Friday, May 29, 2009


Craig Braack, the Allegany County Historian, is giving a slide show
talk on "Women in the Civil War" on June 6, at the Lutheran Church in
Cohocton, sponsored by the Steuben County Historical Society. The 12:30
luncheon before the talk costs $12 for soup, sandwiches, dessert and
beverages, and requires prepayment and a reservation sent to the SCHS,
PO Box 349, Bath, NY, 14810. The program starts at 1:15, and is free
and open to the public.

For further information –

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 . . .

Friday, May 22, 2009


Hello New Society members (and wanna-bes):

The May meeting will be on Saturday, May 30. We will meet at 10:15 a.m.
at the WPA Art Gallery on the Livingston County Campus in Mount Morris.
Lunch will follow at the Genesee River Hotel in Mount Morris at 11:45.
Lunch choices are: Monte Cristo sandwich at $11.46, Philly Cheese Steak
sandwich at $12.74, or Oriental Chicken salad at $12.74. Tax and tip are included.

If you are planning to attend, please notify Alberta Dunn of your choice for lunch
by May 27, either at or (585) 243-2281.

Directions to the WPA Art Gallery from the center of Mount Morris:
take Route 36 North (Main Street) one block, turn left at the Livingston
County Campus, and park behind Building #4.

Martha Johnstone

[any questions? e-mail David Minor at ]

Thursday, May 21, 2009


By Richard Palmer

Swain was once fairly well known as a railroad junction point – predominated by the Erie and the Pittsburg, Shawmut & Northern and its predecessors, as well as for a branch of the Pennsylvania Railroad. Over the years the hamlet has also been known as Swains and Swainsville. Today, it is home to a popular ski resort, and has about 300 residents.

Swain sprang into existence after the coming of the railroad. This line was chartered as the Attica & Hornellsville on May 14, 1845 and reorganized as the Buffalo & New York City Railroad on April 15, 1851. It was opened between what was then called Hornellsville and Portageville on Jan. 22, 1852, and to Attica on May 3, 1852.

Swain was a typical small community with a few houses, a general store, and a sawmill. A post office was established there after the railroad was built and was located in the railroad depot built by Samuel Swain, which he later sold to the railroad.

The two-story structure was destroyed by fire on Feb. 10, 1880. It was a large, two-story structure. The station agent, J. J. Benchley, his wife and child who lived in the rear of the depot, barely escaped with their lives. At the time the fire broke out, John Stuart, the telegraph operator, was on duty. He discovered the fire at about 4 a.m. The building also housed the freight office and served as the local general store and post office, and also served as the town hall. It was completely destroyed by fire. At the time, 800 bushels of grain were stored in the freight section. Cause of the fire was an overheated stovepipe.

The place was named for Mr. Swain who was born in Northword, N. H. in 1809 and came to Oakland, just west of Nunda, in 1818, which was then known as Messenger’s Hollow. He moved from there to Nunda in 1825, to Swains in 1856, and back to Nunda in 1870. In 1828 he and Lindsay Joslyn built a grist mill on Mill Street. Swain also was involved in the development of a woolen mill in Nunda.

Mr. Swain was on the building committee for the local Baptist Church, as well as serving on the board of trustees for many years. About 1844 he purchased about 9,000 acres of land in Allegany county. He was one of the leading proponents for the railroad and granted a right of way through his property to the railroad. He ultimately served on the railroad company’s board of directors. He also represented the town of Grove on the Allegany County Board of Supervisors. He also served as a Justice of the Peace for eight years, and was also the local tax collector. In the early days he used his talents as a surveyor to lay out local real estate lots.

Mr. Swain took an active role in the development of the Rochester, Nunda and Pennsylvania Railroad and was elected a director and vice president in 1871. Benjamin F. Dow of York was elected president. At the time of his death on Feb. 7, 1885, he served on the Nunda Village Board of Trustees. He was survived by his wife, Clara; two sons, Samuel Jr., and Charles; and three daughters, Julia, Anna and Kittie; and his 81-year-old brother, Alfred. He had a mansion on Massachusetts Street in Nunda.

Sources: Nunda News, Feb. 4, 1885, Feb. 9, 1956; Buffalo Courier, Feb. 11, 1880; P. 302, History of Allegany County, N.Y., F.W. Beers & Co., New York, 1879; “Between the Ocean and the Lakes,” 1899, by Harold T. Mott.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


Governor William Burnet builds the future Fort Oswego, on Lake Ontario. ** Immigrants from the German Palatine settle in the western Mohawk Valley on a patent granted by Governor Burnet, among them John Jost and Catherine Herkimer, parents of future General Nicholas Herkimer.

