Sunday, August 9, 2009

A Little This-a, a Little That-a

© 2007 David Minor / Eagles Byte¬

We’re going to leave our 1830 English traveler John Fowler as he goes off to visit friends in New Hartford, New York, for a few days while we stay behind in Utica for a quick look around, before he returns to continue his westward journey.

He leaves Bagg’s Hotel at 5 AM by coach. It’s here at the inn, by the way, that locals gathered back in 1798 to plan the incorporation of Utica as a village. It’s been a popular gathering place ever since. Even this year Mrs. Sophia Bagg, wife of the owner has been hosting a sewing circle. They are in the process of setting up a local orphan asylum. Thirty years from now, eventually working with a $2,000 annual budget, they will have cared for 730 orphans

Currently – 1830 that is - two years before its incorporation as a city, Utica’s population stands at 12,782, a 334% increase in the past ten years, thanks largely to the canal that travels through the flats down at the bottom of the hill just north of town. Fowler, as he passes through the city several times, mentions that the “village is regularly laid out, the streets of a good width and mostly paved. Genesee-street, in particular, is peculiarly pleasant, and for the most part adorned with elegant stores and dwellings.”

The charitably-inclined ladies of Mrs. Bragg’s sewing circle have fertile ground to work with in this town; Fowler mentions, “numerous literary, benevolent, and religious institutions . . .”. As well as the nine established churches a reformed Protestant Dutch church has just been organized this year, and Universalist Dolphus Skinner has recently begun editing the Evangelical Magazine and Gospel Advocate. An attempt to raise a new crop of minister is going on at the nearby Oneida Institute of Science and Industry where students earn their keep by spending three to four hours a day laboring on the attached 114-acre farm. The town also has a classical academy (our day’s high school), a library and a lyceum.

Commerce is not ignored either. For one thing, it’s almost impossible to look into most newspapers around this part of the state without coming across an advertisement for the D. James Shoe Manufactury. J. Ackley of Ithaca promotes the Shoemaker’s Lasts just received from Utica, “consisting of Round and Square toe, R. and L. Lasts, do [ditto]. do. Straight do., Boot Trees &c. Also, a few dozen Goat Skin Morocco for sale very cheap.” About this same time William Whitely is busy (we hope) manufacturing flutes.

Besides a variety of industries and the usual businesses, the town’s central location in the Mohawk Valley is making it a convenient location for state-wide get-togethers. While Fowler’s off visiting friends nearby, a week-long meeting of over a hundred Methodist ministers confer here with Bishop Elijah Hedding, as reported by the Little Falls Gazette. Two main pronouncements come out of the session. One to promote temperance societies; the other to curb the growing financial excesses of funerals, “ . . . to discourage, as far as may be the practice of dressing in black, and other unnecessary expenses of mourning apparel.”

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