Sunday, November 29, 2009

Canal and Maritime News 1829 / 1846 / 1850

Collected by Richard Palmer

The Wayne Sentinel,

Friday April 24, 1829

The Canal- We hail the re-commencement of navigation on the Erie
Canal with lively emotions. The day before yesterday, a boat
belonging to the line of packets, passed this place eastward. Since
that several others have passed, and revived in our minds
sensations , which, like the channel in which they floated, had been
for so many months past locked up in seclusion and repose. We
understand the necessary repairs have been made, and the navigation
is now open from Montezuma to Buffalo.

The impulse which this circumstance afford to life and activity in
business, furnishes a gratifying relief to the dull round and
listless turpitude of a long severe and tedious winter. The sound of
the bugle, and the "busy note of preparation," give life and add much
to the sources of hope and enjoyment.

We understand that the whole line from Buffalo to Albany, will be
open and in readiness for navigation by Tuesday next.

The Wayne Sentinel
Friday July, 21 1829

Imposition upon Travellers.

Having just returned from a tour into Pennsylvania, and having been
detained on my way home, through negligence and deception, by those
concerned in the conveyance of passengers from Geneva to Newtown, and
from Newtown to Geneva, by way of the steam boat Seneca Chief on
Seneca Lake, I feel it a duty I owe to myself and the public, to
state the manner in which I was detained.

I arrived at Newtown, on my way to Geneva on Friday, at noon
intending to take the Steam Boat Seneca Chief, that plies between
Geneva and the village of Jefferson at the head of Seneca Lake, on
Saturday; but from some cause or other, was not informed that the
Boat would not make her regular trip that day, until I had taken
seats for myself and two children, paid my fare, and was about to get
into the back that ran from Newtown to Jefferson, in connection with
the Steam Boat. In consequence of this gross negligence or design on
the part of the proprietors, I lost my only opportunity of reaching
Geneva that week, and was detained until Monday morning, when I took
the stage at 8 oíclock via Pen Yan, and arrived at Geneva the same
afternoon, whereas , had I taken the Steam Boat I should not have
arrived until the next morning at 7 oíclock, instead of the same day,
as stated in their advertisements. I mention this as one among the
numerous instances of their irregularities. The proprietors have
pledged themselves to the public that they will run "regular trips up
and down Seneca Lake each day (Sundays excepted)" On leaving Geneva
they vary their time of starting from one to three hours, as best
suits their own convenience. I could specify repeated instances and
the manner, in which travelers have been deceived and imposed upon:
but this I consider unnecessary at present. Fact will and shall show
for themselves if required. My reason for publishing the above are
not only to guard travelers against similar imposition, but with the
hope that the proprietors fo the Steam Boat (Messrs. J. B and R.
Rumney of Geneva,) will be induced to perform their trips with more
regularity, and consult the convenience of the public, upon which
they are and must be dependant for patronage.

Luther Howard.

Palmyra N.Y. July 23, 1829

The Sailors Magazine- Feb. 1846

We find in the Syracuse Daily Star, the proceedings of a meeting of
the citizens of Syracuse held on the 15th inst. To consider the
condition of the orphan and destitute boys who are engaged
principally as 'Canal Drivers' during the season of navigation. Hon.
Daniel Pratt presided, and addresses were made by Rev. Messrs. J. W.
Adams, Samuel J. May and others, relative to the condition and
necessities of this much neglected class.

It appears from facts elicited on this occasion, that there are about
5,000 boys engaged upon the New York Canals, one half of whom are
orphans; and nearly all of whom are destitute of a home on the
approach of Winter. Many of these boys are under twelve years of age,
but their extreme youth and hapless, unfortunate condition, are not
sufficient to exempt them from the most wanton wrongs on the part of
their employers. Most of them are precocious, as well in vice as
intellect, and the Canal is just the place to put them through all
the gradations of crime, from stealing a six-penny loaf or a bundle of
hay up to the most daring burglary, and even murder itself. Indeed,
in some instances they are instructed in theft, &c., by the captains
of these boats, who endeavor to give to those in their employ the
same kind of an education they have themselves received. At the close
of navigation, these 'drivers' are generally destitute of money and
comfortable clothing, and congregate at such places as Utica and
Syracuse, upon the line of Canal, and practice upon the community the
evil propensities which have been nourished and exercised upon the
Canal. They seem to be regarded as outcasts. They have no home- no
friends to advise or assist them- no instruction except in vice; and
the jail is often regarded by them as an asylum. Of the sixteen
hundred convicts who have been or now are inmates of the Auburn State
Prison, four hundred and eighty had been Canal Boys.

