Lansing at Large: Native trails foundation for modern roads


By Matt Montague

Tompkins Weekly


Before there were roads in Lansing, there was “The Warriors’ Trail.”

According to the book “Old Indian Trails in Tompkins County” written by Tompkins County Historian W. Glenn Norris and published in 1944, The Warriors’ Trail began at the principal Cayuga village Goiogouen (or “Cayuga Castle”) four miles north of Chonodote (Aurora).

Norris picks up the trail at Lansing’s northern border. It entered the county along Lake Road and ran southeast to Lake Ridge. There, it turned south along Route 34B or Ridge Road. After about seven miles, the trail turned left to run down to Gientachne (Salmon Creek) along present-day Ludlowville Road (called “Cemetery Road” by Glenn).

Travelers turned right and splashed across the creek at a ford near the metal bridge on Ludlowville Road. About 100 yards later, they would turn up a glen on to what is now known as Brickyard Road.

Once past the Lansing United Methodist Church, the trail becomes indistinct, but it was clear to Glenn that it eventually met and followed modern-day East Shore Drive to a spot above the falls on Gulf Creek (known to Glenn as “Norton’s Creek) and then along the ridge above the lake.

At Esty’s, the trail began the long, steep descent down to the lake shore and into Ithaca. It passed a spring at Renwick Heights and then Nogaene (Fall Creek) before turning south to Owego and the Susquehanna River.

Oral histories point to a solar eclipse in 1142 as marking the founding of the Haudenosaunee alliance of the six nations. The Warrior Trail is at least that old. But people have lived and walked here since the glaciers moved out about 12,000 years ago.

This is also the trail followed by Col. William Butler and the Fourth Pennsylvania during the Sullivan Campaign in 1779. They crossed through Lansing in late September, moving south after the destruction of Goiogouen (Cayuga Castle) on Sept. 22.

From the Journal of Thomas Grant, a surveyor attached to Butler’s forces (with parenthetic comments and edits for spelling and brevity):

“SEPTEMBER 24th 1779 ... March’d this Day 16-1/2 Miles and encamped on a Pleasant Hill (the hill north of Ludlowville) near a fine Creek (Salmon Creek), about one hour after Dark: the Land we passed This Day well Timbered, and the Soil very good, But very scarce of water…we crossed a second stream (near Lake Ridge) which fell About 50 feet perpendicular, which partly after Emptied Them Selves into the Cayuga Lake. Saw no Enemy this day; the Genl Course S. 30. E.”

This trail became the settlers’ ox-cart paths as they moved into the Finger Lakes following the Revolutionary War. The paths became roads and the roads became the highways we drive on today.

Glenn quotes Cayuga Chief Wau-wah-wa-na-onk (or Peter Wilson) in the title page of his book:

“The Empire State, as you love to call it, was once laced by our trails . . . trails that we had trod for centuries…trails worn so deep by the feet of the IROQUOIS that they became your roads of travel, as your possessions eat into those of my people. Your roads still traverse those same lines of communication which bound one part of the Long House to the other.”

There’s something to think about on your way to work tomorrow.


Food Pantry

The Lansing Food Pantry will be open Aug. 27 from 1 to 3 p .m. at The Rink, 1767 East Shore Drive. Contact Nancy Myers with questions at (607) 592-4685.

Library Events

The Lansing Community Library will hold: T’ai Chi classes on Tuesday from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.; Mah Jongg Wednesday from 1 to 4 p.m.; Toddler Story Time on Thursday from 10:30 to 11 a.m.; and more T’ai Chi on Thursday from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m.

The Library has added two new sessions of their “Cooking Matters” series – these two-hour classes focus on learning new ways to prepare healthy, affordable meals with your children.

The classes will be Aug. 22, Aug. 29, Sept. 5, and Sept. 12 all from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

You can reserve your spot by e-mailing Cecilia at or by calling (607) 272-2292.

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