5440 Route 5 & 20 West, Canandaigua, NY 14424     Main Desk Call: 585.394.1120    Receiver of Taxes Call: 585.394.1120     FAX: 585.394.9476
Welcome to the Development Office Online

office hours

Tuesday 8 AM-4 PM
Wednesday 8 AM-12 Noon
and by appointment

who to contact

Ray Henry
Town Historian
(585) 944-1506
rhenry@townofcanandaigua.org

 

 

 

This web page serves as a resource for the residents of the Town of Canandaigua, and others interested in local history, and to communicate to the residents of the Town the various activities in which their historian is involved. Some of the information provided here will be of a semi-permanent nature, while other information will be in a consistently updated newsletter format.

In 1919, New York State took the lead with the passage of legislation to create a legion of officially appointed historians in every town, village, city, borough and county across the Empire State. Unique in its concept, it provided every municipality with a distinctly identifiable person whose duties would be to ensure that the history of that area was collected, preserved and used to promote the history and heritage of our communities .

It is, therefore, the duty of each local historian, in cooperation with the county and state historian, to collect and preserve material relating to the history of the political subdivision for which he or she is appointed, and to file such material in fireproof safes or vaults in the town offices. A primary responsibility of the Local Government Historian is the interpretation of the past. This will involve research and writing on aspects of the history of one's jurisdiction and may include scholarly articles for the general public audience in magazines and newspapers. Another category of responsibilities involves the interpretation of the history of his or her community through teaching and public presentations.

Historians are often asked by their appointing authorities to support the local Tourism Promotion Agency or TPA. Heritage Tourism is one of the fastest growing segments of the tourism industry and depends for success on an accurate and attractive presentation of history. Successful efforts can have an important positive effect on local and regional economy.

He or she shall make an annual report, in the month of January, to the local appointing officer or officers and to the state historian of the work which has been accomplished during the preceding year.

It is not the responsibility of the Town historian to act as a genealogist unless such work is in the best interest of the Town. Nor is he/she required to be a member of local historical societies, although he/she may if it is also in the best interest of the Town.

Your comments, questions and suggestions on this web page and how it can better serve the community are welcomed.

Ray Henry
Town Historian

 

Development Permits and Approvals
Comprehensive Plan Update Project

History of the Town of Canandaigua

Canandaigua officially became a town in 1791. The first town meeting was held in April of that year and presided over by the first supervisor, Israel Chapin. Initially, there was no distinction made between the village and the town of Canandaigua. Then in 1815 the village was officially established and in 1913 it became a city, thus creating two separate entities, the City and the Town of Canandaigua. The original Town of Canandaigua also included Cheshire Centerfield, and Academy, which still remain within its borders. Cheshire, Academy, and a long gone hamlet by the name of Padelford Station had post offices, and as such were called "Postal Villages" even though they were not incorporated villages. Padelford Station was on County Road 8 near the Farmington Town Line where the Auburn Line (NYCRR) and the Electric Trolley (R&ERR) crossed County Rd. 8 (Padelford Rd.) It was an important stop for supplying wood for the steam engines and had a passenger station.


Town Government

A Town Supervisor acts as the administrator of the Town and represents the interests of the Town on the Ontario County Board of Supervisors. There is an election held for this position every four years. The Town Board consists of five elected members each serving four-year terms. Town board meetings are held twice each month. The Town Clerk handles the State licensing requirements. The Planning Board is a five member appointed body which meets twice each month to review site plans, subdivisions and grant special permits. The Town established zoning laws in 1961. The Zoning Board of Appeals meets once a month to hear petitions for zoning variances. The Town Assessor estimates the value of property within the limits of the Town. The recycling center is located at the Town Sheds. Three school districts serve the residents of the Town, Canandaigua, Bloomfield, and Naples, and there are six polling districts. According to the 2000 census, the town's population is 7,649 and in 2010 it had grown to 10,020.


Town of Canandaigua Fun Facts

The amount of money expended for schools in the year 1866-87 was $8,754.83, the amount of public money apportioned $2,088.24, the value of school property $14,800, and the average daily attendance was 540 students.

