Dan Weiskotten's Answer (1/25/1994):
If ever there was a paper that cried out to have figures, maps, and illustrations, it is this one. I don't have the space to post a modern topographic sheet of the Cazenovia area, but I have several early historic maps that variously show the highway networks. These maps are dated 1801, 1802, 1812, 1818, 1820, and 1827. I also have posted a modern road map which you will help you follow what i am discussing.
Getting Around Town
A History of Roads in Cazenovia
Daniel H. Weiskotten
January 25, 1994
slightly revised 3/14/2002
(Thanks to Bob Skellan and Carol Blackmore for comments and information)
If we were to take a step
back in history and look at the first years of the Cazenovia area we would
probably have a great deal of difficulty recognizing this place that we
think we know so well. If the pioneers of that time were to see what
Cazenovia has become they would be equally astonished and perplexed.
The Oneida or Onondaga Iroquois of the eighteenth century would find the
Cazenovia of 1794 and 1994 beyond belief.
The face of Cazenovia was little changed for thousands of years before 1793 except for the transient impact of the Native Americans that had also called this place home. Their village sites had no lasting impact on the geography and environment. Their trails to fishing spots at the foot of the lake, between villages, and between tribes followed the most naturally convenient course, which was not often easy in the hilly country of the uplands. Narrow foot paths upon ridges, along the sides of valleys and out of the way of swamps, and through swales and ravines led to wherever one needed to go. As the semipermanent habitation sites of the Oneidas and Onondagas moved, so did their paths.
In 1789, when Horace P. Schuyler and his crew of surveyors measured the land that was to be purchased a few years later by John Lincklaen, there were few "Indian trails" that were of use to them. The white-man's destinations and reasons for being in the hills above Oneida Lake were different. These first surveyors left only a few blaze marks on trees, and these marks lasted only until the woodsman cleared the land and replaced the survey points with tree stumps or a "stake and stones."
White folks need roads (and now the Indian does too). We take up more space than a footpath could give and that required clearing trees out of our way and leveling bumps and filling holes. As our vehicles improved our need for better routes and roads grew, and it was often many years before the improvements came to reality. The lack of roads at the commencement of settlement was a definite impediment to the rate at which the wilderness was conquered and road building was of major importance if an area was to be settled. For the first fifty years the building and maintaining of roads and bridges was the prime concern of the town fathers and the Town Minute Books, the first of which is entitled "Town Road Book," is almost entirely comprised of descriptions of the road districts and appointments of the highway overseers, also called path masters or fence viewers. Another of the Town's earliest books is a volume of road surveys, with descriptions of existing roads, altered roads, and abandoned roads - with surveys dating as early as 1797.
In 1793 the political barriers were finally out of the way and it was time to overcome the physical barriers and get settlers to the fresh and wild lands of Cazenovia. Our roads, which were to bring the settlers in, did not exist before 1793, and did not come about immediately thereafter (although the first 100 pages of surveys in the Town Road Books date before 1807). The roads of Cazenovia were gradually built, and because and that evolution, which is continuing to the present day, is a slow and unpredictable process. The pioneer of 200 years ago could not dream of us trying to find the fastest way to the airport or to the thruway and they could only be concerned with meeting their immediate and near-future transportation needs. Today we think we are planning for the future, but we don't know for sure what the future holds and besides, it is usually a struggle just to meet today's needs.
Our roads are a part of our daily life and we don't seem to take them for granted, especially when they are in poor repair, inadequate for our needs, or blocked by snow drifts. The history and evolution of our transportation networks, be they footpaths, highways, rail roads, or canals, is something that is taken for granted and is something that few, if anyone, ever think about.
In the Beginning
When the Cazenovia tracts were surveyed there were no roads and the location foot paths that existed were of no concern to the survey crews that made straight, cross-country traverses. When Lincklaen investigated Cazenovia for the first time in 1792 he was led by one of those that had made the earlier survey and the small party of explorers made nearly direct cross-country routes to the places that were of interest for the future of the community. The 1789 survey had made note of soil, water, and vegetation, and first-hand observation of these elements was what Lincklaen desired if he was to judge them worthy of his purchase and management.
