
habitants on the route providing for the

The villages south of the lakes as well
as those to the northward became great
stage-line centers, each vying with the
others in the efiforts to reach outside
points by this mode of conveyance. The
stage-coaches on the main roads were
gaily caparisoned but ponderous afifairs
weighing upwards of a ton, each drawn
by four horses sure-footed and strong.
The teams were changed at frequent in-
tervals, and kept in fine condition by


especial care. A dozen passengers with
light baggage were carried even over the
rough roadways of the hill-courses. The
arrivals and departures were enlivening
events of a place, occurring at stated
hours with much bustle and exhilara-
tion as accompaniments, for true time
was a requisite to the good repute of the

The inns of olden days were located at
such short distances apart, that travelers
could find entertainment at almost any
point where night overtook them. Many
of the settlers thus denominated their
log-houses, and those who did not ob-
served the custom of leaving the latch-
string out to wayfarers who were in need
of their hospitality. The taverns suc-
ceeded the inns, but differed from them
in being of more substantial and commo-
dious structure, and many are yet in use
either as dwellings or public houses. The
bar was a main equipment, and while
passengers were unrestrained by law in
their thirsty proclivities, an act was
passed in April, 1817, prohibiting stage
companies from employing drivers who
were addicted to drunkenness.



The Railways were projected along
the water-courses of Central New York
at an early date. The Mohawk and Hud-
son, the first line to be constructed in the
State, was chartered in 1826, and opened
to traffic in 1831. An act to incorporate
the Ithaca and Owego Railroad Com-
pany was passed in January, 1828, and
the road was opened in April, 1834.
These initial railways were closely con-
nected with the fortunes of the Lake
Country; the former having become the
first link in the chain of the New York
Central fines, and the latter ultimately
becoming part of the Lackawanna sys-

Two lines of railway traversed New
York State from east to west, at the close
of 185 1, one passing south and the other
north of the lakes, and known respec-
tively as the ''Erie" and the "Central"
roads. The New York and Erie Rail-
road Company was formed in July, 1833,
but reorganized in 1835. The act author-
izing the road was passed in April, 1832,
and the preliminary survey of the route


was made the same year by DeWitt Clin-
ton, Jr., the final survey by Benjamin
Wright, occurring in 1834. The Hne was
opened from Piermont to Goshen in Sep-
tember, 1841; to Binghamton in Decem-
ber, 1848; to Elmira in October, 1849,
and to Dunkirk in May, 1851.

The New York Central and Hudson
River Railroad Company was formed
November ist, 1869, by the combina-
tion of the two lines of railway men-
tioned in title. The "Central" Company
was organized under an act of April,
1853, authorizing the consolidation of
the railroads between Albany and Buf-
falo. These numbered ten, ranging in
date of construction from 1 831, up to
1853, when the direct line from Syracuse
to Rochester was completed. The rail-
road from Syracuse to Auburn was fin-
ished in 1836; Auburn to Rochester in
1840, and Rochester to Bufifalo- in 1852.
The Hudson River Railroad was char-
tered in May, 1846, and opened its entire
length in October, 1851.

The lines of railroad operated by the
Northern Central Railway Company,


were constructed through the Lake
Country in 185 1. The Fall Brook route,
which went into operation in 1877, is the
outgrowth of the mining interests of the
Fall Brook Coal Corrtpany, organized in
1859, The Delaware, Lackawanna and
Western Railroad Company, the lessee
of many routes of railway in Central New
York, completed its double-track line to
Buffalo in 1882. The Lehigh Valley
Railway Company is the result of the
consolidation of several railroad organ-
izations in June, 1890, when its double-
track road was built. Other lines of the
lakes are not of independent manage-


The Press of Central New York was
early established, but the subject of
newspaper endeavor throughout its ex-
tent, if properly presented would require
a volume in itself, and only the pioneer
publications may be mentioned in these
sketches. In every center of population
about the lakes to-day, are well supported
and ably conducted journals, which in


their columns advocate the interests of
community and make faithful record of
the locality, and while far in advance of
the standard of excellence of their ante-
cedents in the field, no less credit is due
the periodicals of the olden days.

