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A History of Tyrone

General William Kernan and The Town of Tyrone

General William Kernan

The town of Tyrone, NY takes its name from the village of Tyrone which is located almost in the center of the town. The village itself was named by its first settler, General William Kernan after County Tyrone in Ireland. William Kernan was born in County Longford, Ireland in 1781 and, in his teens, participated in the Irish Rebellion of 1798. With a price on his head, he fled Ireland and arrived in New York City around 1800. His mother and four siblings arrived a couple of years later, while his father signed an oath of allegiance to the King of England and remained in Ireland. He moved west, coming to what is now Tyrone along with other Irish families. He became a naturalized citizen in 1807 and immediately joined the New York State Militia. His conflict with the British resumed during the War of 1812, where he rose to the rank of Major under General George McClure. He retired from service in the Militia in 1825 with the rank of Brigadier General.

His military service did not interfere with his family life. He purchased 200 acres of land just south of what is now Route 230 in Tyrone, and on May 31, 1812 he married Rosanna Stubbs, a fellow emigrant from Ireland, and together they raised 8 children on the Kernan family farm, one of whom (Francis) became a United states Senator. William himself was elected to the New York State legislature in 1833. An obituary in the Watkins Express of March 31, 1870 describes him:

He was no vacillating man. His was a persistent effort to achieve success, and his quiet humor and genial temperament smoothed his rugged pathway and carried sunshine wherever he went. Such a character as his would not fail to win the regard and esteem of his neighbors, and he enjoyed them at all times. Charity flowed from his kindness of heart, and his charity increased with his means, and his influence with the population of that district. Throughout the whole course of his life that quiet humor, kind disposition and genial temperament never left him, and always secured him the kind regard of all classes.

On April 16, 1822 the Town of Tyrone was formed from the Town of Wayne at a meeting at Joseph Hause's tavern, just west of Lake Lamoka. It was here that William was elected the first supervisor of the town, and where, upon his suggestion, the town was given its name.


The Native Americans

Lamoka points from the Lamoka and Waneta Lake area. These were probably made around 3000 years ago

The earliest settlers of the Tyrone area were the prehistoric Native Americans. Beginning some forty thousand years ago, tribes of people from Siberia crossed the ice-covered Bering strait from eastern Asia into Alaska, and began to populate North and then South America.

Levanna points from the Lamoka and Waneta Lake area. These were made by the Owasco people about 1300 years ago

During much of this time, glaciers covered much of what is now New York State and the Native American population was quite small, but about 10,000 years ago, when the last glacier thawed and the woodlands began to thrive, the population began to grow. The first people known to live in this area are the paleolithic Native Americans of the Clovis culture, who arrived here about 11,000 years ago and who are identified by their distinctive Clovis spear points adapted to hunting the wooly mammoth, which they eventually hunted to extinction. About 3500 years ago, a tribe of Native Americans established a village in what is now Tyrone, in the area between Lake Waneta and Lake Lamoka. The village continued to be occupied up until about 1000 years ago. The remains of the village were discovered by Henry Turnbull and Ellsworth C. Cowles in 1924. They informed the Rochester museum of their find, and the site was excavated by William Ritchie of the museum, beginning in 1925. The village was named Lamoka, after nearby Lake Lamoka. Ritchie unearthed thousands of artifacts of everyday life, including fishing and hunting implements, and also found evidence of the battle between the two tribes. Since this first discovery, other villages of Lamoka-like people have been found in central and western New York. The Lamoka people all preferred to settle in out-of-the way places, away from well travelled routes, with plenty of fish and game to live on, and the site between the lakes is just that. It is away from the well travelled east-west routes above and below the finger lakes, and the north-south routes down the shores of the major lakes. The Lamoka site in Tyrone was designated a U.S. National Historic Landmark in 1961 and added to the U.S. National Register of Historical Places in 1966.

The Lamoka people are characterized by the tools that they used, and one of the most identifiable tool is the "Lamoka point", sometimes mistakenly called an "arrowhead". In the time of these Lamoka people, the bow and arrow had not been invented, but rather small arrow-like projectiles were thrown with a device resembling a sling, called an atlatl. Many of the Lamoka points were fabricated from chert mined some fifty miles north of this area, where the Onondaga limestone layer comes to the surface, with its imbedded nodules of chert.

