Historian

TOWN HISTORIANS

Elizabeth "Beth" Batlle
Registered Historian
Charles "Charlie" T. Major
Deputy Historian

LINKS TO OTHER HISTORICAL AND PROPERTY INFORMATION

Skaneateles Historical Society

Onondaga Historical Society

Onondaga County House & Property Information

BRIEF HISTORY OF THE TOWN OF SKANEATELES


Skaneateles Lake, one of the Finger Lakes, was carved out by a glacier millions of years ago. The name is Iroquois, meaning Long Lake. The lake, 16 miles long and 863 feet above sea level, provides water for Skaneateles, the City of Syracuse, and other communities.


At the end of the Revolutionary War, the land in central New York was surveyed into townships, then into Military Tracts were which were awarded to soldiers for their service in the New York Militia. Skaneateles was part of the Township of Marcellus until it broke away in 1830 to become an independent town. The Village of Skaneateles was incorporated in 1833.

The first settler, Abraham Cuddeback, arrived in June of 1794. A farmer, he settled on the west side of the lake. Others followed, first settling on the high ground east of the present village. Besides their homes, they built a church, a school and tavern. As the shore was filled in, the settlers moved down to the foot of the lake where the present village is located and built new stores. a bigger school, and more churches.

The early settlers soon realized the potential of Skaneateles Creek.  They built a dam across the outlet, raising the water level of the lake two to three feet. They discovered that the creek dropped almost 500 feet on its journey to the Seneca River and ultimately Lake Ontario.  They used this falling water to supply cheap power for the mills - woolen, paper grist, and distilleries, that sprang up along the creek, and the mills in turn supplied employment for area residents. In the 1860's a five-mile-long railroad, called the Short Line, transported the manufactured produts to the Skaneateles Junction, where they were shipped to their destination by the New York Central Railroad.

The teasel was an important agricultural crop for the area. In the second year of its growth the plant grew a large flower bud that was covered with stiff hooked bracts. When dried, the bracts of these teasel buds, mounted on a rolling drum, would gently dig into the woolen cloth and in doing so would raise the nap of the material.

After a court battle, in 1894 the City of Syracuse, desperate for good water, opened a 19 mile pipeline to allow water to flow to its reservoirs. The cost was $4million; the City began to flourish. However, the loss of the cheap water power forced many of the Skaneateles Creek mills to close. And the employees had to seek employment elsewhere.

The shift to tourism came in 1900 when the trolley business started to bring people to the attractive village. Steamboats on the lake added to that attractiveness. These, too, declined when the automobile came on the scene. On the main street, the hardware store became a flower shop, the pharmacy became a book store, and the grocery store a boutique.

Today, during the summer, people come to enjoy the lake, do some shopping, and savor the cuisine of the many fine restaurants. In winter they come to enjoy the snow, and the annual Dickens Christmas event.

Small farmers have stepped aside for those running large dairy farms.

Welch Allyn has become the main industry. The creek now flows freely, and the clear blue lake, the Long Lake, as always, remains the center attraction.