In view of these facts, a memorial to the Legislature, drawn up by
Mr. May, setting forth in earnest and eloquent language the condition
of these boys, was adopted by the meeting. The memorial asks that the
Legislature appoint supervisors or guardians of the canal boys, in
suitable places, by whom registers shall be kept of all the youth
under 20 years of age, who may be employed within their several
sections, without whose knowledge and permission no youth shall be
employed upon the canals; and to whose satisfactions all contracts
shall be made, and all accounts settled with these boys; and
establish, at convenient distances along the canals, houses under the
care of suitable persons, where those canal boys who have no home may
go, and be made comfortable, when not employed upon the canals; and
where they may receive such mental and moral culture as they may
need. In such establishments as we propose, in the charge of men and
women who would be interested in the work, and competent to perform
it, these neglected youth may be brought under improving, saving

The memorialists ask that in addition o these 'Homes', a 'House of
Refuge,' to be established at Syracuse, for the benefit of those boys
who maybe found guilty of petty crimes.

Syracuse Daily Star

Wed. Oct 12. 1850

From the Oswego Journal

Gale on Saturday Shipwreck

On Saturday, a gale of great severity from the north west threw the
lake into a perfect foam. During the afternoon, the waves dashed with
fearful violence over the piers and as a large number of vessels were
seen running before the wind down the lake crowds of people assembled
on the docks to see them enter the harbor.

We mentioned on Saturday that the Cincinnati from Toledo dragged
her anchors and came near being wrecked upon the ledge on the
easterly side of the harbor. A large number of schooners arrived
during the afternoon and evening, and as they came in between the
piers, where the surf was running alarmingly high, the greatest
anxiety was felt. Fortunately, no disaster occurred. The steamer
Cataract came up the lake about 4 o clock. She was obliged to run up
the lake a mile or two, as a schooner was in the way, and then came
about and entered the harbor, careening almost to her wheel house as
she ran between the piers.

The U.S. Revenue Cutter, Capt. Moore, arrived yesterday from a cruise
through the lakes. We learn from him, that when near Cape Vincent on
the 28th the Cutter boarded the schooner O. V. Brainard from Oswego,
the Capt. Of which reported the loss of a schooner, supposed to be
the Neptune, of Sackets Harbor, which was capsized and sunk in the
gale of that day between this port and the Ducks. All hands suppose
to be lost, as no boat was discovered to leave the wreck, from the
mast head of the Brainard. The gale was so severe, that it is feared
other disasters may have occurred.

We learn the lost schooner had seven men on board. She left this
harbor Saturday morning, heavily loaded.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

WESTERN / CENTRAL New York timeline / 1788

Jan 8
Politician John Canfield Spencer is born in Hudson.

Jan 27
Former New York governor William Tryon dies at his Grosvenor Square, London,

Mar 31
Massachusetts votes to sell Phelps and Gorham the New York lands agreed upon at the Hartford Convention.

Against the desires of Red Jacket, but with the approval of the grand sachem Farmer’s Brother, Phelps and Gorham pay the Seneca 2100 pounds ($5000) in cash and trade goods, plus a 500 pound annual payment for 2,600,000 acres of land west of the Genesee River, which become part of the Military Tract, land set aside for veterans of the Revolution. A survey is launched to divide the land into cardinally-oriented six-mile-square townships. The survey, run by Colonel Hugh Maxwell, completed next year, will also mark off the Pre-Emption Line running from the Pennsylvania Line to Lake Ontario, setting apart New York land owned by Massachusetts. The Seneca give Phelps and Gorham an additional 84,00 acres for a mill site in exchange for providing them a sawmill and a gristmill. The two investors hire Ebenezer (Indian) Allan to start a mill at the Falls of the Genesee. The Onondaga accept a reservation of a few square miles.

Apr 1
The Phelps and Gorham purchase is concluded.

Apr 23
Massachusetts governor John Hancock issues a proclamation, finalizing the Phelps and Gorham purchase. Massachusetts sells its 2,600,000 acres of its western New York lands, at under 3 cents an acre, to Oliver Phelps, Nathaniel Gorham and other investors.

