HISTORY MYSTERY: Three Rivers Point
Attached is a photo of Three Rivers Inn in the late 1800’s. But, Three Rivers Point, where the Oneida and Seneca Rivers meet and form Oswego River flowing north, has a long varied history. The five tribes of the Iroquois Nations found it a beautiful and convenient place to meet as they paddled east, west, and north from their hunting grounds. They were the Onondagas, Senecas, Mohawks, Oswegos, and Hurons. In the 1770’s, the remaining Tuscaroras joined them from North Carolina after war with the English.
Some historic travelers have recorded their journeys. In 1696 to invade he territory of the Onondagas, Count Frontenac and his army ascended the Oswego River, passed the Oneida River and entered the Onondaga Lake. In 1753 – 1759, a stockaded fort with three storehouses was built by the colony of New York on the north side of the Oneida River where it flows into the Oswego River. In 1759, French General Prideaux in the French and Indian War encamped at Three River Point. In 760, British Officer Sir Jeffrey Amherst, with 10,000 troops encamped here enroute to Canada to crush French power in America. In 1777, Col. St. Leger came up the Oswego River to Three River Point where he met some Senecas and Mississaugas and then traveled the Oneida River on his way to Fort Stanwix. In 1791, Elkanah Watson wrote; “We pitched our tent at Mr. Moses Dewitt’s camp…A city will rise at this spot. Mr. Moses with a company of surveyors is locating the military lands, destined as gratuities for the troops of the New York line in the late war.” The Duke de Rochefoucauld-Liancourt was in America for three years and left a journal of his travels in New York State and Onondaga County. In 1795, he left the British Fort at Oswego and made a difficult ascent to Three Rivers Point. The Inn there was Squire Bingham’s. Everyone was sick and later it was found out he had moved to Salina.
In 1710, DeWitt Clinton recorded his observations as one of a commission to report the best location for the proposed canal. “Before sundown we reached Three River Point….It lies in Cicero on the south side of Oneida River, is a part of a Gospel lot and an excellent position for a town…All the salt boats from the springs and from Cayuga and Seneca Lakes rendezous at this place. It was filled with drunken and noisy people…Col. Porter erected his tent and made his fire on the hill where he was comfortably situated with the men…We soon lit a candle, retreated from the disgusting scene and immediately took refuge in a segar….On the Point the moon was in full orb and blaze of majesty. Here my feelings were not only relieved, but my mind was elevated by the scenery before me….”
Mary Eno’s store and hotel started in 1815, supplying travelers for many years. A camping community as well as permanent residents settled here. A post office was established in 1852 with Joseph Warren Williams appointed Post Master. In 1889, Fred Barnum established Barnum’s Hotel which became a popular attraction for thousands of People in Central New York. Shore diners were the specialty. People came by boat, horse and carriage and train. Ten cents was the round-trip fare on the steamer “Bessie Lang” between Phoenix and Three Rivers. Other owners followed including Haberle Brewery, but Prohibition and the Depression caused hard times.
In 1955, Dom Bruno came into possession of the property and after many changes and alterations, it became Three Rivers Inn as we knew it. In an interview with Lorraine Arsenault, Dom’s niece, she tells some facts about him. Many more are included in her book, “The Long Way Home.”
Dom Bruno was born on a farm and in the 1930’s went into the CCC After the war, he and his brother handled the Georgetown Inn. With this experience, he borrowed the money to buy the Three River Inn. His first headliner was Mae West in 1956. However, Lorraine tells that her aunt remembers going to the Inn in 1953 to see Tony Bennett when Doc Sommers owned it. Bruno wanted to make it First Class because he believed the public deserved it. In her book, Lorraine tells of a Junior-Senior picnic at Green Lakes when Paul Anka was entertaining here and went to it just like one of our local kids. When it burnt down in 1973, she saw tears in Dom’s eyes. As we all know, it was moved to the Phoenix Plaza.
Some of the stars who performed there included Tony Bennett, Paul Anka, Bobby Darin. Jimmy Durante, Al Martino, Connie Francis, Brenda Lee, Jayne Mansfield, Frankie Laine, Sammy Davis, Jr. and the one I remember was Julius LaRosa.
Dorothy Heller, Historian