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How Penn Yan Got Its Name

by Laurel ~ May 4th, 2011

Not a new story by any means, but just encountered the article while researching genealogical information in the Springfield Republican, located in western Massachusetts. What is also interesting is the article was acquired from the Sing Sing Prison Paper, Star of Hope — though this style of article acquisition was not unusual, I did not realize there was a prison newspaper at Sing Sing.

How Penn Yan Got Its Name

Curious Story of Pioneer Days in Western New York.

[From the Sing Sing Prison Paper, Star of Hope.]

At the foot of Lake Keuka is situated Penn Yan, county seat of Yates county, N.Y., and as the name has a peculiar origin, it may prove interesting to some. In the early days of emigration and settlement, companies of people left the settled colonies traveling in canvas-covered wagons, drawn as often by oxen as by horses, and camping wherever they were overtaken by night. They had no definite destination, but traveled on until they chanced upon some spot which they thought favorable to a quiet, peaceful settlement, where they could erect homes and engage in the honorable pursuit of farming.

A company of such people had left the New England states, and, driving across the country, eventually arrived at the foot of Lake Keuka. here being a abundance of water and thousands of acres of as nice farming land as any one could desire, they realized the advantages of locating there and pitched their camp accordingly.

A few days later a party of emigrants from Pennsylvania chanced upon the same spot and were welcomed by the first settlers, and were invited by them to locate there, which they finally concluded to do, for by joining forces they were better able to defend themselves against the attacks of Indians, where were quite numerous. This second party were what is commonly called “Pennsylvania Dutch.”

They began the erection of houses, built of logs, and when it began to assume the appearance of a village they thought it should be given a name. Those from the New England states claimed the right of naming the village, by reason of discovery and first occupation, the the matter was finally compromised and named Penn Yan in honor of both parties, Penn in honor of Pennsylvania, and Yan, in honor of the Yankees, as all people from the New England states were called. It finally became a popular route for emigrant travelers going to the wild and unexplored West, and many others located there, the place continuing to grow, until now it is a thriving town of several thousand inhabitants.

It is a popular summer resort for many wealthy and fashionable people, who prefer the quiet, healthful county to the noisy overcrowded watering places, and all along the shores of the lake, extending from Penn Yan to Hammondsport, a distance about 25 miles, can be seen the handsome and attractive cottages of those who go there to enjoy the summer.

The lake is navigable, and boats, running on a schedule time, make daily trips from Penn Yan to Hammondsport, the fare being a dime, and the shores abound with scenery as picturesque as that along the famous Hudson river. Along this lake are thousands of acres of land devoted to grape growing, and each year one can see whole train-loads of grapes shipped from Penn and and Hammondsport. There are also a number of wine cellars located at different points along the lake, some of the largest in the United States, and which have become famous for the high-grade champagne produced, champagne that surpasses any manufactured in California and equals most brands imported from France.

—Springfield (MA) Daily Republican, April 9, 1902, page 11, column 7

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