Comfort Tyler begins making salt from the salt springs on the shores of Lake Onondaga.

May 12
Colonel Hugh Maxwell sets out from Heath, Massachusetts, to met Oliver Phelps and others in New York State.

May 13
Maxwell arrives in Albany, finds he missed Phelps by two days, heads west.

May 14
Maxwell arrives in Schenectady, finds Phelps, Kirkland, and the pastor's assistant Elisha Lee are close to a day ahead of him.

May 16
Maxwell meets Phelps, Kirkland and Lee at Canajoharie. They set out for Fort Stanwix (Rome).

Jun 2
Maxwell and his companions arrive at Kanadesaga, near today's Geneva. A number of Iroquois are present, in hopes of concluding treaty.

Jun 4
Maxwell writes his wife from Kanadesaga, detailing his travels. ** Oliver Phelps writes Samuel Fowler from Kanadesaga, describing the natural surroundings and predicting a city will be built on the spot.

Jun 10
Maxwell, Lessee captain Benjamin Allen and three assistants depart from Kanadesaga, and row to the southern end of Seneca Lake.

Jun 11
Maxwell's party arrives at Catherine's Town (Montour Falls).

Jun 12
In the midst of a rainy day Maxwell arrives at Newtown.

Jun 13
Maxwell begins a trial survey.

Jun 16
Maxwell reaches the area four miles west of the northern end of Seneca Lake.

Jun 17
A New York State Convention opens at Poughkeepsie's Van Kleek House to consider the proposed U. S. Constitution. Governor George Clinton acts as chairman. Anti-federalist delegates outnumber constitutional supporters, 23-19.

Jun 19
Between now and July 2nd only Article I is discussed in Poughkeepsie.

Jun 21
Oliver Phelps, and Reverend Kirkland, accompanied by Caleb Benton, Ezekiel Gilbert, James Dean, Benjamin Barton, John Johnson, along with a number of Seneca chiefs and Mos Debarge, set out for Buffalo Creek, get to Flint Creek, about 24 miles away.

Jun 22
The party moves on, encountering rain most of the morning, arriving at their destination around noon. They are housed in the Indian settlement and called into council, where they are told by Chief Fish Carrier that some of the other chiefs have not arrived and talks will temporarily be held off.

The Constitutional debates in Poughkeepsie conclude. ** Colonel Maxwell begins his two-month survey of New York's Pre-Emption Line.

Jul 4
Oliver Phelps, Colonel John Butler, Joseph Brant, and Samuel Street arrive at Buffalo Creek.

Jul 8
Phelps and Gorham sign a treaty with the Seneca at Buffalo Creek, buying 2,600,000 acres of lands between Seneca Lake and the Genesee River, including the Mill Lot, at the falls of the Genesee.

Jul 11
Livingston tells the Poughkeepsie delegates that plans are being made to move the capital from New York City to Philadelphia. ** Major Thompson Maxwell, youngest brother of Hugh Maxwell, joins the colonel at Kanadesaga.

Jul 13
Phelps returns to Kanadesaga, instructs Maxwell to begin the re-survey.

Jul 20
Maxwell, three assistants, and New York Genesee Land Company (Lessee) surveyor William Jenkins, depart from Kanadesaga, and row to the southern end of Seneca Lake.

Jul 23
A vote is made in Poughkeepsie to ratify the Constitution without prior conditions that could seriously cripple the document.

Jul 25
Colonel Maxwell begins his journal of the surveying of New York's Pre-Emption Line.

Jul 26
New York, having become the 11th state today, upon learning of Virginia's ratification,
approves the Constitution, 30-27, over the objections of governor George Clinton.

Aug 7
The Maxwell Survey arrives at Town No. 9, First Range, about where routes 5 and 20 cross the state today. Maxwell takes a brief break from the survey.

Aug 21
Phelps, back in Massachusetts, writes to his agent William Walker, expresses his concern that Kanadesaga might not lie within the lands he and Gorham purchased

Aug 22
After a delay the Maxwell survey resumes, heads north.

Sep 12
Onondaga Indians sign the treaty of Fort Schuyler, formerly called Fort Stanwix, ceding “all their lands forever,” (with the exception of certain reserved lands) to the State of New York.

Sep 13
Congress schedules elections for the Presidency. New York City is declared the temporary capital of the U. S.

