The Sodus Point Tunnel

 

 

Bulletin: New information about the tunnel has been revealed thanks to Ground Penetrating

                  Radar. For more information, click this link: 

 

 http://www.historicsoduspoint.com/slaves-in-sodus-point/sodus-point-tunnel/the-sodus-point-tunnel-revealed/ 

 

 

For many years in Sodus Point, there have been stories of a tunnel which connected what is now Silver Waters B&B and ran north down to the end of John Street . It was also said that a house on the Corner of Bay Street and Lummis Street may have connected into this same tunnel. Fran Button Davis grew up in Sodus Point and is a direct descendant of Captain William Wickham. She told us that in the 1930s, her father told stories of a slave tunnel under Silver Waters and was used by runaway slaves as part of the Underground Railroad in Sodus Point.

 

The following information was provided by Bill Huff, Jr. who personally saw the remains of the tunnel when sewers were being dug for the village in 1976. “The tunnel was uncovered about mid way down John Street  during the construction of the sewers. The tunnel connected to a shed that was attached to what is now the Silver Waters B&B and then into the house itself. It ran straight down John Street where the road presently exists although at the time of the tunnel it did not. It seemed to have ended at the house which is on the Northwest corner of John Street and Wickham Blvd (this is a distance of approx. 150 yards). This location would have been very close to a bluff overlooking the Lake Shore. The tunnel itself varied in height from three to four feet and was the same approximate width and was between 3 and 4 feet under the surface. This would have meant that people going through the tunnel would have had to squat down and basically crab walk to pass along the tunnel. The tunnel was reinforced with bricks and stones in  some areas. During the excavation,pieces of glass, a bean pot, a pontil bottle and a broken jug, with T. Harrington Lyons marked on it, were found that apparently had been used by the occupants of the tunnel.”

 

Some theories have been put forth that perhaps the tunnel was used for rum running during the prohibition era. The pontil bottle and broken jug  are both from circa 1860. This clearly establishes the tunnel as used by the underground railroad as the local tales have stated.

 

 

This is a picture of the old shed that used to be attached to what is now the Silver Waters Bed and Breakfast. Inside the shed was a trap door covered by a sturdy oak door.  When you opened the trap door, the tunnel was directly below it.

 

The description of the tunnel seems very similar to the scene depicted above found on the back cover of the book “Underground Railroad Tales with Routes Through the Finger Lakes Region” by Emerson Klees and illustrated by Dru Wheelin. This illustration is labelled as “Slaves Escaping to Smith Creek via a 1,700 foot tunnel, McGraw, NY”.

 

Additional information about the tunnel was provided by Mike Novik who is the present owner of the Silver Waters B&B: “During the underground railroad, slaves from the safehouse at Alasia Farm, were rowed across Sodus Bay at night, from the marshes west of Emerald Point. A tunnel came into our kitchen before recent renovations closed it over, from the embankment to our south, on the  Sill property. The tunnel then went north from here down the east side of John Street, to the large house with the stone pillars, where the tunnel once again entered into the basement of that property. From there, slaves were taken by boats to ships traveling to Canada”.

 

Based on the above description, the tunnel would be about 375 yards ( or 1125 feet) long! We have discussed this tunnel with the present owners of a local residence and they confirmed the existence of a tunnel beneath their house which matched the description by Bill Huff. They went on to say that a person who they were renting an apartment to (unbeknownst to them) once entered the tunnel . For safety and insurance reasons they walled off the entrance. This house however was built in the 1870s. If the tunnel was indeed used for  fugitive slaves then the house would have “connected” into it later when the house was built.

 

Three poems were written making reference to this tunnel. To read them click on the following link:

http://www.historicsoduspoint.com/slaves-in-sodus-point/underground-railroad-poems/