About a thousand years ago, Native Americans began to adopt a more agricultural lifestyle and began to form more permanent villages and settlements. These evolved into the Owasco culture. The Owasco culture evolved into the Haudenosaunee or Iroquois culture. Five Haudenosaunee tribes united around 1500 to form the Iroquois Confederacy which were the Native Americans that the Europeans first encountered when they came to this area.


Early Settlement

In 1628, King Charles of England granted what is now New York State to the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Then, in 1664, his son, Charles II granted that same land to his brother, the Duke of York. After the American Revolution this land became part of the United States, but as a result of the two Kings conflicting grants, there was a heated disagreement between the new states of New York and Massachusetts over who was the rightful owner of the land.

The green area is Township 5 in Range 1 as laid out by Pultney, almost all of which eventually became the Town of Tyrone.

The Haudenosaunee (Iroquois indians) had sided with the British during the revolution, but George Washington was determined to make peace with the Iroquois, and in the 1786 Treaty of Hartford it was agreed that the land west of a so-called "preemption line" would be the property of the Iroquois, but part of New York state. It was also agreed that the Iroquois, should they ever wish to sell this land, would give the state of Massachusetts the "preemptive" right to buy it. Masachusetts sold its rights to Oliver Phelps and Nathaniel Gorham, who were land developers in Massachusetts, who then purchased a large amount of land from the Iroquois. It then remained to actually lay down where exactly the preemption line was, and this task fell to Colonel Hugh Maxwell. He laid out the preemtion line and the Phelps and Gorham purchase was divided into six-mile squares. They were identified by their Township number and their Range number, and what is now the town of Tyrone was first known as Township five in Range number one. It was one of the easternmost towns in the purchase, so its eastern border lay on the preemption line, where preemption road now runs dividing the Town of Tyrone from the Town of Reading. Colonel Maxwell did not do a very good job of laying down the preemption line, with many reasons given for his error, ranging from drunkeness to corruption. In any event, the second or "true" preemption line was surveyed in 1792 by Benjamin Elliott, and it lay somewhat to the east of the "old" preemption line.

Once this land had been purchased, the area was opened up to settlers. During the revolution, General Sullivan of the Continental army was directed to drive all Iroquois out of New York State, and during "Sullivan's March", many of the soldiers came to see the beauty and the opportunity of the Finger lakes area of New York. Isaac Webster and Ephraim Sanford were revolutionary war veterans and among the first settlers of Tyrone, and may well have been among those soldiers.


Civil War and The Gilded Age

In 1828, John B. Mitchell purchased a plot of land, in what was then the town of Wayne, from Matthew McDowell and soon after built one of the oldest structures in Wayne Village, Tyrone, generally known as "The Corner Store", at the corner of Rt. 230 and 87.

Francis McDowell (center) and his two brothers-in-law,
Nirom Crane (left) and Samuel Hallett (right)

In the 1840's, Mitchell employed two ambitious young friends, Nirom Crane and Samuel Hallett as clerks at the store. Both men eventually married the daughters of Matthew and Maria McDowell. Nirom Crane married Marie McDowell in 1852, Samuel Hallett married Ann Elizabeth McDowell in 1848. The two became friends with their brother-in-law Francis Marion McDowell.

A parade past the Wayne Corner Store, in 1910 
Photo courtesy of the Wayne History Group

Samuel Hallett is best known in the Wayne Village area as the builder of the Hallett Mansion at the Aisle of Pines estate in the Town of Wayne. Along with John C. Fremont, he was a major shareholder and builder of the Kansas Pacific railroad. He was killed in Wyandotte, Kansas in 1864 by a disgruntled employee of the Kansas Pacific railroad.

Francis McDowell was one of the founders the National Grange in 1873 and his home still stands in Wayne village, just on the Wayne side of the Tyrone-Wayne line.

Nirom Crane was born in Penn Yan in 1828, and after clerking for John Mitchell, and then opening his own business in Wayne, he moved to Hornellsville to become the president of the Bank of Hornellsville, with his brother-in-law Francis McDowell as cashier, and his friend Samuel Hallett as the major stockholder. He eventually began his own bank, "Crane's Bank" in Hornellsville. During this time, Maria gave birth to their first child, Sidney Hallett Crane.