Sep 19
Phelps writes to Walker a second time, again questioning the survey's accuracy.

Sep 23
Amasa Leonard is the first child born in Binghamton.

Sep 30
William Walker, Caleb Barton and Benjamin Barton, acting for Phelps and Gorham, give title to 100 acres at the Falls of the Genesee River to Ebenezer “Indian” Allen, in return for his constructing and operating a grist mill and saw mill by next June first. The speculators reserve half of any mines and minerals on the site.

Oct 3
Phelps advises Walker to make the outlet of Kennedarqua (Canandaigua) Lake his headquarters, so as to avoid problems with the Lessees.

Oct 5
Walker writes to Phelps that he sees no use in running the line again and that he 's chosen Canandarqua Creek for a town. The site will become Canandaigua.

Nov 21
Massachusetts officially transfers 2,600,000 acres of its Hartford Convention lands to
Phelps and Gorham, including lands in Allegeny, Livingston, Monroe, Ontario,
Schuyler, Steuben, Wayne and Yates counties. The contract calls for a payment of
$1,000,000 in Consolidated Securities scrip, trading far below par. When par later
increases dramatically Phelps and Gorham are unable to fulfill the agreement.

The Onondaga accept a reservation of a few square miles. ** The Town of Cortlandt is founded. ** Jeremiah Wadsworth of Hartford travels to the western part of the state, to inspect the Genesee Valley. ** Elmira is settled. ** Major Asa Danforth, Jr. joins Comfort Tyler in the Syracuse/Liverppol area, in making salt. ** Gamaliel Wilder moves into the future South Bristol, and the Gooding Brothers pioneer Bristol. ** The town of Aurelius settlement at Cayuga is settled by John Harris of Harrisburgh, Pennsylvania. ** Future Geneva settler Phineas Prouty Sr. is born. ** 378 members of Jemima Wilkinson’s Society of Friends arrive at the middle of the west shore of Seneca Lake, found a settlement, which they name New Jerusalem. ** The Reverend Mr. Howe, a Baptist, conducts the first religious services in Binghamton. ** Future governor John Alsop King is born in New York City to Rufus and Mary Alsop King. ** New Hampshire farmer William Markham III and his brother-in-law Ransom Smith walk from Ackworth to New York's Genesee Valley and help survey the Avon/Rush area. They chose a lot on the east bank of the Genesee and return to Ackworth. There they collect William's wife Phoebe and their infant son, Ransom's wife Lettice Markham Smith and his younger brothers David and John. They all set out for the Genesee but are stopped by a lost horse on the Susquehanna River and forced to wait for spring. ** A tavern keeper named Middaugh moves to the Lewiston area. ** Oliver Phelps arrives from his home in Granville, Massachusetts, to explore his New York lands. ** Pennsylvanians Elijah Breck and Captain Daniel McDowell, along with William Wynkoop from Ulster County, found the Chemung County village of Breckville. ** A son, Seneca, is born to Ebenezer and Lucy Allan. ** The Seneca sign a treaty at Buffalo Creek, relinquishing title to lands between Seneca Lake and the Genesee River. ** Caleb Benton, one of the disenfranchised lessees of Phelps & Gorham land, donates 1,104 acres of his consolation lands near Seneca Lake to James Parker and the Society of Universal Friends. The long, narrow property will become known as the Garter. ** New Jersey trader and cattle drover Benjamin Barton settles in Geneva. ** Severe winter weather occurs. ** Procedures for apprenticing the children of the poor are put into place. ** Settler Enos Boughton buys six-square-miles of land at the future site of Victor, from the Phelps and Gorham Purchase – Township No. 11 Range No. 4.

Hagerstown businessman Colonel Nathaniel Rochester marries Sophia Beatty.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Genesee Valley Civil War Roundtable presents
Pembroke, New York, speaker/historian Greg Kinal, who will speak on
Lincoln's Assassination

at the American Legion, through the front entrance
53 West Main Street, LeRoy at 7:30 PM

Discussion period to follow.
New members and interested parties welcome.

Wayne County Historical Society Map Club - November Meeting

The next meeting of Map Club will be Thurs. Nov. 19 at 7pm.

The club will be looking at maps of Native American Settlements in Wayne County
and original Sanborn maps of Macedon.
If possible, Gary Fitzpatrick will be showing Postal Route maps.

