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State Historic Markers :: Historical Area Markers in New York State - Page Four

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Finger Lakes-Genesee Country (ONONDAGA, CORTLAND, TIOGA, TOMPKINS, CHEMUNG, STEUBEN, SCHUYLER, SENECA, CAYUGA, YATES, ONTARIO, WAYNE, LIVINGSTON, MONROE)

CHEMUNG VALLEY

Indian raids along the New York frontier in the Revolution were countered by the Sullivan-Clinton Campaign of 1779. General John Sullivan's forces marched from Easton, Pennsylvania, to meet the troops of General James Clinton, which had come down the Susquehanna River from Otsego Lake. Together they fought a battle with the Indians and Tories, August 29, at Newtown, near Elmira. Defeat of the Indians was followed by destruction of their villages and their retreat westward. Veterans of the campaign later became settlers in the Chemung Valley.

During the Civil War, Elmira was a recruiting center for which army barracks were erected. In 1864-65, these barracks were converted to a prison camp where over 12,000 Confederate prisoners of war were confined.

The Chemung Canal, connecting the river with Seneca Lake, was completed in 1833, and in 1854-57 a junction Canal reached the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania. The Erie Railroad came through in 1842, and was followed by other lines. Early heavy industry, lumbering and metals were now followed by manufacture of woolens and glass. Corning has become famous for its glass works and glass museum.

The terrain west of Elmira provides ideal conditions for sailing motorless aircraft, making it the "Glider Capital of America."

#1 - Route 17, west of Horseheads

COHOCTON VALLEY

Seneca Indians inhabited this area until 1779 when their towns and cornfields were destroyed by the Sull1van-Clinton expedition, forcing a migration to Niagara.

After the Revolution these lands were included in the Pulteney Purchase of one million acres acquired by a group of English speculators. Their agent Charles Williamson in 1793 founded Bath, which was planned as a trading center connected by water with the Susquehanna River and Baltimore. A frontier metropolis with mills, hotels, a newspaper, theater and racetrack, it was overbuilt at a cost of one million dollars. Settlement did not keep pace with these improvements, and in 1802 Williamson withdrew.

In the nineteenth century the tide of transportation moved north and westward. Wayland was a principal stagecoach stop on the Elmira-Buffalo Turnpike. Dansville, near the headwaters of the valley, was linked by Canal to the Genesee River flowing northward.

Dansville became a health resort in 1858, with a sanitarium known for it food fads and water cure. In 1881, Clara Barton, a patient at the sanitarium, founded the American Red Cross. The defunct sanitarium was reopened in 1929, with emphasis on physical culture.

#2 - Route 15, south of Cohocton

THE ERIE CANAL

Construction of the Erie Canal was hailed as the greatest engineering accomplishment to that time. Under the leadership of Governor De Witt Clinton, construction began July 4, 1817. With little technical knowledge, thousands of workers surveyed, blasted and dug a 363-mile canal across the State. They hewed through solid rock and dug in marshes; they erected aqueducts to carry the the canal over rivers and valleys, and they built 83 locks to take the canal over changes in ground level. When completed in October, 1825, the Erie connected Albany and Buffalo and became the main route between the Atlantic Ocean and the Great Lakes.

Passenger and freight barges crowded the canal. Western New York flourished with new, cheap transportation. The Erie Canal also hastened development of the Midwest. Success of the Erie stimulated enlargement of the original canal in the 1840's and construction of additional canals. More than 500 miles of canals connected the Erie to other sections of New York State. After the 1870's, canal transportation declined and95many canals closed. The Erie was modernized in 1918 as part of the State, Barge Canal System consisting of the Erie, Champlain, Oswego and Cayuga-Seneca Canals.

#3 - Canal Museum, Weighlock Building, 300 Erie Blvd. East, at Syracuse
#4 - Thruway, eastbound, at Port Byron Service Area (milepost 310)
#5 - Thruway, westhound, (milepost 318)

THE ERIE CANAL - CANVASS WHITE

When work on the Erie Canal began in 1817, little was known about canal engineering, and construction depended on the ingenuity of many persons. Canvass White (1796-1834), a surveyor, greatly facilitated canal construction by perfecting hydraulic cement. White discovered in 1818, near Chittenango, a "meagre limestone" that could be used to form a mortar which hardened under water. His discovery of this abundant, easily prepared, waterproof cement immensely improved construction techniques.

