Sunday, December 21, 2008

1822 Original Rochester Aqueduct

Submitted by Richard Palmer

Lyons Advertiser, Aug. 2, 1822

The Erie Canal.

Aqueduct across Genesee River. - This important work is placed
on a rapid of some length, and about twenty-four feet fall, which is
formed by one of those rolls of land, and barriers of hidden rock,
which, though at several miles distance from it, evidently mark the
course and sinuosities of the shore of Lake Ontario; and is perhaps
the most elevated ramification of land and rock which protrudes from
the natural bank known by the name of the Big Ridge.

On the lower part of this rapid, and within half a mile of the
great falls of Genesee, in the village or Rochester, is the point
selected for the erection of this structure. The bed of the river
here is solid silicious lime rock, nearly allied to that kind called
swine stone. The eastern shore is nearly precipitous; the western is
shelving; and the whole distance across is about 600 feet, over which
the aqueduct is now erecting.

Against the eastern shore the work commences with an abutment,
which will average about 20 feet in thickness, and about 6 in height;
from these the arches spring, of which there will be nine, of 50 feet
span. The first five of these are supported on piers, which, from the
shelving position of the bed of the river, will be from 8 to 4 1-2
feet high; their length is 36 feet 6 inches, including at each end a
pedestal, surmounted by a dome, out of which rises a pilaster,
connected and bound into the parapet walls of the aqueduct.

In planting these piers, extraordinary caution is used to
secure the permanency of the structure, by bolting the courses to the
rock below, and to each other; and by cramping them at the joints in
such manner as to ensure nearly as much strength as is combined in an
unbroken stone. The arches are three feet thick at their foot, and
diminish to and a half at the apex; they rise eleven feet, and their
length is twenty-six feet and six inches. The ends of each arch, or
as they are termed, 'the rings,' are cut in rustic, and projected one
inch, to prevent the superincumbent pressure from abrading the quoins
of the joints.

The materials of which this work is constructed are red
sandstone and gray silicious limestone. The sandstone is of a hard
texture, and is procured about three miles from Rochester, on the
banks of the Genesee river, in blocks of two feet and a half to three
feet and a half in thickness, and three to seven feet long; the
limestone is brought from a quarry near the head of Irondequoit bay,
also distant about three miles. These stones are cut into their
required forms at the quarries, and when transported to the aqueduct
are fit for use, without additional labor.

Above the crown of the arch, and at that point where the bottom
of the aqueduct meets the level of the canal, is a belt, or plinth,
running through the whole length of the structure, and projected
about three inches beyond the walls, above which are to rise the
parapet walls. These are to be five feet hight, five or six feet
thick at their base, and to fall back, or batter, on the inside, one
foot. All these parts of the work are to be of the best cut stones,
as well as the piers, spandrells, pilastres, and arches; they are to
be laid in the best water cement, and the interstices in every part
completely saturated with grout made of the same material.

The whole of this important work, when finished, will contain
11 or 12,000 perches, in which will be 48 or 50,000 feet of well cut
stone. In addition to the arches above described, the work will be
prolonged at each end, from the river to a certain distance, in order
to include within its extent two race-ways; one excavated on the west
side by Col. Rochester, and one on the east side, by Messrs. Johnson
and Seymour, to convey water to the numerous and very valuable
hydraulic works, with which the banks are studded, immediately below
the aqueduct, and the water for which must pass under the aqueduct,
through sunken culverts of about 25 or 30 feet span.

After passing the culvert on the east side, a wall in
continuation, extends about 120 yards, nearly at a right angle with
the aqueduct, and parallel to the race on that side, the object of
which is to secure the canal bank and water, and effectually separate
them from the afore-said race. Still lower, and parallel to the
above, is another wall, which unites with the parapet wall of the
aqueduct, at the south end of the culvert, and which it became
necessary to build, for the purpose of separating the race from the
Genesee river. The length of this wall is about 800 feet, and it
encloses an embankment for the greater security of the race.

The great work was contracted for and begun by Capt. William
Brittin, of Auburn, in 1821. He commenced his operations on it, but
died suddenly, while it was only in a partial state of preparation.
It has since been placed by contract in the hands of Mr. Alfred
Hovey, of Montezuma, to whose energetic exertions and intelligence,
together with those of the principal builder, Mr. John W. Hayes, the
public is looking with the most implicit confidence for the
completion of this important and interesting undertaking.

So far as the work has yet advanced, they have paid the most
careful attention to the plans and model of the structure; and their
skill in the execution of it, as well as their zeal for its
accomplishment, has not been surpassed, and I think rarely


Monday, December 15, 2008

Show Me the Money

1830. The nefarious Coney Island crew play the old shell game

Last time, our four pirates - one professional, one semi-pro, and two rank amateurs - their treasure of Mexican gold buried in the sands of Coney Island, were headed for Manhattan when one of the amateurs, John Brownrigg, cracked and told innkeeper Samuel Leonard and his nearby staff of the crime.

Thomas Wansley, the black steward who had first learned of the money aboard their former ship, bolted through the door and headed into nearby woods. Leonard and his staff seized the other two, ringleader Charles Gibbs and cook Robert Dawes, tied them up and sent for local justice John Van Dyck. Brownrigg decided he was better off on the side of the angels and stayed put.

An impromptu posse of one - Robert Greenwood - set off into the woods after Wansley. Finding him after an hour’s search Greenwood stuck a pistol in the steward’s face and told him to lie face down on the ground. Wansley was apparently too agitated to notice the gun was unloaded and he complied. At some point after the volunteer deputy had tied Wansleys’ hands behind his back and lead him back to the inn, he told his captive the weapon had neither a load or a gunlock, remarking that it was, “just as good’s as any other if you knowed how to use it.” The three prisoners were tossed into the Flatbush jail.

Brownrigg meanwhile directed the authorities to the spot on the beach where the money had been buried. “had been” is the operative phrase. The pirates’ new cohorts, the Johnson brothers had just been there and removed it. Authorities searched the Johnson residence but found nothing. But treachery trumped familial feeling. Some time later John Johnson and his wife slipped out on brother William and reburied the treasure once again, in two separate pits, marking the spots by tying small knots in nearby sedge grass. William went to the insurance authorities and informed on his brother; both of them ending up in court. Nothing was proved and the two brothers went their separate ways. When a sufficient amount of time had passed John made his way back to Pelican Beach. Surprise - no knotted grass. He found one horde, recovering three thousand dollars. The other $1600 was gone. Mr. and Mrs. John Johnson soon disappeared as well, taking the money with them into oblivion. It’s likely William Johnson never saw any of it.

We jump ahead to April 22, 1831. On an island in New York harbor where Lady Liberty would one day raise her torch (some reports say Ellis Island), Thomas Wansley and Charles Gibbs danced - briefly - suspended above the ground by their necks.

Jumping ahead again - in 1878 the Brooklyn Union Argus reported that a fisherman named Johnson, “A son of the Johnson who resided on Barren Island at the time of the mutiny”, lost his anchor off Brooklyn. He searched for it for three days before snagging . . . And here the archivist who uncovered the article reported, “rest of article is missing.” Aaaargh ! ! !

One clue is found in the headline - “RECOVERY OF BURIED MONEY”. Check your attics. If you find a copy of the January 12th, 1878 Union Argus, please get in touch.

© 2006 David Minor / Eagles Byte

Friday, December 12, 2008

Woodburners on Auburn Railroad

From Richard Palmer

Auburn Citizen, June 17, 1928

Retired Engineman Tells of Early Days of Old Wood Burners on Auburn Road

Recounting stories of railroading in days of old on the Auburn road,
John R. Burke, native Auburnian now residing in Newark, tells an
interesting tale in the New York Central Magazine.

Mr. Burke, who began his career 51 years ago, starting with the New
York Central 11 years later came unharmed through the early days of
primitive equipment and was retired as engineman on the Syracuse
Division early this year. His reminiscences follow:

Born December 11, 1857, at Auburn, N.Y., and brought up there, I
entered the service of the New York Central Railroad in November,
1872, on the old Auburn work train.

There was a gang of 20 to 25 men on the train. I did the same work as
the other men, and received the same wages - $1.50 for 12 hours;
work. I was not yet 15 years old, and I never was a water boy. I
flanged the track in winter with wooden shovels before there was any
such thing as a flanger car. I picked and shoveled gravel in Half-Way
Gravel Pit before there was any steam shovel, and more than one day I
had to sit in a snow bank and eat frozen food when noon-time came.

Dan Shapcott was the engineer and was also the conductor who hired
and discharged the men, kept the time of the men and supervised all
the work. His engine was the 206. Our working territory was from
Syracuse to Geneva. Hank Hall was road maser and he had two brothers
- "Ed," section foreman at Cayuga, and "O.J.," conductor of the
Canandaigua work train. Commodore Vanderbilt was president and
William H. Vanderbilt, his son, was vice president then. James
Tillinghast was general superintendent with offices at Syracuse, and
from Syracuse to Rochester was a division of on both the main line
and the Auburn road.