At the last meeting Sanborn maps of Clyde, Macedon, Lyons and Newark
were projected on a screen for viewing. Members looked at how certain houses
and buildings changed throughout the years.

Anyone interested in any aspect of maps is invited to come.

For more information about this event, call the Museum of Wayne County History
at 315-946-4943 or look at the website,
The Museum is located at 21 Butternut Street, Lyons NY.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Canal Lock in Minetto Renovated

By Richard Palmer

MINETTO - Ninety-two years ago this [past] spring, the completed Barge Canal
was officially opened across New York State. Like anything that is
rapidly approaching the century mark, keeping it properly maintained
is an on-going process that takes a lot of work and millions of dollars.
To do this, several locks are chosen for a major refit, over and
above normal winter maintenance.

This [past] winter and spring, major work has focused on Locks 05 and 08 on
the Oswego Canal. Rehabilitation work on these locks is being done
by Tioga Construction Co., Inc. of Herkimer, who was awarded the
$9,926,614.50 contract last November.

The largest project, is concentrated on Lock O-5 in Minetto, which
will take two seasons to complete. Work here includes rehabilitation
of concrete surfaces, repair of concrete cracks and voids in filling
culvert; rehabilitation of mechanical components; upgrading and
rehabilitation of the electrical system; replacement of lower miter
gates; repair of upper miter gates; replacement of utility bridge;
replacement of railing, ladders and stairs; and replacement of
operator's shelter. This work is slated to be completed in July, 2010.

Work at Lock O-8 in Oswego this past winter included rehabilitation
of concrete surfaces in upper left corner; reinforcing bar drilling
and grouting; sealing of concrete cracks; and reworking and
reinstallation of miter gate, gate machinery and valve machinery.

© 2009 Richard Palmer

Friday, November 13, 2009

History Fair - Revised Schedule / Vendors

Heretics, History and Hallelujas

~ 2009 Regional History Fair ~

10 a.m. to 4 p.m. November 14th

Calvary St. Andrew's Church, 68 Ashland St., Rochester, 14620


~ 10 a.m. Alan Illig, The Life of Heretic Algernon Crapsey

~ 11 a.m. Majorie Searl, Artist George Haushalter

~ 11:30 a.m. Valerie O'Hara, History of Stained Glass Art

~ 1:30 p.m. Valerie O'Hara, CSA Stained Glass Tour

~ 3 p.m. Virtual Tour of Mount Hope Cemetery


Ad-Hoc Visions; Susan B. Anthony House; Antique Appraisals by
Yvonne Jordan; Antique Postcards; Authors: Rose O'Keefe and
Ruth Rosenberg-Naparsteck; Charlotte Genesee Lighthouse and Charlotte
Village & Transportation Museum;; Friends of Mount Hope
Cemetery; Friends of the Market; Greece Historical Society; Highland Park Neighborhood Assoc.;
Canal Society of NYS *;
Record Archive; Rochester Museum & Science Center; Rochester Public Library
local history

*Joann and I will be personing the Canal Society table. Stop and say hi.

Hearty chili, scrumptious soup & breads for sale 11 a.m.- 1 p.m.

~ Free admission ~ ~ Proceeds benefit CSA art restoration fund ~

Free parking at the Postler Jaeckle lot on South Avenue at Averill Avenue

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Valerie O'Hara will be speaking on Stained Glass Art at CSA
at Calvary St. Andrew's Church, at 11:30 AM.

Pike Stained Glass Studios is among the oldest stained glass studios in the country. We are among the leading designers and manufacturers of one of a kind stained glass windows and the most expert and informed restorers of antique windows. In 1908 William Pike, the current owner’s great uncle, moved to Rochester to start his company after working for the legendary Louis Comfort Tiffany in New York City.

In 1948, James O’Hara, Pike’s nephew, began working for his uncle and eventually purchased the business from him. Pike continued working at the studio until his death in 1958. Jim O’Hara held a master’s degree in Fine Arts from City College in New York City and had work experience in industrial design and teaching before moving to Rochester. Jim’s mother managed the studio office from 1950-1970 and his wife, Norma Lee O’Hara, assisted in the design of windows and color selection from 1948 to 1976.

In 1966, at the age of 12, Valerie O’Hara began working for her father part-time after school and during the summers. After graduation from Rochester Institute of Technology in 1976, when she began working full time designing and creating one of a kind custom commissions, as well as repairing and restoring stained glass.