The Erie was a practical school for acquiring engineering knowledge. Resourceful contractors, surveyors and local workmen planned the canal through a wilderness. They drove stakes, bored holes, felled trees, pulled stumps, blasted rocks and dug in swamps. They built canal banks, towpaths, waste weirs, culverts, aqueducts, locks and gates.

When they finished in 1825, they had constructed a 363-mile canal across the State. It was considered the foremost engineering achievement of the time. Western New York flourished with new, cheap transportation. The canal insured the place of New York City as the Nation's greatest port and city, and it hastened development of the Midwest.

The modernized State Barge Canal System, consisting of the Erie, Champlain, Oswego and Cayuga-Seneca Canals, was completed in 1918.

#6 - New York 290 (Erie Canal Park) 1.15 miles east of Manlius Center

THE FINGER LAKES

The Finger Lakes of central New York occupy deep north-south valleys amid gently rolling hills. From east to west, these sparkling lakes are Skaneateles, Owasco, Cayuga, Seneca, Keuka and Canandaigua. This region was the home of the Cayuga and Seneca Indians of the Six Nations, whose lands were devastated by the Clinton-Sullivan Expedition of 1779. After the Revolution the area was opened for settlement. Jemima Wilkinson, the "Publick Universal Friend," in 1788 brought here followers who accepted her ideas of celibacy and communal living.

After 1830, with the linking of Cayuga and Seneca Lakes with the Erie Canal, population grew and industry flourished. In 1908 Glenn H. Curtiss of Hammondsport pioneered in the flying of airplanes.

Fertile lands and natural resources developed important products. Salt is manufactured from brine pumped from wells on the shore of Seneca Lake. Good soil and gentle winds have combined to make the Finger Lakes outstanding for growing grapes from which are produced champagne and other fine wines.

#7 - Route 14, five miles south of Dresden, northbound

THE FlNGER LAKES

The Finger Lakes of central New York occupy deep north-south valleys bordered by beautiful sloping shorelines which are occasionally cut by picturesque glens and gorges. From west to east, these sparkling lakes are Canandaigua, Keuka, Seneca, Cayuga, Owasco and Skaneateles. Seneca, the longest, is one of the deepest bodies of water in the United States.

A main village of the Seneca Indians was at Kanadasaga, now Geneva, while Cayugas occupied the region to the east. In retaliation for raids by Iroquois Indians on the New York frontier during the American Revolution, the Sullivan-Clinton Expedition of 1779 devastated these Indian villages. Veterans of the campaign returned to the area, and the eastern portion was included in the Military Tract, land set aside as a bounty for former soldiers. The western Finger Lakes area was part of the Phelps-Gorham Purchase. Settlement started in 1787 and increased rapidly after 1790.

The construction of feeder canals linking the lakes to the Erie Canal after 1830 stimulated agricultural and industrial development. The advantages of soil and climate make the region of the central Finger Lakes ideal for growing grapes for champagne and other fine wines.

#8 - Thruway, westbound, at Junius Pond Service Area (milepost 324)
#9 - Thruuay, eastbound, at Clifton Springs Service Area (milepost 337)

THE FINGER LAKES

The Finger Lakes are a portion of the most remarkable series of parallel valleys in the world. They occupy six of the 21 deep, north-south valleys set amid gently rolling hills. From west to east, these sparkling lakes are Canandaigua, Keuka, Seneca, Cayuga, Owasco, and Skaneateles.

The region was the home of Cayuga and Seneca Indians of the Six Nations, whose lands the Sullivan-Clinton Expedition devasted in 1779. After the American Revolution, the area was opened for settlement. Jemima Wilkinson, the "Publick Universal Friend," brought here, in 1778, followers who accepted her ideas of celibacy and communal living. In the 1830's, canals linked Cayuga, Seneca and Keuka Lakes with the Erie Canal. The population grew, and the region flourished.