First Town meeting held in April 1791. First items of legislation voted were "That swine, two months old and upward, shall have good and sufficient yokes." and "That for every full grown wolf killed in town, a bounty of thirty shillings shall be paid." (Gazetteer & Business Directory 1867-8: 40).

Present location of Town Hall built in 1996 on NYS Route 5 & 20, was the former site of William C. Pierce's gas station. A picture of the gas station is displayed by the Receptionist's counter at the Town Hall.

Some 1876 businesses include Agricultural Implements, Bakers & Confectioners, Booksellers, Boots & Shoes, Coopers, Clothiers & Merchant Tailors, Crockery & Glassware, Druggists, Dry Goods, Furniture, Grocers, Hardware, Hats & Caps, Watchmakers & Jewelers, Lumber Dealers, Meat Markets, Tobacco & Cigars, Undertakers and a Stove Dealer.


Town of Canandaigua Personalities

George Hickox was one of the Town's first farmers in 1793. A believer in rotation farming he was one of the prominent and leading agriculturists of the county.

John B. Cooley - the only son of John Cooley who died at forty-eight years old, farmed his father's sixty-five acre farm from the time he was twelve years old. He raised sheep, swine, cows, and cash cropped wheat to support his two wives and twelve children. He is credited with the help of other farmers for forming the Ontario Agricultural Society.

General Israel Chapin was the first Supervisor serving from 1791-1795. He was also the First Assembly Representative for Ontario County in 1792.

James D. Fish was the elected the First Town Clerk at the second (yearly) town meeting in April 1792.

Reverend John Smith was a member of the Dighton, MA group that purchased Range 3, Township #9 (Phelps and Gorham Purchase) which constitutes the south half of the Town of Canandaigua. He is believed to have preached the first sermon in Canandaigua in 1791. He played a significant role in the establishment of Canandaigua Academy and , with Oliver Phelps, created the "Academy Tract" in support of the Academy.

Zadok Hunn, one of the earliest pioneers who came to Canandaigua in 1795, was a Congregational minister who founded nine Congregational Churches in and about the county.

Ira Cribb, father of Fred Cribb (Supreme Court Justice of Onario County) and grandfather of Joe Cribb (Surrogate Court Justice of Ontario County), served as Town Highway Superintendent, Town Supervisor, and NYS Supervisor of Highways, and, due to his development of oil and stone (macadamized) road treatment, became known as the "Father of Modern Highways".

Sybley Ebeneezer Nott, veteran of the Civil War, member of Charles Lilly G.A.R. (Cheshire), school teacher, Cheshire Postmaster, and Canandaigua Justice of the Peace.

Isaac Parrish, son of Jasper Parrish (Indian Interpreter for Col. Timothy Pickering), and pilot of the first Steamboat to ply Canandaigua Lake, the Lady of the Lake. He built the cobblestone home on West Lake Road, now a B&B, and thought to be a stop on the Underground Railroad in later years.

 

Caleb Gage brought in the first mower, from Buffalo, in 1844.

The first McCormick reaper was brought in by David and Frank Bates between 1825 and 1844, which they used on other area farmers lands.


Town of Canandaigua Tales and Lore

The Legend of Bare Hill
Long ago the Creator caused the earth to open and out of the side of a great hill near a long and lovely lake the ancestors of the Seneca Nation came into being. For a time they lived in peace. Then a boy found a little snake in the woods. It was an unusual reptile in that it had two heads. The boy took it home, made a pet of it and fed the choicest meat into its twin mouths. The serpent grew to prodigious size and its appetite grew with it. Soon its young master could not find enough game to satisfy its hunger. The People of the Great Hill came to fear it as a monster. Finally the great snake in his desperate hunger encircled the hill and barred the gates with its opened jaws so that no one could escape. The people grew hungry and tried to get away. One by one the monster ate them. At last only a young warrior and his sister remained of all the People of the Hill. One night the youth had a vision. If he would fletch his arrows with his sister's hair, they would possess a fatal charm over the monster. He followed his dream and shot his magic arrows straight into the great red jaws of the enemy of his people. The reptile was mortally wounded and in his death agony he writhed his way down the hill, tearing down trees and flailing the earth until he finally slid into the lake and was seen no more. As the great snake rolled down the hill, he disgorged the skulls of the Senecas he had devoured. In the area have been found rounded stones divided into geometric patterns and weirdly resembling human skulls. And to this day nothing has ever grown in the path torn by the serpent writhing down that hillside (Merrill: 69-70).