Twenty-five to 30 cars (with not more than 10 tons of freight in each
car) comprised a train in those days, DeWitt freight yard was not yet
thought of at that time. Henry Ward was station agent at Auburn in
those days, and I succeeded his son, Kilbourne Ward, as yardmaster at
Auburn, when he went to the M.D. T. people at Syracuse.(1)
Coupling Cars at Auburn.

In the spring of 1873 I went coupling cars in Auburn yard with the
pin and link, crooked link and chain link, and dead blocks, the most
dangerous cars that ever were built. At this time thee were passenger
car shops in Auburn for building and repairing passenger cars and
painting and varnishing them. The foreman's name was William Johnson.
There also was a blacksmith shop for mending rails, as the ends of
the rails would get battered down, and then would have to be taken
out and repaired. No steel rails in those days.

Tom Munsell was boss blacksmith. William B. Munsell, a son, was
pensioned two months ago in Buffalo as an engineman. These shops
stood where the freight house now stands, from Seymour Street to
Chapel Street, and they were built by the old Auburn & Syracuse
Railroad when John H. Chedell of Auburn was president. Afterwards
consolidation took place and the line was called the New York Central.

Early Passenger Engines.

Who is there now that remembers those passenger engineers of the
several entities that ran over the Auburn road in the days when I
worked with them? There was Hank Case on engine 194, John Kinney,
fireman; Charley Simonds, engine 26; Ed. Morriott, fireman; Bill Pike
and Dave Campbell, engines 102 and 535; R. Peters, fireman; Jack
Baker, engine 104; Charley Chapman, fireman, and Mace Gibson, engine
68; Tommy Crummy, fireman, who got killed going down around the
"Alps" one night. His engine struck a big stone that rolled onto the
track, and he got caught in the gang-way when engine and tender came

Then there was Engineer Belty, engine 154, who went down in a washout
coming into Geneva one Saturday night, going west in March, 1873.
Belty and his fireman got killed. I worked at the wreck the next day.

Some Old-Time Enginemen.

I remember Engineer Shafer on engine 327; Charley Thomas, engine 112;
Leander Wright, engine 103; Frank Dana, fireman, and Mike Lynn, extra
passenger engineer of Rochester.

Some of the freight engineers that I knew in those days and worked
with: Charley Hogan (of 999 fame) then running engine 410; Joe Lipe
and John Thompson, engine 493; Bob Shannon, 404; Emps Belden, 405;
Tom Baker, 409; Ed McGrale, (Stone Wall) 411; Lute Eldridge, 413;
Bill Cone, 415; Jimmy Gould, 330; Johnny Coffee, 323; Dick Pyles,
299; Cale Cherry, 398; Dick Bishop, 121; Harry Watkeys, 331; Jack
Mack, fireman; Ben Balbou, 357; Connie Murphy, 184; Billy Pellynze,
302; Al Pugsley, 353; Billy Owens, 377; Johnnie Cool, 363; Curley
Simpson, 344; Billy Emels, 324; Engineer Bradley, 225.

The first engine that I coupled cars after was number 107, a wood
burner. Billy Godwin was engineer. Afterwards I worked on engines 56,
37 and 130. The road at this time was going from wood to coal in the
engines, and wood was being burned in passenger coach stoves.

On Chicago & North Western.

In 1879 I went to the Chicago & North Western as fireman on the
Wisconsin Division out of Chicago, running between Chicago and
Milwaukee, Fondu Lac, Oshkosh, Harvard Junction and Janesville. I was
firing three years and in the Spring of 1882 I was promoted to
engineer, and the first engine I ran was the 284 Mogul road engine.
On December 30, 1884, I came to the New York, West Shore & Buffalo as
engineer, running between Buffalo and Syracuse on through freight. In
the Spring of 1885 I as put on through freight between Newark and
Frankfort, a 109-mile run.

In the Summer of 1885, I was ordered to take the pusher engine at
Oneida Castle, and remained thee about 18 months. I then went drawing
through freight between DeWitt and Coeymans Junction on the Mohawk
Division. My next run was on a pick-up train between Newark and
Syracuse, and after some time I went drawing fast freight and extra
passenger between Buffalo and Syracuse. When I left this run I took
the yard job at Newark, with passenger relief work, and in 1892 was
given a regular passenger train out of Buffalo, but did not take it,
as I did not want to live in Buffalo.

Two Sons Also in Service.

In 1914 I was transferred to Lyons where I remained until I was
pensioned on Jan. 1. I was railroading 55 years and one month, 45
years as locomotive engineman. My father and three brothers besides
myself have worked for the New York Central, and I have two boys who
are enginemen at the present time - Earl and Harold Burke, running
out of DeWitt and the Syracuse Division. My father worked for the New
York Central 35 years, starting in 1848.

Engines Named and Numbered.

In my early days on the Auburn branch of the New York Central quite a
number of the engines retained their names as well as their number. I
remember the John Wilkinson was no. 100. The General Gould was the
101. The Young America was 53, and the John H. Chedell, 54. The C.C.
Dennis was the 26 and the Daniel Drew was No. 11.
I also knew Bill Gould who ran engine 125, and Jim Wood who ran
engine 110 on the main line. What two beautiful looking engines they
were! The clappers in their bells were "case-hardened" and when the
bells were ringing you would be delighted to listen to them. I would
like to hear such bells again.

Jim Wood was about the nerviest engineer in his day on the New York
Central. It was he who always drew Commodore Vanderbilt and his son,
William H. Vanderbilt, when they came over the road on the Western
Division. He made the run from Syracuse to Rochester, 81 miles, in 82
minutes one time before the days of air brakes. Nowadays it is
consoling to the engineman to know that he has a powerful and quick-
acting air brake at his left hand.

The smallest engine I ever saw on the New York Central was No. 12 at
Auburn. She was a wood-burner and had only one driving wheel on a
side, and she could only handle four or five cars at a time with only
10 tons of freight in each car. Billy Goodwin was the engineer and he
had to do his own firing. (2)

And now I come to the half-way posts on the Auburn road of the New
York Central. In my early days there were posts erected near the side
of the track halfway between stations and they were called the half-
way posts with signs on them reading "Half-Way."

The time-card rule in those days said that eastbound trains had the
right of road over westbound trains until they were 15 minutes late.
Then if a westbound train did not see the eastbound coming, it would
pull out against the other without any orders whatever, and the train
that got to the half-way post first was the best man.

The other train had to back up to the next station. Of course if the
eastbound engineer was running late he would expect the westbound
pulling against him, and I have seen the time where both engineers
would see the other one coming, but would still keep moving toward
the post, and I have seen where one would beat the other by the
length of his pilot. I have seen the engineer of the westbound send a
brakeman out on the front end of the engine, and hold a coat over the
headlight, so that the other engineer would not see him coming until
he got near the post. There were no air brakes in those days, all
hand brakes, and in a movement of this kind every man was at his
post, and I never heard of any accident happening.

Every Man to His Own Engine.

Telegraph offices in those days were not as close as at the present
time, and it would be from some station where there was no telegraph
office that such movements would take place. In the daytime the
engineer would watch for the smoke of the other fellow, and for his
headlight at night. Back in those days Skaneateles Junction, Auburn,
Cayuga, Geneva and Canandaigua were wood stations brought there by
wood contractors.

Back in those days every engineer had a regular engine, and no one
ran her but the regular assigned engineer. There were no injectors in
those days that you could depend on. Every engine had two pumps, one
on each side, to put water in the boiler when the engine was moving.
Engineers had to pack their own pistons, valve stems and pumps, also
all cocks in the cab, and take care of the headlight.

(1) Merchants Dispatch Transportation Company specialized in the
transport of refrigerated perishable goods in refrigerator cars. It
was organized in 1871 and essentially was a subsidiary of the New
York Central Railroad.

(2) This was a 4-2-0, the "Providence," built for the Auburn &
Rochester Railroad by Norris Locomotive Works of Philadelphia in
1842. Later New York Central #180. Cylinders 10" x 20" 48' drivers,
weight, 20,000 lbs.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Western / Central New York timeline - 1000-1619



The approximate date of an Algonkin village on the Genesee River at Oak Hill (later part of Rochester's southeast neighborhood).


Jan 12
Guyford Dufflo Bononieufis of Italy reportedly makes a violin. Three hundred and fifty
years later it will turn up in the possession of C. Chauncey Orsburn of St. Helena, New

French explorer Jacques Cartier hears of curative waters to be found in the future Saratoga Springs area, while exploring the St. Lawrence River. He may also hear of a great falls (Niagara) to the west.

The Rochester Family is granted the use of a family coat of arms.

The approximate date the Seneca in the western Finger Lakes begin branching off, migrating both to the northeast and the northwest.

The Huron prophet and philosopher Deganawidah, assisted by Ha-yo-went'-ha (Hiawatha), unites the Cayuga, Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga and Seneca tribes into the Iroquois Confederacy.

The population of the five nations of the Iroquois is somewhere under 20,000. The Seneca account for under 10,000. ** From now on most kettles traded with the St. Lawrence area Indians are made of brass, rather than copper.

Champlain hears of a great waterfall (Niagara) at the western end of Lake Ontario.

King Henry of Navarre grants to a favorite all North American lands north of the 40th parallel (New France).

Champlain learns from the Hurons and Algonquins of a large lake to the west (Ontario).

