The Old Shelburne Road

Article No: 42

The Old Shelburne Road
Yarmouth Vanguard, Tuesday, October 17, 1989

Some two hundred years ago, there was a road going through the woods from Yarmouth to Shelburne, called the Shelburne Road. It went from Yarmouth to Tusket, from Tusket to the junction of the road now known as the Curry Road which starts at Argyle Head, from this junction to the Hamilton Branch of the Clyde River, and thence, after crossing the Clyde, to Shelburne, for a total distance of 54 miles.

In 1790 at a meeting of the sessions of the peace for the Yarmouth Township, there was a petition which was presented for a road, from the southwest corner of Alexander Bain's land, past the Narrows, going northeasterly until it runs into the Shelburne Road, which ended then in Tusket. Alexander Bain's land was at the limit of what is now the town of Yarmouth in Milton. James C. Farish gives a description of his house in his sketch of "Yarmouth abut the year 1821". From this house running eastward was Bain's Road, which would be today's Prospect St., between Milton and Dayton. It was to be 9 miles long, up to the Tusket River, ending at the Narrows, where the bridge stands now. In summer the river was crossed by boat, and in winter it was crossed on the ice. The first wooden bridge was built in 1802-03.

The Shelburne Road had already been opened from Tusket to Shelburne during the second half of the 1780's. There is no reason given for the delay of the construction of the road from Yarmouth to Tusket. The Shelburne newspaper, "The Gazetteer and Advertiser", stated in its issued of July 15, 1786 (which was a Thursday), that "Arrived here yesterday from Yarmouth, which they had left Friday last (July 7), Mr. Poole, Mr. Butler and Capt. Richards (Ricker). They came through the country to lay out the road, and have not a doubt, but that the road will be shortly accomplished."

There are several plans of the road at the Office of the Registrar of Deeds, Municipality of Shelburne, which indicate that in Tusket it was to start at the Narrows, at "Gabbles", put for "Blauveldt's" (Peter Crowell tells me). In fact, the road coming from Yarmouth was to end at the river across from "Tennis Blovell's" (Theunis Blauveldt's), according to the Shoemakers Almanac, 1804; (see Crowell, "Hist. Of Barrington", p. 300). From Tennis Blovell's place, the road going south splits at 400 meters in two branches; one is called the "Gabell's Road", going westerly, towards "Van Cortlandt Sq. of the "Tusket Village"; the other goes easterly. This eastern branch is given in the plans as the beginning of the road "From Tusket to Shelburne". This is probably the same road which now turns off from Route 3 and reaches the one which comes from the Square and proceeds straight towards Gavelton.

Going in an easterly direction it passed just north of Eel Lake and then between Clearwater Lake and Mingo Beak Lake. Thus it might have followed the road that now goes by Belleville North, then through Bell Neck and proceeds a short distance beyond before reaching the eight miles in all. The Curry Road extends now up to Springhaven, while at the time it ended at the Shelburne Road.

After the junction at what is called the Curry Road, it had to cross two rivers, each flowing towards Quinan, the Mushpauk Brook (north of Mushpauk Lake) and the Quinan River. Proceeding between Big Gull and Little Gull Lakes, it reached, after a distance of 24 miles, the Hamilton Branch of the Clyde River, somewhat south of Pulldozen or Pulleydoggen Lake (farm lots 151 and 152), and then about a mile further, the Clyde River itself at a point called "Middle Clyde River".

From this point, there is still visible to this day a trail or cart track, which leads into a loose surface road; this road joins the River Clyde Road at about four miles from Shelburne. The distance from the point where it crossed the Clyde River to Shelburne is given as being 13 miles.

The idea of building a road from Tusket to Shelburne was mentioned for the first time on March 25, 1785, by the people of Tusket, when it was decided that it would be 20 feet wide and 35 miles long, although a month later it was decided that it would only be 12 feet wide and 30 miles long. But as time went by it was agreed that it had to cover more mileage.

In 1790, a Protestant Minister by the name of James Munro, who traveled between Shelburne and Tusket, wrote that it "is 40 miles through the woods and No Dwelling Houses on the road but one. A person of the name of (James) Hamilton who lives on a branch (The Hamilton) of the Clyde 14 miles from Shelburne and 26 from the Tuscate (Tusket). There is none other family nor likely to be, " Nevertheless the road was sufficiently well traveled for James Hamilton to use his house as an inn and tavern and to keep a ferry on the Clyde.

Later on a bridge was built over the Clyde. Here is what we read in Thomas Robertson's manuscript of 1871, "A History of the County of Shelburne," p. 44, who calls the road "The Farish Road"; "Travel has been suspended on it for over half a century (since the early 1820s, it is said elsewhere). The last persons who traveled the whole route were Mr. And Mrs. Colin Campbell and Miss (Sarah) Van Norden (Tusket), afterwards Mrs. William Robertson (his own grandparents). They were all traveling on horse back and on crossing the bridge, the bridge was noticed to be very shakey. Miss Van Norden was the last to cross and as her horse stood safe on `terra firma', the bridge fell into the River. Fortunately they were on the right (Tusket) side of the River, for as the water was deep, and as there was no ford (shallow passage), they would have had to retrace their steps to Shelburne".

Jackson Ricker wrote in 1941: "I am informed that traces of this road may still be seen and followed by hunters." No doubt that some of those who will read these lines have also seen traces of it.

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