Hills, Roads, and Corners

Charles E. Page, Oneida N.Y. Age 80 [year 2001]

Hills on the highways used to be more noteworthy than they are today. They were something to take notice of, and most of them had names.   The length and steepness of the grade as well as the type of surface, determined whether you could get up it easily, with great difficulty, or not at all, with the power you had.   We are talking horsepower, with real horses, and also with the old cars of the time [1920’s].  It was a good automobile that could "make" a certain hill in "high gear."  With horses one had to judge the weight of his wagonload compared to the size and strength of his team.

Going down steep hills was also a problem.   A horse & wagon driver with a heavy load might have to chain one hind wheel to the wagon box, so that it would slide instead of turning, and thus act as a brake.  And I remember my Aunt Beryle Jones driving the model T down Quarterline Hill using both the brake and reverse pedals to keep from going too fast.

Today some of the hill names are still used as geographic locations, such as Field’s Hill out of Oneida, and Quality Hill out of Canastota on Rt. 5. In the 1920’s and 1930’s they were discussed as road challenges. For example, Field’s Hill was a son-of –a- gun for the early autos to get up on a snowy winter evening. My wife, Alberta, remembers watching the auto lights, slowing, coming to a halt and then backing down, some sliding into the ditch, as she watched from the window of her Tilden St. home.

In the rural areas the hills presented different and greater challenges. Experiences on the different hills were much talked about and, of course, they had to have names.

Heading south from Oneida on the West Rd. first you would come to Sand Hill, just past Glenwood Cemetery. On through Munnsville on what is now called Pratts Rd., was Pine Hill, located just past Marshall Farms. On through Pratts Hollow was Pratts Hollow Hill at the top of which was the Bartlett Farm.

Instead of following Rt. 46 to Pratts Hollow out of Munnsville, this would be in the 1920’s, if you forked left you would go up the Bearpath. I remember it was not heavily traveled. It was steep and was not paved. Of course later, it became the main Rt. 46. To this day, however, the Bearpath Hill is well known as trouble to tractor- trailer drivers in winter.

Pine Woods Hill was to the east of Pine Woods on Rt. 20 and Station Hill to the west [Morrisville Station]. The Hill east of Munnsville was also known as Station Hill. There were probably hundreds of named hills in the county, some well known such as Muller Hill, Bonney Hill, Johnnycake Hill, and the many less well known such as Crow Hill, and hills named for people who lived nearby.

Crow Hill is an interesting one.To get there you would turn north on Crow Hill Road on the west side of the Chenango Canal in Bouckville [near the bridge mentioned in my story "The Bridge"]. This is in the Town of Madison. Crow Hill Road makes a loop up one side of the hill and down the other into the Town of Eaton east of Pine Woods Corner. As you go up the road from the Bouckville end, you seem to pass through a different kind of country. Not the modern, neatly mowed farmyards, but more of the old really rural type. As you get to the top of the hill and make the swing around to the south, there are big level fields with very few houses. As you go down nearing Rt. 20, you pass Smith's Garage on the left, and pass the place on the right where James Field used to live. [I think his house is gone now] He was brother of our neighbor in Oneida, Susie Field Starr. She and her daughter, Elizabeth referred to him as "Uncle Jim".

I remember going with my father when I was about sixteen years old, with my first shotgun, to hunt crows on Crow Hill. There was plenty of wide open, wild country ideal for crow hunting. I don't think we saw any crows that day. But other days we noticed crows flying from there across the valley to the hills near Morrisville. There was open season on crows then year around because of the damage to farmers' crops. The smart old birds knew that when planted corn kernels started to sprout the starch turned to sugar. So when the corn plants were about 4 inches high the crows would go right down the rows pulling the plants and pecking off the sweet kernels. A flock of crows could do great damage to a cornfield. It was difficult for farmers to shoot crows. The minute they stepped out of the house with a gun, the crows were gone. They knew a long stick-like thing over a man's shoulder meant trouble. So farmers used scarecrows and finally treated the corn seed with evil tasting stuff such pine tar. The crows would sample that and give it up for another field. Nowadays the seed corn farmers use is usually treated with chemicals to fight disease, and this is not too tasty to the crows either. With increases in more urban populations the crows have adapted to living in the cities and there, while they may be considered a noisy nuisance, I don't think they do much damage there. Crows are now on the protected list.

If you put the name Crow Hill into "Google", you will find out there are hundreds of Crow Hill's or Crow somethings all over the country. I think the birds have a sort of wild, high-flying image that captures the imagination. There are Crow Hill restaurants, Inns, Bed and Breakfasts, etc etc.

"A Farm Building on Crow Hill"

The hill going west out of Munnsville we called Green’s Hill, for Milo Green’s farm was at the top [Williams road]. Farther west on the same road was what the old timers called "Nigger John’s Hill". This was the part from Green’s Corners down to where the road crossed the beginnings of Cowaselon Creek. At the foot of this hill was a tumbled down house where "Old Kate" lived. We kids saw her once at the door, but we were told she was probably a witch, and we didn’t stay around very long.

In Madison Center when one said they were stuck on the Quarterline, which was said quite often, everyone knew they meant the Quarterline Hill.[Quarterline road leads from Center road in Madison Center toward Hubbardsville]. The hill leading to my Grandpa Jones’s farm, [now Skuban road] Grandpa called "Our Hill". That hilly section which included "Our Hill" and the neighboring hill on Stone road, was known as the Howe’s Hill area. The old school, which still stands on Stone road at Tinker Hollow road, was called Howe’s Hill School and was a part of the Durfee School district.

Up until sometime around the 1950’s each road had many names depending who lived there and where the road lead, from the point of view of your location on it. For example, the people at Green’s Corners called the road leading to Merrellsville and 5 Corners, "Creek Road". We, who lived near the Oneida end, called it Merrellsville Road for to us it led to Merrellsville and on to Siloam. I’m not sure what the Merrellsville people called it.

Stockbridge Falls Road of today was called the Gulf Road, for it ran along the beginnings of Oneida Creek, which flowed through the gulf from Peterboro. Just south of Greens Corners was what we called "The Continental Divide". Oneida Creek ran south and east, while the Cowaselon flowed north.

Along about the 1950’s the highway department officially named each road and put up signs to mark each. It took a little getting used to, when one had always thought of a certain road as the old name. However, it put to rest a lot of confusion for many of the roads were known by two or more names, and sometimes there were two or more roads within the county with the same name.

As roads were named for people who lived on them, intersections of roads were named for people who lived near those corners. For example, Eisaman's Corners, where Mile Strip road meets Buyea road was where the Eisaman family lived. As generations came and went, local people applied different names. In our earlier days we referred to the corner where Creek road meets Upper Lenox Ave. as Bobby Jacobs Corner. Everybody in the area knew where he lived. Since then two other families in succession have owned the house and only a few old timers ever heard of Bobby Jacobs. Before Bobby Jacobs time it was called Lenox Mills. I don’t think it is called any special "corners" now, everybody just has a house number and mailing address, etc. Of Course all mailboxes then had names on them, and we knew who lived where, up and down the road.