Friday, November 26, 2010

What's So 'Royal' About That?

Script No, 548 March 1, 2008

(c) 2008 David Minor / Eagles Byte

Leaving Batavia, New York, mid-afternoon on August 28th, 1830, John Fowler's coach passes through Pembroke, stopping several miles beyond for a meal at a combination farmhouse and tavern. Fowler doesn't mention the landlord by name - possibly by this time he'd reached the Corfu area - but he was impressed with the "very comfortable repast", served up fairly swiftly, without being unduly rushed. Unlike most of the tavern meals he'd experienced, he had time to finish eating and set down his knife and fork before all the chairs were pushed away from the table and the diners scrambled back on their coach.

Back on the road again, they pass through Alden. The landscape begins to change, and not for the better. Fowler describes the scene. "The soil of these woods has no consistency beyond that of decomposed, or half decomposed, vegetable matter, wholly inadequate to sustain the weight of carriages at any time, and in the wet season, mere bog." The solution usually forced upon road builders had been in use for the past 4,000 years. The log surface, called a corduroy road because of its resemblance to corde-du-roi (kings cord) a ribbed material, was made out of logs laid perpendicular to the road's path over the soupy land, more or less floating on top of it when the surface was very wet. Often a more permanent surface would one day be laid down over the corduroy but, unfortunately for Fowler, this time he was a man ahead of his time.

If he had felt uncomfortable crossing the North Cayuga bridge a few days earlier, he wasn't any happier now. The problem was, vehicles using the road would be going across the grain, so to speak, rather than with it. ". . . nothing can be conceived more direfully hostile to the comfort of either man or beast, or the safety of the vehicle." He was glad the driver was tender-hearted and slowed the coach down to two miles an hour over most of the way. When he occasionally went twice the speed, ". . . why, then, good bye to description, and to seats of honor, and to all other seats; 'twas rather too much for a joke: the reader's imagination, if tolerably fertile, will best help me out."

He's later told that labor's way too expensive on the frontier for any more elegant solutions. He can't know it, but corduroy roads will continue to be used - during the American Civil War, on World War II's Eastern Front and during the building of the Alaska Highway.

Finally, as the day begins to wear away, they enter Buffalo, make their way into the village and pull up in front of their destination, the Buffalo House. This inn, run by E. Powell, Jr., sat near today's Main and Church streets, close to St. Paul's Episcopal Church and just opposite the site where the offices of the newly-chartered Bank of Buffalo will be erected the following year.

Not waiting for his baggage to be off-loaded, he heads off the terrace of land his hostelry sits on and descends to the shore of Lake Erie. ". . . which I found my way into and enjoyed the luxury of a moonlight dip in its refreshing waters." He doesn't say what he did for a bathing costume. Presumably he had the place all to himself at this hour. We'll discretely turn our heads.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Duck Islands Claim Three More Lives

Syracuse Herald, Sunday, Jan. 18, 1931

Solvay Man and Buddies Latest Victims


Score Perished There


Mariners Recall Wrecks in Vicinity of Isles Periling Boats


Exclusive Dispatch to The Herald

Kingston, Ont., Jan. 17. - The Ducks - "Charbydie and Scylia" of Lake Ontario have claimed three more victims - Anthony Kane of Solvay, whose body was found in Wilson's Bay, three miles southwest of Cape Vincent last Tuesday; Cecil Philips of Bath, Ont., and William Sheridan of Rochester, whose bodies have not yet been recovered.

The Ducks are two small islands in the vast expanse of Lake Ontario, halfway between Bath, Ont., and Oswego. They have been the scene of many wrecks and have caused the loss of more than a score of lives. The recent tragedy there brings once more to the public mind the sinister name of these islands.

Mariners of past years now living in the cities and towns of both the United States and Canada are always ready to tell of incidents which took place in the neighborhood, and each new disaster recalls memories of the past. Alfeus Turcotte of Kingston, Ont., veteran mariner of sailing days and later an expert ship carpenter, recalls a sinking at the False Ducks of which he was an eye witness. (Sept. 30, 1880). The old sailor describes the incident as follows:

"We had been lying in shelter behind Timber Island during a terrific gale, and when we put out the weather was still bad. Just as we rounded the north end of Timber Island I caught a glimpse of another sailing vessel too close to Duckling Reef on the False Duck Shoal, for safety. I was at the wheel of our craft, the 'Malone,' and could see the whole thing.