When Lincklaen came again, in the spring of 1793, he came by way of the Mohawk Valley, on the river to Utica, and then overland on the Genesee Road as far as present day Chittenango. This road was a well traveled path that had long connected the major Iroquois communities but was at the time a poor road as it had only recently been improved for the heavy traffic of white man. Turning south from the Genesee Road and heading through a settlement of squatters, Lincklaen and his crew entered the wilderness where no wheeled vehicle had ever been. He brought with him a wagon load of the supplies needed for a new settlement and a crew of axemen to open a road. The road would also serve to get settlers to the foot of the lake where they could purchase land. The path was an Indian trail that led up a steep slope to the top of the ridge. From here they followed the ridge south, perhaps along another foot path. to the lake where Lincklaen had decided, the year before, to commence the settlement of the tract.
One of Lincklaen's first priorities, beyond providing shelter, was opening roads in every direction. As the community and surrounding lands became settled roads were opened to meet the needs of the 1790s. Roads not only led to Cazenovia from all points, but a network of roads developed connecting cabins, farms, mill sites, and "huddles" (clusters of settlers). Lincklaen's radiating pattern of roads was completed by perhaps 1798 and the privately constructed roads, typically nothing more than a wide path, filled in between. The most immediately convenient course was usually taken, but because the early pattern of settlement was determined primarily by the layout of the lots, these roads often wandering among the hills and valleys and reached out to the most remote spots. Few places were road-less.
The lake and several of the hills presented obstacles to travelers. There doesn't seem to have been any travel on the creek, but the lake was used. The so-called "Indian canoe" that was found in the lake in the 1860s was probably no such thing - in fact there have been three different canoes found in the lake, at least one of which had an iron fastening at the prow. In all probability these canoes were made by the early settlers to get around on the lake. The stories of Indian princesses and weddings are pure fantasy that were created in the 1860s, two or three generations after they would have been used by the pioneers.
Those first roads that Lincklaen opened paid little heed to the artificial lot lines and ran as straight as the geography would allow. The DeRuyter Road, Chenango Road, Fenner Road, Nelson Road, Peterboro Road, and what was to become Lincklaen Street all left Cazenovia in a straight line (see the modern map). Some of these continued straight for many miles while others eventually followed the geography. Most of these early courses remain intact but some later modifications and alterations would obscure their original course and today we have only traces or segments to hint at their original complexity.
These early roads were constructed over a ten or fifteen year period and their relationships indicate an on-going planning of roads. An interesting pattern is found in the formality of these radiating roads that show that they were not merely sent in the desired direction. Not only do all of these roads have a bearing of approximately 25 degrees from a cardinal direction, but the DeRuyter and Chenango Roads, both heading south, have an origin point in the center of the Public Square in the village. The Canaseraga Road, now Ridge Road, also originates at the center of the Public Square but it runs directly north. The Pompey Road runs directly west after taking a 25 degree turn across the foot of the lake.
Lincklaen also opened two roads southerly through his vast tract of land. The tract being only a few miles wide, but many miles long, these roads were of particular concern to Lincklaen. To provide access to his land office at the northern part of the tract and to bring trade up and down the tract he opened a road on either side of the Purchase. The West Road, also known as the "Gore Road," the "Road to John Lincklaen's" or "The Lincklaen Road," ran from just west of the hamlet of Union in Cazenovia, to the Cayuga Road in the very southern part of the Purchase. Much of this route is still open, although some changes and abandonments have occurred in the original course. The East Road, which ran along the eastern edge of the Purchase, was less defined, and much of it is may not have ever been opened. Although much of its course is visible on mid-19th century maps, there are no full surveys of the course and there are few good historical references to it, indicating that it was not as important or perhaps even constructed under different circumstances from the West Road.
Historians have passed down a variety of stories indicating that one of these roads was known as the "Old Joe Road" because it was built by Joseph Messenger (Hammond 1872, page 248). There has been considerable confusion a to where this "Old Joe Road" is actually located. Hammond notes that "Mr. Messenger was employed by Mr. Lincklaen to cut through the east road which runs on the ridge east of DeRuyter to the town of Lincklaen." Jabez W. Abell, writing in a 1925 Early Local History of Roads, made some slight changes to Hammond's text and said that it was the West Road instead of the East Road. To confuse things further, local historian Arthur I. Tyler wrote a few years later that the Old Joe Road was the East Road running the full length of the Lincklaen Purchase.