The approximate date Etienne Brulé, sent west by Champlain with furs traded from the Huron, passes through the Genesee River area and is captured by Senecas and tortured, saved only when a thunderstorm frightens them and they release him. He winters over in western Ontario.

Samuel de Champlain, working from notes made by his scout Etienne Brulé, makes the first map of Lake Ontario, showing the Genesee River.

Oct 8
Samuel de Champlain discovers Oneida Lake.

Champlain, accompanying Etienne Brulé, traces the St. Larwence and Ottawa rivers to Lake Huron, becomes the first white to discover the Great Lakes. He reportedly meets some Ojibwe at a Huron camp. When he returns to the New York area he accompanies a band of Hurons on an attack against the Iroquois near Oneida Lake at Nichols Pond, and is wounded. He winters over with the Hurons. Brulé explores the area around present-day Toronto and then south of Lake Ontario, passes through the Chemung Valley near Big Flats, heading for the future Waverly area. ** Champlain and Joseph le Caron discover Lake Ontario, cross from the future Kingston area to the area of the future Oswego, New York.

© 2009 David Minor / Eagles Byte

Monday, December 8, 2008

1821 Lyons Republican Canal Item

Submitted by Richard Palmer

Lyons Republican, Friday, Nov. 30, 1821

On Thursday last, the citizens of this place, were gratified with a
view of the elegant Packet-Boat, Myron Holley. She arrived at the aqueduct
on Wednesday evening, having on board a large number of persons from
Palmyra and other places adjacent to the canal. This boat is well
calculated for the accommodation of passengers, and is said to surpass any
one on the whole line of the canal. It is 80 feet in length, and 13 Ω in
width. It has two convenient rooms for passengers, and will accommodate one
hundred persons. It draws but 10 inches of water when loaded, and cost two
thousand dollars.

A great number of persons assembled to witness this truly interesting
scene. Between two and three hundred embarked on board, when she started
back for Palmyra, where she safely arrived the same evening. The banks were
literally lined with anxious spectators to behold this elegant specimen of
western enterprise. Owing to the unfavorableness of the weather the lock
and aqueduct were not in a situation to let the boat pass through,
otherwise she would have come down as far as this village. Mr. Seymour
Scovel, the owner of the boat, deserves great credit for his remitted
exertions in finishing and rendering her thus commodious.

This is the first boat of any magnitude, that has navigated the waters
of the Erie Canal, on this section, and we are not a little proud of having
it said, that even the forests of the west, have yielded to the
enterprising industry of man, and that boats of burden are now gently
gliding in the midst thereof. Every one present evinced a degree of
pleasure in witnessing, what they dreamed impracticable five years ago. The
boat is expected here again next week, should the weather prove favorable.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Cat's Out

The Remaining Coney Island Pirates Come Ashore

© 2006 David Minor / Eagles Byte

They reopened the Coney Island Parachute Jump tower earlier this month. Shut down since 1965, falling into disrepair and narrowly dodging the wrecker’s ball ever since, the 277-foot structure once again offers us a glimpse of the past glories of the Brooklyn amusement mecca looking out over Gravesend Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.

Back in November of 1830, when the four surviving pirates of the brig Vineyard struggled to stay afloat in their longboat (and to hang on to the remaining $5,000 in Mexican gold), there were no amusement park rides to light their way to shore - no Steeplechase horse race, no Cyclone roller coaster, no Wonder Thrill Wheel, no boardwalk smelling of Nathan’s hots. The hotel built here last year would have closed for the season, and no lights winked into the darkness from the structure to guide them ashore.

The killers had little choice but to sweep in with the surf and plow into the darkened, deserted stretch of beach. They hauled their loot up onto the shore, out of reach of the treacherous Atlantic waters. Using the only implement they had, the boat’s oars, they dug a pit in the sand, grabbed enough coins to suit their needs for the immediate future, and buried the remainder.

After smoothing the sand over the money they moved further on up the beach. Suddenly a fifth figure appeared out of the night. It was William S. Nicholson of nearby Gravesend. They told him of being shipwrecked nearby and Williamson directed them to the home of brothers John Johnson, his wife, and brother William. The four drenched seamen repeated the story they’d told Williamson and the Johnsons offered the men their own beds for the night. All the sudden excitement made sleep difficult for some of the company and the two Johnson boys sat up talking to Vineyard sailor John Brownrigg, by now a full-fledged member of the conspiracy, after the rest had gone to bed. Perhaps Brownigg was playing for time, looking for a way to extricate himself from future murder charges, or perhaps it was a case of ‘it takes one to know one’ - he told the two brothers the entire story. He’d judged right - the Johnsons agreed to help their nefarious guests keep the hot gold hidden.

In the morning a meeting was held and the gang of four became a gang of six (perhaps seven, we don’t know for sure about Mrs, Johsnon). The brothers had returned to the treasure site with black Vineyard steward Thomas J. Wansley, to pick up some clothing left behind the night before. The Johnsons returned home and lead the four men to a hotel on Sheepshead Bay where they could catch a ferry into New York. Then, as pre-arranged, the brothers returned to the burial spot, dug the money up and reburied it further along the beach, afterwards walking away out in the ebbing and flowing surf, to obliterate their footprints.

Gathered at the hotel in Sheephead Bay with innkeeper Samuel Leonard, Brownrigg suddenly snapped under the pressure and, before anyone could silence him, blurted out the whole story. All hell broke out, as we’ll see next time.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Launch of the Myron Holley

Submitted by Richard Palmer

Western Farmer, Palmyra, Nov. 21, 1821

THE LAUNCH. - On the morning of the 15th inst. it was verbally
announced to the inhabitants of this village, that the new and
elegant Packet Boat built here by Seymour Scovell, Esq. would be
launched in the course of the day. This information, together with
the repeated discharge of cannon, immediately drew together a large
collection of citizens to witness this interesting transaction.

About 11 o'clock A.M. a procession was formed at the Eagle
Hotel, under the direction of Col. Thomas Rogers 2d, who acted as
Marshal on the occasion, and moved, preceded by a band of music, to
the Boat, which then rested on the ways, confined only by pulleys
from its destined element. While in this situation, it was occupied
by a number of gentlemen, among whom were those who had been
requested to deliver an address and to read the toasts prepared for
the occasion.

A gun was then fired as the signal for loosening the ropes,
when the Boat gently glided into the water, amidst the reiterated
cheers of numerous spectators - the animating notes of the
instrumental and martial music, and the reverberating thunder of

The Boat's name was then announced by the proprietor, which we
think highly appropriate, and creditable not only to Mr. Scovell, but
to that section of the Canal on which it is destined to ride. - Its
name is the MYRON HOLLEY.

After the general joy had somewhat subsided, and the people
called to order, a laconic, animated, and truly appropriate address
was pronounced from the Boat, by I. J. Richardson, Esq. which was
answered with three cheers and a gun.

The following toasts were next called for, which were read,
accompanied by music and the discharge of cannon.

1. The Packet Boat Myron Holley - Destined to ride in the road
which the man whose name it bears has been preeminently engaged in
erecting - may its usefulness and public accommodations answer the
most sanguine expectations of its proprietors.

2. The Canal - Conceived in wisdom, promoted by patriotism, and
executed with ability and integrity.

3. The 15th of November 1821 - Rendered memorable by the
launch of the Myron Holley - may the inhabitants of Palmyra at future
anniversaries, remember with gratitude the individual whose exertions
have produced this event.

4. Commissioners and Engineers - Selected for their wisdom,
ability and integrity - may their faithful exertions secure the
applause and gratitude which they so richly merit.

5. The Contractors - Their industry and enterprise merit the
gratitude of, and an ample recompence from, the government.

6. The State of New-York - Pre-eminently great in its resources
and magnanimity.

7. The Governor and constituted authorities of the State of New

8. The master builder of the Boat, Mr. Hamlet Almsbury - his
skill and industry merit a further patronage.

After partaking of some refreshment, upwards of two hundred of
the company present, went on board the Myron Holley, and proceeded
west on the Canal, to the first lock, a distance of about three
miles, which, owing to the paddle gates not being hung, was then
impassable. While in this lock, built by Darius Comstock, Esq.
several volunteer toasts were given in commendation of this
gentleman's skill and industry, which the elegance and fitness of the
work so strikingly evinced.

On the way to and from the lock, the passengers were delighted,
not only with the sweet shrill notes of the bugle and other
appropriate music on board, but the novelty of the scene, with
beholding the banks of the Canal, its bridges, and the windows and
doors of every dwelling they passed, lined with admiring spectators.

On their return, about one hundred of the company on board,
repaired to the Eagle Hotel, where they partook of an elegant supper,
prepared by Maj. Wm. Rogers for the occasion.

The Myron Holley is said to be the best and most elegant boat
on the Canal. It is well calculated for the accommodation of
passengers, for which it is particularly designed. It will make daily
excursions on the Canal, Sundays excepted, as long as the weather
will permit.

We learn that the upper lock is now completed, and that the the
repairs found necessary to be made on Mr. Cluse's job about one mile
east of this village, will be in a few days be finished, which will
open a navigation of about 28 miles on this section. The Canal
through the marshes at Montezuma, owing to the uncommon wet weather
during the latter part of the season, will not be ready to receive
the water before next spring.