Previous to 1800 newspapers were
published in Steuben, Ontario and Ca-
yuga counties, but in Tioga, the fourth
county of the lakes at that time, one was
not issued till that year, when The Amer-
ican Constellation was started at Union
Village. The Bath Gazette and Genesee
Advertiser, the first paper of Western
New York, was estabUshed in 1796 at
Bath, by William Kersey and James
Eddie. The Ontario Gazette and Gen-
esee Advertiser was commenced at Ge-
neva, by Lucius Carey in 1797, but two
years later removed to Canandaigua.
The Levana Gazette was issued by R.
Delano in 1798, and two other papers
of Cayuga county appeared in 1799; the
Western Luminary and the Aurora

The towns having more than one
newspaper in addition to those enumer-


ated, founded during the first quarter of
the century were as follows: Auburn —
Cayuga Patriot, 1814; Advocate of the
People, 1 8 16; Cayuga Republican, 18 19.
Geneva — Impartial American, 1800; Ex-
positor, 1806; Palladium, 1816. Water-
loo — Seneca Farmer, 1822; Republican,
1822; Observer, 1824. Elmira — Tele-
graph, 1816; Investigator, 1820; Repub-
lican, 1820. Binghamton — Broome Co.
Patriot, 1812; Republican Herald, 1818;
Republican, 1822. Canandaigua — On-
tario Freeman, 1803; Republican, 1824.
Bath — Steuben Patriot, 1815; Farmers'
Gazette, 18 16. Ithaca — Seneca Republi-
can, 1815; Republican Chronicle, 1820.
Penn Yan— Herald, 1818; Yates Co.
Republican, 1824. Lyons — Republican,
1821, issued six months; Advertiser,

Other initial publications of the lakes
were: The American Farmer, Owego,
1 810; The Cayuga Tocsin, Union
Springs, 181 2; The Seneca Patriot, Ovid,
1 81 5; Genesee Farmer, Moscow, 181 7;
Palmyra Register, 181 7; Livingston
Journal, Geneseo, 1822; The Lake Light,


Trumansburg-, 1827; The Tioga Patriot,
Havana, 1828; Seneca Falls Journal,
1829; Newark Republican, 1829; Clyde
Standard, 1830; Vienna Republican,
Phelps, 1831; Naples Free Press, 1832;
The Corning and Blossburg Advocate,
Corning, 1840; The Chemung Demo-
crat, Jefferson now Watkins, county-seat
of Schuyler, 1842.


The Sloops and schooners of the olden
days no longer plough the waters of
Central New York. The lakes which
bore hundreds of sailing craft engaged
in the commercial transactions of the
pioneers, now save for pleasure purposes
bear not one upon their bosoms. In that
early time nearly every owner of a point
was also the proprietor of a sail-boat, in
which was taken marketward the prod-
ucts of the field and forest, and off more
than one cove of the shore molder yet
the skeletons of settlers, who were swept
from the deck to death by the swinging
boom of a sail.


The Sloop of the Seneca launched at
Geneva in 1796, amid a great public
demonstration, was the pioneer packet-
boat of the lakes. The craft was of forty-
tons burden, and made trips to Cath-
arine's Town, later known as Havana
and now called Montour Falls. From
the head of the lake this landing was
reached by a sail up the curving course
of the Inlet through Catharine Marsh,
and the distance between Geneva and
Catharine's Town being some forty
miles, gave rise to the old-time saying
that Seneca Lake was of that length. The
surveyors vvith Sullivan's troops recorded
the measurement of the route along the
east shore of the lake, as thirty-six miles.