So, just where is the "Old Joe Road"? At this time (2002) I am not entirely sure. The route of the West Road is known in is entirety, and a 1797 survey exists for us to follow (Cazenovia Town Road Book 2:5-6). The importance of the West Road is also clear in that it served for many years as a primary connection between the north and south parts of the Purchase. Much of the course of the West Road is still open today and can be easily followed. The East Road, on the other hand, is not at all well known although a continuous course is evident on the landscape (see the modern map). There are very early surveys of short segments of its probable course (Town Road Book 2:43 is identified as Stone Quarry Road from NY 20 to Ballina Road) but once it leaves the present Town of Cazenovia it is unclear which of several north-south running roads would have been considered to be the East Road which Lincklaen had built. In any event, the East Road never became very important except for local travel, and the many hills and diagonal northeast- to southwest-running valleys made north-south travel quite difficult in several sections. In the southern portion of the Purchase, in the Chenango County Towns of Lincklaen, Pitcher and German, there are several north-south running roads that could have been the course of the East Road. Perhaps road surveys from the early books of those towns may shed light on this question (if those books still exist).
In looking carefully at the text given by Hammond, it may be inferred that Messenger built only a small section of road, and not the entire road that ran the length of the Purchase (it is said that the northern 4 miles had already been constructed by Lincklaen's workers). Perhaps Messenger built the section of road (part of which is still open as Williams Road, but the rest abandoned), that ran from the hamlet of Sheds, over the high hill in the State Forest lands, and down to the Carpenter Road just east of Quaker Basin? This road would fit Hammond's description that it "runs on the ridge east of DeRuyter." This would have been a difficult section to construct, which may explain why Lincklaen contracted it out rather than have his hired Company workers do it. But, then again, Messenger lived on Tromp Township Lot 20, on the western side of the Purchase, about 2 miles north of the Village of DeRuyter, with his house standing on the northeast corner of the intersection of East Lake and Carey Roads - on the line of the West Road (Chenango County Deed F:16, 1799)! There is obviously much more to be learned about the "Old Joe Road."
The routes of Lincklaen's roads have changed somewhat over the years, with segments being altered, abandoned, or replaced. The Nelson Road passed about on the line of present Rt. 20, but for the first two miles it ran a few degrees northerly of where it does now. From the East Bridge in the village it originally went up the hill through where the Town and Country Plaza is, passed north of Tom and Cindy Voght's house and behind the High Neighbor office and came to its present route at about the town line near Moseley Road. From here it followed the present road easterly through Nelson flats, and then passed through the gravel bed behind Moyer's east of Nelson and followed what is now Stone Bridge Road. From here it followed various roads, some still open and other sections abandoned, and continued on to Solsville and Madison, passing a mile north of Morrisville and Bouckville. This road was open as such at least as late as 1800, and perhaps continued along this route until the Cherry Valley Turnpike was completed in 1811.
Sometime after the western end of the Nelson Road from the village was altered a branch was run southeasterly towards Erieville and beyond. Examination of a modern road map will clearly show the remnant segments of this once almost straight-as-an-arrow road from Cazenovia, through Erieville, and on to Georgetown.
The swamp at the south end of the lake posed particular problems for roads. Two 1793 maps show several odd roads criss-crossing the lands south of the lake. Rippleton Road is shown in about its present course, but the road across the swamp is farther south than present Rt. 20 and it connects to a road that runs from the mill at Rippleton Cross Road to the ridge on the west side of the lake. The road to Pompey Hollow also began near Rippleton and passed directly west over the hill and down into Pompey Hollow connecting on to the Pompey Hollow Road near Moore's orchard. Other maps indicate that the road northerly ran from Rippleton, along the ledges near Meadow Hill Road, over the ridge near the Cazenovia Golf Club and ran diagonally down the side of Pompey Hollow and joined the Pompey Hollow Road just south of Bethel Road. By 1805 these roads were abandoned or replaced by other roads but their courses are still traceable to a degree by the geographical features in the area, several fence lines, and a farm lane.
By 1796 the road at the foot of the lake was built where it is now as Rt. 20 except that instead of turning and following present Ledyard Avenue in front of Lorenzo it continued due east straight through the lawns and woods of Lorenzo and on to Chittenango Creek where John Lincklaen had built a grist mill. This course was changed about 1806 when Lincklaen laid out the grounds for Lorenzo but the evidence of its direction can still be seen in the section of Rt. 20 immediately at the foot of the lake and the position of the back drive to The Meadows on Rippleton Road. An excavated spot on the bank of the creek beside the gardens of The Meadows is believed to be the location of the mill and these segments all lead to it as shown on the 1796 map.
