By Jasmine Willis
MIDDLESEX — There is a legend of an old sacred Seneca burial ground that had been disturbed on Newell Road. It is from this legend that our story begins.
Judy Smith-Cronk and I decided an adventure was in store for her birthday on June 21. The one place she always wanted to see since she was in her early 20s was Spook Hill. Thanks to GPS and our newfound Ghostbuster skills we were up for the challenge. The legend was that if you go to a certain spot on Spook Hill, the spirits of the burial ground will pull your vehicle in neutral up the hill. Now rather it is the spirits of angry Native Americans or a gravity shift under the pavement its certainty an intriguing sight.
Once we found the exact location with Spike Road on the left and a driveway on the right, we put the truck in neutral. Several times the truck was taken to the exact same spot towards a pole on the side of the hill. Judy filmed the fascinating occurrence more than once as the vehicle is pulled up the hill.
Afterwards, we were on a personal quest for anything to do with this legend. Some towns have a legend and lore marker about anything interesting that happened.
However, in the small town of Middlesex we are not so lucky. The only thing we find that suggests anything to do with the legend is a marker about the Indian Burial grounds being disturbed in 1922.
We decided to shift our adventure to an historical one instead when we came to the tiny town of Vine Valley. There are several unique things to say about this community by the lake.
The first being, Vine Valley Methodist Church built in 1891. It has a plaque on the door saying it was put on the National Register of Historic Places in 1994. Across the way is a Veterans Memorial that honors all the branches of military. It was a nice way to honor all those who fought and died for our freedom from all the wars.
A man told us that Vine Valley had a lot more history for us to explore with the General Store down the road and the boat launch as well. Judy and I were up for more history since it was a beautiful day for a adventure.
The CAROBESON General Store was built by G.W. Green in 1890. It was owned and operated by Charles A. Robeson Family from 1898 to 1984. After that the town of Middlesex owned the store. Now it is back in the hands of the family.
The history of the store itself is that of the Pioneer Days we have come to know and love from our history books. Robeson had the basics in his store when it opened such as lumber, tools, fruit, vegetables, coffee, milk, cheese, fishing supplies, and books.
When the early 1900s brought the booming business of vineyards and farms were in their prime the little store brought in tons of merchandise for farmers. The boats would come on the lake to pick up 30 to 40 tons of grapes from Vine Valley to take to Canandaigua.
Robeson had a barter system in his store for the poor farmers; fresh eggs, milk, potatoes, and home-made butter were given in exchange for sugar, molasses, tea, and coffee.
Robeson married Ellen Hixon, daughter of a Civil War Veteran Col. F.A. Hixon. Together with their family the Robeson clan made that little store by the lake thrive for 60 years. Walter and Caroline, Robeson’s children ran the store with their families after the parents couldn’t anymore.
The store was once used for Bible Studies, Square Dancing, Plays, Quilting Bees, and even town meetings. Town Supervisor Don Liddiard took over the store once the family could no longer keep it in 1984. This was the effort made to keep the store and public boat launch active. In 1991 Martin and Jessie Kane took over the store until 1997.
The store was tossed from owner to owner after that; Barbara Jean and Mike Brignoli in 1997, Steve Ryan and family in 2001, and Don and Marcella Buckard art gallery and bookstore in 2006 until 2008.
The store was left abandoned after that until 2018 when Fred and Beth Armitage Muller came to town. This historic information was provided by Dan Robeson and Beth Muller to let people know the importance one store can be to a small town by the lake.
Middlesex Town Hall has a history room called Middlesex Heritage Group open Wednesday from 9 a.m. to noon.
The Vine Valley Boat Launch has some history of its own. Judy and I loved standing on the dock and taking in the beauty of the water and mountains in the distance. This was a fond memory of Judy’s childhood with her parents when they would come to the lake in the summers.
Vine Valley has used this boat launch since 1883 as a public beach, steamship commercial port for grape growers, and a launch point for recreational boaters. Middlesex bought the property in 2008 in a way to maintain and preserve the area. This boat launch is only one of three public lake access points on Canandaigua Lake and the only one in Yates County. It is part of the New York State Parks, Recreation, and Historical Preservation.
Our final stop on the grand adventure is one that has always fascinated me. All my life I have been completely intrigued by one room school houses. Maybe since I grew up watching all the shows my mom loved; The Walton’s, Little House on the Prairie, and Anne of Green Gables. I just remember always wanting to see what it would be like to be in one of those super old buildings being taught by a sophisticated lady in pioneer clothes.
Much to my dismay most of these relics of the past have been burned down or turned into private homes. However, to my immense delight I happened upon one preserved in time on the hillside.
The Overackers Corners School District No. 3 operated from 1874 to 1937 on the corner of North Vine Valley Road and State Route 364. It was built to be heated by one large stove, had no running water or electricity, and the students had to carry water up the hill from a local well. There was a large woodshed and two separate outhouses.
Once the school closed its doors for good in 1938 it was sold to Leon Button who used the historic building for grain storage. In 1984 it went to the Middlesex Heritage Group. After two years of renovations in 1998 it was turned into a historic museum. The original bell, chalkboard, desks, and other artifacts are seen today. The school has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1994.
Some interesting facts provided about its rich history; the land for the school came from Edward Hennessy’s property and additional land was bought from Amos Hixson, it was designed to accommodate grades first to eight grade, bricks from a blacksmith shop were crumbled and used for the foundation, bricks for the walls came from the brick factory, it was named after the Overackers Family, it was sold to Leon Button for only $128.50., A photo of the school appeared in the 1933 edition of the National Geographic on page 560, and the building is on the NYS Path Through History Tour and Seneca Heritage Days.
Some of the teachers who taught at this school were Lillian Boyd, Gordon Foster, Nellie Bennett, Mrs. Stanley Voorhees, Ruth Halstead, Carrie Razey, Lela Robson, Nellie Button, Bertha Noble, Alice DeWick, Patrick Sheehan, Frank Matteson, and Hazel Robeson.
The school is open on special occasions or by appointment only. It can be reached by calling the Middlesex Heritage Group at 585-554-6945. The next open house is Oct. 12 and 13 from noon to 4 p.m. for NY Path Through History. The Middlesex Heritage Group is located at the corner of Main and Water streets in Middlesex. The CAROBESON General Store Is located at Vine Valley Beach in Vine Valley. They are open everyday 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and can be reached at 585-554-7124. The Vine Valley United Methodist Church is located at 6370 Vine Valley Road in Middlesex. They have Sunday service at 9:30 a.m. and the store is right down the road.