Imagine being 24 years old and hacking your way through a practically untouched wilderness until you come upon the shores of Cazenovia Lake. There, you survey thousands of acres, clear the land and start a community in a place inhabited only by Native American tribes and untouched by the “civilized” society to which you are accustomed. This is what John Lincklaen, a young Dutchman and agent for the Holland Land Company, did in 1792 for his employer and friend, Theophilus de Cazenove. Upon first reaching the shores of Cazenovia Lake, Lincklaen wrote to Cazenove, “situation superb, fine land” — and these words still echo throughout Cazenovia 225 years later.
Lincklaen, who not only founded Cazenovia but was its most influential citizen for 30 years, received a long-overdue recognition of his place in local history last weekend when a statue depicting him when he first arrived in this area was unveiled at Lakeland Park. The statue, titled “Lincklaen’s Vision,” was the brainchild of local residents Paul Brooks and Paul Parpard, and sculpted by Penn Yan artist Dexter Benedict.
This honor, this recognition of Lincklaen’s place in Cazenovia history, is, as he said of this land centuries ago, indeed, superb. The bronze statue of Lincklaen sitting on a rock, looking east toward what is now Albany Street, sketching his vision for a community, imbues strength, vision and inspiration. More than 130 people attended the unveiling ceremony on Oct. 20, and the approval of and pride in this new addition to our community was palpable.
The statue immediately reminded us of a portion of the Louis L’Amour poem, “Biography in Stone”:
Out of that stolid stone his mind had thought
To create something grand that would remain,
A silent symbol of the strength of men,
To last through many years — a guardian
Of the sands whose tranquil brow was evidence
That here Man dreamed, and dreaming dealt with stone,
Carving the greatness and the majesty of Man
Into this timeless form to leave behind
A mute protest against futility.
While L’Amour’s poem is about a man who carves a giant effigy out of a mountain side in the desert — not casts a bronze sculpture for placement in a village park — the meaning and emotion is the same: There is a greatness in all people, despite our imperfections, and only by daring to dream, by having the courage and intrepidity to take on great tasks can we achieve that greatness. John Lincklaen struggled through a wilderness and founded a community that has endured for 225 years. We honored him this past weekend and have erected his figure in our village to remind and inspire us all of what can be achieved if we only believe in ourselves and try. That is a noble message, and one we hope everyone who looks upon the visage of Mr. Lincklaen will see.