Throughout the township there were dozens of other similar "first generation" roads, and many of them are now abandoned. Cazenovia had kept track of its roads since 1797 but it wasn't until 1804 that the State required the townships to report on their roads. A map of the roads in the town of Hamilton (now Eaton, Hamilton, Lebanon, and Madison) made for that town's 1804 report to the state shows a strange network of roads. Comparison to later road maps shows that only about two thirds of these "first generation" roads even survived until the 1870s. No like map for Cazenovia has been found, but from the road surveys and descriptions of the Town Road Book it is possible to reconstruct the courses of most of these roads. I have made transcripts of the first 30 years of Road District descriptions and over 150 road surveys dating from before 1806 and it is clear, as I said at the beginning, that we would have difficulty recognizing our own home town.
"Second Generation" Roads
As the land was opened and lot lines more clearly defined the lines of roads were often moved so as to follow the property lines and not divide farms. Also, as the township was more fully explored, "huddles" of homes began to form, and mills were built, the road system had to be modified to meet the needs of the day. The earliest recorded alterations of roads are made in the town books in 1798, and the first recorded abandonment is dated 1804.
The pattern of these Second Generation roads may be recognizable to us today. Ridge Road, Rt. 92, Rt. 20, Rippleton Road, and many more of the primary roads as we now know them were formed by 1810.
In this period Cazenovia's roads were also subject the influences of outside interests. Cazenovia was not the only destination on the map, and thousands of pioneers passed through our town without paying any attention to the place. Many experienced Cazenovia only as a step between the home they left behind and the destination of new hopes in the frontier that was rapidly being pushed west. In this period many roads were being built by contract under state sponsorship or for private turnpike companies. The state had always shown some interest in improving transportation (although sometimes reluctantly) and it was during the first decade of the 19th century that roads were hot topics.
Lotteries were held and Legislative acts were made in order to open routes to the west. One "State Road" was opened across the town, this being the present Ballina and Cobb Hill Roads in Cazenovia, and which is still called Old State Road in the town of Nelson. It was surveyed in 1801 and completed by 1804 and ran from Sangerfield to Skaneateles. The eastern portion followed present Rt. 20 almost as far as Morrisville, then went straight west along Old State, Ballina, and Cobb Hill Roads to Delphi Falls from where it passed along a now abandoned path to somewhere near Pompey, and it then again followed the course of Rt. 20 to Skaneateles. The segment from Ballina Road through Cobb Hill, and then to Delphi Falls is now only fragmentary. Originally the path crossed directly over Chittenango Creek to Cobb Hill Road, and then followed that road to the intersection of the south end of Burlingame Road where it then went directly toward Delphi Falls on a diagonal line down the hill. The old house which sits far off of Cobb Hill Road on the Bronson Farm was at one time on the road, and a series of fence lines, tree lines, and an old farm lane are found as traces of the line of the old State Road. Maps, surveys, and aerial photographs show the line fairly clearly.
Cazenovia hosted three turnpikes, built by private stock companies, which were usually controlled by individuals along the path and typically at either end of the route, and who were hoping for the benefit of traffic in and out of the interior. These toll roads were innovative in that they were built to contracted specifications, with graded and graveled surfaces that were wide, well drained, and well fenced. Special rates were given to the teamsters that had wide tired wagons as they packed the loose gravel. Stages rolled daily upon the smoothest roads around.
The first was the Peterboro, or Oneida, Turnpike which had initially been proposed to begin on the Genesee Road at Vernon and pass only as far as Peterboro, but John Lincklaen managed to find support enough to bring it to his doorstep in Cazenovia. The Oneida Turnpike Company was chartered in 1801 and construction was completed by the end of 1803. The route of this road is virtually unchanged from its original course and one can today follow Fenner Street to Peterboro and then take the Peterboro Road through sparsely populated farm lands to Vernon. This road had three toll gates along the way but little is known of the road's history after it was first opened, but the toll gates may have been in operation as late as 1816.
The Third Great Western, or Cherry Valley Turnpike was the second and most celebrated of the toll roads built in Cazenovia and many details of the history of this road are known. The road was chartered in 1803 and was controlled by Cazenovia men, with John Lincklaen as President. The road extended from Cherry Valley, and followed present Rt. 20 from near there to Cazenovia, and then continued along present Rt. 92 to Manlius where it intersected the Genesee Road.