A schooner known as the "Lyre of
Tioga" and hailing from Catharine's
Town, was the central figure in a mem-
orable event in the annals of Seneca. In
1825 by legislative enactment, the Inlet
in its portion through Catharine Marsh
was declared to be a public highway.
Through interests at the head of the lake
however, a draw-bridge was constructed
over the stream, which was deemed of


too narroAv build for the purposes of
navigation, by the people of Catharine's
Town. Accordingly they placed a can-
non loaded with broken andirons, on the
schooner's prow, and sailing down the
Inlet waters tore the bridge to pieces by
its discharge.

A New York paper of date of Novem-
ber 17th, 1823, under the heading "In-
land Navigation,'' thus mentioned a
noted Seneca Lake schooner: "Arrived
yesterday from the town of Hector,
Tompkins county, the schooner 'Mary
and Hannah' of Factory Falls, Captain
Jackson commanding. This is the first
vessel which has reached the port of
New York through the western canal.
She brings a cargo consisting of 800
bushels of wheat, three tons of butter
and four barrels of beans, all of excel-
lent quality." Factory Falls was the des-
ignation of the site of old-time industry,
now known as Hector Falls and dis-
tinguished only for its picturesque cas-



The Fruits of fall ripen nowhere in
greater perfection than throughout the
Lake Country. Orchards there bear
with the greatest abundance, and vine-
yards yield products of the finest flavor.
Grapes have been cultivated for upwards
of half a century, the first vines being
planted during the '40's, and the shores
of one lake having but little precedence
over the others. The slopes of Lakes
Keuka, Canandaigua and Seneca seem
to be peculiarly adapted to the growth
of vineyard products, while not as great
success has been attained along Cayuga
Lake or the bodies of water to the east-

The first grapes at the head of Lake
Keuka were planted by Rev. WilHam
Bostwick, who did not raise them to sell
however, and the first shipments were
from a vineyard grown from cuttings
from his vines, by William Hastings in
1847. It was the same year, 1847, ^^^^^
a Mr. McKay set out two acres of grapes
on Canandaigua Lake. The first vine-
vard located on Seneca Lake, as near as


can be ascertained, was on lands belong-
ing to Isaac Hildreth, at Big Stream in
1845. From these beginnings the in-
dustry has assumed vast proportions,
much of the acreage being on soil stony
and steep and once considered of little
value for agricultural purposes.

The fruits of the lakes are not
wholly of modern culture, for the Iro-
quois had extensive orchards of apples,
peaches and plums, which were ruth-
lessly laid low by troops of the Military
Expedition. The wide-spread destruc-
tion attendant on that event, may be in-
ferred from the statement of one journal,
that on the east side of Cayuga Lake
alone, no less than 1,500 peach, besides
apple and other fruit trees were felled to
the ground. This was upwards of a cen-
tury ago, and a century previous to that
march of havoc, in 1665, a chronicler had
declared the region of the lakes of Cen-
tral New York, "Capable of bearing all
the fruits of Provence and Touraine."

The settlers obtained fruit from Indian
apple-trees that had been overlooked by
the troops or from sprouts of the orig-


inal stumps, until the orchards planted
by themselves came into bearing. These
clumps of trees may be seen on many of
the homesteads of the lakes, generally
occupying a gravelly knoll, with a pile
of stones at the side, marking the
chimney-site of the log-cabin that once
stood upon the spot. Natural fruit was
the product of these orchards, and it was
worth but little save to manufacture into
cider. This was done by mashing the
apples between two upright corrugated
timbers operated by a sweep, and known
in early days as "nut mills."


The Topics of the foregoing pages are
neither treated at length nor in attempt
at exhaustive consideration. Each sub-
ject could be amplified, but the intent of
the work is rather of a cyclopedic char-
acter than an extended narration of the
past. In gathering the facts presented,
gazetteers, session laws, local histories,
newspaper files and old residents' recol-
lections have been consulted. There are
many themes of interest in the Lake


Country not touched upon at all, be-
cause their initial events were of later
date than the pioneer period. Notably
is this true of the Glens, which have be-
come world-wide in fame as tourist-
resorts. Their openings to the public
have been of comparatively recent date,
though along their banks in olden days,
o'er ways that may still be threaded by
those versed in wood-lore, in Indian file
through countless years there trailed a
race, whose deeds about the lakes have
become in greater part, ''But a memory
and a recollection."