The “Castle”, a stone fortification, is built on the Niagara River — the nucleus of Fort Niagara.

History of the Five Indian Nations, by Doctor Cadwallader Colden, is published in London.

Royal governor of New York and New Jersey William Burnet is transferred to Massachusetts.

Sep 7
Former New York governor and current governor of New England William Burnet dies in Boston at the age of 40.


Scottish lawyer and New York landowner William Johnstone (later Pulteney) is born to Sir James Johnstone, 3rd baronet of Wester Hall, Dumfries and Barbara Murray Johnstone.

A channel is dug through an oxbow on Wood Creek, the first canal in the state.

The approximate date Devonshire woolens manufacturer Andrew Ellicott, great-grandfather of New York land agent Joseph Ellicott, emigrates to America with his eldest son, leaving a wife and two other children behind.

William Cosby is appointed Royal Governor.

Jan 24
U. S. financier and land speculator Robert Morris is born in Liverpool, England.

© 2011 David Minor / Eagles Byte

Monday, May 18, 2009


The Historic Oakwood Cemetery
Preservation Association,
Syracuse, New York,
announces the first cemetery tour
of the 2009 season.

Sunday, May 24, 2 o'clock:
"From the Ground Up: Design of the 150-Year-Old
Professor George W. Curry of
E.S.F. will lead a tour focusing on the
designed as well as the natural aspects
of Oakwood Cemetery.

Enter at the Comstock Avenue gate,
follow the signs. For a complete summer
schedule, go to:
For more information, call (315) 682-6312

Kindest regards,
Sue Greenhagen, Technical Services Librarian
Box 902, Morrisville State College Library
Morrisville, NY 13408
(315) 684-6055

Saturday, May 16, 2009


The members of our Map Club met on Tues. April 21st and 10 people
attended. The Sanborn maps were discussed and Edson Ennis gave a
presentation on the Lyons Sanborn maps. Edson discussed how 17 of
these sheets were very important maps. The orientation of the canal
and the changes that it went through, the businesses that butted up
against the canal and how they changed through the years were also
noted and discussed. It is interesting to note that the earliest
Sanborn maps were of Geneva, NY and were made for insurance purposes
to better assess property values and insurance claims. 12,000
communities were mapped. Our next meeting is focused on Macedon with
some Palmyra maps included.

The next meeting of the Museum’s Historic Map Club
will be Tuesday May 19 at 7 p.m.
Our program will be Macedon maps.
All are welcome
Please call 315-946-4943 for more information

Wayne County Historical Society
Museum of Wayne County History
21 Butternut Street
Lyons, NY 14489
Phone: 315-946-4943
Fax: 315-946-0069

Friday, May 15, 2009


In recognition of National Historic Preservation Month

The Village of Pittsford and Historic Pittsford
Enthusiastically offer the following program:


Slide presentations by
Architectural Historian Jean France and
Village Mayor Bob Corby

Wednesday May 20th, 7:00 PM
Pittsford Community Library
24 State Street

Open to the public and free of charge

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Miller Suffrage Scrapbooks

Catch the Suffrage Spirit: Sampling the Miller Suffrage
Scrapbooks," a lecture by Rosemary Fry Plakas

Tuesday, May 19, 2009, 7:30pm
Admission: Free
Lochland School, 1065 Lochland Rd (Rt. 14S), Geneva, NY

Lecturer To Speak on the Miller Suffrage Scrapbooks at the Lochland School

Geneva, N.Y.: The Geneva Historical Society is pleased to have Library
of Congress Curator, Rosemary Fry Plakas, present the lecture, "Catch
the Suffrage Spirit: Sampling the Miller Suffrage Scrapbooks" at the
Lochland School on May 19, 2009 at 7:30 p.m. The program is based on
Plakas' research into the seven Miller scrapbooks, 1897-1911, in the
National American Woman Suffrage Association Collection in the Rare Book
Division at the Library of Congress. These scrapbooks document the
pioneering leadership of Elizabeth Smith Miller and Anne Fitzhugh Miller
in the suffrage movement in Geneva, Ontario County, and the state of New
York, as well as their contributions at the national and international
level. Their preserved programs, newspaper clippings, letters,
photographs, pins, and ribbons trace the activities of the Geneva
Political Equality Club, where local women and men worked together to
broaden awareness of the positive benefits of woman suffrage, while
encouraging a better understanding of public affairs and the
responsibilities of citizenship.