Senecas Had a Sense of Humor
The early settlers recount a story when the Indians served hominy to the white guests, only one spoon was used. The host would take the spoon, and after wiping it on the sole of his moccasin, pass the spoon onto the guests. The joke was meant to shock the white visitor, for most Indians had their own cup and spoon and maintained Indian homes were spick and span (Merrill: 39).

The Steamboats
It has been many years since steamboat whistles have echoed over Canandaigua's waters. The Ogarita, Oriana and the Onnalinda are gone along with the 60 docks that once dotted the 32 miles of lake line. The docks where the steamboats picked up grapes from Vine Valley, apples from Woodville, and other produce until the holds bulged. While above the decks, bands played and passengers danced and sang in those excursion days of long ago (Merrill: 54).


Town of Canandaigua Cemeteries

Cemeteries are scattered throughout the Town of Canandaigua, a list of the cemeteries follows. For the historical and genealogical researcher, indexed lists of those interred in these cemeteries are located at the Ontario County Historical Society Museum, or on line at www.newyorkroots.org/ontario.

Academy Cemetery (East Side of Seneca Point Road and South of County Road #16).
This cemetery was previously privately operated, but is now owned and maintained by the Town. There are graves of veterans of the Civil War, World War I, and World War II. There is a large stone at the entrance stating, "Erected by the citizens of Canandaigua under the leadership of Henry C. Beeman (1847-1927) Company C., 15th N.Y. Cav, 1862-1865." erected in 1923.

Cooley Cemetery (Northeast Side of Cooley Road. Near intersection of Short Road)
First reference to this plot is in 1879. Twenty-four rods of land set apart by Lyman Cooley in his lifetime as a family burying ground. It is the smallest of the town's cemeteries holding just 5 stones. Stones include Shaw 1829, and Sheldon 1816. It is well maintained by the Town.

Lucas Cemetery (East Side of Route 21, South of Lucas Road)
Zebina Lucas was one of the earliest owners of record. His grave along with a number of his family are buried in this cemetery. Most recent burial for which a stone may be deciphered record a death long prior to 1900. It is maintained by the Town.

New Michigan /Tilton Cemetery (East Side of New Michigan Road North of Yerkes Road) Located in the northwest corner of the town. This plot is fenced in. It was never a public cemetery. There are 20 stones dating from the middle of the 19th Century, including Samuel Tilton 1859. The most recent is 1882. It is maintained by the Town.

Pine Bank Cemetery (South Side of Wells-Curtis Road at Cheshire)
The cemetery, also known as Cheshire Cemetery, is privately operated and well maintained. As of today, records tell us that 114 veterans of war have been laid to rest here in Pine Bank Cemetery. These include 2 Revolutionary War Vets, 2 War of 1812 Vets, 1 Mexian War Vet., 34 Civil War Vets, 14 World War I vets, 45 World War II vets, 5 Korean War, and 11 Vietnam War vets. In addition to the 34 Civil War vets actually buried here, another 10 Cheshire natives who lost their lives in the Civil War, but with unkown burial locations have been remembered with a memorial here.

Benham/Red Dock/ Wolverton Cemetery (On abandoned road West of County Road 16 just North of Wyffles Road
1000 ft. west of West Lake Road on the north side of a former east/west road that connected West Lake and Middle Cheshire Roads. Graves date from 1831 to 1883 including Beeman, Wolverton, Dempsey, Beidler, Gates, and Burch. First mention is in a deed of 1882, Parshall to Parshall. Grantors had obtained the title from the State of Connecticut in 1812. No right of way for access exists, except over private property. It has been abandoned.

