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Location / Directions / Maps

Location: Southeast of the city of Fredonia; hamlet of Laona; town of Pomfret; Chautauqua County; New York.

Maps: Google MapTopographic; Interactive map.

GPS: Laona Falls: (N 42.42088 / W 79.31002)

Directions: Take US-20 into Fredonia.
Turn onto County Tourism Route 73 (Water St) and head south for 1.7 miles.
Turn left onto Webster Rd. Before the next intersection, you will cross over Canadaway Creek. The falls is right below this bridge.
Continue to Porter Rd and turn left.
Just past Wilson Rd is a Methodist Church and parking.

Use Google Maps.

Parking: The Laona United Methodist Church is the closest parking option. There are spaces on the left and right sides of Porter Rd and a row of spots on Wilson Rd. Obviously, if there’s a service going on, these lots may be packed.

Weather

FREDONIA WEATHER

Information / Accessibility / Accommodations

Number of falls: 1

Size/Types: The top is a man-made concrete dam, which is on the south side of the bridge. The creek then flows under the bridge and down a smooth-sloping 12 ft cascade.

Best time to visit: Year-round.

Flow: Moderate.

Waterway: Canadaway Creek, which originates about 6.5 miles southeast of here in the town of Charlotte, south of Dibble Hill. It passes through a deep valley from Arkwright to Shumla, and levels out by the time it gets to Laona. It continues north to Fredonia and eventually reaches Lake Erie at the Canadaway Creek Nature Sanctuary, west of the city of Dunkirk.

Time: A few minutes.

Seasons/Hours: Daylight hours. Year-round.

Admission: Free.

Handicap Accessibility: You can’t easily see the falls from the bridge.

Pets: Pets need to be on a leash in public.

Accommodations: Shops and restaurants can be found a mile north in Fredonia.

Description

The hamlet of Laona is located just outside of Fredonia. It’s easy to get to using US-60, which runs from Fredonia, through Laona to Jamestown.
While the falls here is tucked away under a bridge, not easy to see, it is quite beautiful. In years past, people were able to get a view from the left side, but I’m not sure if this is true anymore as the area looks overgrown on Google Street View. You may need to seek out owner permission to get the perfect view.

Hiking / Walking Trails

Difficulty: Easy.

Markings: Street signs.

Distance: About 1,000 ft from the parking area to the falls and back.

Description: From the parking lot at the Laona United Methodist Church on Porter Rd, walk south to Webster Rd.
Turn right on Webster Rd and walk to the bridge over Canadaway Creek.
The shoulder is slim here. Be mindful of traffic.
Look over the bridge to see the falls.
If the brush on the left side of the falls is clear, you may be able to get a better view, but this may be private property.

Map: Interactive.

Laona Falls Interactive Map

History

Laona was first settled by Eliphalet Burnham in 1805. He went on to establish the first cheese and butter factory in the county. He was well regarded for being generous to early settlers, putting them up while their new homes were under construction.

The falls powered a gristmill on the east side of the creek that was built in 1810 by Thomas and Hezekiah Bull, which gave the settlement the early name of Bull’s Mills. In 1812, Ebenezer Eaton constructed a carding mill, and around 1817 Thomas Bull built a woolen mill. He built a second in 1823 with Orrin Ford, and it was converted to a paper mill in 1854. A paper mill was built by Nicholas Sprague around 1828 which was later purchased by Burnham.

The name Laona came from Henry Wilson, supposedly after his wife.

By 1875, Laona had a population of 365, a train station, a hotel, a post office, 3 grocery stores, a wagon shop, 2 shoe shops, 3 blacksmith shops, a tannery, 2 quarries, Baptist church, Christian meeting house, and a school.

Spiritualism has strong roots in Laona starting in the 19th century. The community had at least 30 Mormon residents in the 1830s. In 1835, the Baptist Church in Fredonia built a church in Laona. In 1870, it was sold to the Society of Spiritualists and Free Thinkers, who established the Laona Free Church. Several traveling mediums and lecturers came to Laona to give talks, perform healings, and establish or join spiritualist organizations.

Fredonia and Laona, who were establishing strong educational foundations, found the communities divided between spiritualists and realists.

A curious anecdote from “History of Chautauqua County, New York, and Its People: Vol 1” (Published 1921):

Johnson relates that In 1834 there were in Laona and vicinity about thirty Mormons. Dr. Thomas D Mann was practicing there as a physician. A Mormon elder was sick unto death and the doctor took his three students with him on one of his visits. The elder said that he should die, but should arise from the grave the third day. One of the students whispered to the other “We will see that he does.” Unfortunately, some of the Mormons overheard this and on the third night they assembled in force to watch, and when the boys had the body partly removed the grave, they rushed upon them and succeeded in capturing one of the number. This year the Mormons removed, almost in a body, to Ohio, but they left one of their number as a witness to convict the young student. The one left had the habit of drinking, and, by a concerted effort and free whiskey, was in a profound slumber when the case was called for trial. No one appearing, the case was dismissed. It is to be doubted whether the prisoner could have been convicted for his efforts to verify the predictions of a dying saint. The accused was Dr. George S. Harrison, who for more than fifty years was one of the most influential citizens and ablest physicians in Chautauqua County. It is believed that the same trio of medical students prepared themselves for their duties by a close observation of bones and muscles of Joseph Damon, the murderer.

In 1855, the Laona Free Association was founded (actually, reorganized from a previous spiritualist organization called the Religious Society of Free Thinkers). It began as a way for spiritualists to hold social gatherings, talks, and special meetings. Meetings eventually moved to a large outdoor property on Cassadaga Lake in the nearby hamlet of Lily Dale, and become known as the Lily Dale Assembly in 1879. Lily Dale operates as a private organization and community to this day.

Laona Falls Media

Videos

YouTube video

Contributor Photos & Art

At this time I have not been able to get out to this site and photograph yet. In the meantime, those with suitable photos or original works of art, who would like to be featured here, please contact me. Photos, paintings, and illustrations would be subject to quality review, and not all will be accepted. Your work can be accompanied by a link to your site/store/insta.

Who to Contact

Town of Pomfret
716-672-7496

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