Most Finger Lakes residents have heard of the Pre-Emption Line but very few know the fascinating history of why is exists. Seneca County Historian Walter Gable explains in this episode of Our Finger Lakes History.
The Pre-Emption Line forms the boundary between Chemung (east) and Steuben (west) Counties as well as a small north-south portion of the border between Chemung (east) and Schuyler (west) Counties at the former’s northwest corner near Beaver Dams. It then forms the line between the towns of Orange (west) and Montour (east) in Schuyler County; the only roads that follows the line in this section are at the very beginning north a few miles on Widget Hill Road, and a mile of Locust Lane in Sugar Hill State Forest.
The line has no trace in Yates County; it runs north-south through Seneca Lake from a point north of Dresden.
It next appears at the north end of Seneca Lake and forms the boundary between Seneca (east) and Ontario (west) Counties to the tri-point with Wayne County; in this section it forms Pre-emption Road and most of West Town Line Road.
In Wayne County it continues north as the line between the towns of Lyons and Sodus (west) and Galen, Rose and Huron (east); small sections of roadway denote its path. The line then runs through and terminates in Lake Ontario’s Sodus Bay