The earliest settlers of the central and western parts of New York State traveled via foot, horse, or teams of horse or oxen, across old trails and paths in the wilderness blazed by Native Americans, trappers and traders, and other earlier settlers. The building of the Erie Canal was a revolution in transportation, one of the first major public works projects in North America, opening up areas of the state to settlement and development of local resources. The opening of the Erie Canal brought more settlers to Wayne County, especially within the area called the Military Tract.

By the time of the 1824 publication of Spafford's famous travel guide, tourism in the modern sense of the word was becoming more commonplace for the "leisure class." This guide was written specifically for sight-seers and pleasure travelers. Other passengers were businessmen, families visiting relatives who'd emigrated within the state, New Yorkers emigrating to new frontiers "out West", and the immigrants who planned to settle upstate upon arrival at New York City's harbors.

The trip described below is from East to West, on the Wayne County leg of the journey from Albany to Buffalo, and Spafford points out places of interest to the ladies and gentlemen on deck. The numbers to the left are the number of miles, going west, from Albany. The letter "l." indicates the view along the left bank of the canal.

A Pocket Guide for the Tourist and Traveler, Along the Line of the Canals,
and the Interior Commerce of the State of New York

By Horatio Gates Spafford, Ll.D. (author of the Gazetteer of New York),
T. and J. Swords: New York, 1824

205: l. mouth of Clyde R., or Canandaigua Outlet (close on the left to Clyde V.)

210: Lock No. 63, W. extremity of Seneca R. Level, Galen

215: Clyde V., 'Old Block House', on Clyde R., Lock No. 64, Town of Galen, now Wayne Co.

219 1/2: Lock No. 65

224: Lyons V., cap. Wayne co., Lock No. 66, l. Canandaigua Outlet

225 1/4: Lock No. 67, in Lyons, Lower Aqueduct ov. Mud Creek

229 1/2: 3 Locks, Nos. 68, 69, 70

230 1/4: Newark V., in T. of Lyons, formerly Phelps

239: l. Palmyra V., Town of Palmyra, now Wayne Co.; l. 13 miles, Canandaigua, cap. Ontario County. There is a regular daily Stage, connected with the Packet Boats, fare 75 cents; and also to the Sulphur Springs, fare not known

240 1/4: Upper Aqueduct over Mud Creek, Macedon

242 3/4: Lock No. 71

243 1/2: Lock N. 72, Macedon, Wayne County

The following poem about and early post card of the old lock tender's house in Lyons, Wayne County, was contributed to us by Allyn Hess Perry, current owner of the house.

lock house


In Loving Memory

by Nora Ellena (Westcott) Studer

All around are the beautiful hills, with the valley between
Where the home of my childhood still may be seen,
The daisied field, both far and near
Told us again that Spring was here.
The wooded hill and wooded vale
Might have told us many a tale
Of Indian lore and tomahawk,
Where the redman stealthily loved to walk.

The little red school house about a mile away
Is doing good business there today,
It stands at the foot of a wooded hill,
Where the children wandered at their own sweet will
To hunt the wild flowers and mulberry tree.
Us children, so full of fun and glee,
We rode down hill on the double ripper,
And all drank out of the same tin dipper.

In the valley the Erie Waters passed lazily through,
But their extremities were soon lost from view.
Their waters were dotted with boats here and there
Going to their destination, somewhere.
Some boats were heavily loaded, and some were light,
But this panorama kept up both day and night.
The boatmen would yell, and the locktenders too,
Trying to understand just what they should do.

Our lock was called "the Poor House Lock" - for what reason, do you say?
Because a county institution is only a few hundred feet away.
Father used to say it's a might good thing it's so
For we won't have far to go if we get completely out of "dough".
The lock was number 56 but now it's number 0
For when the new Barge Canal was built, the old one had to go,
And the ruins today are a sorry sight to behold,
Not much like the busy, happy days of old.

The house is still standing by the old road today,
The walls look strong and may last many years before decay,
This dear old familiar road has about run its race
For the new state road is built, and taken its place.
The little brook that passed by the yard has ceased to flow -
Where the little boys had so much fun long ago.
The high bridge we crossed when going to town,
Was long, long ago wrecked and torn down.

The old lock house now looks forlorn to me,
As no bright blossoms in the windows I see,
The orchard, and trees that gave us such fine shade,
By the workman's axe long ago have been laid.
The shops and the sheds are all taken away
And the flowers we loved and cared for each day
So I'll leave the old house with its flight of the years,
With a heart full of thankfulness, and just a few tears.