Because it partially overlapped the rights of the Oneida Turnpike in the village, namely the entire length of Albany Street, an agreement had to be made which determined that the Oneida Turnpike would be responsible only for the north half of the shared road from the east bridge to the split of Nelson and Fenner Streets. The Cherry Valley Turnpike Company then became responsible for the remainder of Albany Street. How the tolls were managed on this section, if at all, is not known.
The first part of the road, ten miles from Cherry Valley, was started in 1806, and it was not until 1811 that entire route was completed and the first dividends paid. Of this road, one writer, Charles Stebbins I believe, wrote:
The Plank Road Era
During the 1840s the first major improvement was being made to the Erie canal which passed through the lowlands to the north of Cazenovia. The canal had long been pulling some traffic away from the upland routes of old, but not only the canal was available, so were the markets created in places like Syracuse, Rome, and Utica. A more efficient route to these places, other than the Ridge Road, was desirable, and a plank road was proposed to run through along the banks of Chittenango Creek to the village of Chittenango. This route also opened up a number of valuable water power sites which had previously been difficult to get to or had been entirely inaccessible. Until the Cazenovia and Chittenango Plank Road was constructed in 1848 there were only short trunk roads cutting down the steep valley sides and through deep ravines along the valley from Lincklaen Road or Michigan Road. The plank road, constructed of thick wooden planks set on a wide, well packed, and relatively level bed of gravel, was not intended to last forever, and the planks soon rotted out. The Cazenovia and Chittenango Road which ended at the Lincklaen House in the village, was extended south in 1850 as the Cazenovia and DeRuyter Plank Road. This line began at the terminus of the C & C at the Lincklaen House and went west along Albany Street, turning south down Rippleton Road. it followed present Rt. 13 to the Delphi Road where it turned west and passed through the hamlet of Union. From there it turned south, bypassing New Woodstock, and intersected another plank road at Delphi Falls. Near the town line it connected with the DeRuyter Plank Road and thus continued to DeRuyter. No notice of planking along Albany Street has been found and it is likely that these segments were improved enough to not need work or were graveled to make them harder.
The Twentieth Century
The plank roads did not last long but they ushered in a new era of road building techniques. Graveled paths, broad and smooth grading, and expensive bridges and causeways had been used on the old Cherry Valley Turnpike and thus were not something new to the engineers of latter nineteenth century roads. By the 1890s there were many graded and widened roads, with gravel, ditches, and easy grades. Over the next thirty years there came into being a form of road that would, excepting our heaving and piercing frosts, last forever. The route of the Cherry Valley Turnpike continued to be used for considerable local traffic, but with the advent of the automobile the need to improve it became more and more apparent as these vehicles sank into the mud miles from anywhere. The lifestyle of the American driver had also changed and there were more people traveling for more reasons, chiefly among them was recreation, and the old turnpike route provided much of that.
In 1914 the old turnpike route was macadamized, and this was made into a concrete road which, by 1927, was designated United States Highway 20. In honor of its famed past it was also being called the Cherry Valley Turnpike. This road was again improved with widened or doubled lanes, shoulders, and even medians in the mid-1950s and at that time took on the general situation that it now affords us.
The gorge route of the old plank road was also a major road that underwent much improvement in the 1920s or 1930s. Power construction equipment was used to straighten curves, cut bluffs, fill creek channels, and change the flow of the creek. It was Arthur I. Tyler, then School Superintendent, that suggested that the new road to Chittenango be named after the great Iroquois Hiawatha. He tried to claim that it was the trail used by the Great Peace Maker, but he was never able to convince the state officials that the title was worthy. That never stopped the local people from adopting the name, and although it is slowly slipping from our memory, it is often still used to refer to the Gorge Road, or Rt. 13. In my opinion Hiawatha probably never sailed in a canoe on Cazenovia Lake (standing up as our school crest shows him!) and he probably didn't travel the Chittenango Gorge on his famous journeys.
As always with my subjects, there is much more that can be written about the history of roads in Cazenovia. This has been only a summary and outline of what is to be found. There are many details to be filled in, and many questions to be answered. More research can only bring on more questions that will need to be answered and the research into the history of our roads is only beginning. There is a wealth of legend and romance, coming close to fabrication, that has been put down on paper already. It can never be too soon to work on the documentable histories of the roads of Cazenovia. The tract of land that became Cazenovia was called the "Road Township" because proceeds from its sale would go to building roads across the state and it rightfully deserves to have its own roads understood.
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