two thousand twenty
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Part I----In 1964, I married into a dairy farming family in East Palmyra, NY and moved into our then-new ranch-type house next to my in-laws' 1801 house.  From the beginning there was a certain air of mystery about their old house, at least in my eyes, and I felt that somehow it was being neglected in both a literal and a figurative sense.  To be sure, when repairs were needed, they were made, but a sense of sadness lingered that mere expressionless repairs couldn't ease.  Somehow I felt the old house had a story to tell, but was being overlooked, or worse yet, ignored.

Following the Great Depression, the New York State Education Department set up a program in 1937, whereby historical sites throughout the state were recognized by the installation of blue roadside markers that stated the importance of those sites and made them easy to spot.  The Town of Palmyra has several of these markers with at least one sad omission near East Palmyra, which is the house where I now live. 

The house is a former tavern/inn erected by Humphrey Shearman along what later became known as the Montezuma Turnpike, a main overland highway built across southern Wayne County during the 18-teens.  As described in the 1824 edition of  Pocket Guide for the Tourist and Traveler Along the Line of the Canals by Horato Gates Spafford:
"THE MONTEZUMA TURNPIKE An Interesting road for Tourists.  Made by the Montezuma Turnpike and Bridge Company, extends from Elbridge, Onondaga County, and the Seneca Turnpike, to Palmyra, 42 1/2 miles.  It is a very smooth, well-made road, and shortens the distance considerably, passing between Rochester and Onondaga County.  It lies along the Erie Canal, crossing it 8 times, by good bridges, and its bridges over the Seneca River and Clyde River, and the Cayuga and Galen marshes, are 3 miles in length.  The road is coated one foot with gravel, where made through the marshes, and raised 4 feet above the water."
Stephen Sherman, Humphrey's oldest son, was a stockholder in the MT&B Co., and kept the tavern with his brother Gideon until it passed into the hands of Caleb Beal, Sr., whose family would occupy the house for more than a century.  Although not the first house in Palmyra, it is historically significant for two reasons.  Humphrey Shearman was one of the early pioneers who settled the area and had great expectations for the East Palmyra area, owning several thousand acres before his death in 1812.  Secondly, the solid old structure still stands and has been continually occupied since it was erected 209 years ago.  Interestingly, Historian Cecelia B. Jackson featured the house in her 1978-79 newspaper series Historic Homes In and Around Arcadia, and which she later published in book form. 

After my in-laws passed away, my late husband was of the mindset to raze the house and build new in its place.  Luckily, I was able to persuade him we should remodel it and live there.  The more difficult part of the whole process was justifying more costly renovations necessary for establishing a bed and breadfast therein.  Thus use of the house would come full-circle.  "Why would anyone want to stay in East Palmyra?" was the question I had to answer.  Lucky for me, once the work was completed and the word got out, that question answered itself to his satisfaction. 

The remodeling process took 14 months during which a few interesting facts were discovered, including that it had undergone a major remodeling in 1863.  While our work took place, I developed a curiosity about the founder's family, late Colonial and Federal period building practices and about people in general, which eventually led me to write my first book, An East Palmyra Story.  I must say 1990-91 was a time of learning for me, but one that would only suggest what would follow. ...to be continued.


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4 Comments to "You never know what you'll learn or who you'll meet when you own a B&B"

  1. Seth C. Burgess Said,

    Neat history--looking forward to reading Part II.

    I don't recall hearing of the 'Montezuma Turnpike' before. It sounds like a predecessor to Old Rt. 31, along a slightly different route?

    Posted on Mon Apr 19, 12:05:00 PM EDT

  2. Beth Hoad Said,

    Yes, the Turnpike was actually a toll road that did preceed Old Rte. 31. The Montezuma Turnpike and Bridge Co. was incorporated on March 13, 1815 funded by the sale of 2000 shares of stock at $50 per share. Amendments and legislation in 1817,1824 and 1826 made stage line owners responsible for "furious driving" (probably the forerunner to DWI laws after automobiles came into being) and in 1835, the state legislature repealed the 1815 act of incorporation and the company ceased to exist.

    Posted on Mon Apr 19, 03:53:00 PM EDT

  3. John Said,

    In Arcadia, the Montezuma Turnpike included what is now Tellier Rd., Pearl St., and on east. It is one of the the reasons that Newark's Main Street runs north/south

    Posted on Thu Apr 29, 07:28:00 AM EDT

  4. Ditchwitch Said,

    It is now ,in the Clyde area,Armitage Road

    Posted on Mon Apr 29, 11:50:00 AM EDT


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