The Crane's Nest home
on the east side of Waneta Lake
Photo 2013 by Paul Reiser

With the advent of the Civil War, Nirom Crane's family and business were put on hold. He joined the Union Army in May of 1861, raised a number of volunteers, and helped form the 23rd New York Volunteer infantry regiment, also known as the "Southern Tier Rifles". As a lieutenant colonel, his regiment fought in a number of battles, including the battle of Gettysburg, after which they joined General Sherman at Chattanooga, TN, and began "Sherman's March"through the south. During this time he rose to the rank of brevetted brigadier general. It was during this time that he became impressed with the architecture of southern mansions, and some time after he returned from the war, he built a replica of a southern mansion on the eastern shore of Waneta Lake, called the "Crane's Nest", at Crane's Point, on land that Samuel Hallett once considered as a location for his mansion. Upon returning from the war, he continued his banking business in Hornellsville. Nirom and Maria's only daughter, Marion Louise McDowell, was born in 1867 and and a son, Guy McDowell Crane, was born in 1873. In the Panic of 1893 the railroad and banking bubble burst and Nirom Crane's bank went bankrupt, although it was a matter of pride to General Crane that none of his depositors lost their savings. He retired to the Crane's Nest home on Waneta Lake. Mrs. Hallett was evidently not as impressed as he was with southern architecture, and they soon moved to a larger home on the west side of the lake, on what was once known as General William Kernan's farm and is now the Plaisted Farm.


The Early 20th Century

Tyrone Village circa 1910.
On the left is the Tyrone Masonic Lodge building, and from the center along the right are what is now Ray Dann's store, the old stagecoach building, the Foster Hotel and the
Tyrone Country Store 
Photo courtesy of Gary Schrickel 

At the turn of the century, Tyrone village was a small, thriving community with sawmills, a plaster mill, two grocery stores, a hotel. An article from the Watkins Review and Express, May 12, 1897 describes the area around this time:

The thriving condition of the lands passed was everywhere worthy of note. The meadows and fields of winter grain were most promising and the new seeding could not present a more satisfactory appearance. On many of the homesteads there was evidence of improvements in the shape of repairing and repainting of buildings. One marked feature of the jaunt was the number of log buildings, both houses and barns that are yet occupied, on the hills surrounding these lakelets. Tyrone village is one of the most prosperous of the out lying business centers of the county. It has excellent hotels in the Murray and Lamoka Houses; good general stores conducted by Emerson R. Bissell and Geo. C. Walsh & Co.; one of the largest grist mills in Schuyler run by Hon. C.T. Willis; an extensive basket factory conducted by H.H. Lilteer, and other enterprises that conduce to the interest of the place. In Weston the principal business men are James M. Dann and G.W. Rosenkrans. Daniel Carpenter conducts a basket factory. The hotel is kept by Frank P. Covert.

The old Murray Hotel burned in the Tyrone Fire of 1901, but their business was picked up some years later by the Foster Hotel in the middle of Tyrone Village.


The Lamoka Power Project

The old bridge between the lakes.

The early part of the 20th century, the electric light bulb and the telephone became available in commercial quantities, and the demand for electricity to run them grew and grew. In 1915, the Lamoka Power Company began to acquire land in the Waneta-Lamoka lake area and plans were drawn up to create a dam in the area of Savona, south of the lakes, which would raise the water levels of the lakes by up to 15 feet, forming a great reservoir. The two lakes lie some 385 feet above the level of Lake Keuka, and a canal was dug in 1928 from the north end of Waneta to Lake Keuka which was intended to draw water from the reservoir to generate electricity. Although the idea of a huge reservoir never came to fruition, the canal drove two turbines at a power plant built on the shore of Lake Keuka in Keuka Village. The flow of the two lakes was reversed, water that had flowed south into the Cohocton river to the Susquehanna, and then to Chesapeake Bay was now flowing north to Lake Keuka, then to Lake Seneca, and ultimately to the St. Lawrence seaway.