The Land of Gold.



Alaska as the place of sojourn during
the months of May and June, 1898, gave
opportunity for the observations that
are embodied in the following sketches
of the Land of Gold. In that far-away
realm life-lines are plain and primitive,
and from the civilization of the crown-
ing years of the century the transition
was to the crude conditions of pioneer
days. The trip was made after a week
of leisure in New York and a month of
sight-seeing about Seattle; both busy
marts of commerce, whose ships sail out
over the seas to meet where the Orient
becomes the Occident. Imbued with the
spirit of settlement scenes by life in Cen-
tral New York, existence in Alaskan
wilds was of interest to The Writer and
his partner, E. L. Becker, also a native
of the Lake Country.



The Land of Gold is one of vast ex-
tent and immense resources; thoitg-h its
river currents are of great velocity, its
mountain heights unconquerable, and its
frozen wastes nearly interminable. The
forest wealth of this domain of almost
immeasurable distances, will prove a
source of profit to generations yet to be.
The mineral deposits will not be ex-
hausted while ages elapse, for should
the time ever come when the gold
no longer glints in the miner's pan, then


will the ores of lesser worth demand and
receive attention. The waters of the
coast-line teem with fish and fowl, whose
progeny in future will augment the
world's food supply; while on the grass
of the foot-hills where now feed the
moose and sheep, the flocks and herds
of civilization will find sustenance. The
soil of the southern shore of Alaska sup-
ports a wonderful woodland growth, and
where cleared for cultivation yields
quick-maturing crops in abundance. The
mold suitable for plant life is deep and
fertile, and only awaits the hand of the
husbandman to bring forth all hardy
grains and fruits in their season. Alaska
is an empire in area of physical features,
and unlimited in its possibiUties of indus-
trial and commercial development.


The Ship sailed from Seattle, as fell
the shades of evening of an April day.
To the eastward and the westward, the
Cascades and the Olympics from their
snowy heights, yet glinted the glories
of the sunset. Above, the sky was


cloudless, and beneath, the surface of the
Sound was tranquil as a lakelet. For
four days the sail was up the inland pas-
sage, behind islands which shut ofif the
swell of the sea, except at Hecate Strait
and Dixon Entrance, where open waters
were encountered. Through wide
reaches and narrow channels the steam-
er held its way; wooded heights on
either hand, and evidence of life of fish
and fowl everywhere. Indian villages
with their totem poles and peculiar
places of burial were passed, and now
and then a vessel would be met. This
portion of the trip was as if through a
new world, and all on board were ex-
hilarated by the entrancing scenes. One
quiet day inland, the ship sailed out of
Sumner Strait, and as night fell was
rolling in the swells of the Pacific. May
day found it still in the open ocean, and
visions of flowery fields mocked the
memory during the misty hours that
ensued, before the boat was gliding
through the tranquil waters of Cook

The Inlet is fifty by two hundred


miles in extent, with waters that soon
lose their deep-sea tint through shoal-
ing, and the vexing of the submerged
sands by adverse currents. Snow-capped
mountain chains marked by glaciers and
volcanic peaks, guard its timbered
shores. The ship rode at anchor at its
head waiting for the turn of the tide,
in the midst of wonderland; bathed by
the sun in beauties indescribable, as it
sank into a cloudland sea of gold be-
hind banks of pearl. To' the east and
west were snowy mountain ranges, far
beyond the wooded forelands; to the
south extended open water with the sky-
line barely discernible ; to the north rose
Mt. Sushitna, its summit clothed in eter-
nal snows, a mile in height above sea-
level. The northeast tributary of Cook
Inlet is known as Turnagain Arm, and
up its narrow course the tide surges with
great velocity, rising to the height of
thirty feet. On the flow, the vessel held
her way at morning, going with the
turbid flood over quaking shallows and
treacherous sands, to an anchorage at
the mouth of a mountain stream, where


at the ebb It was beached, precisely as
the exploring ship of Captain Cook
made landing along its waters in 1778.