"The wind was shrieking through the rigging, and the mighty waves pounding on Duckling threw their spray as high as the masts. I watched the 'Olive Branch,' as I later discovered her name to be, fascinated and horror stricken at the fate she could not escape. Driving before the wind, on bare spars, she cleaved the water, burrowing deep in the mighty combers. As I watched she rose on the crest of a giant wave, and seeming to hesitate for a moment as if for a last look at all things earthly, plunged to destruction on the reef. I could not tear my eyes away and absolutely was powerless to go to their rescue.

"I called our captain, who gave the order to stand by and pick up survivors if any were able to wind through to us. I saw the life boats lowered and dashed to pieces against the hull before the men in them could pull out of harm's way. Many of the crew leaped overboard in their frenzy and were hopelessly smashed against the ship. She wasn't long breaking up and we were unable to do anything. We stood by helpless and were forced to witness at least one tragedy when a proud ship and brave men gave their lived in a hopeless battle against wind and sea."

Old newspaper files at Kingston disclose accounts of many such occurrences. In 1910 the "John Sharples" stranded on Galloo Island in a storm bud did not break up and the crew was saved.

In 1918 some new freighters were built on the Upper Lakes for the United States Shipping Board. Too large to take down through the canal locks in one section they were made in two pieces, bulkheads keeping out of the water at the division. The "Minola," one of these freighters, was in tow during December of that year when a storm broke. The bow section came loose from its tug near the Main Ducks in a terrific gale and was lost with 11 men aboard. The tug made port safely as did the stern section which was being brought the lake at the same time.

A wreck that caused a great deal of excitement in 1920 was that of the steam barge "John Randall," which sank 300 feet east of the Main Ducks. After staying aboard their sinking ship until the last moment, the crew took to the water and were all able to make the island. They remained there five days before being found by search parties. Captain John Randall and his crew had been given up for lost when their vessel did not reach port and great joy greeted the news of their safety.

Just the next year, on Nov. 25, 1921, the steam barge, "City of New York," commanded by Captain Harry Randall, son of Captain John, foundered off Stony Point. The same kindly fate which saved the father and his crew did not come to the lot of the son, or he and all on board his ship were lost.'

The steam barge was loaded with phosphate and while thus heavily laden was caught in one of the terrible storms of the fall shipping season. Five of the crew were found dead in a lifeboat in which they had made a desperate fight for safety after their ship foundered. They were Mrs. Harry Randall, wife of the captain; Wesley Warren, mate of Seeley's Bay near Kingston; Robert H. Dorey, Gilbert J. Dorey and Francis Gallagher of Kingston.

The other members of the crew, Captain Randall, his small child, Joseph Gallagher and a boy named Stanley Pappa, never again were seen. The discovery of the lifeboat, too late to save the lives of its occupants who had died from exposure, was made by the crew of the steamer "Isabella."

As recent as 1929 a modern freighter, the "Sarniadoc" on her maiden voyage in Canadian waters, and only one year after out of the yards at Scotland, went ashore on the reefs of the Main Ducks. All the crew were saved by the 'Valley Camp" which stood by and took them off in boats. Later, the "Sarniadoc" was freed from the reef and part of her grain cargo saved. A few years earlier, the tug "Concretia" went aground at the Ducks and later was salvaged an put in service again.

Another wreck, of which very little detail is available, was a lake steamer which went ashore near Oswego. Several lives were lost before the rescuers could find means of getting the crew to lane. This boat was blown ashore in a gale and broke up on a shoal just off the mainland shore.

The islands which make up the intricate barrier at the eastern end of Lake Ontario are commonly referred to as The Ducks. In reality there are several islands of different names. The Main Duck group rank first in tragedy, another group called the False Ducks and northeast of these islands, lonesome and buffeted by wind and wave is Pigeon Island, lying in wait for the unwary mariner. These islands are in Canadian waters while just south of them across the international boundary like the two American islands of Galloo and Stony. They have also figured in their share of marine disasters.