Andrew Reisinger began in 1853 the commercial grape industry in the Keuka region. His production of wine and champagne marked the start of a successful enterprise. Good soil and stable temperatures combine to make the area outstanding for vineyards. It is now called the "Champagne Region of America."

Glenn H. Curtiss, by his pioneering feats in flying airplanes, made Hammondsport the aviation center of the Nation in the early 1900's.

#10 - Route 54, nine miles south of Penn Yan

GENESEE VALLEY

The Genesee River rises in Pennsylvania and flows northward 150 miles before emptying into Lake Ontario. Starting as a placid stream, the Genesee, in Letchworth State Park, plunges over three impressive cataracts, dropping 300 feet in three miles. The spectacular gorge has been called "The Grand Canyon of the East." The river then twists and turns through a broad valley. At Rochester the falls furnish water power which has greatly aided the city's development.

To the Seneca Indians, who occupied villages in the area, Genesee meant "beautiful valley." In 1762, Mary Jemison came to the valley as a Seneca captive and lived there as an Indian for 71 years. The Treaty of Big Tree (Geneseo), in 1797, ended Indian claims to western New York, and land speculators purchased the region. The great estates of James and William Wadsworth are still owned by their descendents.

The Genesee Valley Canal, connecting the Erie Canal with the Allegheny River near Olean, was completed in 1857 and abandoned in 1878. Later, a railroad, now the Pennsylvania, followed the canal's route. The Genesee Country during the 19th century was an important wheat growing area. Farms now produce fruits, vegetables and dairy products.

#11 - Thruway, eastbound, at Scottsville Service Area (milepost 366)

THE GENESEE VALLEY

The 150 mile-long Genesee River rises in Pennsylvania and flows northward into Lake Ontario. Though relatively a small stream, except in flood stages, it has cut, in its middle portion, a deep gorge with walls rising 600 feet above foaming waters. This spectacular section in Letchworth Park has been called "The Grand Canyon of the East." The Genesee then courses into a broad, level intervale before again tumbling over a series of falls at Rochester. There the river's water power contributed greatly to Rochester's development.

Genesee meant "beautiful valley" to the Seneca Indians who occupied several villages here. To the Genesee in 1762 came the captive Mary Jemison who lived with the Senecas for 71 years. The Big Tree Treaty, at Geneseo, in 1797, ended Indian occupation, and the Wadsworths by 1835 bought much of the best arable land in the valley. Fertile land made the Genesee famous for growing wheat in the 19th century.

The Genese Valley Canal connected Rochester with Olean and Dansville. Started in 1836, it was abandoned in 1878. A railroad later followed much of the canal's route. Dairying, corn growing and fruit cultivation are now leading agricultural activities. The world's largest underground salt mine is located in the area.

#12 - Routes 408&63, near Mt. Morris (relocated to rest area, northbound lane of I-390 Genesee Expressway, near Mt. Morris exit)

THE HOLLAND PURCHASE

The Holland Land Company, a group of bankers in the Netherlands, was organized to purchase the unsettled region of western New York State. By 1793, their agent in the United States, Theophile Cazenove, had arranged to buy more than three million acres. This land, the Holland Purchase, consisted of the area west of a line through Stafford, located a few miles east of Batavia, that ran from Lake Ontario to Pennsylvania. Indian claims were settled in 1797, and reservations were established. The purchase also excluded a strip along the Niagara River.

Joseph Ellicott was surveyor and agent for the Holland Land Company for more than 20 years. He planned roads, surveyed towns, and laid out a port that developed into Buffalo. The Land Office, built in Batavia of limestone in 1815, was the headquaters for the sale of most of western New York. Pioneers, migrating from mostly eastern and central New York and from New England, came here to purchase land, generally making small down payments.

Out of the Holland Purchase were formed Niagara, Erie, Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties and part of Orleans, Genesee, Wyoming and Allegany counties.

