Skaneateles, 1805

“July 20. Rose at half past two o’clock, and proceeded to Andrew’s, at Skaneateles, to breakfast, sixteen miles; a good tavern. The country is still hilly, but very fertile. The soil is deep, — a mixture of loam and clay. The roads here must be very bad in wet weather. It rained last night for the first time since we commenced our journey; and the horses’ feet, in consequence thereof, slipped as if they were travelling on snow or ice…

“Skaneateles is a pleasant village, situated on the northern extremity, and at the outlet of, the lake of the same name. The lake is from one to two miles wide, and sixteen miles long from north to south. There is a view of the village of about six miles up the lake. The country which encompasses this lake is delightful. There are no marshes or swamps to be seen; but the land sloops gently towards the water, so that wheat is seen growing to its very edge. The soil is remarkably fertile, free from rocks, and agreeably diversified with gentle swells.

“The lake, moreover, abounds with fish of all kinds usually found in fresh water, and the outlet affords a most excellent seat for mills and other water-works. Here are already a grist and saw mill, a carding-machine, and to distil-houses, which are supplied with water from the lake, though many rods distant, by means of pumps wrought by water. The pumps discharge their water into perpendicular logs or pipes, from which it descends, and then runs along in an aqueduct till it reaches the distil-house, and then rises again.

“The dam which is thrown across the outlet raises the water over the whole surface of the lake. This is the reason there is no beach now to be seen on its borders, but the verdure meets the water. It is remarkable that this flowing should not overflow any lands adjacent to the lake, except a small tract at the southern or upper extremity of the lake; and the proprietor of the dam has purchased the right to flow that.”

— Timothy Bigelow in Journal of a Trip to Niagara Falls in the Year 1805 (1876)

Note: The tavern Bigelow mentions was the first ever in the village, kept first by James Porter, then by Nathan Barnes, then by Elnathan Andrews. Should you wish to commune with the tavern’s spirit, its site lies on Genesee Street approximately where the red brick bank is today, between the Masonic Hall to the west and State Street to the east. Andrews also kept a “travelers barn” across the street on the lake shore; in 1807, the barn was the only building on the south side of the road and was itself famous, in its day, for briefly sheltering the first elephant ever seen in the village of Skaneateles.


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