were used to transport products East to New York and other markets.
Railroad terminals were located at the City Pier in Canandaigua and
in Naples. Producers transported their commodities to one of the
two terminals either by truck or by steamboats that traveled along
the shores of Canandaigua Lake. Typically a farmer would go to one
of the many docks along the Lake and put out his flag. The steamboat
would stop, be loaded, and transport the commodities to the rail
A typical 1890’s farm was about 50 acres in size and was
highly diversified compared to the farms of today. They had about
13 cows, a few pigs and chickens plus a substantial garden. These
commodities were used to feed the family and also served as commodities
to barter for other goods and services. This farm would also have
a major enterprise that provided cash income to the operator. Hops,
barley, milk, sheep, black raspberries, apples and grapes were the
usual commodities. Milk was shipped to Canandaigua and shipped to
one of the two breweries in Canandaigua for processing. Sheep were
raised for wool and meat; black raspberries were sold to manufacture
a dye for use in Jello that was produced in Leroy, NY. Apples and
black raspberries for “fresh” sales were dried and shipped to market
while grapes were sold as fresh and became the basis for the growing
Early immigrants from Western Europe (Germany, Switzerland
and Italy) started grape production in the area. They recognized
that the soils and topography of the area were well suited for wine
grape production and started that production in a location that reminded
them of their homeland – Naples. Grapes were also shipped to Canandaigua
on steamboats or were trucked to Naples for processing into wine.
The typical wine was produced from American grapes.
work together when it came time to harvest. For example, a wool house
and a fruit dying facility were located in a hamlet like Cheshire
along with a cider mill, school and an equipment repair business.
Neighbors worked collectively in these facilities to shear sheep and
card the wool, as well as dry different fruits. In the early 30’s a
pea veiner was housed in Cheshire. Again, neighbors worked together
to remove the peas from the vines and pods so they could be shipped
to the processor.
Early farm families were usually large, by today’s
standards, and very close. Children attended grammar school at home
or in a one-room school house that contained the 8 primary grades.
If the community was large enough, they had a multiple room school
house, such as the one in Cheshire, where there were 2 grades per
room. Students who wished to go on to high school went to a school
shared by multiple communities.
Groceries and dry goods were available
in local hamlets and barter was the usual means of payment. People
bartered with commodities from their farm or traded labor for the items
they needed. Medical care was available in Canandaigua and Clifton
Springs. Therefore, a seriously injured person would have to travel
to one of these locations for help. Fire was very devastating on a
farm because there was little to no fire protection available in the
community. Neighbors helped one another as need arose. The most common
form of cooperation surrounded harvest and shipping commodities to
market. Grain was thrashed, peas were veined, wool was sheared and
carded and corn was chopped and put in silos cooperatively.
site brought to you by The Ontario County Agricultural Enhancement
Board In cooperation with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Ontario
County, the Finger Lakes Visitors Connection, and Ontario County
Department of Planning. Canandaigua, New York 14424
585-396-4455 or 585-394-3977.