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“Tales of the Past” by Frank Connor

Tales of the Past

Chapter 19 - The East Lake Road of Hemlock Lake.

by Frank Connor


The road along the east side of Hemlock Lake, running south from Glenville corner to Springwater and which was closed a few years ago, was built by John Hill. Not much is known about the early life of this man except that he was born in Chemung County and as a young man drove mules on the Erie Canal. Later he bought a canal boat which he operated for some time, making some money at it. It is not known what brought him to Hemlock in the early 1840’s. In 1851 he furnished the money to set W. B. Lemon up in business in the store now owned by C. E. Wemett & Co. This building originally stood on Mrs. Margaret Hoppough’s lot, where it was used as a store; I don’t know by whom. Lemon moved it to its present location. The firm was known as Hill & Lemon. After Hill’s death Ruell Blake purchased his interest and the firm became known as Lemon and Blake. In 1862 Lemon was elected sheriff of Livingston County and sold his interest to L. W. Carrol which was not so good for Blake. But, to get back to Hill . . .

As mentioned in a previous article, there was a large amount of traffic going through Hemlock from the south for Rochester. All of this traffic had to come over Bald Hill, which was a hard pull for the horse teams up out of Springwater valley. Hill thought that if he built a road along the shore of Hemlock Lake eliminating the hills this traffic would come over his road in preference to the other route, and so he secured the right of way and built the road at an expense of $5,000, completing the job about 1853.

He erected his toll-gate a short distance south of Glenville corner. (This gate is now the kitchen of the house where Roy Redmond lives). Hills’ venture was not a financial success, sentiment was against him; people thought they should be permitted to use this road without toll. Hill, naturally, thought differently and one day in 1854 when he was in the blacksmith shop of Harry Millard (grandfather of Harry Rogers) he became engaged in an argument over the matter of tolls, became greatly excited and fell dead.

The road was used about fifty years or more after his death, up until the time that the City of Rochester secured control of the watershed of the lake.

Isaiah Stilwell used to tell that Hill never took in but one nickel from his road venture and that he willed this lone coin to his heirs for a keep-sake. But this, I guess, was but a story.

The greater part of this road has gone back to woodland now, Hill’s tombstone has crumbled away so that now his burial place is not marked, and not much remains of his memory.

There has been some talk lately of a concrete road being built along the side of the lake from Hemlock to Springwater. If this is done it seems no more than right that a part of it, equal in mileage to the old road, be dedicated to the memory of John Hill, canaler and road builder.