A Look Back (Part II): A Pre-Civil War (1855) View Of A Village On The Rebound

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Last week we took the time machine all the way back to 1841, just three years after the Village of Honeoye Falls was officially incorporated. This week we skip ahead a little more than a decade. In that span, the City of Rochester, viewed as a collaborator in 1841, apparently had proven itself a formidable competitor.

Things didn’t look good for Honeoye Falls… until 1853.

That’s when what ultimately became known as “The Peanut Line” (the Canandaigua & Niagara Falls R.R.) came through. There’s little evidence of that game changing event today, save for a single monument in the shape of the limestone abutment smack dab in the middle of Honeoye Creek just above the falls. That’s where the railroad’s covered bridge once stood.

The Wednesday, June 20, 1855 issue of the Dansville Herald had this lengthy piece on page two (once again, typos are retained but paragraph breaks have been added):

“Honeoye Falls in 1855.”

“It was thought by many, some ten or twelve years ago, that Honeoye Falls had attained the highest meridian point of her greatness, and was then sunk below the level of ordinary country villages. But it is plain that those individuals were not blessed, with the gift of prophecy, for the village whose downfall they had often predicted, has since made greater advances in general prosperity than any other place of the same population in this section of country.”

“For a long time the place was doomed to experience some sad reverses of fortune, and was thought to manifest—at various times, dangerous symptoms of premature decay; but this state of things was brought about by causes too remote to be removed by the direct agency of any of her citizens.”

“The suspension of specie payment by the Banks in 1838, which, was immediately followed by a marked depreciation in the value of landed property, produced, in connection with other causes, a general stagnation of business; and Honeoye Falls—then in the pride and buoyancy of youth—could scarcely outlive the pressure which she had to sustain in common with other places throughout the country.”

“In the meantime Fourierism became the order of the day.— Practically, it was found to be wanting where it had been fairly tested, and consequently died a natural death. While this system threatened with destruction the existing order of things and to break into fragments the whole framework of our present social fabric, the result of the wisdom of ages, a ray of hope began to pierce through the darkness that had long hung over the distant future, and our village to resume her wonted vigor in the career of general progression.”

“The reign of practical humbug terminated in the grave to which reason and the light of experience had consigned the absurd theories of Fourier and his followers. Such was the change that commenced about the time that the Railroad which passes through here from Canandaigua to Niagara Falls, was fairly begun.”

“Whether this public improvement was the immediate cause of the change, or whether it is an important link in the chain of causes to which we are to attribute the sudden rise in the price of real estate at the time, are questions which I leave to the more experienced judgment of the reader. The fact is certain that land rapidly increased in value; Farms that had been offered for forty, could now be sold for 60 dollars an acre; the wealth of the agriculturist added to the general prosperity of our merchants, mechanics, and manufacturers; a taste for learning began to be cultivated by many whose time had been squandered away in idleness and dissipation; our four elegant churches were well and regularly attended on the sabbath; the onward march of the human mind kept equal pace with the progress of temperance and the expansion of business; and mot, instead of going out of the place, as formerly, to seek employment and a home elsewhere, were now coming in to select in our midst, a favorite spot for their future permanent residence.”

“Such are the changes through which this village—in her business relations, has passed. Of the character and extent of her present trade, some estimate may be formed by attending to the number and description of establishments in which there is now going on a very extensive business, notwithstanding the hardness of the times, the scarcity of money, and the supposed competition arising from our close proximity with the city of Rochester. There are here eight large stores, and of these, dry goods and various other articles are sold in four, drugs in ono, groceries in two, while in the other are retailed very extensively—boots, shoos, hats, caps, and leather in great variety.”

“Two large Furnaces, four blacksmith, and an equal number of shoe shops, are among our manufacturing establishments. A manufactory of sheeps gray cloth, on a broad scale, a largo stone quarry, extensively worked; merchant tailoring in all its branches; coopering, cabinet making, the manufacture of harness and saddles, of coaches and wagons, are establishments hero that give employment to a large number of people.”

“A plaster mill, recently begun here, is also an important item in the business of the place. Here are, in addition, two flour mills, with which a largo business is done, and which are run by water power, supplied from the Honeoye Creek. One of these mills is situated a few rods below, the other at the brink of the Honeoye Falls.”

“An important improvement was made some time ago in the appearance of these Falls by constructing a dam which runs from the mill, in a semicircular form across the Creek, connecting on the other side with a saw mill. Over this dam is precipitated, not quite perpendicularly, the water of the Crook, to a depth of ten or fifteen feet. From the bridge below the precipice, a fair view can be had of the Falls, which present, at certain seasons of the year, rather a grand appearance, and add not a little, to the scenery of the place.”

“Of private dwellings, there appears to be a fair proportion, which, in point of location and architectural beauty are not often surpassed in country villages.”

“Let us now pass to the Railroad Station, where there has been finished an elegant Depot for the accommodation of travelers on the cars, and for, other purposes, built on a scale commensurate with the importance of a village, the number of whose population does not exceed fourteen hundred.”

“A beautiful two horse carriage, attended by a careful driver, is here always in waiting on the arrival of each train, to convey passengers back and forth, from the station to the village of Lima. Passengers are also conveyed back and forth, from the station to the Falls Hotel, one of the finest buildings in the village, which has been lately enlarged, and where the traveler will receive us polite attention, and as good accommodations, as at any other house in western New York. Such, in 1855, is Honeoye Falls, whose description I now bring to a close.”

“A CITIZEN. Honeoye Falls, June 7th, 1855.”

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