Monday, December 1, 2008

More Early Erie Canal Items

Submitted by Richard Palmer

Geneva Gazette. June 30, 1819

Montezuma bridge, between the village of that name, and the town
of Mentz, over the Seneca River and marshes, Onondaga county, extends
three miles! It is said to be the longest bridge in the world. This
is the third bridge over the Cayuga and Seneca river, in the space
of seven miles, and remarkably shows the progress of improvement in
this part of our country.

Ontario Repository, Canandaigua, Tuesday, Nov. 27, 1821

The last Palmyra paper gives us the particulars of the
proceedings at that place, on the 15th inst. in launching a new and
elegant Packet Boat, built by Mr. Seymour Scovel, for the conveyance
of passengers, and finished in a style and with accommodations
superior to any boat heretofore used on the canal.

The proceedings evince the same lively interest that is always
felt in whatever relates to this great inland communication. As she
glided into the waters of the can, the air resounded with the cheers
of numerous spectators, the animating strains of music, and the roar
of cannon.

The proprietor then announced her name, the MYRON HOLLEY. A
short and suitable address was then delivered from the boat, by
Israel J. Richardson, Esq. after which the company partook an
excursion of a few miles down the canal, in this novel mode of
conveyance. In the evening, about 100 of the party partook of a
supper prepared for the occasion by Col. Rogers.

The Canal is now navigable on this section, from the Irondquot
(cq) in Pittsford, to within a mile of Lyons - about 28 miles.

Lyons Advertiser, Friday, August 2, 1822

The Canal Completed through the Cayuga Marshes. - By the
following, from a valued correspondent at Montezuma, it will be seen
that the great work of excavating the canal through the Cayuga
Marshes, is at length completed, and that the navigation is now
uninterrupted between this village and the middle section.

Montezuma, 31st July, 1822

Mr. Day - Yesterday I had the satisfaction of passing of
passing from Clyde through the celebrated Cayuga Marshes, on the Erie
Canal, in the first boat ever borne by the waters of that part of the
line. The waters had been let let into the canal from Clyde to the
west end of the Marsh level, the evening before; but they did not
reach the lock which separates the Marsh level from the Clyde level
more than 3 hours before the arrival of the Packet in which I travelled.

The passage was pleasant, and highly enjoyed by a large number
of persons. At the lock we were a little delayed, inconsequence of
the paddle gates not being entirely completed. They were, however,
soon put into a condition to admit us pass; and as out boat went out
of the lock, we gave three cheers, which were cordially returned by a
large number of persons on land.

On the marsh the water in the canal was more than five feet
deep, except at four or five bars, which had not been wholly
removed. The length of the marsh level is about six and a half miles,
and as it is watered by the Seneca and Cayuga lakes, which lie above
it to the south, the whole excavation of this level, to the depth of
five feet below the surface of the water, without any possibility of
draining it, - consisting as it does almost exclusively of muck, marl
and quicksand, must have been a work of prodigious difficulty.

But the excavation is done, except the bars above mentioned,
which it is said will all be removed in three days; - and there is
now opened a free passage by the canal, from the middle section into
Ontario county as far as Lyons, without the necessity of any portage
or change of boats.

The canal at present is not navigable farther west than Lyons,
in consequence of the extreme drought in this quarter, the streams
being now more shrunk and exhausted than they have been for twenty
years before. Still, a moderate rain would at once make the Canal
navigable to Heartwell's basin, in Monroe county; - and without rain,
there is no doubt that when the feeder from the Genesee River is
brought across the Irondequot embankment, the navigation will be good
and unbroken from Rochester to the Little Falls - and that embankment
is intended to be completed in the middle of September next. I have
been from the first a decided advocate of the canal, but being well
acquainted with the character of the country through which it runs, I
could not help regarding certain parts with peculiar anxiety, and
even with some doubt of their practicability. Of these points the
Cayuga Marsh was one.

But this part of the line is actually completed, and I have had
the satisfaction of passing through it, in one of the largest and
best packet boats now in use, the Myron Holley. The canal through the
marsh is broad and deep, and has every appearance of being permanent.
There is a good towing path through it, and if that part of the canal
is most beautiful where the straight lines are the longest, and where
the banks are highest and most regular, then this part of the great
work will be considered as more beautiful than any portion of it
hitherto completed.

The boat will start on its return through the marsh to Lyons,
in a few minutes, which prevents my giving you several more
particulars of this most extraordinary and interesting part of the
Respectfully yours, & c.

G ---- L ----

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Early Erie Canal news items

Submitted by Richard Palmer

Geneva Gazette, Wed., Aug. 30, 1815

Seneca Locks. - We have the satisfaction to state, that on the
23rd inst. the first Boat (about 70 feet in length) went through the
two upper locks on the Seneca Falls, loaded with upwards of one
hundred persons. In presence of a great number of spectators,
collected from different parts of the country.

The boat having entered the Guard Lock, went through the new
Canal, nearly 3-4ths of a mile in length, and descended the two Locks
in 25 minutes; then turned about in the Seneca river and re-ascended
the Locks, in 9 minutes - all which no doubt will be accomplished
hereafter in much less time, considering that every thing was new,
and managed by hands unacquainted with Lock navigation concerns, the
architect, Mr. Marshal Lewis, excepted, whose faithful exertions
deserve the highest praise.

The workmanship of these Locks, as it respects solidity and
neatness, is probably not exceeded by any heretofore construction.
The Locks, Canals and Dams, as far down as Col. Mynderse's old mills,
will no doubt be completed before winter, and the remainder, near
and below the Col's. new mills, will in all probability pass
inspection by the middle of next season. The completion of these
Locks will be important - not only as it respects the advantages
which this village will derive from it, but in particularly, the
convenience of transportation for the immense country west of this.

Geneva Gazette, July 17, 1822

We are informed that in consequence of the lowness of the water
in this section of the canal, it is to be drawn off the upper levels,
beyond Palmyra, and that until the embankment at Mann's Mills is
completed, and the waters of the Genesee river let into the, the
navigation will not extend farther westward than Palmyra.

Geneva Palladium, Wed., Aug. 28, 1822

Steam Boat. - On Saturday last, Mr. Battle, the projector and
builder of the Steam-boat, Mohawk Chief, took on board a number of
citizens and a few hands who are acquainted with the navigation of
the Mohawk, and started up the river, for the purpose of trying the

And although not half the power of steam (as represented by the
engineer) was applied, which the machinery is calculated to bear,
still se went off in fine style, till she came to a rapid, called by
the boatmen knock-em stiff; this she ascended, though not with the
same velocity, as she is calculated to do when her machinery is

After having handsomely passed the rapid, she was hove about
and proceeded down the river about two miles below the city, when she
began o hove about and returned to her moorings.

During this trial, she was propelled by power applied to wheels
fixed in her stern; Mr. B. not yet having completed that part of the
machinery, calculated for rapids, which is by two setting poles on
each side of the boat, to be worked by the power of steam. -
Schenectady Cabinet.

Geneva Palladium, Nov. 6, 1822

From the Utica Gazette

The aqueduct across the Mohawk Rover, at Little Falls, was
finished last week and filled with water. This is a structure of
considerable magnitude, built entirely of stone, in point of solidity
and beauty, probably not exceeded by any work of the kind in the
United State. It forms a connection between the Erie Canal and the
old cut on the opposite side of the river, and answers the double
purposes of opening a communication to the village of Little Falls,
and of feeding the canal with water.

A Marble slab , with the following inscription, executed in a
very handsome style by Mr. Erastus Cross, of this village, is placed
in the parapet wall over the centre in the principal arch.

COMMENCED AUG. 23 - COmpleted Oct. 15.
Canal Commissioners.
HENRY SEYMOUR, Acting Commissioner,
BENJAMIN WRIGHT, Chief Engineer.

Geneva Palladium, Nov. 13, 1822

Erie Canal. - The water has been let into the Canal from Little
Falls to Schoharie Creek, east, and west from Genesee river to
Monezuma, making about 200 miles of uninterrupted canal navigation.
Boats are now arriving at Utica, from Rochester. There is every
reason to believe the Canal will, in a few days, be opened to
Schenectady. - Ib.

Geneva Palladium, Nov. 13, 1822

Several boats loaded with flour, left this village (Rochester) las
week for Little Falls by the Canal, and there were also some
arrivals. We understand there is some wan of water between this place
and Montezuma, which will probably soon be supplied.
A collector's office is to be opened in this village, during
the present week, for the purpose of receiving tolls of boats,
arriving and departing. D.S. Bates, Esq. is appointed Collector. The
embankment at Irondequoit, answers the highest expectations, and is
thus far found to be durable and permanent. - Rochester Telegraph.

Geneva Palladium, Nov. 13, 1822

Ironduquot Embankment. - This interesting section of the Erie
Canal, which was first opened on the 15th inst. is distant from this
place about eleven miles. The approach to it from the west is lateral
to, and situated on an elevated roll or ridge of land, of about 80
rods in length, which rises from the bed of Ironduquot creek, and
forms one of its banks, and is, in its turn, used to form one side of
the embankment of the Canal, till you come to the main valley of the
creek, where the course of the Canal crosses it. This natural bank
rises, generally, to within about six feet of the level of the Canal,
which is there built on it.

