Today little note is taken of a country road that wanders over hills and through dark valleys. We no longer call them “Sunday drives” since our world has become so fast-paced. Most of us have given up the back road for the two-lane highway that we can zip on our way with. If we can’t do 55 miles per hour we are in a dither. Back roads are now what we sometimes call short cuts from here to there in our daily lives. But at one time these rural routes were considered fast highways that created the communities that we in rural America live in.
These early routes were no more than paths through the great forest, some made by moccasin feet and some made by oxen and wagons, bringing settlers ever more westerly. Improvements on these roads were built as turnpikes or plank roads, and many collected a toll much like today’s New York State Thruway.
One such early highway was the great Skaneateles Turnpike, once called the Hamilton-Skaneateles Turnpike. Today, this once important east-west southern-central New York road is only denoted in a few places as the Skaneateles Turnpike with signs in the Town of Brookfield and one that was hanging by a thread in the Town of Fabius. The road that once carried people west and goods east is a mishmash of roads with different names that in some places are on the exact route, and in other places just mimic it or run near where the old turnpike once was.
Many of these roads including the Skaneateles Turnpike and the Georgetown Plank Road were such toll roads. Today they are only denoted by an occasional NYS Historic Marker such as this one on Route 26, a road which mimics a part of the Georgetown Plank Road. The Georgetown Plank Road was used to take goods and people from Georgetown to Peck's Port...once the largest port on the Chenango Canal. The Skaneateles Turnpike stretched from Richfield Springs to Marcellus. Of interest is the fact that it is the Morse family of Eaton were the main stockholders in the road. They owned 51 percent and invested $30,00 in 1810. The road never turned a real profit. It did however, bring people to Eaton and supported the family businesses that stretched from Eaton, West Eaton, Erieville, to Fabius.
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