#13 - Interstate 490, westbound, 12.5 miles west of Rochester

IRONDEQUOIT BAY

From Irondequoit Bay, Indian trails led southward to Seneca villages and on to the Ohio country. La Salle and French missionaries arrived in 1669. In 1667, Marquis de Denonville, governor of New France, landed with soldiers and Indian allies to subdue the Iroquois. The expedition devastated Seneca villages but had no permanent effect. The French in 1717 established Fort des Sables, and in 1721, the English built Fort Schuyler to keep watch over their rivals. During the French and Indian War and at later times troops camped temporarily at the bay.

In 1797, Salmon Tryon, a land speculator, established the city of Tryon. Hopes of developing it into a thriving port and metropolis were thwarted by superior facilities on the Genesee River, leaving a ghost town after 1818.

Steam vessels once cruised on Irondequoit Bay, and the bays waters, marshes and coves attracted fishermen, hunters and ice cutters. Railroad trains in the 19th century and trolley cars in the 20th brought vacationers from Rochester to resorts on the bay. These flourishing summer retreats had declined by 1930. Expanding suburbs, with homes, clubs and parks, now surround the bay.

#14 - Route 104, at Irondequoit Bay

MEMORIAL DAY

On May 5, 1866, the residents of Waterloo held the first complete, community-wide observance of Memorial Day. They dedicated the entire day to honoring the Civil War dead in a solemn and patriotic manner. Throughout the village, flags, draped in mourning, flew at half mast. Ladies prepared wreathes and bouquets for each veteran's grave. Businesses closed, and veterans, civic organizations and townspeople marched to the strains of martial music to the village cemeteries. There, with reverent prayers and patriotic ceremonies, the tradition of Memorial Day was born.

Henry C. Welles, a prominent citizen, first proposed the idea for a day completely devoted to honoring the Civil War dead. General John B. Murray, the Seneca County Clerk, who had commanded the 148th New York Infantry Regiment in the war, quickly advanced the thought and marshalled community support. Since that year, Waterloo has annually observed Memorial Day. New York, in 1873, became the first state to proclaim Memorial Day, or Decoration Day, as it was originally called, a public holiday.

In May 1966, a Joint resolution by the United States Congress and a proclamation by President Lyndon B. Johnson officially recognized Waterloo as the birthplace of Memorial Day.

#15 - Routes 5 and 20, West Main Street at the southwest corner of Lafayette Park, in Waterloo, New York

THE MILITARY TRACT

The Military Tract was set aside by the State in 1782 to provide bounties for service during the American Revolution. New York servicemen, depending on rank, were entitled to grants of 500 to 5500 acres. Containing more than 1,500,000 acres, it included all of the present Onondaga, Cayuga and Seneca Counties plus portions of Tompkins, Schuyler, Wayne and Oswego. Excluded were reservations for Onondaga and Cayuga Indians.

The Military Tract was surveyed into townships containing 100 lots, each with 600 acres. In the townships, two lots were reserved for "promoting the gospel" and for schools and literature. Robert Harpur, Secretary of the Land Board, rejected associations with English and Indian titles and gave the 28 townships classical names from anclent Greece and Rome.

When drawing for lots started on January 1, 1791, many veterans had sold their claims to speculators. Squatters and fraudulent claimants hindered acquiring land in the tract. Eventually, farmers from the east occupied it. Small milling and trading centers, stimulated by turnpikes, developed in the 1790's. The northern portion progressed rapidly in the 1820's following completion of the Erie Canal. Railroads and later highways made the region notable for commerce, agriculture, industry and higher education.

#16 - Route 20, west of Pompey

THE ONONDAGA COUNTRY

In central New York lies the Onondaga Country, where the legendary Indian statesmen Hiawatha and Deganawidah planted the Tree of Peace, and thus founded the Iroquois Confederacy of the Five Nations. Here burned the council fire of the League in the Longhouse of the Onondagas, the Hill People, the center of this powerful confederacy. These tribes guarded the natural water route via the Mohawk River, Oneida Lake and Oswego River to Lake Ontario over which furs, trade goods and supplies were transported. This was the military route used during campaigns of the French and Indian War and the Revolution. Onondaga Indians still occupy a reservation in this area.