The valley of the Ironduquot, where the Canal must pass, is
seventy-two feet lower than the banks, and forty rods wide. The base
of the embankment constructed, is 304 feet, through which is built a
culvert, of twenty-six feet chord, with a semi-circular arch of 244
feet in length. The ground, on which this structure was placed, was a
soft, alluvial marsh: - in consequence, it became necessary to place
in on piles, of which thee are nearly one thousand.

The scenery is magnificent! While you are silently and
peacefully navigating the tops of an artificial and natural
mountains, the eye takes in, at a single glance, the whole fertile
valley of Ironduquot, and the mind expands itself to the amazing
importance of the internal improvement which this work connects, and
has now thrown into operation. The expense of the above work is
probably $40,000. - Rochester Telegraph.

Geneva Palladium, Wed., Nov. 27, 1822

Extract of a letter from a gentleman of this place (Rochester,)
traveling by the canal to Weed's Basin, dated Nov. 11.

"The boats from Rochester to this place (Weed's Basin) are now
making their regular trips, and arrive in time to meet the boats
every morning from Utica, thereby requiring only two days from
Rochester to utica. The The boat taking passengers from Rochester to
Pittsford, is not as capacious as might be wished, but they are fully
compensated by the elegance of the boat Myron Holley, the superior
style of the fare, and the polite and prompt attentions of the
master, Capt. Allen, which is met with at the last mentioned place;
and I am informed that the accommodations on board Mr. Culver's boat
are equally good. I understand an arrangements on board Mr. Culvert's
boat are equally good. I understand an arrangement is to be made for
running these two boats alternately, which, when completed, will make
a daily line from our place, of a mode of traveling which, perhaps,
is not surpassed in the state, particularly at this season of the
year." - Rochester Telegraph.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Barbara Bell's New Book

Preston Woods Publishing Co, will release Schuyler County Days Bygone by Barbara H. Bell on December 19, 2008. Barbara H. Bell is Schuyler County's longest-serving his­torian. In her fifth book on local history, Bell has combined storks and historical photos from her archives, which detail the history of the people, settlements, and local legends of the county.

"No one else has ever come close to her persistent investigating, study­ing, recording, and reporting the history of this corner ol the world," says Frank Steber. former president of the Schuyler County Historical Society and a local anchor. "For over five decades she has succeeded in gather­ing news and facts about the people, the places, and the events that have made Schuyler County what it is today."

The legend of the Seneca Lake monster, horse rustling, pioneer riving, salt mining, gold mining, wine making, and the origins of many of the settlements in Schuyler County are a sampling of the topics that appear in Schuyler County Days Bygone.

"Barbara's latest book is a great read for those interested m the region's fascinating history or just want to know more about the area in which they live - highly recommended!" says Andrew E. Tompkins, director of the Schuyler County Historical Society museum.

A book signing will be held on Friday, December 1 9, from 4 to 6 p.m., at Storylines Bookstore & Cafe, 211 N. Franklin Sr., in Watkins Glen, N.Y.

Schuyler County Days Bygone (ISBN 978-0-9725571-3-9, is a trade paperback, 338 pp, 8 1/2 x 5 1/2, $23.95.

In 1954, Barbara H. Bell started writing historical articles for local newspapers and has spend the last 54 years researching and reporting on local history. In addition to her hundreds of articles published in local and regional newspapers, she has published four previ­ous hooks on local history. In 1995, she was named outstanding historian of New York state by the Historians' Association of New York. Mrs. Bell lives in Irelandville, New York.

Barbara Bell is a featured author on the Crooked Lake review website. The CLR reprinted her book Letters to Suzanna.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Ill-Got Gains

According to Thomas J. Wansley, the black steward and cook of the brig Vineyard, he’d been on board the vessel in New Orleans when its cargo - consisting of 112 bales of cotton, 113 hogsheads of sugar, and 54 casks of molasses - was lowered into the hold. A small number of kegs were also stowed away. In later court testimony he told of hearing at the beginning of the voyage that there was a sum of money aboard. The vessel left port on November 9th, 1830, bound for Philadelphia.

Off North Carolina’s Cape Hatteras Wansley revealed the presence of the money to fellow seamen Charles Gibbs (a nefarious character signed on under the All-American alias Thomas D. Jeffers), Aaron Church, Henry Atwell and young Robert Dawes. A plot was soon hatched.

On the evening of November 23rd, the Vineyard’s captain William Thornby was on the quarter-deck observing Dawes as the teenager manned the wheel. The young sailor called below for someone to trim the wick of the binnacle light, a pre-arranged signal. Wansley arrived and, as he passed behind Thornby, grabbed a pump handle and struck the unsuspecting captain to the deck. A few more blows to the head finished the job and Gibbs came up and helped the others heave the body overboard. First mate William Roberts, having heard suspicious sounds, arrived on deck at about the same time as seaman Church. Attacked by Church and Atwell he spun around and threw himself feet first down the companionway.

Grabbing the binnacle lamp, Church, Atwell and Dawes hurtled into the dark after him. Roberts was caught, struck down by a number of blows, hauled onto deck and thrown overboard. He tried to swim back to the ship, struggling and pleading for rescue, but quickly sank below the surface.

The conspirators gathered up the two remaining crewmen, James Talbot and John Brownrigg, and threatened them with their officers’ fate unless they cooperated. As if any added incentive was necessary, a promised share in the treasure sealed the deal. The kegs were hauled on deck and the money divided, then Gibbs, understanding navigation from his background as a buccaneer in the waters off Cuba, set the Vineyard’s course for New York’s Long Island.

Arriving a dozen or so miles off Southampton, the seven loaded the money aboard a longboat and a jolly-boat, torched the Vineyard, and rowed off in the two small vessels. A strong gale out of the east blew the small flotilla rapidly along the southern shore of Long Island, in the direction of Manhattan’s Lower Bay. As they approached Rockaway Bar, running parallel to the island south of Brooklyn, they tried crossing the half-submerged spit of land. The jolly-boat was suddenly flipped, tossing Church, Talbot and Atwell into the churning waters.

Davy Jones locker gained three new residents. Not to mention $23,000 of Philadelphia consignee Stephen Girard’s coins. Gibbs, Wansley, Brownrigg and Dawes leaned into their oars, hoping to avoid a similar fate.

Amusing Stories of Old Canal Days

submitted by Richard Palmer

Lyons Republican, Oct. 26, 1950

By Edmund R. Johnson

The recent Wayne County Historical Society anniversary
celebration, at which Dr. David Ennis gave such a very interesting
talk, with photo-slides, about the old and new Erie Canal, stirred
the writer's recollections of canals and particularly those connected
with the Lyons of his boyhood.

Old-timers will remember Charlie "Tat" DeGoyler, who was one
of the local cutups, and who then clerked in Sautter's Shoe Store in
Canal street. One hot afternoon, when he had dressed up for some
evening affair, and was alone in the store, another village wag bet
him a dollar he would not dive into the canal just as he was.

Charlie immediately stepped to the rear door and took a header
into it. Back then, there was an old-timer, Theodore Crager, who
lived at the County Home. He was a veteran of the Civil War, and
used to walk or get a lift to Lyons on occasion, to get a little
liquid refreshment not on tap at the home. he had composed a long
jingle, bringing in the names of many of the Lyons citizens. It went
something like this:

"All right sir," says Colonel Kreutzer. "Not at all," says
Billy Small. ":Yes, sir," says Mr. Messmer to Jakie Kaiser,
supervisor. "I'm willing to pay a shilling for a yard of drilling,"
says William Zwilling.

"It;s going to storm," says William Bourne: "Only a shower,"
says Dr. Tower. Sully Schlee with a load of hay on his way to Sodus
Bay. On the beach he'll see Fred Leach; also Fred Gucker with a real
good looker. When you hear the sound of the big base drum, you'll
know the lager beer has come.

The above is only a sample and the complete rigamarole went on
an dos ad infinitum.

DeGolyer had memorized that nonsense and whenever he saw the old
man on the street for the first line, the composer would reply with
the next line, and they would continue it thus until the end, much to
the amusement of any newcomers in town.

Uncle Bert Hotchkiss, father of the present Bert, told me that
one of the pastimes of the boys in his time was to gather on one of
the canal bridges and night, with large stones, and make bets as to
who could drop one in the headlight of any passing boat. He also told
me how they would throw fresh cut sod into the canal, after a rain.
These would be full of worms, and would attract bullheads, insuring a
fine day's fishing the next morning.

Several years ago when I was staying on a vacation at the
Calvin Hotchkiss home on Water street, I was awakened about midday by
tremendous howls of "Whoa! Whoa! followed by a long string of
unprintable curses and name-calling by the mule diver of a boa
approaching the lock, so I know by experience the choice swear
vocabulary of the canalers.

