Richmond Aqueduct

Richmond Aqueduct
Second Largest Aqueduct Built on the Enlarged Erie Canal (1856-1917)

Sunday, September 25, 2011


The Heritage Park Design Committee (HPDC) has scheduled two upcoming fall trail workdays. On Saturday, October 1, we are very pleased to partner with Cayuga Community College and Professors Walter Aikman and Ronald Grube to work with US Geography students and volunteers to do field work gathering data for beginning a mapping project for the park. 

This data will then be used to begin creating maps for kiosk signs, brochures, and the website. We also would like to create a map showing the relationship of the park to the great marsh area to give people an understanding where Montezuma is in relation to the Montezuma Wildlife marshes. A visioning map could also be created that would include insets building layers featuring trails, soils, historic sites, viewsheds, topography, flood plains, and natural areas. We plan to pair up in three teams with students and volunteers familiar with the trail areas to gather the data.  

On Saturday October 8th we have another day scheduled to begin work on trails. Volunteers are needed to help out. This would be a great opportunity for students or youth groups to complete their community service credit  and a chance to learn about local canal history. We will meet at 9:30 AM at the trailhead near the firehouse off Route 90 in Montezuma, and divide up into groups to begin work. Email me at if you would like to help us out. 

Volunteers are the life blood for a project like this. But it's not only about's about the  rewards of making a difference in our community, enjoying the experience of the great outdoors and our wonderful local natural and historic resources we can easily take for granted.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Erie Canal Heritage Corridor Point of Interest Sign Arrives Today!

ECNHC Point of Interest Sign
In 2010, the Town of Montezuma was selected as a Point of Interest by the Erie Canal National Heritage Corridor along with other canal-related museums and cultural heritage sites as part of the  Erie Canalway Partner Program. The program is intended to advance the goals of the Erie Canalway Preservation and Management Plan by facilitating coordinated and sustained collaboration between the commission and staff and canal-related sites. 

As a part of the program the twenty-five partner and point of interest sites were offered a high quality semi-custom exhibit panel to display. The new panel will be installed on one of the new kiosks designed for the park. It will showcase the park as one of the valuable "gems on the necklace" along the canal system, so that visitors can explore our site and become motivated to visit others along the Corridor. 

The panel, 24" x 36", arrived today, and is it ever a beauty.  I'm so thrilled to see the Richmond Aqueduct portrayed on this panel for the significance it held in Erie Canal history. It is an engineering marvel, the second largest built in 1849. Building this Aqueduct proved extremely difficult as the site was bottomless muck. Wooden pilings were driven over 90 feet deep and no rock was found. Eventually, a "mattress" built of logs was sunk to the bottom of the Seneca River and the stone construction was built on top of this base. The Aqueduct remained in use until 1917, when all but nine arches were dismantled on the east side and three on the west side of the river. The aqueduct was named after Van R. Richmond, the engineer who directed its construction. Today eight arches remain located within the Montezuma Heritage Park.

The US Congress designed the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor in 2000 in recognition of the nationally-significant history, scenery, culture, and natural resources of the NYS Canal System and communities along its shores. The National Heritage Corridor includes the present day canal system and its historic alignments. It encompasses 234 municipalities; 4,834 square miles; home to 2.7 million people. It includes over 800 listings on the National Register of Historic Places, including the Montezuma's site listed as the Seneca River Canal Historic District.

The Corridor ties together significant canal sites and communities within the consistent framework that highlights the uniqueness and diversity of individual sites. It brings federal  recognition and resources that serves as a bridge between for local initiatives. 

Thank you Erie Canal National Heritage Corridor -- we're proud to be a Point of Interest and have this beautiful sign!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Heritage Park Design Committee Meeting

Heritage Park Design Committee Meeting - Thursday, Sept. 22 @ 7pm, Montezuma Town Hall. Walter Aikman, CCC, will be there to discuss plans for the Oct 1st Student GPS Trail Project and Barry LaVoy on ATV use in the park. Everyone is welcome to attend.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Local Erie Canal History Brought to Life

First Methodist Episcopal Church of Mentz
I had the pleasure of providing a local author with information for her latest fictional book drawn on the essence of early pioneer families' lives who settled in Mentz and Montezuma at the same time the Erie Canal was being built.  Margaret Rose begins all her books with the following: "The difference between fiction and reality is that fiction must be realistic..." She has authored several books to capture the mood and spirit of the area with her "realistic" stories that make local history come alive. Thee Little Country Church -- The Mentz Church is indeed no exception.  This one-room humble church was built on a strong foundation by the local farmers who took pride in their craftsmanship, and those who have followed to preserve it. It is now owned by the Town of Montezuma and is the home of the Montezuma Historical Society.

