It had been said and truly too that this lake is the “Most attractive of all the beautiful chain of lakes which adorn Western and Central New York.” It lies some twenty eight miles a little to the east of south of the city of Rochester, and almost wholly between the towns of Canadice in Ontario County, and Conesus in Livingston, and situated in a retired rural district in a deep and narrow valley, the two spurs Marrowback and Ball Hill reaching far north of the great Appalachian chain, clasp this gem of waters between their giant arms. Its length as given by Engineer Tubbs is six and seven tenths miles; its average width six tenths of a mile; its water surface 1,828 acres; a drainage surface of 27,554 acres; and an average daily discharge of 20,000,000 gallons of water. Its elevation above the Erie Canal at Rochester is 338 feet, and some 882 above tide, and except immediately at the head and foot its depth ranges from 40 to 90 feet throughout its length. Its greatest depth is said to be 92 feet.
There is one main inlet, and that comes down the Hemlock Valley west of the village of Springwater, receiving numerous small streams from the high lands on either side. The amount of water brought into the lake by this stream is so small compared with that discharged by the outlet that but one conclusion can be formed, and that is; the lake is “an immense mountain spring”.
As it has its bed in the shale formation, and its shores lined with the same, the water coming from this immense fountain must, of necessity, be soft, softer in fact, says Prof. Lattimore, than any other water supply on this continent, and excelled or equaled in Europe in purity, except, only a very few of the lakes in Scotland and Wales. This, in a great measure, induced the city of Rochester to take its waters thereto for drinking and domestic purposes.
The Legislature of this state April 16, 1852, passed an act incorporating the first Water Works Company of the city of Rochester. Certain residents of the city were named in the act, with others, with a capital stock of 200,000 dollars, to be taken in shares of $25 each, with power to take water from any spring, lake, pond or river to the city. This is called the old Company. April 16, 1868, all contracts entered into, and officers elected under the previous act were legalized and confirmed. The contract to take water from this lake to the city was let to Eastman, passed into the hands of Utley, thence to Ayers, of pill notoriety, and the second outlet was dug, pipes were laid, and considerable other work was done on a portion of the route, but the Legislature April 16, 1872 passed another Act to supply said City with pure and wholesome water.
Five Commissioners were appointed by the Mayor thereof who selected J. N. Tubbs as Engineer, and Prof. Lattimore as Analyzer, with instructions to examine the waters of Genesee River and Lakes Ontario and Hemlock, and in the fall of that year their reports were to be made with the positive conclusion that for greater economy and operation expense, permanency in construction of works, greater purity and softness of water and its steady and abundant supply, the last named body of water should furnish to said city the much and long needed supply; also an act was passed by the Legislature June 3. 1873, giving power to said Commissioners as agents for said city “to raise the surface of the water, in said lake, not to exceed two feet, and to draw down the said water below low-water mark, not to exceed, eight feet; also the right to take such measures and make such constructions as shall be necessary to secure said waters for the purpose intended, and to protect the same from improper obstructions or pollution”. After an outlay of some 3,000,000 gallons, the water was let into the pipe in December 1875.