Turnpikes in the early nineteenth century crossed these hills and valleys, opening the land to settlers. Revolutionary soldiers were offered grants in the Military Tract, including Onondaga County, which was set off in 1794. Other settlers migrated from New England. Further growth was stimulated by the Erie Canal, completed in 1825, and by the railroads.

Agriculture, dairying and fruit growing, with some diversified industry, provided the economic base for this area. Rolling hills, picturesque waterfalls and small lakes make the region famous for scenic beauty.

#17 - Route 81, northbound, 2.5 miles south of Lafayette
#18 - Route 81, 4 miles north of Tully

PALMYRA AREA

Here, before the white man came, lived the Cayuga and Seneca Indians. Their displacement after the Revolution, when many went to Canada, opened the land to settlers. Massachusetts, which claimed a large portion of western New York, sold its holdings to land speculators Phelps and Gorham. Settlement was later actively promoted by Charles Williamson, agent for the Pulteney Associates. The rapid growth of villages followed completion of the Erie Canal in 1825.

Incidents in this area raised social and religious issues of national importance. In 1826 the disappearance of William Morgan produced the Anti-Masonic movement. The vision of Joseph Smith on the Hill of Cumorah, near Palmyra, resulted in the Book of Mormon and the founding of the Church of Latter- Day Saints. The home of the Fox sisters, near Hydeville, is regarded as the "birthplace of spiritualism."

Small industries grew up along the Erie Canal and the New York Central Railroad, but the region remained rural. It is known for fruit orchards, and horticultural nurseries especially the growing of roses.

#19 - Route 31, near Palmyra

ROCHESTER AREA

Seneca Indians often camped along the lower Genesee River where Rochester eventually developed. During the 17th century, French soldiers and missionaries visited the area. In 1803, Nathaniel Rochester, William Fitzhugh and Charles Carroll of Maryland purchased the 100-acre tract at the upper falls. Permanent settlement began there in 1812.

A boom town during construction of the Erie Canal in the early 1820's, Rochester was incorporated as a city in 1834. Three falls of the Genesee provided waterpower for lumber and grist mills. Genesee Valley farmers shipped grain to the mills in such quantities that Rochester became known as the "Flour City." Competition from other sections ended its dominance, as a milling center, but shoe and clothing manufacturing, stimulated by the Civil War, and nurserymen and food processors became important in the city's economy.

Religious ferment, spiritualism, abolitionism and Susan B. Anthony's campaigns for women's rights agitated mid-19th century Rochester. Later, George Eastman made Rochester famous for producing photographic equipment. Optical goods and other instruments, electrical machinery and men's clothing also make Rochester industrially renowned. Now the State's third largest city, Rochester, with its many attractive parks, retains the nickname, "Flower City," won for it by commercial nurseries a century ago.

#20 - Thruway, westbound, at Seneca Service Area (milepost 350)

SENECA INDIANS

The Seneca Indians, "Keepers of the Western Door," occupied this area since the formation of the Iroquois Confederacy about 1550. Most numerous and most warlike of the Six Nations, they for a time dominated the tribes northward into Canada and southward into Pennsylvania. Although the Confederacy was allied with the English, the Senecas turned against them in Pontiac's uprising of 1763. During the Revolution they sided with the British and joined in Tory raids on the New York frontier. For this they were punished and driven back by the Sullivan-Clinton Expedition in 1779.

After the Revolution the Senecas were dispersed; some settled in Canada, while others remained later to occupy the Allegany and Cattaraugus Reservations. Land speculators had carved up Western New York, and by the treaties of Fort Stanwix 1784, and Big Tree (Geneseo) 1797, Indian claims were extinguished. Chiefs Cornplanter (1732-1836), Red jacket (1758-1830) and Farmer's Brother (1730-1814) obtained reservations for their people, where Indian society and culture were continued. Handsome Lake (1735-1815), the half-brother of Cornplanter, became the prophet of a regenerated Indian "religion," which still has many followers.

#21 - Thruway, eastbound (milepost 353)

THE SENECA INDIANS

The Seneca Indians about 1550 joined with the Cayugas, Onondagas, Oneidas, and Mohawks to form the Five Nations, or Iroquois Confederacy. This was the lengendary "great peace" made by the Indian statesmen Hiawatha and Dekanawidah. In 1722, the Tuscororas became the sixth Iroquois Nation.