Root/ Remington Cemetery (Corner of Nott and Middle Cheshire Roads)
Land locked, 75 yards north of Nott Road (a.k.a. Dixon Road) and west of Middle Cheshire Road. Created by Rosewell Root in 1802. This is the burial site for 6 Revolutionary War Veterans (two of whom also served in the War of 1812), plus another 4 who served in the War of 1812, as well as two veterans of the Mexican War. There is a recently obtained right of way but it is for maintainance only by the Town. The last burial was over 50 years ago.

Sandhill Cemetery (South Side of Emerson at Sandhill Road)
Owned by the Sandhill Cemetery Association of Canandaigua. One half acre for burying ground. Joseph Phelps to Samuel Knapp 1812. Many Knapps, Padelfords, Tiffanys, Casorts, Herringtons, and Pikes are buried here. Most stones dated 1820 to 1870. It is maintained by the Town.

Hunn Cemetery (Corner of Woolhouse and County Road 32, a.k.a. Bristol Road)
Consisting of one acre, it is one of the oldest town cemeteries. Could also be called VanNorman Cemetery since it was first described as a "public burial ground" in a deed dated February 4, 1815, (Liber 23 of Deeds, Page 84) from Joseph VanNorman to his son Isaac VanNorman. There are many families buried here, including Holcomb, Ackley, Nethaway, Grant, Mack, Hicks, Booth, Hubbard, Briggs, and Spears. The most recent burial was in 1931 of Martha Spears. The oldest is Seth Holcomb on September 28, 1799. Deeds from 1833 refer to a small piece of land, on the lot opposite the burying ground, on which a meetinghouse was erected and used for public worship. This was not mentioned in the 1875 transfer and there is no evidence of the house today. Zadok Hunn, a professor at Yale and , through his ministry, organizer of nine Congregational churches in the area, is buried in this cemetery along with many from his family. There are also at least 8 Revolutionary War veterans buried here. It is well maintained by the Town.


Canandaigua Lake History

The Steamboat Era on Canandaigua Lake
The steamboat era in New York State started in 1807 when Robert Fulton ran his steam-powered "Clairmont" on the Hudson River. The first steamboat in the Finger Lakes region was the "Enterprise" which was launched in 1825. Canandaigua Lake's steamboat era ran from 1827 with the launching of the "Lady of the Lake " and ended in 1935 when the "Idler" discontinued passenger service. There were fourteen major boats that provided commercial service on Canandaigua Lake.

Lady of the Lake was launched on September 15, 1827. It was the first steamboat on Canandaigua Lake. Named after Sir Walter Scott's lovely poem, the boat was built near Squaw Island by Mr. Burton of Troy in 1823 at a cost of $550. The "Lady " was 80 feet on the keel with a 27 foot beam, and was a stern wheeler, powered by a 25 horsepower engine built by John C. Langdon of Troy and was built of unique laminated construction unlike the plank and beam construction of earlier sail powered boats. It even had an elegant "soda bar". Owners included Francis Granger, John Greig, Jared Wilson and John D. Bemis. Isaac Parrish was captain the first season, later replaced by Jasper Judd. Sally Morris, a the pretty 15 year old daughter of Thomas Morris of Canandaigua, and granddaughter of Robert Morris, financier of the American Revolution, christened the boat. The venture was rather unsuccessful because there were few residents on the lake and the Canandaigua City Pier, used for loading and unloading freight and produce was not built until 1848. The boat sank near the present Canandaigua Pier. No photos exist.

Ontario launched in 1845. The name meaning "beautiful, noble," the boat, also a sternwheeler, was built in Naples, N.Y. at Woodville, and was under the management of Herrick, Ingrahan & Co., later Miles P. Mack. The owners had financial troubles which continued until the boat was destroyed by fire in 1847. No photos of this boat exist either, since photography was really not in common use until the Civil War.

Joseph Wood launched in 1855. The boat, besides being the first sidewheeler on the Lake, was built in Canandaigua by David and Allen Wood, just west of the present Canandaigua City Pier and many photos of it have survived. The "Joe Wood" was 90' long and 18' wide. A high-pressure horizontal engine powered the boat. It was rebuilt in 1863 by Benjamin & Alonzo Springstead of Geneva, and sold to the Standish Brothers of Naples. The ice at the end of the Canandaigua Pier crushed it in March of 1868.

