The heat of this summer has drawn people to small bodies of water to cool off, swim and fish. Since history lurks everywhere some those that have enjoyed fishing at the beautiful Leland Ponds in the Town of Eaton may actually not realize what a special part of history the “ponds” have.
Located equidistant from both Eaton Village and Hamilton, the ponds today are a vibrant part of NYS Fishing areas and are also a very early and important part of the Town of Eaton’s history. A NYS Historic Marker denoting its famous founding family, the family of Joshua Leland, today marks the site but of course, a marker cannot tell the full story.
Born in Massachusetts in 1741, “the Colonel” as he was always referred to, moved to the town of Eaton, then a part of Chenango County and a large tract of land called Hamilton. Leland settled first on English Avenue near today’s Eaton Village, but then moved to the current site of today’s Leland’s Ponds, then called Leland’s Lakes.
The Col. was a Revolutionary War Militia soldier and ventured out with family to find a new home and a fortune. Their removal to Eaton was not without troubles as when the Colonel after clearing land, went back home to get his wife and five children and their wagon got stuck in the mud at the very location they would eventually move to. The Leland’s also arrived so late in the year that they are recorded as spending their first winter in a three side hut with their animals.
An avid astronomer, hotel owner and miller, Leland was a favorite of the many Native Americans who fished the ponds and who regarded the Col. and his wife Waitstil with great esteem. The Leland Family also ran an ashery that made potash and in fact it is how the Col. died. When on a trip to Albany with this much needed commodity, Leland was killed when the barrel of potash they were carry on a wagon rolled off and fell on him as he was ascending a steep hill on the Cherry Valley Turnpike.
Leland is mentioned as Hamilton’s first Supervisor but at that time Eaton was part of Hamilton breaking off in 1795. At that time Leland became and important part of Eaton’s history and he actually owned one seventh of the landmass of Town of Eaton at one time. His heirs continued in their father’s footsteps’ becoming businessmen and the Leland family name is well remembered.
Leland’s Ponds was also the early fisheries of the Oneida Nation, and later was the site of the largest port on the Chenango Canal, Peck’s Port. Today its waters are a vacationers paradise and allow fisherman to revisit the quiet haunts of native fishermen.
For those who like cemeteries, the family cemetery lays
on Route 12B a short distance from the site of his home. Crow’s Hill, his property that he once gazed at the stars from, is today dotted with wind turbines, proving that Eaton is still a place where “history meets progress!”.