Monday, September 20, 2010

Garlic and More Canal Stuff Than Most People Want To Know

Saturday morning Dale arrived to spend the weekend with us. We talked, got propane and hung out until Greg and Tina arrived from Rochester about 1 PM. After giving them a tour of Cuba we all went to the Garlic Festival. It is a community event that is only about 10 years old and we were not expecting much after Rushford and Pittsford, but we were very pleasantly surprised. It is held on the grounds of the McKinney Stables, or Empire Farms as it is also known; the concrete horse barn on the south end of Cuba that I mentioned in an earlier post.

The Garlic Festival had many booths where unique garlic items were being sold, as well as many with local specialty items (jams and maple stuff, etc.), some craft things, food booths, music, cooking demonstrations and much more. There were many free samples and we all tried many good things. It was a very nice event and there were a ton of people there. Traffic was backed up all the way through Cuba to Water Street and beyond.

At 4 PM we all took a tour of the horse barn itself. The tour lasted for an hour and was conducted by the current owner who bought it in 1996 at a tax sale. She has been working to restore it and is making slow progress. It is a very interesting building that is constructed completely of concrete or concrete blocks, including the floors. The concrete blocks were made one at a time on site. Quite an undertaking for any time, but it was really something in the 1906-1909 time frame when it was built. The man who built it was named Simpson. They had made their money in New York City. They owned and operated the first pawn shop there. That's right. Their pawn shop generated millions of dollars in profits. He built it to house his world champion trotting horses after a tragic fire in another stable that killed many of his prize horses. This stable is fireproof. The great granddaughter of the Simpson who built the barn was also there to add to the history. It was quite educational and informative.

After the festival we drove to Portville to have dinner at Spragues Farm. They are a very large commercial maple syrup operation and have opened a very nice restaurant. We had to wait for over half an hour for a seat as it is very busy. Almost every item on the menu has maple syrup in it in one form or another. Three people had breakfasts but I had salmon in maple glaze. Tina had something turkey which also included maple syrup somehow. It was quite good.

We drove back to Cuba where we said goodbye to Greg and Tina who drove back to Rochester. Dale, Dianna and I watched a movie and then went to bed.

Sunday we decided to take a hike and do some geocaching. We drove to Black Creek and found the Genesee Valley Canal Greenway about a quarter mile to the east. We hiked norths about 2 1/2 miles along the old canal and found 5 caches. Much of the canal in that area is now filled with beaver ponds. We only saw one beaver, and only his tail at that, as he quickly dove into his lodge, but their work was very evident.

As we hiked we talked about the Genesee Valley Canal. Dale has been interested in the Erie Canal for some time, and our recent hikes along the Genesee Valley Canal have been educational and fun for both of us. We knew that Cuba Lake was a feeder to the Genesee Valley Canal, and we tried to figure out where and how. We knew the highest spot on the lake was near here because Cuba Lake fed the canal at its highest point, but we were not sure where that was. It was obvious where we were hiking that it must be between Black Creek and Cuba because the streams in the Black Creek area flowed to the north.

After our hike we made a stop at the Cuba Cheese Store to stock up, then drove through McDonalds to pick up dinner. I know, I know. We were tired from 5 miles of hiking. Dale headed back to Buffalo after dinner. It was really nice having him with us for the weekend. We are looking forward to seeing him again in a couple months or so in Arizona.

I did some more research on the Genesee Valley Canal today. I found the Chronological History of the Genesee Valley Canal and History of the Genesee Valley Canal parts of the Canals of New York document, where I learned the Cuba Lake was originally called Oil Creek Reservoir. From another source I was also finally able to answer a question that Dale and I had about where the water left the lake to feed the canal at its highest point between Black Creek and Cuba. It said there were valves and a sluice box built into the base of Cuba Dam near the south end. I rode up there today to see if I could find it.

There is a cemetery located at the base of the dam which I learned is the oldest cemetery in Allegheny County. It was relocated there when the lake was filled as the original site was flooded. There are headstones of Revolutionary War soldiers as well as Civil War soldiers. Most of the headstones are badly deteriorated so it was almost impossible to read them.