From the Wayne Democratic Press, May 14, 1884:

The canal appointments in the town (Galen) are Daniel Platner, watchman, whose beat extends from the Sodus street bridge in Clyde to the first bridge east of Lockpit, a distance of six miles. Immediately after breakfast at the Delevan house Dan commences his duties for the day; leisurely he walks along the towpath, examining it carefully to see that no incipient breaks have started during the night. A short distance from the end of his beat resides his brother, Sol Platner, and here Dan takes his dinner. In the afternoon he returns to Clyde, examining the banks as carefully on his return as on his going out. This Dan does every day, rain or shine. The locktenders are William Cossleman, Charles Cossleman, Charles Lake and Samuel Bailey at the Clyde lock; and Benjamin Harwood, John Griswold, Lewis Marsteiner and Oliver King at the Berlin Lock.

From the Wayne Democratic Press, July 29, 1885:

The item in the Press last week in regard to the distance, by river, between Clyde and Lyons, was correct in regard to distance, but it gave the reader the impression that the measurement commenced here (Clyde), whereas it commenced at Lyons. The survey was made on Friday, December 22, 1877 and we obtained the exact figures from Mr. T. Andrews, one of the party who kept tally. The surveyors went to Lyons on the first train, and start from there was made at exactly 8:30 A.M. The survey commenced at a spot exactly under the upper or west side of the bridge crossing the river near the entrance to the driving park, and the distances are as follows:

To the Island........................... 2 5/8 miles
To Creager's Bridge.................. 3 5/16 miles
To Littlefield's Rapids................ 4 3/16 miles
To Upper Mint Still................... 6 1/2 miles
To Big Bend............................ 7 miles
To Camp Bastian...................... 8 1/4 miles
To Old Canal........................... 9 miles
To Black Brook........................ 10 3/8 miles
To Catham Bridge.................... 11 7/8 miles
To Upper Mineral Spring........... 12 3/4 miles
To Wells' Landing.................... 13 3/8 miles
To Clyde Bridge...................... 14 5/8 miles

The time occupied in the work was seven hours and fifty five minutes, including a stop of twenty minutes at the old canal for dinner. A watch was kept on the bridge here, and when the surveying party came in sight, word was sent over to the village, and by the time they arrived here a large assembly were ready to welcome them. An immense quantity of cigars, lager, etc. including money, were lost and won on the report of the surveyors. With the exception of two or three places where there was open water, and the party was obliged to take to the bank, the measurement was taken on the ice, and as near as could be in the center of the river. Soon after the above survey was made, arrangements were commenced to obtain the distance from here to the Seneca River, but just about the time there came a heavy fall of snow, that was followed by a rain, and this by a freeze up, which caused a crust upon the snow, making it impossible for man or animal to wade through it. On that account the project was abandoned for that season, and we never heard that it was talked of again.

From the Palmyra Sentinel, unknown date in early October 1827.

To the Electors of the county of Wayne.

Fellow citizens- Nature has rendered it easy for us to connect the Erie Canal with the excellent harbor of Great Sodus Bay - presenting in that event, the most inviting channel for the commerce of the lakes to a southern market. We owe it to ourselves, the county, and to the state, to lose no time in opening this navigation. Until this be done, all this commerce, together with the commerce and business of the fairest portion of our beautiful county of Wayne, must go to augment the wealth and power of the county of Oswego. This would indeed be a tribute to the enterprise and patriotism of its inhabitants, beyond their hopes. Feeling the importance of the present crisis to the future destiny of our county, and, anxious to contribute my humble efforts to secure its prosperity, I beg leave to offer myself as a candidate to represent you in the next House of Assembly.

The entire expense of a side cut from the Erie Canal to Great Sodus Bay, as estimated by the engineer, including twenty--one road and farm bridges, will not exceed, 73,339 dollars. It can be contracted to be done for a less amount. This cut, when made, will open the safest and shortest practicable navigation from lake Ontario to New-York. It will be eleven miles nearer route to New-York than the Oswego Canal for all our western commerce, and will shorten the navigation near one hundred miles, between Great Sodus Bay, the adjacent southern counties, and the Susquehannah. It will moreover increase the revenue of the state, being all a canal route.- This work is justly regarded as of high import to the county of Wayne, and pre-eminently calculated to promote its growth and prosperity. I shall, if elected, exert myself to obtain the opening of this communication, and to promote all other objects which may appear interesting to my constituents, and conducive to the public welfare. Believing that we are indebted to our political privileges for the happy eminence to which we are rapidly advancing over every other nation in the civilized world, I shall be ever ardently devoted to the support of all such measures as tend to secure and perpetuate our republican institution. WM. N. LUMMIS.
Maxwell, Sept. 25, 1827.

[Note: Maxwell's Mill was a hamlet in the Town of Sodus.]

Information about the Erie Canal on Our Site:

1877 Canal Boat Registry and Macedon Canal Workers Memorial
Building the Erie Canal in Wayne County

Information about the Erie Canal on Other Sites [links checked 7/20/08]:

Back to Wayne County History Index Page

Created: 1/17/98
Last Updated: 7/21/08
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