Jamesville Beach: Pasture turned swimming hole

Even after having to cough up $150 to fix a family gravestone, Jamesville resident Henry White Jr. still happily tells his family's history.

That history includes a statue of a half-naked woman sitting atop the gravestone of John White, the one that needed repairs. Roger Baker, superintendent of the Walnut Grove Cemetery speculates that this gravestone may have shifted on its foundation due to blasts from the Jamesville Quarry, but wouldn't say for sure.

White admited he isn't positive which of his relatives picked out the statue. But Walnut Grove, on East Seneca Turnpike, is home to a long line of White's ancestors. His most notable ancestor is his aunt, Laura White. Henry said she never received credit for founding Jamesville Beach Park.

Imagine a Jamesville without the beach -- would the summer really be the same without activities such as fishing, disc golf, or swimming? Would there even be a Coors Light Balloon Fest, were there no beach? It's safe to say Jamesville just wouldn't be the same.

Henry spoke of the old days, when the local spot where everyone went to swim was at the dam on the Jamesville Reservoir. He and his cousin Lois Anderson said that for a long time the dam was a dangerous, unsupervised swimming area, and that many people died either jumping or falling off the dam.

This caught the attention of Henry's Aunt Laura, who was a nurse and a member of the local 4-H club at the time.

Born in 1897, Laura is known to have worked long and hard to improve the Jamesville community. Aside from getting the Red Cross to come out to Jamesville to teach swimming lessons for the first time, she was the first to inquire about a new, safer swimming hole on the Jamesville Reservoir.

Farmer Frank Keough used the land where the beach now sits as cow pastures. After negotiations with Keough and the county, Laura convinced Keough to sell the land to the county and set up a safe swimming area, complete with a water safety-training program.

Anderson said that the creation of the park also had largely to do with the 4-H club, a part of the Cornell Cooperative Extension service that works to improve the quality of life in rural communities. 4-H involves bringing the youth together to work on volunteer projects within their community, learn skills and practice leadership development.

Anderson added there was talk at one point of naming the Jamesville Beach after her mother, Laura, but nothing became of it.

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