Friday, April 9, 2010

Up the Valley

Script No, 544, January 26, 2008

© 2008 David Minor / Eagles Byte

As John Fowler prepares to depart from Rochester, New York, we’ll take a moment to note that also in this year of 1830 the village has had a visit from evangelist Charles Grandison Finney whose revival meeting has added 838 members to the Presbyterian and Baptist churches. And in far-off Germany, a future Rochester industrialist was born a month previously. He’s given the name John Jacob, by Mr. and Mrs. Bausch.

But Fowler’s coach sits ready to take him up the Genesee Valley to Geneseo, most of the route owned at one time by that village’s founders, the Wadsworths. Shortly he spots another example of the region’s focus on the wheat crop. “Two miles out of the town [Rochester] I noticed a thrashing machine in operation, a wooden one to be sure, but still a thrashing machine It is the first I have seen in this country, was worked by two horses, and appeared to be rather an object of curiosity in its neighborhood.” And this was a year before Cyrus Hall McCormick would introduce his mechanical reaper.

But suddenly, a few miles further on, Fowler forgot all about agricultural innovation. “. . . we had the misfortune to get capsized, linchpin of the hind-wheel falling out, if (as I very much query) there was one in at starting.” The road was in good condition; had they been crossing a bridge or threading their way through a pass, “it is more than probable there would have been a full and final end to coach, horses and cargo.” Not to mention a several “fair nymphs” he describes as being his traveling companions.

There was a nearby village – Scottsville, perhaps? - where they replace the linchpin, and continue on their way, pulling into Geneseo around five in the afternoon. He feels the land they have passed through appeared quite fertile but still far inferior to that around the Canandaigua area, being poorly drained, and appearing at many places rather ‘foul’. The village itself contains three hotels. He mentions experiencing all of them, but doesn’t tell which one he stayed at. It‘s obvious none of the hotels would earn any ‘stars’ from Fowler; he describes them “. . . though tolerably large, are sad dirty, comfortless places.” He obviously would not contemplate a return visit.

That evening he wanders out to visit the flats down the hill by the Genesee, which he describes as luxuriant, and watches as the local farmers work to get their hay in. He also mentions hemp as being another local product. The next morning the weather has turned colder – November-like - and the flats are hidden by a blanket of dense fog. He’s disappointed at breakfast by the quality of the water; even the coffee is undrinkable and he’s forced to use cream to get it down. He’s not too surprised; it’s been his experience that the only drinkable water in the state is to be found in Brooklyn.

Now, it’s time to head out again, returning northward to catch the Buffalo stage at Avon. It soon becomes obvious to those of us reading his account that missed connections do not belong exclusively to the airplane age. He’s been told that the westward stage leaves Avon about nine in the morning and that he should make it there in plenty of time. Maybe he bought a bridge back in Brooklyn, too. Traveling along at 3 1/2 miles an hour he arrives at his destination to find the stage has already left - the last stage of the day. “My fare was paid and there was an end of it.”

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