While living in Philadelphia, one of our neighbors, a George
Richards, told me of a unique experience on the canal. He was a
native of Erie, Pa., and ran away from school to fire locomotives on
the Erie Railroad. After he became a freight engineer he retired by
request from that job, because on one of his trips he got tired of
waiting on a siding for a coming train, pulled out on the main line
and proceeded until he saw it approaching, and then had to back up.
he then entered the Erie shops and became an expert mechanic.

He later went to work for an engine company in Erie and was in
on the development of gas and gasoline engines. Ultimately he was
sent to New York City, where he was service man on those engines,
many of which were installed on residential estates for pumping water.

Along in the late 1880's one of the engines was installed in a
canal boat and since such engines were very temperamental in those
days, he went along as engineer on the trial trip. There were too
many breakdowns and stops for repairs at various towns and they
finally gave it up at Utica. At one of the locks on the way, his
captain got into an argument with the captain of another boat over
precedence into the lock, and when said argument reached a cursing
pitch, the other captain's wife came out of the cabin and handed her
husband an axe. That ending the argument.

On another occasion, they were passing a boat going in the
opposite direction. This operation required the dropping of the tow
rope to the other boat, so it would pass under the engine-driven one.
The keel of the latter, on account of the propeller, was down so deep
that the tow rope snagged it, and the mule team was dragged backward
into the canal, and the ensuing language of the mule driver and his
captain was lurid.

Other experiences of Richards were also very interesting. he
installed one of those engines in Holland's first submarine and acted
as his engineer in the trials. On one of the first submersions they
went down 50 feet in New York Harbor. The air got foul and hard to
breathe. Holland started to raise the boat and then passed out,
having forgotten to turn on the air which was carried in auxiliary

Richards was pretty near all in when they reached the surface
but he had enough strength and presence of mind to shove a wrench up
through a gravity valve in the top of the sub, which would open
outward but not inward, and thus got in enough air to save them both
from suffocation.

On another occasion, in winter, when they were to make another
trip, Holland was delayed in getting down to the dock in Hoboken, and
again Richards got tired of waiting and decided to go out alone.
Ice had formed on the glassed portholes in the sides of the conning
tower, so he couldn't see out to guide the boat, and he according
left the hatch cover open. the engine gave him some trouble, so he
had to leave the wheel, every once in awhile, and duck down to look
after it. He stayed down too long on one of those trips and when he
came up he was across the bow of the leading boat of a canal tow and
between it and the tug.

The boat hit the sub and rolled it over while he was half way
out of the hatch. The sub went down and he made a quick swim and
landed on an ice cake, from which he was rescued by a tug, and taken
to the New York side of the river, where he dried out and returned on
the ferry to Hoboken.

On getting back to the starting dock he found an old-timer who
had been watching the whole affair. This man had taken some sights
on where the sub went down and gave very accurate information to
Richards and Holland. They went out in a row boat, located the wreck
and had it raised by a diver and steam crane.

Holland was approached by one of the aggressive Irish societies
who had a scheme for sinking British battleships with his sub. The
only thing that came out of it was that Richards got the name of
"Chief Engineer of the Irish Navy." The Peruvians also approached
Holland because they were having one of those many arguments with the
Chilians and wanted to use the sub against them. They offered
Richards the job of running it; would pay him $51,000, and would
place it in escrow, so it would go to his estate in case of his
death. He didn't bite and Holland didn't either.

An article, I believe in the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle
last year, wondered as to the whereabouts of that first sub. Richards
ad I saw the hull of it some time previous to 1912, lying outside of
the Museum of Pennsylvania University, in Philadelphia.

Returning again to the Erie Canal, Williams Annual Register of
New York, dated 1830, lists the amounts and kinds of freight handled
on it for the year 1829, a total of 33,000 tons and the total of
tolls at $161,418 John Adams was toll collector in Lyons in 1828 and
he collected $27,123. Phillip Grandin collected $53,778 in Palmyra.
Newark, then in its infancy, is not mentioned. The 1817 estimated
operation cost of the Erie Canal was $4,881,738. In 1827 the actual
cost was given at $9,027,456, but there is some question of the
accuracy of this sum.

The register gives the names of various canal packet lines. One
of them was the Erie Canal Packet Boat Company between Utica and
Rochester, distance 160 miles, through in 46 hours, boats daily, the
Buffalo, Niagara, Ontario, Rochester and Utica.

Early settlers of Lyons, many of them progenitors of present
German-named citizens, came here by those packets. An early resident
in a very old newspaper clipping, tells of looking out of her window
very early one morning and seeing a large party of Germans cooking
breakfast over fires in the village park, where they had encamped
during the night.

One of these Germans went to work for Gansz, who ran a dairy
farm down near Lock Berlin. His sons, who deliver the milk, undertook
the job of teaching the German English, and they facetiously, as is
often done to foreigners, misinformed him by substituting various
unprintable words for those used commonly. The German, having a day
off, went down to one of the canal bridges, stopped to look over a
boat moored under the bridge, and essayed to get into a pleasant
conversation with an Irishman on it, starting in by calling him some
unpleasant and ribald names.

The Irishman immediately took fire, sprang ashore and started
to beat up the German in an attempt to throw him off the bridge.
Fortunately, the German was well built and prevented this. He went
back to the arm and told Gansz what had happened, and, on inquiry,
what he had said that had caused the fracas. On being told how the
boys had misinformed him he started laying for them in the bar, and
for two weeks the boys had to throw the lines over the horses' backs
when they got near the barn, and let them go there on their own
account, to keep them from getting a healthy retaliatory beating.

Charles Gutschow of Spencer street, who came to Lyons from
Germany when he was 19, though not the victim of the above story,
worked for Gansz at the time, and told me about it.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

That Daring Young Man

An events calendar for Autumn of 1830 in Manhattan

© 2006 David Minor / Eagles Byte

There were a few events in the New York area in the autumn of 1830 that Scots visitor James Stuart did not take notice of. However former mayor Philip Hone provides us some of the details.

On October 14th the city’s Masonic Hall on lower Broadway played host to the third annual industrial fair sponsored by the American Institute. While the exhibition itself seems to have made a favorable impression, “. . . every object which the versatility of invention and the industry of our artisans and manufacturers could produce.”, Hone was less than enthusiastic about the evening’s entertainment, which consisted of a speech on the American tariff system by Tristram Burgess, a Rhode Island congressman, during which, “I had the misfortune to be one of the audience.” Must have been a philosophical or political disagreement with the lecturer; what one of us would not have given much to have been there for such an scintillating topic?

Five days later Hone reported a Vermont death notice with a local connection. Back on March 1, 1785, printer Francis Childs, a protege of Benjamin Franklin, had founded the New York Daily Advertiser, with its motto “THE HOLIEST MOTIVE IS THE PUBLIC GOOD”, publishing it down on Water Street for the next five years before selling it to Philip Freneau. Childs, the publisher of papers in New York and Philadelphia, had passed away at the age of 67.

Somehow Hone must have missed a piece of aviation history that occurred on September 9th, less than a mile down Broadway from his residence. (Stuart was apparently somewhere else that day, as well).

There are various estimates as to the numbers, but somewhere between twenty and thirty thousand people had gathered at Castle Garden that sunny Thursday afternoon. They watched as a young astronomer, poet and inventor climbed into the wicker gondola of a hot air balloon he’d built and cast off the ropes connecting him to the soil of New York’s Battery. As the crowd shaded their eyes with their palms and their parasols, the young aeronaut ascended into the clear sky and drifted slowly toward the west bank of the Hudson. But not before he’d dropped a good supply of leaflets, containing his poem on the joys of flight, into the crowd. He soon disappeared from sight.

Two hours later his craft set him gently down thirty miles away, on a farm near South Amboy, New Jersey. Just five years after the completion of the Erie Canal, Charles Ferson Durant became the first American to fly in the Western Hemisphere.

In November Hone referred briefly to an event taking place on the southern end of Brooklyn. It had actually begun exactly two months after Durant’s flight. The brig Vineyard left New Orleans that day, heading for Philadelphia with a cargo that included sugar, cotton, and molasses. And $54,000 in Mexican coins, destined for Stephen Girard, Esq. The wealthy 81-year-old banker would never collect his shipment.

And now is the time for practicing patience. Until next time.

1820s Canal News

Submitted by Richard Palmer

Geneva Gazette, Wed., May 10, 1820

Canal Navigation. - The navigation on the middle section of the
great western canal has commenced. The passage boat Montezuma was to
have started on her regular trips from Seneca river to Utica, a
distance of 94 miles, on the 1st inst.

Carthage Bridge. - We are informed that the elegant single arch
bridge, erected at an enormous expense over the Genesee river, at
Carthage, fell down a few days ago. Fortunately, no person was
passing over at the time.

Ontario Repository, Canandaigua, N.Y., January 8, 1822

Storage & Forwarding

The subscriber having taken the large and commodious Ware-
House, at the east end of the village, situated on a large Basin of
the Canal, is now ready to receive in Store, all kinds of Property.
having formed a connection with as respectable a Line of Boats as any
in the country, he will be able, on the opening of navigation in the
spring, to Forward property as low as any other regularly established
Forwarding House in the country.

He solicits the patronage of his friends and the public in

Palmyra, Jan. 1, 1822.

