The following article, by Huron Historian Rosa Fox, was written for the Autumn/Winter 2015 issue of the Sodus Bay Historical Society magazine Flash. The extensive research for this article will interest the reader, as past theories of the Sloop Landing location will be either altered or reinforced – depending on what side of the Sloop Landing puzzle you are on.
The Puzzling Mystery of Sloop Landing
Researching local history is like solving a good mystery – especially when discoveries are made that provide a trail of information changing longstanding perspectives. Several local historians have questioned and researched a particular local history puzzle for quite some time. Working together to unravel information and put the pieces of this mystery together, these historians believe the resulting answer may reassure some Sodus Bay history buffs but may very well confuse others.
For over two hundred years the tiny hamlet of Resort, nestled at the head of Great Sodus Bay, has been known by several names. Floating Bridge was the first in a series of names for this small community in the early 1800’s. Stagecoaches traveling over the Sodus-Niagara Ridge Road between Oswego and Rochester crossed the bay here on a floating bridge constructed of planks and logs. When the weather and waves would wash the bridge out, a ferry, also made of logs, was used as a back up to transport the coaches across the bay.
Wolcott businessman Obadiah Adams is reported to have established a port at this site around 1810. Andrew McNab and Joseph Fellows came to the area in 1817 as land agents for the Pulteney Estate. The two Scotsmen named the tiny community at the head of Sodus Bay “Port Glasgow”, after the city in their native Scotland. McNab and Fellows gave names to other locations around the bay – Arran (Eagle), Islay (Newark), and Bute (LeRoy) Islands. The islands’ names and Port Glasgow are all found in the Firth (Bay) of Clyde on the western shores of Scotland. McNab also named the village of Clyde and that village’s main street – Glasgow Street.
Prior to being called Port Glasgow, some local history books state that this hamlet was once known as Sloop Landing. The connection of Port Glasgow and Sloop Landing seems to have started with Henry Cowles’ massive volume of 1895 – Landmarks of Wayne County. On page 418 in “Landmarks”, Cowles states, “The site of Port Glasgow was intended for a port under the name of Sloop Landing.” Cowles continues in the book for a few more pages, making references to Sloop Landing and Port Glasgow being the same port. However, earlier in the book, on page 284, Cowles writes “During the early settlement of Wolcott the chief means of transportation was by way of Sloop Landing, an important port on the east side of Great Sodus Bay, between the present sites of Port Glasgow and Bonnicastle.” So where was Sloop Landing?
The idea that Sloop Landing was somewhere else on Sodus Bay other than at the head of the bay has been one of great interest over the years. Probably many a sailor over the years has wondered how a deep keel vessel could actually make it to the head of the bay at Resort. If the captain did sail his ship that far, how would he ever get her out? Of course swing keels or shallow draft sloops and schooners may have been able to make the journey, but it is highly unlikely, as the water is shallow near the head of Sodus Bay and there is not much room between shores for navigation as required by a sailed shipping vessel of the 1800’s. People have also puzzled over why there is a Sloop Landing Road several miles north of where Sloop Landing is “reported” to have been located.
Review of old documents, newspapers, and maps has revealed definitive proof that Sloop Landing was not located at the site of modern day Resort/Port Glasgow/Floating Bridge on Sodus Bay. Following are details from six various documents which lead to a final conclusion that Sloop Landing was located on the east side of the bay, much further north of Resort.
- A Brief Topographical and Statistical Manual of the State of New York by Sterling Goodenow (1822) provides a very comprehensive roster of the communities of the state. The manual lists the town of Wolcott, then in Seneca County, as having both hamlets of Port Glasgow and Sloop Landing as two distinct places. (Wayne County was not established until 1823. Huron, Rose, and Butler were part of the Town of Wolcott until they were established in 1826.)
- Wolcott Old and New by John Ogden Wadsworth, written between 1927 and 1936, contains the wording of the original survey measurements as put forth by surveyor Osgood Church of a road survey completed June 8, 1810. Written in chains, links, and degrees, the entire text is not included here, but can be found on page 81 of Wolcott Old and New. Important in that text is the fact the survey begins on the east shore of Sodus Bay heading north, then east, making some adjustments between east and south, and continues to Adams (afterward Boughton’s), and passes through Mudge Creek (Rice’s Mill) and on to Wolcott where it ends at Mill Creek (Harnden’s Mill). Boughton’s and Rice’s Mill were located on present day Lummisville Road. In translating the measurements of chains and links and the degrees, we have been able to trace the route of this survey as being that of Lummisville Road between Sodus Bay and Wolcott. Ridge Road does not match this survey description.
