When the whites first became acquainted with this section of the country, an Indian trail led along the eastern shore of Canadice lake; one over Ball Hill, and another along the eastern shore of this lake, uniting at the present residence of Harlow Colegrove, and then passed on southwardly to the Susquehanna River.
Large bodies of Indians encamped during the warmer portions of the year on the flats at the foot, where they raised large quantities of corn, beans and squashes. The present farm of C. H. Mack at the head of the lake was also a camping ground, and Indian Pestles, etc. are still occasionally found there, while farther southward on the trail was another one on the farm of the late Aldrich Wiley.
In about the year 1791, Austin, son of Soloman Woodruff who was the first settler in this present town of Livonia, was stolen by the Indians while his father was away from home. Soloman, on his return, ascertained the direction taken by them with his stolen boy, and having followed, alone and unarmed, pretty well up the eastern shore of this lake on the trail spoken of, overtook the band and obtained his little four year old lad.
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One year previous to 1800, Ephrim Tucker came from the state of Connecticut to the town of Livonia and settled the Sylvester Francis farm and after a few years residence in Dansville on the old plank road, where the yellow willows are above the toll-gate, he returned to Ball Hill, and after living to a ripe, old age, in full view of the lovely Hemlock where he had caught many of the fine race, and of the green hillsides on which he had hunted the wild and prowling denizens of the primitive forests during more than three decades of the present century, he died and was buried in the eastern slope of the hill of his adoption.
While living in Livonia his young cattle one day strayed up the Hemlock, and towards sunset he put off in pursuit, with two dogs for company, one a cur and the other, part hound. When will up towards the cave banks he saw two young cubs, which on his approach quickly found a retreat in the branches of a smooth maple sapling, and forgetting his cattle for the while, thought he would procure one of the little fellows in the tree, so up he goes in pursuit. The tree, like all saplings growing closely together, was surmounted by a tall, slim top, to which the cube resorted far, far beyond his reach.
While trying to dislodge the little fellows, old Bruin put in an appearance, much to the discomfort of both dogs and owner, and after making a few circular observations, the dogs sitting on their haunches the while with barks to the maple, one eye taking careful notes of Bruin’s survey and the other scantly resting on their master up in the tree, she beat a retreat; this she repeated three or four times, each absence being longer than the former one. The hero of our story thinking that Bruin was mustering her forces for a nightly carnival, sans cubs, quickly descended from his uncomfortable quarters, and if legs were ever faithful to their owner, the terrible inroads made on fundamental quarters, before considering as invulnerable as were the “Seven Bull Hides of Ajax,” by the fallen trees and underbrush of the eastern shores of the Hemlock, fully attest that Ephrim’s legs were true and loyal to him.
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Often in company with Ephrim was an old Hermit by the name of Maloy, who, after passing a few year on what is now Cook’s point on Canandaigua lake, and also beneath “Maloy’s Bluff” at the head of the Honeoye, in a lonely cabin, came to the Hemlock and built another cabin on the west side on lot No. 19.
The Hemlock then had its weird and solitary nooks for abodes for the bear, catamount or panther, or ghosts of departed spirits; and while Maloy was one morning catching a few fish for his “chowder” breakfast, happily seated in his “dug-out,” an old bear came from one of these secluded nooks with the evident intention of breakfasting on Maloy. Armed with nothing save what his Creator gave him, it was a native tussle. Old Bruin gave the affray, mounted the boat, which not being able to hold two at variance, upset, thus giving them both an equal chance for their lives, Maloy, who was amphibious in his habits and as much at home in the watery element as was his aggressor, clambered onto his dug-out, caught a small floating paddle, and knowing the brute’s most tender point, gave him a clip on the nasal protuberance, depressing the fore and elevating the after portions of the monster, which Maloy quickly took the advantage of by grasping, with a grip like the infant Hercules in the Theban serpents, the casual appendage of his said antagonist, and after much writhing and blubbering, old Bruin came out second best, and graced the table of Maloy for many an after meal.
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In an early day on the farm of C. H. Mack before mentioned, at the head of the lake lived David Tomkins. He was not what the world would call handsome, but from a rickety scaffold he had built over the “dead inlet,” he could charm and take in one night more Bullheads with a spear than any fifty men that ever attempted to practice the “gentle art.” He was a blacksmith by trade, had two boys, David Jr. and Fortunatus, who were very apt Vulcans in their way.
