by Dr. Robert
Lyon, EPCPS President
believe that the things we do not choose in life make us who we
are. Our birthplace, our family, our neighborhood, the traditions
and the legends of our past all help to make us unique members of
of Eldridge Lake, also known as Lake Minnetonka, and by certain
Native American tribes as Ouela, cannot be forgotten by those of
us who grew up in the Southern Tier before the decline of Eldridge
Park. We must continue to keep these legends alive so that future
generations can also be shaped and so that we may share this common
bond, this icon of our past, this beacon for our future we call
Why is it
that we grew up knowing that Eldridge Lake is bottomless, with channels
guarded by serpents connecting it to Seneca Lake and that pockets
of quicksand along the shoreline kept us from venturing too close
to its dark, mysterious waters? That bodies of certain unfortunate
individuals and animals consumed by Eldridge Lake have been recovered
at Seneca Lake, some with unexplainable bite marks? (As a forensic
dentist, this is of particular interest to me.) Why did Bob Long,
the man who brought the carousel to Eldridge Park in 1924, carve
a dragon head to be mounted prominently on the bow of the original
Jasper boat in the 1930s?
to understand the answers to the above questions, one must first
know that the lake has always been there. It was formed by glaciers
many thousands of years ago. It was only enlarged by Dr. Edwin Eldridge
in the 1860s. Eldridge landscaped the 200 or more acres around the
lake and created one of the finest Victorian walking parks that
ever existed. The picnic mounds, leveled to make way for the athletic
fields, were another glacial phenomenon known as drumlins.
small lake has impacted the lives of those who have grown up in
the region surrounding it largely because of one legend. The legend
originated centuries ago when the lake was known as Minnetonka or
Ouela. Throughout the 19th century, the story was printed once a
year or so in the local newspaper. Children would gather around
the fireplace and pay undivided attention to the storyteller much
the same as I remember sitting before the television set with great
excitement and anticipation to watch "The Wizard of Oz"
each time it was on.
of the Native Americans called Owenah and Newamee is the story that
answers our questions. It originated before the first white settler
came to this region in the late 1780s. My own great-great-great-great-great-grandfather
settled here with Col. John B. Hendy in 1789 and passed the legend
on to his own son Silus B. Lyon, born in 1803. Silus' diary reveals
that his descendants, my family, have enjoyed this great legend
and that it has helped to make us who we are -- proud residents
of the Finger Lakes region.
legend of Eldridge Lake and its alluring dangers spelled out in
Native American lore -- it was guarded by a serpent named Gaspara
later named Jasper -- only enhance our appreciation today to the
park and the need to preserve it for generations. By creating a
connection between the generations, we create a bridge to the future.
By rebuilding Eldridge Park, we re-create the place where we can
reminisce about the past, embrace the present and plan for the future.