Although less well-known than her cousin Elizabeth Cady Stanton,
Elizabeth Smith Miller and her daughter Anne Miller were significant
financial supporters of the woman suffrage movement and close to many
national suffrage activists. In addition, Elizabeth designed the
rational dress that came to be known as the Bloomer costume. She lived
in Geneva, in the lakefront home that is now the Lochland School, from
1869 until her death in 1911. The Millers brought national and
international suffrage activists to Geneva each year to speak to the
Geneva Political Equality Club, including Stanton, Susan B. Anthony,
Lucy Stone, Carrie Chapman Catt, and Emmeline Pankhurst. Anne Miller
founded the Club in 1897. By 1907, the Geneva Club boasted 400 members
and was the largest in the state.

Each year, after a winter of speakers and study groups, the Club's
concluding event was an elegant fund raising party the Millers held on
the piazza of their home. In honor of this tradition, the Society is
holding Ms. Plakas' lecture in the administration building on the
grounds of the Lochland School, 1065 Lochland Road/Route 14 South. For
those interested, there will be a tour of the house at 7 p.m., preceding
the lecture.

Rosemary Fry Plakas is the American History Specialist/Curator of Rare
Americana, in the Rare Book and Special Collections Division of the
Library of Congress. Her responsibilities there include collection
development and digitization, conservation and bibliographic control
recommendation, and interpretation of rare collections through
presentations, publications, and exhibitions. She has a BA from Park
University in Missouri and an MA in American Studies from the University
of Wyoming. She has been at the Library of Congress since 1985 and
concentrates on developing the Library's African American and women's
history collections.

This program is funded by a grant from the New York Council for the
Humanities and is also supported in part by the Samuel B. Williams Fund
for programs in the Humanities. For more information about the lecture,
call the Geneva Historical Society at 315-789-5151.

The New York Council for the Humanities is a private, nonprofit
organization dedicated to helping all New Yorkers lead vibrant
intellectual lives by strengthening traditions of cultural literacy,
critical inquiry and civic participation.

Geneva Historical Society
543 South Main St
Geneva, NY 14456

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Canal Item from the Lyons Advertiser - 1822

Submitted by Richard Palmer

July 19, 1822
From the Daily Advertiser (N.Y.)

Grand Canal
We are informed by a gentleman who has just returned from a visit to Buffalo and Niagara Falls,
that he traveled 160 miles in the new convenient passage boats, on the Erie canal viz:

From Little Falls to Utica - 22 mile
Utica to Montezuma, by Rome, Syracuse and Weed’s Basin - 96 miles
Crossing from Montezuma over the Seneca river and the Cayuga marshes - 6 miles
and up the river Clyde - 6 ½ miles ,
to Blockhouse he again takes the canal and passing the flourishing villages
of Lyons and Palmyra to Hartwell’s basin - 42 miles
160 miles

On this route are already seven passage-boats with good accommodations, and hundreds of other boats, transporting, immense quantities of produce, to Utica; and such is the stock in this state that there are now 100,000 barrels of flour alone on the banks of the canal, that cannot be transported for want of boats, many of which are now building, that cost from $100 to 400 each, and carry from 150 to 400 barrels. These boats have taken freight from Montezuma to Utica, a distance of nearly 100 miles, at the extremely low rate of 5 cents per cwt., or one dollar per ton, which is about one tenth of the former rate of transporting the same distance by wagons; in this case the owners of the goods paid the tolls, which, however, are very trifling.

The passage boats are drawn by three horses, tandem rigged; the other boats, by one or two horses according to the size of the boat - a boy rides the rear horse and travels from 3 to 4 miles per hour. Passengers leaving Utica at 8 o’clock, reach Weed’s Basin 87 miles the next morning at 7 o’clock traveling all night. The charge is only 4 cents per mile, which includes board and lodging both which are as good, if not better, than at the taverns on the road. This is ans rapid as the stages travel, much less expensive , no risk of life or limb and no fatigue on dust attending.

The Grand canal is nearly finished from Schenectady to Little Falls, 56 miles from Montezuma to Clyde, or Block House, 13 miles- and from Heartwell’s Basin to Genesee River, and from thence to Brockport 60 miles all of which, it is said, will be filled and boats allowed to pass, on or before the first day of October next making 260 to270 miles through one of the richest and most valuable parts, of the state of New York. Numerous emigrants from the hardy and industrious northern and eastern hive, are to be seen transporting themselves and their families, to settle on the lands bordering on the canal.

Merchants residing in Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Lexington and Louisville, and in Michigan and Indiana, will soon get their goods transported for 1-4 the price that they now pay, and save as much or more in the breakage and damage now unavoidable in wagons, besides the saving of half or two thirds in time: which in fact, is extending the credit on their goods.

