Sherman Farmer Benjamin Burgess Unearths Old Mile Marker

Dairy Farmer Benjamin Burgess stands near the mile-post stone he found in his field. Photos by David Prenatt

SHERMAN — Chautauqua County has a lot of history just waiting to be unearthed.

Sherman dairy farmer Benjamin Burgess found that out literally when he turned up a stone road sign while plowing a field along Route 430 near Findley Lake.

The stone, a post mile-marker, once informed travelers that they were 14 miles from Mayville and a half mile from Mina. The words are cut into the flat, rectangular stone compete with directional arrows.

Burgess said the stone was buried about 20 inches beneath the surface.

“I thought it was a gravestone at first,” he said. This was a natural thought since his property lies across Route 430 from the Mina Cemetery.

Burgess, who has lived there for 32 years, said the stone turned up near the road in a tract of land he purchased years ago from John Meeder, who bought the land at an auction.

Before that, the land had been owned by Burgess’ neighbor Jay Bowen, who had inherited it from his father, Luther Bowen. After Luther purchased the land, they built a house for Bowen’s sister on the site where the stone was found.

The question remains: why was this stone located at this point? Bowen said it could have been related to a horse racetrack that was said to have been located on the 17-acre plot where the stone was found.

Bowen said his father, Luther, bought the property in 1942. When they were digging the foundation for his sister’s house, they found a wooden water pipe, about two inches in diameter, he said.

“That’s what fed water to the horses and the clubhouse,” Bowen said. “That pipe was running good clear water when they dug the footer.”

Bowen said he doesn’t know of any record that exists today from the racetrack. The people who lived in the area when his father bought the land said it had existed. Bowen’s father passed the information on to him.

Now all that remains is a stone.