Around the Town
Sand Bar Road History
George Dunn and the Sand Bar Road
Mr. George Dunn (born March, 1862) father of Ester Dunn, a former Webster Town Historian wrote a "Book of Memories" in the 1930’s at the urging of his family. The following is an edited excerpt of his role in building the Sand Bar Road while being Webster’s Road Commissioner in 1902.
"My first job was ‘What is to be done with that Sand Bar Road?'" Residents of the north part of town wanted it improved while residents of the south part of Webster feared the cost. It was a poor road at best being originally an Indian Trail and later a public highway. A timber bridge had been built over the bay outlet creating a shorter road to market for many.
During 1892 the Lake Ontario Railroad (LORR) built its line over the sandbar and disconnected the highway in several places. People who used the road by-passed "disconnects" by using the lake shore for 9 years. "I felt it was my duty to use my official efforts to improve the highway." With the idea in mind that the New York Central Railroad (NYCRR) which owned the (LORR) would cooperate "I went to Oswego to meet the superintendent and manager of this part of the NYCRR system. I outlined the conditions of the road……" He responded that he hadn’t noticed the situation and wondered why nothing had been done about it. My response was that the railroad had been a good payer of taxes for both town and highway maintenance and that the towns people hesitated for further favors and gave the following statement: "Nineteen years ago the Ontario division of the railroad secured a 100 feet right of way over this narrow neck of land and necessary fills disconnected the highway in several places compelled the public use the lakeshore. That is the condition that now exists." The Superintendent asked "What is your plan?" I asked for the following.
1. The railroad company transfer to the Town of Webster all of the recovered right of way south of their fill.
2. The railroad would supply sufficient used ties to provide a foundation for the new road.
3. The Highway Commissioner will cause these ties to be placed and covered with clay loam at no charge to the railroad.
4. The Highway Commissioner will ask adjoining property owners to transfer sufficient land to complete the road.
5. In return the Highway Commissioner will a regard discontinuance of that old highway if all the above is agreed by all parties, that there will be no question regarding legality of the titles of all properties.
After listening to the plan, the superintendent replied…."If your stated facts are substantiated we will no doubt do something about it and we are considering replacing our ties…if we do so it will be a good cheap way to dispose of the discards."
I asked that we close the meeting for it was time for the 4 o'clock train to leave for Charlotte. The superintendent said that I should wait until a stenographer finished writing a printed statement of my plan. He also said that the train would wait for me. At about 4:30 I boarded the waiting train well pleased with the results of the day.
My next move was to explain my plan to the affected landowners or squatters as they were sometimes called. I urged them to accept my plan which would clean up their doubtful property title. The majority admitted that if the railroad agreed it was worthy of their consideration.
I next called on the Honorable Charles S. Baker, our Representative in Congress and the largest property owner of the bunch. I outlined by plan to him of reconstructing the road south of the railroad tracks. Mr. Baker, a Republican and a jolly, fleshy attorney said, “I heard about your proposition yesterday while visiting my property on the sand bar. It is an excellent one and I hope you will succeed. I offer you this, you may have part of my property for road purposes. I will execute any document you desire and will go down next Sunday to the sand bar and advise all property owners to cooperate with you and will promise each one of them that I will draw up necessary papers without charge and will say that I want you to succeed. However, one suggestion on my property is that you choose the route of the old road skirting the bay where skittish horses may stop as trains pass. Please consider my suggestion favorably. Now, Mr. Dunn, one good turn deserves another. Next fall I will be a candidate for re-election to Congress and I expect you to help me.” Hence, I saw to it that all interested in the road betterment voted for the Honorable Charles Baker for Congress.
In early July I received a telegram from the railroad superintendent to meet their chief attorney at the Powers Hotel in Rochester as they had reports from their Engineering and Law Department in reference to the Sand Bar Proposition. I met the attorney who invited me to his room to go over the matters in question. I followed him not knowing if it was victory or defeat for my proposal.
The attorney began by saying that my proposal had been accepted but a problem had been found. There were no records of ownership by the railroad of the Sand Bar. Therefore the railroad company was also a squatter. He continued, “However, Mr. Dunn if you don’t attempt to record this transfer until after January 1, 1891 or 20 years of undisputed ownership we will issue a bill of sale transferring title of the road to the Town of Webster”. Needless to say, I agreed.
I immediately called on Congressman Baker and informed him where we stood. Mr. Baker said that the deal was as good as done. He also said that we have some property owners doubters but they will come along. And they did.
I then informed Mr. Baker that his suggestion on sighting the road through his land was a noble one and Mr. Baker agreed to urge his friend Mr. Depew (president of the New York Central Railroad) to sign the appropriate documents for a subsidiary railroad. (Mr. Depew strongly desired special Congressional action for a railroad merger at that time). Mr. Depew signed.
Summer residents of Forest Lawn had thus far done nothing for the project but a candidate for District Attorney led a canvas of his friends there raising $250 for the project, creating a construction fund. Also the railroad evenly distributed the used railroad ties reducing labor costs. The district labor tax was sufficient to cover other costs and left a $300 balance in the construction fund.
Local farmers living within 2 miles of the site were hired to haul the loam to cover the newly laid railroad ties and 50 shovelers were hired at $1.00 per day to spread the loam. The project was completed by early December with no balance in the fund. Mr. Baker was elected to Congress and my first year as Road Commissioner was over.
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