Geneva Gazette, Geneva, N.Y., Wed., Oct. 8, 1823

Canal Mail. - A daily Mail is now carried between Utica and
Rochester in the packet boats of the Erie Canal Navigation Company,
which greatly facilitates the communication with the western parts of
the state. When the canal is not navigable, the contractors are to
carry the mail by land on the same route.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Roman Arches Over River

Lyons Republican, Oct. 30, 1952

Submitted by Richard Palmer

Dr. Ennis Writes History
Of 'Roman Arches Over River'
By David Ennis

"Roman arches over Indian River" is what herman Melville called
them - he was writing about the original Erie Canal. The gray stone
arches that the traveler sees occasionally while crossing our State
on the highways were built somewhat later, about a century ago, just
before the Civil War, when the "Improved" Erie Canal was constructed.

Some of these "water bridges" were enormous structures, and
very famous in their day such as the Lower and Upper Mohawk
aqueducts; the Genesee aqueduct at Rochester, which you can still
cross in a trolley car or automobile, over the swift river waters;
and the Montezuma or Richmond aqueduct, over the Seneca River in the
heart of the great marshes, resting on 90-foot spliced piles,
designed and built by one of Lyons' distinguished citizens,
VanRenesselaer Richmond, the father of Mrs. Katherine Sweet.

The first aqueduct at Lyons crossed the Ganargua River west of
the present structure, between the Mindel and DeGroat farms out
Layton Street way, in the days of the original water way - the grand
Erie Canal of its proponents, or the "Clinton's Ditch: of those who
couldn't understand how boats could be made to go up hill. All that
remains of this aqueduct today are a few stones, visible only at low
water, and the earthen embankment on each side just above the "Ox
Bow" bend.

In these days the canal ran between the Ganargua River and
Layton Street as it approached the village from the west, passed
through Lyons in an S-curve, and went east back of the entire length
of Canal Street through Pilgrimport to Lock Berlin and Clyde

Our aqueduct that you can see from the bridge on the old Newark
Road wasn't famous, but it functioned for over a century, and after
its abandonment when the Clyde River was canalized, became a sort of
monument to the canal builders and engineers of the past. With its
five perfect arches, piers, and rounded abutments, it was a pleasing
sight, representing a rare combination of grace, utility, and
historical significance.

Now that it has been partly torn down, many doubtless feel that
our village has been deprived of a landmark of singular historical
and architectural significance. This is true, of course, but the
structure was doomed before this and the Village Fathers cannot be
accused of official vandalism here.

The real beginning of the end came not this month, but about
five years ago when the State Department of Public Works removed the
coping from the towpath on the side toward the Clyde River, allowing
earth and vegetation to come between the great stones of the arches,
which in time will cause them to fail.

This step was taken to obtain the stones for shoring up the
bank between the Canandaigua outlet dam and the Leach Road, just
south of the bridge over the present Lock 27, the needs of the moment
having evidently obscured the greater, if less tangible,
responsibility tot he future. This action occurred before the present
writer was aware of it - otherwise a vigorous and possibly successful
protest would have made to the highest quarters.

Last spring the Village Board received an official notice from
the Department of Public Works that two of the abutments were in poor
condition, their bases having become undermined. It was all too
obvious that before long this part of the aqueduct would topple over,
thus blocking part of Ganargua's channel and by obstructing its
normal flow into the Clyde River, creating a very real hazard of
increased high water at the time of the usual spring floods in this

There as no alternative, then, but for the local authorities to
carry out this directive, and certainly they cannot be blamed for
initiating the present work of partial demolition.

It is to be regretted, of course. that years ago steps were not
taken to preserve this priceless landmark. With a little care it
would have lasted for hundreds of years, each year becoming of
greater interest and value. Let us hope that other old canal
structures in the vicinity can be preserved with care.

They are splendid monuments to the efforts our forefathers made
to bring about the present greatness of our State and our Country,
and their contemplation and study cannot help but make us better
Americans They built the longest canal in the world, in the shortest
time, for the least money, and to the greatest public benefit.

(caption with photo published in the paper) Mayor Clark R. Gardner
inspects the wall put up by village employees headed by Frederick
Schlierman, foreman, in Maple Street, of immense stones taken from
two piers on the old Erie Canal.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Occupations on Parade

The November, 1830, New York City festivities move on to their conclusion.

© 2006 David Minor / Eagles Byte

The parade up Broadway continues moving past James Stuart, with all of the city’s trades well represented. Following the printers, hundreds of mounted tailors, bakers, coopers and butchers, all wearing tri-colored cockades to celebrate the recent French regime change, trot up the broad avenue, filling it from one side to the other. The butchers have gone all out, their steeds pulling four wagon-floats. The lead carries an life-sized ox, “so admirably stuffed and set up, that I was for some time in doubt whether it was a living or a dead animal.” The second wagon carries a band following blacks dressed in oriental costumes; the third a pair of live lambs; the fourth meats being turned into sausages before the spectators’ eyes.

Troops of hatters, masons, carpenters and blacksmiths parade past our Scots visitor. Next come the smiths’ vocational descendants, the makers of boilers and the latest steam engines. Their movable display features a miniaturized steamboat, “furnished with all its equipments, and thoroughly manned with officers and crew, cables, anchors, steering-wheel, bell and fuel, surmounted by flags, ornamented with a portrait of Louis-Philip, with the names inscribed of Fulton, Livingston and Allaire.” The last named was James P. Allaire, a partner of the other two, who would turn out the vessels designed by Fulton and financed by Livingston.

Next Stuart ticks off cabinet makers (with examples of their furniture art), carvers, gilders, coach makers, saddlers, bricklayers, plasterers and tobacconists. Free cigars and snuff, assembled on the back of a wagon, are liberally distributed to the throngs lining the street. Over a thousand firemen follow with 44 engines pulled by everything from the firemen themselves to horses, and blacks in Moorish costumes. The maritime profession is represented by horse-drawn miniature French warships and pilot-boats under full sail.

Another wagon carries a chair-manufacturing shop, crawling with furniture makers producing a maple cane seat chair, the completed object to be presented at the Washington Square ceremonies to former U. S. president James Monroe. On and on the city’s professions are displayed to the delight of the crowd - comb-makers, book binders, Hibernian Benevolent Society members, ropemakers, cobblers, tanners, mule skinners, and many etceteras. Stuart makes his way to the parade ground ceremonies at the end of the route, listens to a prayer and undoubtedly florid and profuse oratory. Then, the mobs break apart and it’s off to dinners in various public establishments, “the evening spent in festivity.”

Looking back on the occasion Stuart has a few observations. He notes the orderliness of the entire proceeding, unaware of a single accident or incident disturbing the public decorum. The windows and doorways were filled with only women and children, the entire male population of the city apparently participating in the procession. He also notes the vast sums spent on the event, calculating that every man involved has laid out an average of three dollars of their own hard-earned money.

We’ll leave James Stuart with his reminiscences until a future time. Next week we’ll see what he missed.


submitted by Richard Palmer

Lyons (N.Y.) Advertiser, Friday, Nov. 8, 1822

Sacket's Harbor, Oct. 11.

Dreadful Shipwreck. - Loss of the schooner Appellona, W.
Merrit, master. This vessel left Oswego on the evening of the 14th
inst. partly laden with pot ashes, salt, and about 16 tons of stone
ballast, bound to Genesee. About half past 10 P.M. Oswego light
bearing E.S.E. 18 or 20 miles distant, and about 16 miles from land,
the schooner lying under close reefed foresail, and a heavy squall
rising from the west, the vessel was struck by lightning - the master
and crew on deck knocked down, the tiller, rudder head, binnacle,
windlass, bulk head, cabin stairs, all shattered to pieces; then the
lightning stove the pumps, pot-ash and salt barrels, and went out of
the larboard side, tearing off a streak of plank about a foot below
the water's edge; we then prepared the boa, and five in number got
in, and the vessel sunk in fifteen minutes from the time she was
struck; the first sea that came, filled the boat half full of water,
the wind blowing N.W. with a heavy combing sea; kept her before it,
and about an hour before day, landed 13 miles below Oswego. The
master was very much injured in his sight and hearing, but is fast

Western / Central New York timeline - BC

B. C. dates extremely approximate

420,000,000 B. C.
The Niagara Escarpment is formed.

400,000,000 B. C (Late Silurian)
The Salina Group of shale and dolomite (dolostone), containing thick deposits of salt and gypsum several miles wide stretching between the future Albany and Buffalo, is laid down.

200,000,000 B. C.
Part of the ocean bottom is uplifted to form New York’s Finger Lake region as lakes in the central part of the future state begin draining to the south.

100,000,000 B. C.
A second uplift in the New York region forms the valleys of the Cayuga and Seneca rivers.

16,000 B. C.
A global warming trend begins. The glacier recedes in the southern tier to the Angelica area and remains stationary, depositing the Angelica Moraine and impounding Lake Wellsville. The lake extends southward for 13 miles, draining by way of Honeoye and Oswayo creeks into the Allegheny River.

13,500 B. C.
New York
The glacier at Angelica begins receding, depositing a moraine, exposing Black Creek Valley and lowering Lake Wellsville 80 feet to form Lake Belfast-Fillmore.