Once on a time it was said, when Jews-harps were more fashionable than Organs, these boys took it into their heads to make one, - a large one - one whose music would “soothe a savage.”
They closed the doors of the shop and went to work and forged out one so bulky that it was music for two.
As the sun was falling behind the western hill, an unearthly noise was heard in the direction of the shop. David Sr. and the better half were lively to investigate the condition of the boys. As they opened the shop door Fortunatus with the sledge handle gave the tongue of the harp, which David was holding in his mouth firmly with both hands, another wipe, when lo! - both father and mother fell perfectly paralyzed!
Among the accidents on this un-briny sheet of water, but which was unavoidably crept in under this heading, was the loss of an ox belonging to David Barnhart.
David’s organ of Caution was naturally very large and active, and it has usually kept him out of harm’s way, by once when the “Hill Turnpike” was “melodiously miserable,” David ventured to come up the lake on the ice. The result was, he went home with one ox, while the other became food for the finny dwellers of the deep.
David often declares he will never trust himself on the ice again until he knows to a “dead certainty” that the water commenced at the bottom to freeze, and froze up solid, and it is said that he hesitates to take even now, a full meal of fish caught through the ice, for fear it may incline him lake ward!
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Dick Wetmore was a man who in some respects lived somewhat like his ancestral brothers in the forest. Whenever he went a-fishing his luck was invariably good, while his neighbor who accompanied him and who had stored at home something for present and future use, often sat basking in the sun for hours and did not get even a nibble, save from mosquitoes.
The reason Dick assigned for his better luck was: “that the Almighty knew whose pork barrel was empty.”
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It was in this lake or some other, if it ever happened that old Mrs. Smith was deprived of her dear copartner for life by drowning. After he had lain at the bottom for a number of weeks, and sympathetic neighbors had diligently raked for the body, it was at last fortunately brought to the shore, when behold, twenty-two fair sized Pickerel had sought a home therein. The bereaved widow was immediately notified and asked what disposition to make of the body. She feelingly replied: “Save the pickerel, and set the body again.”
From time immortal this lake has been noted as good fishing grounds, but way back in an early day, we are told, that but few varieties could be caught here. Lake Trout, Suckers, Sunfish and Herring or more properly Whitefish, were here in abundance when the whites first became fishermen here. Charles Bliss, long years since placed some new varieties here. Some thirty-five years ago the Whitefish were so plenty that wagon load were caught in one night; but that time also can be counted as the beginning of their decline, and now perhaps not a scale of them can be found here. Some of the largest of them would weigh a pound each. Large quantities of fish of different kind, have been put in here from time to time. S. G. Grover and H. S. Tyler placed pickerel and Perch here in the winter of 1838 and ‘39; Geo. A. Pierce and Dr. Requa, Oswego Bass in 1859; Black Bass from Irondequoit Bay by a Lima company, the same year; Black Bass, Rock Bass, Silver Bass, Strawberry Bass, and Yellow Pike by W. H. Atkins on, furnished by Seth Green, Supt. of N. Y. State Fish Commission. The first lot of Salmon Trout was put into the head by Pierce brothers, and the next lot of 100,000 by Atkinson, off Ackley’s point, and Green has also furnished large quantities at different times since to different parties for the same purpose.
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A few catches or so, we will mention, so a successor can have a starting point for “fish stories.”
George A. Pierce and Charles Sedgwick were once fishing here on the ice, when Charles attempted to draw up his hook, found he had caught a Whitefish weighing a pound, which had been swallowed by a monstrous Trout which did not disgorge him until being drawn through the hole in the ice. Fred Millard caught a Trout, opposite the Half Way House, July 15th, 1878, that weighed 12 ½ pounds; In March 1845, George Williams, one that weighed 16 pounds; George King, one that weighed 15 ½ pounds; Amidon Goodrich, one that weighed 20 pounds; Spaulding Shepard one, Dec. 24th, 1846, that weighed in a frozen state, next morning, 19 ¾ pounds, Phillip Wetmore, in the winter of 1838 and ‘9, one that weighed 26 pounds, and it was taken to where Dr. Gibbs now lives, by Sylvenus and George Williams. They tied its head to a pole which they carried on their shoulders, and its tail trailed along the ground.