Monday, May 25, 2009

No, Not the Actor

© 2007 David Minor / Eagles Byte

Just across the river from West Point lie the two settlements of Nelsonville and Marysville, to be incorporated in 1846 as Cold Spring. Being home to West Point Foundry, there’s always something going on. This year several buildings are going up, including Our Lady Chapel, to be used for workers’ worship services, and another structure to used for educating the foundry’s apprentices and the children of the workers.

But the big excitement is a project nearing completion this August as John Fowler steams by, a project that will help revolutionize travel (this IS a revolutionary river valley after all). Finishing touches are being applied, as The Best Friend of Charleston is completed. The four-and-a-half-ton locomotive with four drive wheels connected by outer rods to the vertical boiler, ordered by South Carolina businessman E. L. Miller, is ready to move out. Two months from now it will be shipped by the steamboat Niagara for eventual use on the Charleston and Hamburg Railroad. By the coming winter it will be making regular runs from Charleston, inland to Hamburg (near the Atlanta, Georgia, area). Atlanta will handle the commercial competition handily, as you might surmise.

A short way north of West Point, just beyond the looming Storm King Mountain, lies the village of Cornwall, where construction of a Methodist Church is taking place on a hill that will later overlook the town hall.

The next pair of villages looking at each other across the river, are Newburgh (on the west side) and Fishkill. Fowler only mentions Newburgh in any detail, probably his vessel put in on that shore of the river. He describes it as an incorporated village of about 600 houses, with a population of close to 4,000. “From its situation it commands an extensive intercourse and trade with the country on the west, and, by means of the Hudson River, with New York.” Although the place has a growing number of manufactories, much of the trade he mentions is due to the shipping industry that’s growing up here on the river. This year the owner of the steamer Baltimore, forwarding merchant Christopher Reeve has taken on a new partner named David Crawford, who is buying a half interest in the vessel. Crawford, who will soon operate an entire fleet of boats from a wharf on Montgomery Street, has started construction of a house here, which can be visited in the 21st century, as the home of Historical Society of Newburgh Bay and the Highlands.

And for those with no talent for making money like Crawford can and does, the village is in the process of building the Orange County Poorhouse, this year of 1830, at a cost of $12,000.

Our other traveler, William Gorgas, stops in at Newburgh also, but he does give a mention to Fishkill, across the river. “where Matteawan factory is situated. This gives employment to 300 persons with 50 looms & 1,000 or 1,500 yard of cotton made out of the wool particularly stripes and gingham per day–From this place there is a fine sloping bank along the river.”

It’s at this point in the river that Fowler decides to take a break and detour inland for a while. Until next time . . .

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