The sole owner and director since 1987, when Valerie purchased the studio from her father, Valerie specializes in the art of hand painting on glass to create effects that cannot be achieved through the medium of lead and glass alone. This skill, and her knowledge of religious iconography, make her uniquely qualified to continue the work of her predecessors in stained glass.

For Regional Fair details click on the October arrow to the left of the page, then on the first item – HERETICS, HISTORY and HALLELUJAS.

More speaker bios tomorrow

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


Marjorie Searl will be speaking on Artist George Haushalter at the 2009 Regional Fair this coming Saturday at Rochester’s Calvary St. Andrew’s Church, at 11 AM.

Marjorie Searl is the Curator of American Art and the Chief Curator at the Memorial Art Gallery. Her most recent publication, Seeing America: Painting and Sculpture from the Collection of the Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester, was the culmination of a multi-year research project funded in part by the Henry Luce Foundation and the National Endowment of the Arts. The publication accompanied the reinstallation of the 19th and 20th century American art galleries at MAG. Most recently, she curated the exhibition Maira Kalman: The Elements of Style.

In 2003, Searl organized the exhibition Leaving For the Country: George Bellows at Woodstock , a groundbreaking retrospective of the work of the last five years of Bellows’s paintings and prints that had a national tour. She also wrote for and edited the exhibition catalog. Searl has spoken on George Bellows at the Woodstock Artists Association and Hobart College. Previously, she curated the Memorial Art Gallery exhibition About Face: John Singleton Copley’s Portrait of a Colonial Silversmith, the first in a series of Masterpiece in Context exhibitions, which investigated the Gallery’s portrait of silversmith and engraver, Nathaniel Hurd. This project which was funded by grants from the Museum Loan Network, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the New York State Council on the Arts. In connection with this exhibition, she has written for the online publication She also edited and wrote for the Gallery’s scholarly journal Porticus: About "About Face": A New Look at an Early American Mystery.

She was the co-curator, assistant catalog editor and writer for the Memorial Art Gallery exhibition Head, Heart and Hand: Elbert Hubbard and the Roycrofters, which toured in 1994-6 under the auspices of the American Federation of Arts. Exhibitions that she has curated include: Furniture from Rochester’s Frank Lloyd Wright House; Architectural Drawings of Louis Kahn’s First Unitarian Church, Rochester; and Chaim Gross’ Song of Songs Portfolio.

Searl was formerly the Gallery’s Estelle B. Goldman curator of education, with responsibility for school and adult programs. She has lectured extensively on museum projects and American art and architecture at the Memorial Art Gallery, Rochester area colleges and universities, and at national conferences including MidAtlantic Association of Museums, the Annual Arts & Crafts Conference in Asheville, North Carolina, and regional meetings of the American Association of Museums. She is active in community initiatives, including the advisory council of the Caroline Werner Gannett project at RIT.

Searl is a graduate of Smith College, Teachers College, Columbia University, and the Cooperstown Graduate Program.

For Regional Fair details click on the October arrow to the left of the page, then on the first item – HERETICS, HISTORY and HALLELUJAS.

More speaker bios tomorrow

Monday, November 9, 2009


Alan Illig will be speaking on The Life of Heretic Algernon Crapsey at the 2009 Regional Fair this coming Saturday at Rochester’s Calvary St. Andrew’s Church, at 10 AM.

Alan Illig was born and raised in Rochester’s 19th ward. He graduated from West High School, Rutgers University and Harvard Law School. Mr. Illig is a member of Third Presbyterian Church and was the lawyer for Algernon Crapsey’s grandson Arthur Jr. and Hettie Jean Crapsey.

Mr. Illig was a lawyer with Harter, Secrest and Emery Law Office. For the past six years he has been a part-time staff with Life Span.

For Regional Fair details click on the October arrow to the left of this page, then on the first item – HERETICS, HISTORY and HALLELUJAS.

More speaker bios tomorrow

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Not So Nice Accommodations

© 2007 David Minor / Eagles Byte

English author Jeremy Bentham began proposing prison reforms in the 1780s; dying in 1832 he would not see any results. But his ideas were being discussed, even if implemented only at a glacial pace. We’ve seen James Stuart’s interest in New York’s prison at Auburn back in 1828. Now, two years later, John Fowler’s following right in his footsteps, even taking the same 25¢ tour – apparently inflation hasn’t kicked in during the intervening period. The fee is to help offset operational costs.