The Camp was in the shelter of moun-
tains, rising thousands of feet above the
waters of the stream that skirted the
plain on which it stood. The configura-
tion of its location was such that the
tints of the dawn long lighted up the
environing peaks at morning, and this
distinguishment established its appella-
tion of "Sunrise." Its low-eaved cabins
of logs among the stumps and shrubs of
a hastily completed clearing, were pio-
neer constructions in every detail save
the old-time fire-places of stone. The
door-ways broad and inviting, opened
into hospitable though rudely furnished
interiors where benches served as chairs
and boxes frequently as tables, but
where food was plentiful, plain and nour-
ishing. On the outskirts of the settle-
ment were reared the white tents of the
new-comers — the ^'tenderfeet,'' who per-
haps were getting an experience of fron-


tier life for the first time in their exist-
ence. From the plain the wooded slopes
swelled on either side to timber-line, and
above the snow-fields rose to towering
heights, while in the foregrotmd the val-
ley of the stream wound from the tidal
flats of Turnagain Arm, far into the in-
terior of the uplands.

The laws of a camp are few yet efifect-
ive, and aim to secure the inviolability
of the person and property. So long as
a member respects the rights of others,
he may be a law unto himself on moral
lines. A hfe for a life is the rule in a
mining community, and a thief is some-
times given short shrift before the rope's
end. More often however, a meeting is
called, and the offender is escorted by
a committee to the next camp, who
herald there his guilt. His course thence-
forward to the courts of civilization, is a
succession of custodial trips by commit-
tees to camps, with his wrong-doing
ever proclaimed at their termination.
The law's delay has no exemplification
among men of the wilderness, who gen-
erally can be grouped as to their motives


for seeking solitude, under three grada-
tions. There are those who love treasure-
hunting for itself, and are ever at the
frontier in the quest for gold. Others
before financial failure have enjoyed the
fruits of success, and hope amid new
scenes to retrieve their fortunes. Lastly
are the men of mystery, who in lonely
lives are endeavoring to expiate acts of
the past, and somewhere through the
years by the homestead hearths, hearts
may be waiting and breaking for the
absent ones.


The Claim where the quest is made for
gold, if on placer ground has an area of
twenty acres. In the Sunrise district the
local laws allow the staking of the loca-
tion in rectangular form, and hence it
is usual to extend the claim up the
stream some fifteen hundred feet, with a
width on either hand from its center of
about three hundred feet. The ground
is first prospected by the miner, who
with pan and pick and pack of camp-kit
has threaded his way far up some lonely


gorge. He seeks an unexplored region,
for if anyone has preceded him to the
spot his labors may be in vain. A claim
however, that has not been developed
within the tim.e prescribed by mining
law, reverts to the public and may be
relocated. After prospecting the placer-
site, stakes marking its bounds should
be set within ten days, and before the ex-
piration of the time of thirty days, a rec-
ord must be made at the office of the
district. The assessment work required
to perfect the title and ensure permanent
possession, must equal yearly the value
of one hundred dollars, but the miner
not only has the remainder of the year
of location but all of the next one, in
which to complete his first development.
The trails lead to the lonely claims,
following the waterways and extending
in many instances but as courses marked
by lines of blazed trees. Yet up these
pathways the miner packs his belong-
ings, if he make permanent camp upon
his claim. With the pan he labors if

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Online LibraryJohn CorbettThe lake country. An annal of olden days in central New York. The land of gold → online text (page 6 of 7)