Henry B. Gibson launched in 1860. The boat was built by Captain John Robinson in 1862. It was later remodeled and called "The Naples." The ice crushed it in 1865, under the Warner Brothers ownership.

Canandaigua launched in 1865. Built by Bejamin Springstead for the Warner Brothers of Canandaigua. It was 110' long and 18' wide. For years it was owned by J. & A. McKechnie, well know brewers in Canandaigua. The "Canandaigua" was powered by soft coal produced "whoof whoof" clouds of smoke, had a side-wheel and operated on the lake for 24 years, captained by Marshall W. Cooper. It was dismantled in 1889 and its engine was used in the new "Ogarita."

Ontario II launched in 1867 and christened by Miss Julia Phelps. Built in Woodville by Henry and Sales Standish of Naples and it was captained by Henry Standish followed by Edward Herendeen. It was the only wood-burning steamer. The "Ontario II" was 120' long and 19' wide, she had a 19' wheel and the axle was so high that passengers had to duck under it.. Her boiler was low pressure and very silent. In 1880 the "Ontario II" was taken over by the Canandaigua Lake Steam Navigation Co. She burned at the Canandaigua Pier in July 1887.

In 1880, the Canandaigua Lake Steam Navigation Co. operated four small steamboats in an attempt to offer a regular schedule. The boats were too small and were not successful as transportation boats. These boats included the "Fairy," built in 1887 and used by F. F. Thompson to go to his cottage on Pine Bank. The "Vanderbilt" built in 1888 had a short commercial run and in 1895 Wally Reed built the "Mayflower" and the "Wallanick" which were equally unsuccessful.

Onnalinda Considered the Canandaigua Lake's "Queen of the Steamboat Era", the Onnalinda was the largest of the lake steamers, could carry 600 passengers on Summer Sundays, with another 400 on a boat in tow. (Arch Merrill, Slim Fingers Beckon). It was launched on May 18, 1888, christened by Miss Maud Sayer, a niece of Mr. James McKechnie. Built by Alonzo W. Springstead of Geneva for the "Canandaigua Lake Transportation Co." , it was 142 feet on the keel with a 40 foot beam. Powered by a 40 pound boiler there were 5 crew members and even had a snack bar. Jake Dugan was an Engineer and Mike Burke one of its pilots. It had a rolling balast with 1/2 ton of scrap iron for stability. She was dismantled and sunk opposite the Canandaigua Yacht Club in 1913.

Genundewah launched in 1889. She was another Alonzo Springstaed built boat, named for Bare Hill at Vine Valley and was better known by her nickname "Gee Whiz" reflecting her ornamentation and grace. She was built for the "People's Line", organized with money from grape growers. She was managed by James Mentieth, an English Baron. George Miller later owned her. She was burned at Woodville in 1894 in a fire of "suspicious origin."

Ogarita launched in 1889 was another Alonzo Springstead built boat. Owned by the "Canandaigua Lake Transportation Co." as were the "Onnalinda" and the "Oriana", she was built for $15,000 and named after the daughter of the owner, she was dubbed O'Garrity due to her Irish crew. She provided lake service for 25 years with George Stemple as pilot, and could carry 250 passengers. She burned to water level at the Woodville dock in 1914.

Seneca Chief launched in Canandaigua Lake in 1890. She was brought to the lake from Lake Ontario and was used as a mail boat and to tow scows. It was never a very successful boat and was dismantled after a few years. It was a small screw steamer. In fact it was the first commercial propellor boat on the Lake. It was about 38 feet on the keel and had little deck room and poor accomodations for passengers. It was not as fast as it was expected for making trips replacing the "Canandaigua". She was dismantled after a few years, her steel hulk sunk as unseaworthy. Her engine was then installed in the "Mary Ann" a pile driving steamboat and after a few years, subsequently installed in the "Oriana".