The stream between Waneta and Lamoka has been modified over the years. The construction of the original Bradford dam at the southern outlet of Lamoka Lake around 1793 resulted in a rise in the lake level that flooded much of the flats on either side of the Waneta outlet. In the nineteenth century, one could see the areas along the shore "now covered with mud, bushes, and water - where, in an early day, was the gravelly beach of Lake Lamoka."

Nevertheless, during a particulary dry summer in 1938, accompanied by the great draw of the Keuka power plant, the level of Waneta lake dropped so low that people played baseball at the north end of Waneta on what was once the lake bottom. Residents of the area were so concerned by the variations in the lake level that they gathered together at the Crane's Nest, then owned by Robert Clark, on a warm day in August of 1938 to form the Lamoka-Waneta Lake Association in order to address the problem.


The Gas Boom of The Early 30s

On February 27, 1930, the Belmont Quadrangle Drilling Corporation struck a pocket of natural gas on the farm of Emmett Pulver, about four miles east of Wayne Village in the town of Tyrone. The gas erupted from the well with a great roar at a rate of six to seven million cubic feet per day, or, in dollar terms, nearly $6,000 per day. In today's dollars, this amounts to about $90,000 per day. For a farming community in the midst of the Great Depression, this was an enormous amount of money. The Pulver strike was unlike anything ever seen in the area. It was just the first of hundreds of similar strikes to follow, mainly in the northern part of the Town of Tyrone, and to a lesser extent in the northeast corner of the Town of Wayne, and also along the southern border of Barrington. It soon became clear that a great dome of gas-bearing shale lay beneath the area. While the rest of the country was in the throes of the depression, the gas boom of the early thirties was just beginning for the residents of this area, and brought the promise of enormous amounts of money to the local economy.

With this discovery, a frenzy of leasing erupted in the area surrounding Wayne Village, with many other gas and drilling companies vying for drilling rights in the area. A vivid description of Wayne Village during this time was given in the Corning Evening Leader, April 15, 1931:

The Eveland No. 1 which came in today, is concrete evidence of the seriousness of the town lot drilling campaign under way at Wayne, which bristles with derricks and is full of flowing gas wells. With the bit suspended in the top of the hole at noon today, the shriek from escaping gas was so loud it could be heard for miles. The roar sounded like an immense waterfall from within the houses of residents of the Village.

By the end of 1932, exploration phase had ended. The boundaries of the field had been fairly well established and all that was left was to collect the gas and distribute it to consumers, some as far away as Buffalo, NY. By 1936, as a result of the intensive drilling in the Wayne Village area, the Wayne portion of the field had run dry. In the late thirties and early forties, Harley Crandall bought up many depleted wells which could still supply gas at a low rate, and supplied gas to some customers in the area. He eventually sold the wells to the Columbia gas corporation which now owns many of the old wells in the area. In the 1940's, many gas wells were capped and others were used (and are still used to this day) to pump gas collected elsewhere back into the dome for storage purposes, to be eventually distributed to local customers.

A crowd gathered around the discovery well on Emmett Pulver's farm
in the spring of 1930.
Photo courtesy of the Dundee Area Historical Society

The Flood of '72

On June 14, 1972, Hurricane Agnes formed over the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. After leaving a trail of destruction in Mexico, and the Florida Panhandle, it moved out over the Atlantic ocean, gained strength, and then turned and made landfall again in New York City. The effects in Pennsylvania and Southern New York were devastating. The Susquehanna River flooded, and the lake levels of Waneta and Lamoka rose by 10 feet. All of the lakeside homes and cottages were flooded for almost three days. The photo below shows the effects of the flood on Canal street on the northeast end of Waneta Lake. This "North End" community was began by Frank Cash in the early 1940's when the area was just a swamp. Frank and his brother Roy filled in part of the swamp and built the first cottages here. The Cash brothers sold other lots in the area which were eventually filled in and built upon, forming the North End community.

The Flood of 1972.
Roy Cash's cottage on Canal Street at the north end of Waneta Lake.
Riding in the boat are
Roberta Patocka and her three children Bruce, Martin and Joanne
Photo courtesy of Joanne Hunt

For more information, corrections or additions, please contact
Town of Tyrone Historian Paul Reiser

 


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Dundee, NY 14837

Highway Department, Justice Court Offices
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    Friday, November 2, 2018