13,000 B. C.
Niagara Falls is created as the glaciers retreat north and Lake Tonawanda’s waters pool up at its western end.

12,000 B. C.
New York
The Genesee Valley glacier ice recedes to the Portageville area.

10,000 B. C.
The Wisconsinian glacier retreats from the central part of the state.

9,000 B. C.
The first humans, Paleo-Indians, arrive in the Genesee Valley. ** The Seneca River
begins flowing over the Onondaga Escarpment , forming rapids and waterfalls.

4,000 B. C.
The Algonquin Indians migrating from Asia, reach the New York State area.

2,000 B. C.
 The Middle Woodland culture reaches the area, as the migratory hunter-gatherer Lamoka people fade away.

© 2012 David Minor / Eagles Byte

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Parade Gets Under Way

A November , 1830, parade begins moving up Broadway

© 2006 David Minor / Eagles Byte

When I worked in lower Manhattan in the late 1980s, twice a day I’d walk behind the Municipal Building on my way between the City Hall subway stop and Pearl Street where my office stands. Just west of Police Plaza (off limits to strollers since 9/11), I’d pass a fragment of brick wall with a barred window set into it. The display commemorated a site dating back to before the American Revolution.

In 1763 sugar trader Henry Cuyler had built a warehouse down on nearby Liberty Street. The wealthy Rhinelander family had purchased the building shortly after Cuyler’s death in 1770. When the family had the building replaced in 1892 they’d saved the window as a reminder of the British occupation of New York, when hundreds of American prisoners had died while incarcerated in the building, and installed the window in their new building near the future Police Plaza site.

The display had sort of a special meaning for me. In April of 1777 Simeon Minor, an collateral ancestor, had been captured by the British at Roxbury, Connecticut, and had subsequently died in the Sugar House. My cousin Mike (on my mother’s side) once asked me if I sometimes heard a disembodied voice coming through the bars calling, “Da-vid, D-a-a-vid!”. Can’t say that I did; I’ll have to listen more carefully next time.

Decades later, on 1830, one former prisoner, luckier than Simeon, is preparing to take part in the November 26th parade up Broadway, celebrating the July regime change in France. Former sailor John Van Arsdale probably casts more than a few glances eastward toward his former prison as he waits for proceedings to get under way. A native of Goshen, New York, he had made the epic marched on Quebec with Benedict Arnold in 1775 and fought at forts Montgomery and Fort Clinton, along the Hudson, two years later where he’d been captured and held in the lower Manhattan sugar facility before being transferred to the hold of one of the noxious British ships anchored off Brooklyn. He would finally be released nine months after his capture, in time to participate in the Clinton-Sullivan campaign against upstate New York’s Indians.

Now, as spectators James Stuart and former mayor Philip Hone, along with hundreds of others feel their collective pulses begin to quicken, participants such as Van Arsdale, former president James Monroe, Revolutionary-era spy Enoch Crosby, Boston Tea Party “Indian” Alexander Whaley, prepare to move out. 30,000 people fill the streets of lower Manhattan, half again the island’s daily commuting population.

James Stuart provides the most complete description, so we’ll call on him once more for a final assignment. A squadron of cavalry lead off the procession. The parade’s end will not pass Stuart for three more hours. The dignitaries follow - mayor Walter Bowne, ambassadors, congressmen and state legislators, high sheriffs, consuls, committee members and foreign ministers, and 500 mounted French visitors, Columbia College provosts and medical and law students. Then, as in the 1825 Erie Canal opening celebration, members of all the trade guilds follow. The printers show off the latest in on-demand publishing technology, as a press mounted on one of their floats turns out copies of an ode written for the occasion. While everyone grabs one and peruses the sterling verbiage, we’ll take a break. Until next time.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Day of the Flags

Celebrating several historic occasions in 1830

© 2006 David Minor / Eagles Byte

James Stuart doesn’t mention any local New York events in September or October of 1830. As October entered into it’s second week the traveler and his wife moved back to the Van Boskerck's rooming house in Hoboken - where they would stay until returning to the United Kingdom the following April. It would be a relatively quiet half year, with few excursions or diversions. With one exception.

Back in July, about the time Stuart was visiting Dr. Hosack in Hyde Park, France’s middle class had revolted against their Bourbon king Charles X and forced him off the throne. This would obviously be looked on with great favor by Andrew Jackson’s America, even though the monarchy continued with another head beneath the crown. Celebrations were called for. New York’s would be an extravaganza.

Former U. S. president James Monroe had just moved here to Manhattan after the death of his wife at the beginning of October. Presidential pensions being non-existent when he left office five years earlier, he’d been driven by relative poverty to reside with his daughter Maria and son-in-law Samuel Gouverneur, currently the city’s postmaster. Preparations for the celebration were begun at Tammany Hall early in November with Monroe heading up the arrangements. The city’s federal collector of customs Samuel Swartwout was appointed grand marshal and postmaster Gouverneur was chosen to make the main oration. Former mayor Hone was put in charge of the arrangements committee. November 25th, being the 47th anniversary of the British evacuation of New York, was intentionally chosen for the affair. With only a few weeks remaining most of the male population of the city became very busy. This being a good many decades before beauty queens and majorettes the women probably stayed home and did the sewing.

Neither Stuart nor Hone mentions the starting point but, since they marched up Broadway to the future site of Washington Square, it’s to be assumed they began at the Battery, for its symbolic connotation. The proceedings had to be postponed for one day due to sloppy November weather. Stuart was probably in place - he doesn’t mention just where - early that Friday morning. Among the well-known personages he would see in the procession was John Van Arsdale, the artilleryman who’d shinnied up the flagpole down at the Battery 47 years ago, hauled down the British flag. He supposedly nailed the Stars and Stripes in it’s place and even greased the pole afterwards to make sure the banner remained in place. (Some accounts say the British had been the pole greasers; some accounts also have Saratoga County military veteran Anthony Glenn actually being the one to raise the new flag). It’s likely both men’s shinnying days were long past, but the two old-timers were among the stars of the day. Others included Alexander Whaley, one of the “Indians” who heaved the tea into Boston harbor, Enoch Cosby, James Fenimore Cooper’s model for the title character of his novel “The Spy”, and David Williams, a member of the party that had captured Major Andre after Arnold’s betrayal of West Point.

Samuel Swartwout’s twenty-one aides, each mounted on a prancing steed and wearing a uniform decorated with French-tricolor cockades and plumes, corralled the various groups and headed them off, up Broadway. Join them, next time.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Networking Session

James Struart's Last 1830 mini-excursion out of New York City

© 2006 David Minor/Eagles Byte

You are James Stuart. Eight years ago and an ocean away you killed a man named Boswell in a duel. Legally exonerated, you decided it was still best to travel outside of Scotland for a time. Now, in the summer of 1830, on the western end of Long Island, New York, a young man comes to you. Says his name is John Boswell. You must have a few very uneasy moments. What has this Boswell come for?

As it turns out ... a character reference. James Stuart quickly learns that John Boswell is the son of an acquaintance, a farm overseer from Fifeshire, the same province as the victim of that long ago duel but apparently not closely allied with that branch of the family. The subject of the duel apparently never arises. Young Boswell, a ship-carpenter, had arrived here in the New World with his wife and two children several weeks earlier and had been unable to find work but, according to Stuart, “no one would receive him into his ship-building yard, in which there is much valuable property, without attestations of his character for honesty and sobriety. ... Knowing nothing previously of this young man but what I have mentioned, it was impossible for me to comply with his request, but I gave him a letter to a gentleman in the neighbourhood of New York, who might, I thought, be of use to him, stating exactly what I knew of him.”

It will be several months before this connection yields results. “He was beginning to wish himself well home again when an offer of work was made to him. I happened to be in New York on the very day when this occurred, and remember well the pleasure which beamed in his eyes when he told me of the offer, and asked me what wages he should propose. My advice to him was to leave that matter to his master, after he had been at work for a week, and showed what he could do.” This advice proves sound and young Boswell is later able to report back to Stuart that, “He had earned on the preceding day almost as much as he could earn at the same business in Scotland in a week; and he hoped in less than twenty years to make a fortune, and return to Scotland.”

Back in July, a month or so before the revival meeting in Flushing, Stuart made one final trip away from lower New York. You might recall that last year, while on an excursion to West Point, he met a Dr. David Hosack, the physician and botanist who had attended Alexander Hamilton when the former U. S. Treasrury Secretary had been killed by Aaron Burr in 1804. Hosack had invited Stuart to visit him sometime at his home on the mid-Hudson River. Now, Stuart decides to take him up on his offer.

He doesn’t give details of the actiual trip upriver to Hyde Park, presumably by steamboat, or any details of what the two men discussed during the visit, but he was obviously impressed by the naturalist’s estate, “... elegant, and well-furnished.” He will not give us a detailed description, but cannot resist mentioning, in passing, “his eating or drawing-rooms, his excellent library, his billiard room, or his conservatory, of his porter's lodges, his temples, his bridges, his garden, and the other et ceteras of this truly delightful domain ...” A domain a Vanderbilt would be proud to own, and one day would. Obviously more than just a country fishing shack.