I hiked down a trail from the cemetery and located the outlet to the canal. It is about 200 feet from the south end of the canal and can be seen on Google Maps. A new roof has been built to protect the old valve structure, but the sluice itself is built of concrete or blocks and is still in pretty good shape. I then decided to follow the sluice to see where it went. I found where it crossed the Cuba/Black Creek road just south of Moonwinks, at the intersection of Jackson Hill road to the east and the South Lake Shore road to the west. I rode east northeast on Jackson Hill road about 1/4 of a mile to what I thought was the canal. I parked the scooter and walked south along the old railroad bed until I found the structure where the sluice feeder passed underneath. What I have since discovered is that the railroad split off from the canal just about 1/2 mile north of that location. Therefore the canal was further east. Following the sluice in a straight line will lead to it. From the documents listed above I also learned that this was within a 12 mile long level section, known as the summit level, that ran from near Black Creek to near Hinsdale. There were locks going down in both of those locations.

As long as I was following things, I continued to follow the route of the old railroad bed and realized that Dianna and I had been walking on it during our evening walks. It runs directly behind our RV park. The canal is somewhat further east of us at a lower part of the valley.

While I was at the cemetery I met a man who lived there and was into history as well. We chatted a while and he gave me some good information. His name was Hatch and he was from Portville. He knew who Reuben Hatch was but said he was not a close relative. Undoubtedly he was somehow connected though.

The reason I mention him is that he told me there are still remnants of some locks in Hinsdale, just behind the VFW there. I may ride down and take a look tomorrow.

Who knew canal history could be so much fun?

This is a view on Google Maps of the location where the sluice comes out of the dam. You can follow it across the road and to the first north/south line that looks like a road or trail. It is the canal. It bisects the farmers field. Further east it joins the creek that flows toward Cuba.

View Larger Map


  1. This is interesting stuff. Perhaps you could post a link to Google maps where the outlet is located.

  2. Good idea. It's there.

  3. That was much more interesting than the truck brakes post. I really enjoyed that, and always load up Google maps to see the places you mention in your posts.

  4. Where did my response of last night go? I wrote a long explanation about Allegany/Allegheny, and the reason that your Austin anxestors didn't become rich. Shall I do it again, or doesn't anyone care?

  5. Mom, I checked everywhere and do not find a post from you last night. I would be interested in what you had to say.

  6. I'm glad that I'm not the only one fascinated with history of the canals in this area. It's kind of like when we were first out west and learned about the early cowboy towns.

  7. Hold the presses! I need to correct some information in my post. I finally found a decent map that shows the canal route in the Cuba area. It turns out that the railroad split off from the canal a short distance north of Jackson Hill Road, so the location I identified was where they built an underpass beneath the railroad bed. The canal is farther down in the valley where the sluice line continues to the east. I will change my information above to reflect my latest findings.

  8. The town of Cuba is in the county of Allegany, NY; just beyond Olean is the village of Allegany, which is on the Allegheny River. Karen lives in Pittsburgh, Allegheny Co. in PA. Why the difference in spelling between NY and PA is something that I never learned.

    Near where you are parked, across the road by the school, which was the new school when I went there in 1939 to 1941 should be remains of the Canal. I guess I was right when I thought that it was the Genesee Valley Canal, but that doesn't sound right. Why there and near Moonwinks, also? It ran parallel to the Pennsylvania Railroad, the tracks of which were still there when Dad worked at Phelps and Sibley. The train was in operation when I was young.

    Also the Erie Railroad ran behind the house that Dad built on Hill St. In the night, we would hear the whistle as the train came from Friendship; then it would fade out as it went around a curve, and then we could hear it again as it went behind our place and to town, where it crossed West Main St. just east of the hospital. I think that the station is still there. Relics of a bygone era!

    I'm not positive of my facts in part of this story, but I know that your ancestors, the Austins, had a chance to buy property on the shore of Lake Ontario. (I thought that it was at the end of the Genesee Valley Canal, but I'm not sure now.) Anyway, who would want that swampy, snake infested area. They turned down the offer, and it was sold to Bausch and Lomb. I wonder how much that property is worth now?

    I can't remember what more I said last night, but my mind functions differently at 5:00 PM than it does at midnight.

  9. I have no idea what I am looking at on the map.

    There is a dark area in the upper left corner, with a sharp edge. Something white that might be a road running just next to the dark area. Lots of apparent trees. A vague line running diagonally from near the middle of the picture to the lower right.

    What is what?

  10. Daryl, The map is interactive. If you zoom out you will see that the dark area to the top is the lake. The white line running along the lake is the trail on the top of the dam. At the base of the dam where the map is initially centered you see where the dark line running to the right starts. That is the valve house and the line is the sluice that feeds the canal. Pull the map to follow the sluice to where it intersects the North Cuba Road near Moonwinks, and continues through the fields, under the old railroad bed, and on to the old canal.