She tells the story the of the church enriched with the roots where it all began. The church was built in the countryside wilderness by a small congregation that immigrated here mostly from Ireland for the American dream to find a better life and religious freedom.  It begins as settlers bury one of their young in the cemetery in 1813 on land they cleared at what became known as Mentz Corners. Here they later built their church that opened the same year the Erie Canal was completed in 1825. It tells tales of life imagined along a canal town and the excitement and changes it brought to the area. It shares what could have been the joys and sorrows of the families who first gathered for their Methodist camp meetings in the barn of John Gilmore not far from the canal.  As time goes on Margaret Rose brings in Lester Ohara who was baptized in the church and later became its caretaker once it closed.

Although much of the church history was lost, it has been pieced back together by an ancestor of the early settlers who left no (grave) stone unturned in searching his family's roots. Gary Bell came from Michigan to trace and research his family heritage and has written his family story, "How We Came to Be Here, The Bell Family in America" which Margaret Rose used as research for her book.

The book, Thee Little Country Church, may be purchased through the Montezuma Historical Society. Cost is $12 with additional $3 for mailing. Email to order it.

Saturday, September 3, 2011


Building community spirit is something I've been exploring for sometime with an attitude of restless discontent. It seemed to me it was a missing element in growth for our town.  According to Wikipedia, community spirit is a phrase used to describe local people working together for a mutually positive and sometimes pleasurable result. Community spirit is associated with voluntary work, favours and gestures of good will by residents and local businesses.

I perceived our community somewhat lacking this spirit of working together that concerned me.  Recently, I began to pay more attention to where I could spot it. Then I heard at our community picnic, Marian Ellinwood talk about the kind, supportive neighbors in our town who have done everything from mowing grass, plowing snow, and to making meals as months of hospitalization for her son, Ricky has now turned into years. In this small neighborhood of Willow Grove outside of the village,  one of our town board members, Tom Fitzsimmons, took on a project to create a walking track. Now folks are enjoying a safe, enjoyable place close by to walk off the road. Then there is Barry LaVoy, founder of the ATV club, who for years has encouraged ATV'ers to respect our historic resources. 

Mural in Lyons, NY at the G. Dobbins Memorial Park
So, I began to see community spirit wasn't really missing. It was my field of vision that needed to be broadened. It's like when you get a red car, you start seeing red cars everywhere. When I looked to see a bit farther to our neighbors west of here in the town of Lyons, I found a great example of how community spirit is being built. Mural Mania began several years ago in Lyons as a result of  cleaning up an area along the canal and trolley abutment. As a result of this, an idea to create a historic mural grew out of their community spirit that has spread across the Erie Canal region from Macedon to Syracuse.  Dawn Jordan, a local muralist, refers to this as a "new Renaissance of art" in the region by using the history of the Erie Canal to create a visual history book.

Now, Mark DeCracker, with Trail Works Inc. who volunteers to work with communities to organize community mural projects, has started another innovative idea to build community spirit. It's called, "Forever Wild For Everyone." With the intent of "opening the doors of nature to everyone," it promotes development and/or designates nature trails without barriers for everyone to enjoy.

Our park design committee has been discussing and making plans to incorporate both of these kinds of projects into the Montezuma Heritage Park.  Mark DeCracker recently met with the HPDC (Heritage Park Design Committee) to show how Lyons is building a new "Forever Wild For Everyone" trail and encouraging community spirit by working together to accomplish this goal. The news is full of negative events that can pull us down and create a sense of insecurity. When a community's spirit is alive, it makes you feel like people care, and creates more of a sense of hope for our future.