Bemus Point author publishes new book on the lake | News, Sports, Jobs

Cover of the book “Coops, Spears and Fish Decoys”.

Bemus Point author Fletcher Ward has released a new book in his ongoing Chautauqua Lake series.

Ward has published six history books in total since he began writing them. The most recent book is called “Chicken coops, spears and fish lures; The story of the musky spearing Chautauqua Lake.

The book focuses on the early settlers in the area who came to farm while trying to make money and did not have much success.

“They bought land from the Holland Land Company”, said Ward. “When they didn’t have enough to pay, they resorted to things like farming. They would also cut down the white pine that was in our area and float it down the river to New Orleans and sell it there and then walk back. They would also do things like burn birch trees to make ash to use in things like making glass or as a leveling agent for bread.

Ward added that while the settlers had many ways to earn money, most were very laborious. The average person earned around $475 a year during this time. This is where muskellunge fishing came in handy.

“They started going out on Chautauqua Lake and spearing muskellunge,” said Ward. “It brought in at least $20 more a day. They borrowed the practice of the Senecas and other Indians. The techniques they used were that they would go out on the lake at night with a bright light to attract fish and then spear them. Or in the winter, they would dig a hole in the ice and put in a lure that looked like a fish, then spear the muskellunge.

European settlers in the area began spearing the fish in the 1830s and then selling it to Jamestown where they discovered they had a market. The area became known for its commercial lake fishing and brought more people to the area with muskellunge dinners offered at hotels.

There were people who were against the idea of ​​spearing muskellunge and worked to sign it into law to stop the practice as the fish population began to decline. The law came into effect in 1905.

“So from the 1830s to 1905 spearing these fish really helped the economy of our area,” said Ward.

For Ward, his interest in the history of Chautauqua Lake began with the stories of an older man he knew growing up who told him stories of hunting and fishing on the lake, and how he and his friends would go out and spear muskellunge on the lake. . The Bemus Point town historian also told him about some aspects and let Ward read some books. Since beginning to write, Ward has also joined the Bemus Point Historical Society and the Chautauqua County Historical Society.

“I started writing them after work when I had time”, said Ward. “I have a new book going to publishers soon that focuses on some of the early airmen who were in and passed through Chautauqua County, including Amelia Earhart.”

Before starting to write his books, Ward worked as an environmental health and safety manager at Signor Corporation before it closed, then as a project manager at a heating and air conditioning company in Jamestown before taking his retirement.

During his work on his books, the one thing he found that surprised him was related to the water condition of Chautauqua Lake.

“During the pursuit of the ice industry, the waters of Lake Chautauqua have been rated as the purest water in the state”, said Ward. “It’s a big difference with now.”

Overall, Ward said the hardest part of writing her books was the research.

“I make sure to put footnotes in all my books,” said Ward. “I use several different online sources, including stories and local newspaper archives. You can use keywords and find almost anything there.

When he’s not writing, Ward enjoys being a tour guide at the Bemus Point Lawson Boating Heritage Center.

“This family has been around for 100 years, maintaining and building boats,” said Ward.

Currently, Ward’s books are in the Ashville General Store and the Boating Heritage Center. He is working on making them available at the Cheesehouse.

Ward said the Chautauqua County area is a good place to find lots of interesting history.

“It’s a great place for history, and if you haven’t learned it yet, you should go and learn a little about it,” said Ward. “If you don’t know where you come from, you won’t know where you are going. It is important to have a historical perspective.

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Lola R. McClure