Pieces of the Past
Artifacts, Documents, and Primary Sources
from Letchworth Park History

It took nearly twenty years to complete the Genesee Valley Canal through the present day lands of Letchworth Park. A failed attempt at a tunnel, an economic slowdown, and the rugged towering cliffs all added to difficulties in what has been called the "Nine Mile Nightmare". Although the work was slow and usually uneventful, there were moments of great drama which drew crowds of onlookers. One such time was in the early summer of 1851, when the "Pinnacle" fell.

The account below appeared in the Nunda Telegraph in June of 1851. For a general view of the area described, see our Image 55



Fall of the Pinnacle or Monument at Portage Falls

"On Wednesday of last week the rock called the Pinnacle, situated near the middle falls at Portage, was hurled from its foundation into the abyss below. A friend who was present gives us the following account of the transaction....

This monument hung over the precipice below the second fall about 300 feet above the bed of the river, and was located near the South end of that monument of folly, the late Portage Tunnel, and measured as follows; height including two or three feet of its foundation which was blown off with it, 15 feet, length 15 the feet, width 12 feet, slightly tapering to its summit, and weighing including two or three feet of its foundation just spoken off, over two hundred and fifty tons. The basis of these figures was obtained from the division engineer, of whom we shall have something more to say before closing this article. The monument was thrown off by order of Commissioner Follett, who was present at the occasion, being at Portage for the purpose of overseeing the completing of that portion of Genesee Valley Canal running from the junction above Mt. Morris to Oramel...

The pinnacle was thrown off by Mr. Brown whose skill in the blasting of rocks led to his selection. The firs attempt on account of the looseness of the materials composing the rock, was a failure - Mr. Brown then prepared what he called a sand blast, and succeeded, the spectators were located on the opposite bank of the river, where they had a perfect view of the rock, the depth below and the operators. In less than an hour after the first attempt, the match was again applied and after a brief interval a deafening roar announced that the powder had taken effect. The volumes of smoke cleared away but there stood the pinnacle, like a grim old giant, defying alike the engineers and the powerful agents which had exhausted its energy in blowing out from its foundation several tons of stone; but its triumph was of short duration - soon, with one grand bound, it fell, crumbling, crackling, crashing upon the rocks below. But ere the echoes of the hill had sent back the thunders awakened by its fall, a mist rose, denser than that of Niagara, concealing river and rock and stone from view, the crushed monument from its own ruins, sent up a windy sheet, fit to encircle the scene of its former glory. May it 'rest in peace' ".

Also see our Glimpse of the Genesee Valley Canal.


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