Emigrants and their families must prefer the canal to any other route, on every account, expense, time health, comfort &c.
The amount of toll already received at the office in Utica this spring exceeds the sum paid the whole of last year, and it is supposed it will amount to 50 to 60,000 dollars.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Getting to the Point Again

© 2007 David Minor / Eagles Byte

Sing Sing Prison drops behind on the steamboat Albany’s starboard side. Just to the north, on the same side, the Croton River enters the Hudson with Croton Point immediately beyond, jutting out into the river. Our English traveler John Fowler leaves the Tappan Zee behind and enters Haverstraw Bay, another wide spot in the river.

Around this time businessman John W. Frost is starting a brickyard in the village of Croton. The fields in the area will provide abundant straw for the process, the hills of yellow and blue clay deposits on both side of the bay provide the raw materials and the region will become a source for much of the building supplies used up and down the valley. The Croton area will eventually support 34 brickyards.

The community on the opposite shore, will soon outdo its neighbor, becoming the Brickmaking Capital of the World in the 1850s; by 1864 employing over a thousand men, and turning out 150,000,000 bricks a year. Its last brickyard will close in 1933. The unnamed community will soon gain the moniker Samsondale when an entrepreneur named Elisha Peck brings machinery here this year from England for the building of a rolling mill. He had arrived aboard the ship Samson and will dub the area Samsondale. It will soon take the name of its township and become Haverstraw.

The Albany continues on to the north, out of the bay and, passing Peekskill, enters into the highlands of the Hudson, running between Bear Mountain and Anthony’s Nose (supposedly named for an over-endowed Dutchman; whose story was made famous by Washington Irving). Then, as the river begins widening again, the military academy at West Point appears to the west.

Things will not have changed much since James Stuart’s visit a year previously. This year Fowler tells us the 250 cadets are between the ages of 14 and 22, the cost of each amounting to $336 annually (you may remember from last week that the cost of building Sing Sing was $333 per convict) and that the yearly operating budget is $115,000. “The cadets are instructed in all the practical minutiae of tactics; comprehending the lowest duties of the private soldier, as well as the highest duties of the officer.” They also spend six to eight weeks a year in the field, learning the ins and outs of encampment.

Fowler also mentions the 64-room West Point Hotel that had opened just previously to Stuart’s visit. He’s especially taken with its, “extensive piazzas, forming a delightful promenade . . . its rear is upon the Hudson, and presents a fine view up the river through the Highlands.”

William Gorgas, our Pennsylvania traveler, this same year puts the number of students at 650, rather than 250. Perhaps something got lost in someone’s transcriptions or, perhaps Fowler is counting only the first-year students. Even later, in U. S., Grant’s time, his graduating class numbered 39, so Fowler’s figure seems more accurate. One last thing - about five weeks before Fowler’s visit a young gent from Baltimore entered the Point - poet by the name of Edgar Allen Poe.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Canal Items from the Wayne Sentinel - 1830, 1831

Submitted by Richard Palmer

Wayne Sentinel

Palmyra, Friday April 23,1830

Canal Navigation.- The Canal opened on the 20th inst. and the packet and line-boats have commenced their regular trips. Business will now revive and our villages on the great Erie Canal will feel the beneficial effects of the opening of navigation. Already we perceive the change in our own village. Enterprise, bustle and activity are every where to be seen. The villages on the canal have a decided advantage over our inland villages, and are fast outstripping them in business and increasing population. In the village of Palmyra, as flourishing in as any between Albany and Buffalo, an astonishing change has taken place within a very few years. The location of the Wayne County Bank at this place, must be attended with the most happy consequences in regard to the future growth and respectable standing of this city of the desert.

Wayne Sentinel

Palmyra, Tuesday, Dec. 6, 1831.

Melancholy and fatal accident.-

Col. Daniel Hendee of Lockville*, in this county, and formerly of this village, was drowned in the canal or lock, at that place, on the night of the 29th ult. The circumstances were as follows: A boat had got entangled in the lock, at a late hour of the night, and Col. Hendee who had the charge of the lock, was assisting to extricate the boat.- He was suddenly missed, but no particular alarm was felt for his fate, until some minutes had elapsed, when a fruitless search was made for him both in the lock and through the neighborhood. The search was renewed early in the morning, when his lifeless body was found in the canal a short distance below the lock. The supposition is that he must have fallen into the lock while engaged as above stated, and drowned instantly- his body going out of the lock with the boat. Col Hendee has left a number of orphan children, and a large circle of friends and connexions to deplore his loss. His funeral was attended on Friday last.