On August 24th Fowler was right at the front gate at 6 AM. As he passed into the facility he may have glanced up to the roof of the administration building and seen a wooden soldier in Revolutionary War uniform, that had stood guard there for the past nine years. Eighteen years in the future the weather will have done its work and he’ll need replacing. Prisoners in the foundry there will make a copper version, which soon becomes known as Copper John . If you’re sent there as a resident today it will be said by some locals that you’re, “going to work for Copper John”.

First on the tour were the cells. “These gloomy abodes are about seven or eight feet long, by four feet wide, and perhaps about seven feet in height. . . . all the furniture they contain is a hammock, which is let down in the daytime, a stool, and a Bible upon a shelf in one of the corners.”

Fowler is shown the prison’s workshops where, under contract to local stores, prisoners are engaged in various occupations. Fowler lists, “tailoring, shoemaking, weaving, machine, button, cabinet making, &c; coopering, and smiths’ work . . . “. This was the more benign aspect of what was becoming known as the Auburn System.

The other side of the coin was the strict regimentation and isolation of each prisoner. Fowler, quoting an early travel guide, describes prisoners filing in for breakfast. “. . . moving in a single file, with a slow lock step and erect posture, keeping exact time, with their faces inclined towards their keepers (that they may detect conversation, none of which is ever permitted, ) all giving to the spectator somewhat similar feelings to those excited by a military funeral.” After mentioning that the inmates are at no time allowed the opportunity to speak to each other, he goes on to observe, “Some appeared calm and resigned, or sensible of the guilt and degradation of their situation; others displayed an entire indifference to their fate; whilst in a few I noticed the black expressions of obdurate cruelty, ferocity, and revenge, demonstrating but too plainly the justice of the doom which had overtaken them.” In reporter Michael Doyle’s book The Forestport Breaks”, when he describes a prisoner entering Auburn Prison in the 1890s, he tells us, “. . . he would be keeping his eyes straight ahead during meals, eating on tin plates, submitting to the wordless orders communicated by the keepers’ rapping of a staff.” Doyle adds that whippings and cold showers kept obstinate prisoners in line. They probably hadn’t invented waterboarding yet. Might have considered it barbaric, even back then.

By the 1890s reforms were only beginning to be seriously proposed. In 1830 Fowler approves in general with the methods of discipline, “. . . a decided majority, upon leaving the prison, have become reformed and useful members of society.”

Hang in there, Bentham ! !

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Steam Boat Launch

Submitted by Dick Palmer

Lyons Republican, Friday May 19, 1820

From the American Journal

On Thursday last, a novel and interesting scene was presented to
the inhabitants of Ithaca and a concourse of strangers and citizens
of the vicinity. It had been previously announced that the Steam Boat
building on the bank of the Inlet near the village, would be launched
at one oíclock. Every thing was in readiness. The day was exceedingly
favorable. It seemed that May had assumed her brightest smiles, and
put on her fairest garments. The banks were lined with spectators;
ladies and gentlemen, young and old, the pride and strength and
beauty of Ulysses, all in anxious expectation.

The word of caution is given, the workmen proceed to remove the
fastings; when by inadvertency the bow is first started, and whiled
from its slider upon the ground near the edge of the water. But the
clouds of disappointment and regret which now shadowed every
countenance, were of short duration. The obstructions were soon
removed; the vessel was again started, gliding with ease and safety
into the water, and the name she is to bear The Enterprise of
was announced amidst the firing of cannon, and the loud;
long, and hearty cheers of the spectators:

When we look back for a few years, to the wild, uncultivated,
and unpromising state of this section of country, such a scene as
Thursday presented, is calculated to fill the mind with astonishment,
and to excite reflections which are peculiarly grateful and pleasing.
From the present scene of improvement, we are irresistibly carried
forward to future prospects; and the interesting enquiry suggests it
self what may a few years hence produce! And reverting again to the
present, we acknowledge the full force and comprehensiveness of the
substitute which was proposed for the name of the steam boat who'd
have thought if of Ithaca.

The Enterprise is acknowledged by all who have examined her, to be a
most elegantly modeled vessel. She is about 90 feet by 30 upon deck;
120 tons burthen; and her engine is of 24 horse power. She will be
completed, ready to run, by the first of next month, when we shall
take occasion to give a more just and particular description of her.