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“Tales of the Past” by Frank Connor

Tales of the Past

Chapter 18 - Glenville, Gullburgh, Erie Canal, Plank Road, Metropolitan Hotel.

by Frank Connor


Another village of quite some importance in the thirties and forties of the nineteenth century was located along the Canadice outlet south and east of Beam’s mill at Glenville. I find that this is where the name Gullburg originated. This village extended pretty much from Glenville to Dixon’s Hollow, where there was another village. In Gullburg there was a woolen mill, grist mill and paint mill, also a small store. A few years ago the only evidence of this village that remained were a small shack in which was stored a few remaining pieced of Hart’s paint mill. This mill manufactured a red paint made from a clay found up there which seems to be partly rock. (A specimen of this clay is in the museum.) There are not many records left of this village so not much information can be given regarding it. Changing conditions were responsible for its going out of existence along with many of its kind.

Each of these small villages that sprung up with the arrival of the settlers was a potential city or permanent business place for the inhabitants. Geographical location determined which should live and grow. I don’t suppose the possibilities of future growth entered much into the consideration of location, a few settlers gathered at a spot and a village sprung up, sort of mushroom growth, lived a time and vanished. The earning of a living was the all important thing. The streams on which these villages were located furnished power for the water wheels, the only known power for mills then. Mills and machinery of those days were of simple construction and I imagine it didn’t require much power to turn them.

With the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825 came new life and growth to villages fortunate enough to be located on its banks. People living in other small villages moved to those with better business prospects or offering more employment and so one grew and another passed out of existence eventually to be forgotten.

Rochester had more effect upon this locality than any other place. Located as it was on the Genesee river and the Erie canal, it grew fast and furnished a market for the country’s products. Roads were built to carry this traffic to the city and to the canal to be shipped to points east and west. As roads were built business became better in the villages through which these roads passed and gave them a new lease of life until the early 1850’s when the railroads were being built. The villages through which the railroads passed benefited at the expense of those located off-line and so it has continued. As a new form of transportation was developed its effect soon became apparent on village and city life.

Hemlock being on a direct line between southeastern New York State and Rochester it benefited by the traffic passing through it to the developing markets of Rochester and Buffalo. In the late 1840’s Aaron Doolittle built the south end of the Metropolitan Hotel for a tavern of road house as Hemlock was the over-night stopping place for the increasing number of teams hauling lumber, wool and grain and other products of the southern tier.

In 1850 The Rochester and Hemlock Lake Plank Road Company was formed and financed by Rochester and local capital. It was incorporated under the General Plank Road laws of New York State. The company was to build twenty-eight miles or thereabouts, the road to be from Hemlock to Rochester. Stock was sold to help finance it and work was started in the spring of 1850. Philip Short II was one of the subscribers to this stock and a receipt for money paid into this company is in the museum. The road was built one track wide, constructed of heavy planks, laid on stringers imbedded in the earth. Plank and stringers were delivered on the job by the lumber mills for $4.00 and $4.50 per thousand feet. It is said that it was one of the roughest pieces of road ever built, the planks and stringers warped and curled up in places and it was almost impossible to stick on a wagon seat. (Perhaps these roads caused the spring wagon seat to be invented. It is said, “Necessity is the mother of invention”). The New York legislature on April 2nd, 1852, passed an act releasing the Rochester-Hemlock Lake Plank Road Company from their obligation to build more (they had built up to this time about 25 miles) as the building of the Erie Railroad took the traffic away from it.

When this road was started Aaron Doolittle, thinking that it was to mean big things for the village, built the large north end of the Metropolitan Hotel. The days that this frame was erected a celebration was held in honor of the event. The work on this building was done by a man name Walter Hanchett, the frame was hewed out by hand from the timber growing on the hills surrounding Hemlock Lake, and the square used in laying out the frame now rests in the school museum. This building has changed many times though the Haggerty family has owned it for the past 45 years.

The toll gate for this road was located on Collin’s corner at first, a short time later it was moved north to near where the Eri Jenks farmhouse stands. After the plank road was opened to traffic without toll charge the gate was purchased by a man named Thayer and moved to the village where it was made into a dwelling. This is the Waldron house.