SPRINGWATER — The Old State Road use to be a very popular place for the early travelers to rest as they transported merchandise back and forth.
Nowadays we call this road Routes 5 and 20, and most of the booming businesses of the late 1700s and early 1800s have disappeared into history.
Lima Town Historian Doug Morgan gave a presentation on Stagecoaches, Inns, and Taverns along Old State Road on Sept.13 in the Springwater American Legion.
Morgan said he had a lot of fun doing the research on this program, and that this road is considered the longest, straightest, and widest road in America.
In that time period Utica was considered the frontier, and Syracuse was a swamp that everyone stayed away from, Morgan said.
“Syracuse wasn’t important until the Erie Canal,” he said. “After that they used Syracuse to export all of the salt. In the late 1800s you needed salt to preserve everything.”
In 1794 three commissioners wanted a straight road from Canandaigua to the Genesee River.
“It was smart of the state, since they didn’t have any money,” Morgan said. “They had a private company make it and collect tolls on it. It was completed in 1809. Lima was settled in 1789 and 20 years later they have a brand new road. It was a straight line between Buffalo and Albany.”
There were old toll houses that would collect from travelers along the widest main street in America, Morgan added.
Stagecoaches were the way to travel in those days. They were basically covered wagons.
“Stagecoaches made about 20 stops a day, and Taverns and Inns existed every six miles down the main road,” Morgan said. “Many farmers would turn their homes into Inns and sell food and beer.”
Seven Taverns in Avon is the oldest one. It was built in 1793. The Elms was built in 1809, and is still standing.
“I get blown away as a historian the skills and carpentry they had with hand tools,” Morgan said. “These buildings are a couple hundred years old and still beautiful.”
Lima was a happening place in that time period. Morgan said they were fortunate to not have so many fires.
“The myth in America is that our ancestors came over, built farms, and became self-sufficient, but that didn’t happen,” he said. “The land did not belong to them. They needed to trade. There was a lot to export. The road was open to send products back and forth.”
“We made our whiskey here,” Morgan continued. “We had all of this corn we didn’t want to go to waste. They said a little shot of whiskey would take the pain away. Bloomfield had a major whiskey operation. This was also used to trade for food.”
Lima had The American Hotel, Dr. Smith House, and Captain Morgan.
“I have been inside the Captian Morgan house,” Morgan said. “They cut down trees and left the bark on them to build this house. It has been untouched for 200 years. The bark is still on the beams. The guy who owns it never repaired it, and it is still standing. It is now used for a minister retreat. This proves you better have money no matter what period you lived in.”
The Yellow Wasp Inn was built in 1796 and is the most famous in Avon.
“During the War of 1812 soldiers from Virginia came to this Inn. They thought they had the southern charm, and they thought we were hillbillies. They came to the Inn to dance with the pretty ladies,” Morgan said. “The local boys didn’t like that very much. They threw them down the stairs, and one of the Lima boys got wounded. It is Lima’s claim to fame, and the closest we came to a battle in the War of 1812. Not much has changed these days.”
Hosmer Inn was a great place for food and drink back then, which was known for elegant meals.
Berry’s Tavern was important since it had a covered bridge close by.
“Stagecoaches needed the covered bridges in those days, since horses didn’t like going over bridges,” Morgan explained. “They went through the covered bridges, because it was like walking through a barn. Once we got vehicles we stopped needing the covered bridges, and they died off.”
Morgan mentioned most of these Inns and Taverns are gone now, or used as private homes. Morgan is moving down to Florida, so this was his last Springwater presentation. Morgan said he has loved the Springwater-Webster Crossing Historical Society for many years.
“Even though I live in another county I have always connected to Springwater,” he said. “I am impressed with the spirit of the people here.”
Morgan said he had a beautiful drive down for his last program, and he will miss everyone.
“Springwater is a perfect example of people getting together to make a big difference,” he said. “They make the village come to life. It has been a pleasure to be associated with all of you.”