Sunday, July 26, 2009

A Little This-a, a Little That-a

© 2007 David Minor / Eagles Byte¬

In 1830, when John Fowler passed Poughkeepsie on the night steamer, the town’s population had topped the 7,000 mark. A future resident was born this year, but in far off Fifeshire, Scotland. This first son, given the good old Scottish name of William Wallace Smith I, will have a brother, named Andrew, in 1836. Their father, James, had emigrated to Quebec in 1831, then entered the U. S. and settle at Poughkeepsie in 1847, going into the restaurant business. When dad buys a formula from an itinerant peddler with the rather apt name of Sly Hawkins, and advertises it for those "afflicted with hoarseness, cough or colds", he decides to “brand” it using William and Andrew. We know the bearded Smith Brothers, erroneously, as “Trade” and “Mark”.

But all that’s in the future. Very little seems to be happening this year in the Hudson River settlements between Newburgh and Albany, so Fowler isn’t missing too much. All along the river Greek Revival buildings are going up – an Episcopal parsonage here (Rhinebeck), a guest house there (Hudson). Many will survive down to our time. The former Dutch valley’s becoming homogenized; it’s this year that even the churches back up in the remote sections of the Catskill mountains stop using bilingual services, dropping the Dutch language.

Actually, remote sections may soon become fewer. It’s this year that a trans-mountain railroad is chartered, intended to connect Canajoharie, over on the Mohawk River, to Catskill, New York. Construction will begin in 1836; by the time work stops five years later its wooden rails topped with strip iron will have wound their way out of Catskill, along Catskill Creek, and reached Cairo, Leeds and Potter’s Hollow - for a grand total of twenty-six and a quarter miles. By this time trains are powered by locomotive (one in this case, aptly named Mountaineer), replacing the horses used during most of its existence. The following year, 1842, the line will be abandoned. Canajoharians will have to find some other way to reach Catskill.

In April (we’re back in 1830 again) the east-bank Town of Redhook changed the name of one of its river villages, Red Hook Landing, to Barrytown. An old tale has it that President Andrew Jackson had a strong dislike for former Kentucky Lieutenant Governor William Taylor Barry and was against the name change. But, maybe we should sic the History Detectives onto this one. Seems Jackson had just named Barry Postmaster General of the United States last year. Old Hickory couldn’t have disliked him that much!

While we’ve been poking around this section of the Hudson, John Fowler’s been waiting in Albany for the light of day so he can get his luggage off the steamboat Chief Justice John Marshall. He should have it by now, so let’s rejoin him.

He’s been pestered again, this time not by bedbugs or mosquitoes. Something probably just as persistent though. He tells us, “ . . . I was visited again and again by the agents of the two lines of western stages, each eloquent on the decided superiority of traveling by that for which he was respectively interested.” Old Line? Or Pioneer Line? Decisions, decisions ! !

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