The Pioneer History of
 Orleans County, NY

Chapter X
Public Highways

Online Edition by Holice & Deb

 

 CHAPTER X.

PUBLIC HIGHWAYS.

THE Ridge Road--When Laid Out -- Appropriation -- Oak Orchard Road -- Opened by Holland Company -- road from Shelby to Oak Orchard in Barre -- Salt Works Roads -- State Road along Canal -- Judge Porter's Account of first Tracing the Ridge Road.

Although the Ridge Road had been traveled by the Indians from time immemorial, and after the settlement of the country by white men, improvements had been made by cutting out trees, and making the crossings at the streams of water more passable, yet many large trees still obstructed the carriage way, and bridges were wanted in many places. In April, 1814, the Legislature of the State appropriated $5,000, and appointed commissioners to apply said sum to the improvements of such parts of said road between Rochester and Lewiston, as said commissioners should think proper, for the public benefit. This appropriation, together with some labor by the few inhabitants then living on this route, made the Ridge road a tolerably fair wagon road.

The Ridge Road, so called, was regularly laid our and established by Philetus Swift and Caleb Hopkins, under an Act of the Legislature passed Feb. 10, 1815. An act providing for a re-survey of the Ridge Road, from Rochester to Lewiston, was passed march 24, 1852, John LeValley, Grosvenor Daniels and William J. Babbitt were appointed commissioners to superintend the work through Orleans County.Darius W. Cole, of Medina, was the Surveyor, and the road was re-surveyed and established six rods wide. Although the Ridge Road had been opened and traveled many years, no survey and record of it had been made before Swift & Hopkins' survey.

Mr. Lewis W. Gates, formerly of Gaines, related that about the year 1843, Judge Augustus Porter, then of Niagara Falls, gave him the following account of the Ridge Road.

He, Judge Porter, and others, were interested in surveying and locating a large tract of land west of Genesee river, since known as The Triangle. The Indians told them there was a gravelly ridge extending from the Genesee to Niagara River. Porter and his company employed a surveyor named Eli Granger, to go with a few men and trace a road through on this Ridge, from river to river, and they traced the Ridge Road through near its present location, in 1798.

The Oak Orchard Road was the first highway crossing Orleans County north and south, that was opened and worked. Supposing, as everybody did then, that the trade from this part of the country must go by the lake, and that Oak Orchard Harbor would be its place of embarkation, the Holland Company and the settlers, at an early day opened this road for teams, made log causeways through wet places and bridged the streams. It was a rough road, but teams could get through with light loads, as early as before the war.

Andrew A. Ellicott built a mill on the Oak Orchard Creek, at Shelby Center, about the year 1813. To accommodate travel to this mill and promote the sale of land, the Holland company cut out a highway leading from the Oak Orchard road near the County Poor House, to Shelby Center. This highway followed the ridge of highest land, crooking about on places where it could be easiest constructed. It is still used as a public highway, and is traveled on or near the line originally followed. This was the first road cut out for teams, east and west, south of the ridge. As the timber which grew in this County was generally hard wood and decayed soon, dew fallen trees, or logs lay in the woods to obstruct teams passing anywhere in the forest, where standing timber or swamps did not prevent; and the course of travel was directed by marked trees, until enough inhabitants had come in to lay our and work roads.

Before the forest was cleared from this county, much of the land was wet, and in fitting a highway for travel, a large amount of log causeway had to be laid, in places now dry hard land. Where the Oak Orchard Road crosses the canal in Albion, and for many rods north and south of the canal, such a causeway was laid. Indeed, many farms, which in a wild state, were not taken by settlers at first, because they were so low and wet, now, on draining the water off, and cutting away the trees, are the best farming land on the neighborhood.

The Ridge Road was laid out six rods wide, and the Oak Orchard Road four rods wide. In selling lands bordering on the Ridge Road, or the Oak Orchard Road, the Holland Company bounded the tract they sold by the outer lines of the road; thus giving the lands the roads covered tot he public. In selling lands on all other roads, they deed top the center of the highway. When no natural obstruction prevented, highways were laid out on the line of lots according to the company’s survey, and then the owners on each side gave each the half of the road.

Works were put up by the Holland Company for the manufacture of salt, at the salt springs north of Medina, as early as 1805, and opened for use by the settlers. To facilitate access to these works, the Company cut out two roads, about the same time, one leading south from the works, to the "Old Buffalo Road;" the other south-easterly, tot he Oak Orchard road. These highways were known as the Salt Works Road. When the manufacture of sale there was discontinued, the Salt Works Road was discontinued.

Frequently, when a new road became a necessity, all the settlers would turn out with their teams, and cut out the trees, and clear them from the roadway, and build such sluiceways as were necessary and so make a highway passable, to be worked up when the roots had rotted out and the people of the district had got able to do so.

About the year 1824, the people along the Ridge Road turned out on the 4th day of July and celebrated the day, by cutting out a highway from the Ridge north to Waterport which is now the road leading from Eagle Harbor to Waterport.

An Act of the Legislature was passed April 2, 1827, appointing John P. Patterson, Almon H. Millerd and Otis Turner, commissioners to locate and lay our a public highway, four rods wide, leading from Rochester to Lockport, "on, or near the banks of the Erie Canal." A highway was located and laid by said commissioners, Jesse P. Haines, of Lockport, being the surveyor, pursuant to said Act. For most of the way said highway was laid on the south side of the Canal. The records of said survey and highway were filed in the County Clerk's offices, and the road established Oct. 1, 1827. The law required the commissioners of highways in the several towns, to open the road to travel; and it was done by them along the most of the line where the public convenience required it. Considerable of this road was never opened, and the franchise was suffered to be lost to the public by non-user.

This was known as the State Road. Through the village of Albion, it is called State Street.

The Pioneer History of Orleans County, NY, By Arad Thomas

 

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

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