Wednesday, November 16, 2011

1822 Central NY Canal Excursion

American Journal, Ithaca, N.Y.

July 3, 1822


The opening of the Erie canal has given a celebrity to the western part of this state, which without this great enterprise, it would have probably taken many years to acquire. Its fertile soil, its extensive and internal water communications, and its beautiful and variegated scenery begin to attract the attention of travellers and strangers. No portion of our country will within a few years be able to compete with us in prosperity and improvement. Blessed with a climate equally removed from the scorching rays of a torrid sun, and the rigor of a polar winter, all the necessities of life, may be produced in the greatest abundance: and whatever surplus ins produced, may, by means of the canal, be transported at a moderate charge to sure and profitable markets.

I have been led, Mr. Editor, to these brief reflections, from a short excursion I lately made down the Cayuga Lake to Montezuma, and a few miles on the canal. A more agreeable and pleasant excursion than this cannot be made in our country. The shores of our beautiful Lake are not surpassed by any other in this country, and perhaps in the world. In passing from Ithaca to Cayuga Bridge, we have a delightful and gradual transition from loft and elevated banks, rising with a gradual ascent to the height of five hundred feet but all susceptible of the highest cultivation, to scarcely fifty feet above the level of the Lake.

Many elegant and well-cultivated farms, line the shores of this delightful Lake; and here and there a village crowns its banks, apparently resting in ease and opulence. Prominent and appearance rises Aurora, on the easter shore of the Lake twelve miles from the Bridge. It contains between thirty and forty houses, some of them elegant, and all neat and rural. The Lake is here 4 miles wide, and the opposite shore in a high state of cultivation. Here are a male and female Academy, both in a flourishing state; and indeed its rural secluded situation, points it out as the seat of the muses. The Academic groves, and the rippling waters, carry our imaginations back to the ages of ancient Greece, to the days of Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle.

Two miles below Aurora, Savanna Point projects into the Lake - a most delightful situation, and to the man of taste and rural disposition, a most desirable residence. Four miles below this, is the village of Union Springs. This has the appearance of being a thriving little spot. A large spring affording sufficient water to move a flouring mill and other machinery, gives importance to that place.

Below this, commences the chain of beds of Gypsum, of more real value to the country than the same quantity of precious metals. These quarries produce annually several thousand tons of this substance, which is consumed in the country around the Lakes, and large quantities sent up the Lake to Ithaca, from thence transported to the Susquehanna river, and floated down its current to the interior of Pennsylvania. This trade was carried to a very great extent during the late war.

From the village of Union Springs, in passing down he Lake, the Cayuga Bridge can in a clear day be perceived, stretching like a line more than a mile in length across the Lake; and the villages of East and West Cayuga, present a very pleasing appearance as they are approached from the south.

The west side of the lake, though destitute of any villages on its shores, is by no means devoid of interest. The great number of delightful farms cultivated to the very water's edge, and a number of projecting points of land, give a pleasing variety to the scenery. Some of those points have an enchanting effect upon the traveller, as they are approached. They are level plains, evidently produced by the alluvian deposits of the streams in their immediate vicinity, clothed with scattered elms and maples, and destitute of underbrush. In passing them, one is reminded of the tales of a fairy land.

This lake is becoming the channel of a very considerable commerce. It is the connecting link of a very extensive, rich, and flourishing country, with the great canal. A Steamboat has been in operation two seasons on the lake. The public are in a great measure indebted to the enterprise and public spirit of Oliver Phelps, Esq. for this eligible and delightful conveyance. The boat is more than a hundred tons burthen, handsomely fitted for the accommodation of passengers, and every attention is paid to their comfort and wants, by Mr. Phelps, who superintends himself.

Mr. Phelps has lately constructed a ingenius horse-boat to ply between the Bridge and the canal at Montezuma. This boat is a pleasing change from the monotonous movement of the canal boats, to the more animated motion of the American Water Coach, as the proprietor has very happily named it. The conveyance in this boat is pleasant and safe. It is handsomely fitted for the accommodation of twenty or thirty passengers. It reflects great credit on the projector and proprietor, and it is to be hoped that his enterprise will be justly appreciated and rewarded.

Submitted by Dick Palmer

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