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About Cayuga

History of Cayuga Village

The Village of Cayuga, incorporated in 1857, is located on the northeast end of Cayuga Lake. It derives its name from the lake, which is the longest of the six major Finger Lakes at 42 miles. The northern end of the lake extends into the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge, a major fly path for a variety of water fowl.

The history of the Village dates back to 1779 when a detachment of 600 troops from Sullivan’s Army arrived on the east shore. Colonel William Butler led the troops to put an end to the war with the Six Nations. In 1788, John Harris built the first log cabin in this area near Cowings Point, just south of the Village. He also started three ferry lines across the Lake, the only means of transportation at that time
In 1797, John Harris, Thomas Morris, Wilhelmus Mynderse, Charles Williamson and Joseph Annin formed The Cayuga Bridge Company. The Cayuga Bridge was finished in 1800 by the Manhattan Company. It was 1 mile and 8 rods long, 22 feet wide and 22 feet between trestles. It was built at a cost of $150,000. The bridge was destroyed in 1808 by a battering of lake ice, but afterward rebuilt in 1812. The troops taking part in the War of 1812 marched over this bridge. For a great number of years the Cayuga Bridge was considered one of the greatest public improvements in the State, and it was taken as the dividing line between the East and West. It was the great highway of emigration. The bridge was abandoned in 1857 although the old pilings are visible just under the surface of the water.

It was natural that at the eastern end of the bridge a settlement would spring up. It had many taverns and hotels to take care of the travelers going westward and also became known as a summer resort. The first county courthouse was built in Cayuga. Also, the first County jail was built under the end of the bridge and accessed by a trap door.

In 1832, the Village again saw great changes in transportation. The Cayuga branch of the Erie Canal was built. The railroads were the last change to take place with the first train passing through Cayuga in 1842. Since that time both the Lehigh Valley, New York Central and currently, the Fingerlakes Railroads have been active in the area.

Years ago, Cayuga was chiefly known as the place by the “Long Bridge”. Since that time, it has been the home of Beacon Milling Company, one of the largest feed manufacturers in the country. This company employed a large number of residents of the Village. It continued in operation until sold to Cargill Company who closed the site in 1965. Beacon Milling maintained large experimental farms engaged in dairy and poultry research. Cowles Dissolver Company, located south of the Village, played an important part in the economy of our community. They were engaged in the manufacture of special tools for industry.

As we look back over the years, it is easy to see that Cayuga was once a thriving, industrious community due to the times and type of people passing through on their way to the frontier. Today, Cayuga is a small, quiet friendly community who welcomes the involvement of its citizenry in helping govern and serving the community.

In the late 1930’s, residents recognized a growing need for a social and recreational facility. In 1943, plans were made for a community hall. Funds for the project were by public subscription and $46,000 was raised for this purpose. Cayuga Memorial Hall was dedicated in 1949 as a memorial to veterans of World War 1 and 11. It is not only a lasting memorial to Village veterans, but is the center of social and community life and is an outstanding example of community spirit which continues today.

Information for this history was taken from:

“French’s Gazetteer of the State of New York”, published in 1860
“History of Cayuga” by Florence Pharis McIntosh, published in 1927.