- Rose Neighborhood Sketches written by Alfred Seelye Roe, published in 1893, references the lots laid out through the town of Huron in 1808. Roe writes:
Valentine Brothers began his surveys from the vicinity of Sodus Bay, where, at Port Glasgow, the Helms had located, being the first settlers in those parts, they coming a little before the close of the last century. He made his surveys to suit the settlers who were already on the grounds, thus laying out 17 lots, and the beginning of the numbering at this point is this accounted for. Mr. Bishop says, “Then proceeding easterly he laid out lots 18, etc., following the old ‘Sloop Landing’ road and numbered on each side till he put in the large lot No. 50 in the east bound of the district (where is now the village of Wolcott).”
In referring to early maps of Huron (1829, 1874, 1904), these lot lines, numbers 18 through 49, appear on what is now known as Lummisville Road – not Ridge Road. Figure 1, below, from the 1874 Atlas of Wayne County, New York, shows the lot numbers 1-49, with 18-49 lot numbers along Lummisville Road.
4. Minnie Gatchell York was the daughter of William Whittier Gatchell, Town of Huron Supervisor in 1877, 1879, and 1889. Gatchell owned a farm on Ridge Road near Brick Schoolhouse Road. Minnie married Dr. George D. York in 1882, son of George P. York. The York’s home was on the road running south of Ridge Road, on the west side of the swamp by Bay Bridge. (Yes, there used to be a road through the woods here.)
Minnie Gatchell York wrote a history of Huron in the late 1800’s that can be found online through New York Historic Newspapers – in the Courier Gazette, April 30, 2004 reprinted by Jeanne Frey. Minnie wrote:
“Sloops Landing. All products were shipped by water, and the peoples no reason when there should not be a flourishing city, which they proceeded to lay out on a large scale . . . the city of Lummisville. Which was never more than a few houses and a post office in a small store. The big docks were at Sloops Landing, which was an important place midway between Bonnie Castle and LeRoy’s Island.”
Minnie goes on in the next section to describe Port Glasgow, now Resort. She also writes here that a “great deal of shipping was done from both Sloop Landing and Port Glasgow.”
- MC. Burgess writes in his column “The Dreamer” for the Arcadia Gazette (August 17, 1904) a memory of an earlier time on Sodus Bay, thirty years prior to the writing – 1874. Burgess’ memoire includes a boat voyage around the bay, beginning at Lake Bluff and heading south. At Purdy’s Dock (now Skipper’s Landing Restaurant), Burgess reminisces,
…quite a shipping business in farm produce was done there. From Purdy’s to the head of the bay stretched an almost unbroken forest, with occasionally a clearing, and half way to Bay Bridge or Port Glasgow was another warehouse and wharf, already falling into decay.
“Already falling into decay” in 1874 would lead one to believe these to be a relatively old structures going back fifty or sixty years. This would not necessarily be a Lummis building as the Lummis family was still lumbering in the late 1860s into 1870. Benjamin Lummis passed away in 1882. Bonnicastle did not get going until Catchpole and Cole purchase the land from the Lummis estate in 1887.
- A survey map dated July 10, 1950, located at the Wayne County Clerk’s Office, has the written notation ” Lummisville Road – formerly known as Sloop Landing Road.” This map includes narrative on the land transfer of property located near the corner of Huron and Lummisville Road. Another survey map shows a portion of Lake Bluff Road near the Lake Bluff cottage area referred to as “Sloop Landing Road”, dated March 2, 1953. (Figure 2.)
Taken as a whole, these documents provide substantial evidence that Sloop Landing was not located at Resort – but that it was situated somewhere between Resort and Skipper’s Landing Restaurant on the east shore of Sodus Bay. Sloop Landing was most likely in the area known today as Sunset Tract. The big question now arises. Where was the Sloop Landing Dock? Boaters and shoreline landowners around the Sunset Tract have encountered a number of stone remains of old docks, pilings, and the like to suggest “something was here.” But where exactly was the dock (or docks) that carried salt, lumber, and other goods to and from this area of Great Sodus Bay? Time may or may not tell. Maybe there are some other history detectives out there who can help piece more of the mystery of Sloop Landing together. We invite you to help in continuing to unravel the Sloop Landing story.
Before closing, I wish to credit John Powell, local historian and former Town of Huron Historian, who has been on a quest to unravel the mystery of Sloop Landing for many years. John first posed the idea of Sloop Landing being somewhere other than Resort in his photo and postcard book Huron, NY (2010). Special thanks to David Fox who spent hours listening, debating, helping with searches at the County Clerk’s Office, and doing survey translations to aid in the unraveling of this puzzle.
Now, there may be some of you reading this who disagree with the conclusion posed in this article. You are invited to share your documentation showing that Sloop Landing is somewhere other than the vicinity this article claims it to be. If you can provide a map or a survey that shows otherwise, this writer is open to listening and seeing.