The Senecas, whose main villages were situated between Seneca Lake and the Genesee River, were called "Keepers of the Western Door," the contact with the western tribes. The most numerous and warlike Iroquois Nation, they dominated, at one time, tribes southward into Pennsylvania and northward into Canada. They contended for the fur trade with the Hurons and Neutrals and drove the latter from western New York.

Although the Iroquois were under British protection, the Senecas were wooed by the French, and some turned against the English in 1763 during the uprising of western Indians led by Pontiac. Yet during the American Revolution they supported British attacks on the New York frontier. For this, their villages and lands were devastated by the Sullivan-Clinton Campaign of 1779.

Following the Revolution, some Senecas left New York. Descendants of this and other Iroquois Nations later settled in Oklahoma, but many Senecas still live on reservations in western New York.

#22 - Interstate 490, eastbound, 12.5 miles west of Rochester

STEUBEN MEMORIAL

See text on page 80

#23 - Thruway, eastbound, Clifton Springs (milepost 337)

SYRACUSE AREA

Onondaga Indians, the keepers of the council fires for the Iroquois League, lived here. French soldiers and Jesuit missionaries came from Canada in 1654 to seek their friendship. In that year, Father Simon Le Moyne discovered salt springs in the area. Salt works were set up in 1788, soon after the first permanent settlement. Salt manufacturing flourished until the 1860's. For many years the tax on salt supplied the State's chief revenue. This industry gave the name Salina to the original site of Syracuse. The Erie Canal and the Oswego Canal, connecting the Erie at Syracuse with Lake Ontarlo, ushered in an era of prosperity and expansion after 1825. Railroads and highways followed the east-west water level route and stimulated industrial growth.

Situated on the edge of the fruitful lake plain beside Onondaga Lake, Syracuse is near the geographical center of New York State. Serving a wide area, her industries, which began with the salt works, have been many and varied: chinaware, alloy steel, automobiles and automotive gears, air-conditioning and typewriters, chemicals and electronics - these reflected the industrial growth of America. The first New York State Fair was held in 1841 in Syracuse, where it has been an annual event since 1890.

#24 - Thruway, westbound, at Warners Service Area (milepost 292)
#25 - Thruway, eastbound, at De Witt Service Area (milepost 280)

CLINTON-SULLIVAN AND THE IROQUOIS

This part of New York State was once the homeland of the Seneca Indians, one of the six nations of the Iroquois Confederacy. These people were great agriculturists, known for their corn, beans, squash, fruit trees and livestock. During the Revolution, Generals James Clinton and John Sullivan were ordered to destroy the power of the Confederacy in Central New York. After the Battle of Newtown (Elmira), in August of 1779, the American forces marched north through this area. Indian longhouses were burned and the ripening harvest destroyed. Some Senecas sought refuge with the British at Niagara, while others, less, fortunate, starved to death during the winter.

The Clinton-Sullivan expedition was instrumental in the extension of the frontier in New York State. It failed to stop the British-inspired Indian raids on the frontier settlements, but it destroyed Iroquois power in Central New York. Thus the rich farmland and natural resources were made available as the westward migration began after the war.

#26 - Route 15, westbound, 3 miles West of Corning

WELCOME TO THE CHAMPAGNE D1STRICT

Trace your finger around a globe, from the famous Rhine Valley and champagne region of Europe, and you will find this area in the same latitude. The shale-like Soil, protected hillsides and long growing season combine to produce superior wine grapes. These are native grapes developed and cultivated over many decades.

The first winery was started near here in 1853 by Andrew Reisinger. It was soon found that the native grapes made an excellent champagne, and the region became the home of American champagnes, with local products winning the highest international awards.

Prior to "Prohibition" there were numerous wine companies. Few wineries survived that period, but the combined volume of wine is much greater now than ever before.

#27 - Finger Lakes Wine Museum, Hammondsport


For more information...

If you have questions, or wish to obtain more detailed information about this subject, please contact:

George Hamell
Email:ghamell2@mail.nysed.gov
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