Oriana Alonzo Springstead built for the "Canandaigua Transportation Company." Using the boiler from the dismantled "Seneca Chief" the "Oriana" was built in 1896. In 1910 her owners cut her in half and added 11 ft. to her length and changed her powering system from steam to a gasoline engine. She could carry 125 passengers and held the record for longest commercial service of 30 years. Both she and the "Onanda" were named for Iroquois Indian Maids. The "Oriana" was abandoned and left to rot in 1926.

Eastern Star launched in 1912. She was the last scheduled passenger boat on Canandaigua Lake. This gas launch was sent to Seneca Lake in 1932 to be used for dock work. Another Alonzo Springstead product.

Onanda launched in 1914. The last steamboat on Canandaigua Lake, and the last one built by Alonzo Springstead, she was 75 ft. long and could carry 150 passengers or 50 tons of freight. When passenger service died down on the lake the owners shipped the boat downstate and put her into service on the Hudson River in 1924.

Idler launched in 1935. Capt. Wally Reed tried to restore passenger service on this 32-ft. gas powered launch. It had wicker chairs for 20 passengers and operated at irregular hours. It was the last boat to provide boat service on Canandaigua Lake until the arrival of the Roseland Park tour boat, the "Sandra Lee."


Canandaigua Lake Facts

The pride and joy of all Canandaigua is the lake. The third largest of one of the eleven Finger Lakes, its scenic beauty prompted one author to deem it "the Gem of the Inland Lakes." From the romantic steamboat era to our modern windsurfing times, it has provided residents and tourists with endless hours of recreation, prosperous livelihoods and treasured moments of nature's quiet solitude. The splendor of the lake and its surrounding rolling hills combine to make this area truly one of the most beautiful places in the United States. It is not hard to imagine why the Senecas and countless others since then have chosen to settle in Canandaigua. The lake is the community's most important asset and an essential part of its identity. It serves as a source of drinking water for over 48,000 area residents. Tourism is one of the area's most important economic development activities, with the recreational opportunities of the lake being the principal attraction for vacationers.

Concerns about the preservation of the lake as a resource has lead to the formation of the Canandaigua Lakes Watershed Task Force, a diverse group of "stakeholders" actively involved in efforts to protect the quality of the lake. With six townships in two counties bordering Canandaigua Lake, its management requires intergovernmental and interagency cooperation. Because less than 3% of the lake's shoreline is in public ownership, enhancing and maintaining public access to the lake had been an important public policy issue as further development of the lakefront areas has been proposed in recent years.

Squaw Island is an 11,000 year old island located at the north end of the lake. It is known to be New York State's smallest Fish and Wildlife Management Area and one of the two known islands in the eleven Finger Lakes. Legend states that the island was used to hide the Seneca women and children during the Sullivan Expedition against the Six Nations in 1779. The island is one of the unique and few places on earth that makes water biscuits, an extremely rare form of carbonate of lime deposits on pebble. A feathery light rock calcified from algae, filtered by sand and pond scum are hard in the water but crumble if allowed to dry out. The island has been eroding rapid from the forces of ice, wind, water current and development changing the wave patterns. In 1977, New York State Department of Environmental Conversation installed a cedar log buffer around the island to help preserve it. Its size was approximately two acres in 1853, it shrunk by 75% in 162 years, then to one quarter acre in 1971. Today only 55 feet by 145 feet of the island remains. A newly formed group called the Squaw Island Preservation Society has raised citizen support to protect the island and its unique place in science after state officials said they would no longer maintain it. Work on the preservation was completed in Summer 2001.

Physical characteristics of the lake are:

  16.57 square miles (10,600 acres) of surface area
  15.8 miles long
  1.5 miles wide
  276 feet deep
  688 feet above sea level
  35.9 miles of shoreline
  34.7 (97%) private
  1.2 (3%) public
  429 billion gallons capacity

The lake has an abundance of trout, bass, perch, bullhead and several other common fish species for fishing.

The preceeding information is credited to "Visitor's Guide to Historic Canandaigua", published by the Ontario County Historical Society. 2001, and edited by Ray Henry in 2014.

 

Current Planning Reports
  • Click here to download a working list of the Town's Veteran Burials

Current Planning Reports
  • Click Here for the full report of the Historian's 2013 activities.
Current Planning Reports