All of the shipping of the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario passes through the channels formed by the islands, and the cross lake traffic from Oswego, to the towns and cities along the Canadian shore runs close to them.

In describing the dangerous territory in terms for the landsman a convenient start can be made at Stony Point, a rocky headland on the United States shore about 28 miles northeast of Oswego. Following the islands on the map the next point of interest is Stony Island about two and a half miles northwest of the headland. The channel between is broad and deep. Rocky shoals extend out from Stony Island and they have crushed and splintered sailing vessels in the old days even the steel ships of today on their cruel ledges. Northwest another two miles or so is Galloo Island, notable because there is no harbor on the entire shore line.

Eight miles westward, across the unseen boundary line, is Main Duck Island. It is fairly large and its small brother, Yorkshire Island is just off the eastern extremity. It is on the shoals near these islands that many vessels have foundered and in the icy waters which cover them a score of brave sailors have perished.

The history of the Main Ducks is not at all bad, however, for ships buffeted by wind and sea, on occasion have been able to seek the precarious shelter of the north shore and there ride out the storm. In a few cases, too, the islands have proved a haven for sailors, who, driven from their foundering vessels have been able to swim through the surf to its shores.

West of the Main Ducks are two islands called the False Ducks, actually Swetman Island and Timber Island. They are about two miles off Prince Edward Point on the Canadian shore line. Timber Island, one of the group comprising the so-called False Ducks, instead of being regarded with dread and suspicion by sailors, long has enjoyed an excellent reputation. Behind Timber Island is the safest shelter point in the region in which to ride out a storm. In the days of sail it was used constantly and even today in the age of steam, provides a harbor on occasion.

Main Duck Island is the property of Claude W. Cole of Cape Vincent and has many interesting features besides its gruesome history of wreck and disaster. Mr. Cole has used it as a fox farm and a buffalo ranch. The buffalo experiment was not a success - one drowned and the others escaped across the ice to the mainland, via Galloo Island, and had to be destroyed.

The regular passenger route from Kingston to Charlotte, the port of Rochester, runs past the Main Ducks and the steamers "Kingston" and "Toronto" alternate on this route each day during the summer season. After losing sight of land, as the shore line of Wolf Island fades into the distance, the boat sails west. A feeling of the mightiness of the inland seas is experienced with tumbling waters on every side and not a glimpse of land.

Rising on the horizon a pleasant, tree covered island appears and as it gradually grows larger looks serene and friendly to the warm glow of the sunset. Hot it looks as it looms up in front of a crew driving before a howling gale of late fall, only the mariner who has seen it and come through to tell the story fully can realize.

Submitted by Dick Palmer

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

She Wrote This

Eileen Loveman reports on the publication of her first book

The Book of STORIES from the LAKE

on her blog

including the processes of writing, marketing, branding, and signings
older posts on her blog elaborate on some of these issues.

To quote from one of her posts:
From her backyard of Lake Ontario, Eileen offers her unique perspective of life on the lake, sharing thoughts about family, raising children and anything else that floats her way.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Genesee Valley Civil War Roundtable

presents Catherine Emerson on "Michael Huskey - on the Trail of a Forgotten Civil War Sailor".

Nov. 17th, 7:30pm at the American Legion, 53 West Main St., Le Roy, front door.

Discussion period will follow program. All are welcome!

Catherine's topic will be on Michael Huskey, a Union sailor on the gunboat USS Carondelet assigned to a force during the siege of Vicksburg.

Monday, November 15, 2010


Please join us for a book release party for Martha Treichler's new book of poetry:

Black Mountain to Crooked Lake:
Poems 1948-2010, with a Memoir
of Black Mountain College

Published by Foothills Publishing Company

Preface by John Roche
Introduction by Mary Emma Harris
Including a Poem/Letter by Charles Olson
and a poem co-written by Charles Olson and Martha Rittenhouse Treichler

The event will be Sunday., Nov. 21, at 1:00 PM
at the Fred & Harriett Taylor Memorial Library
21 William Street, Hammondsport

Sunday, November 7, 2010



Mar 30

Genesee County is formed from Ontario and Steuben counties and its first elections are held. In later years the counties of Niagara, Orleans, Monroe, Wyoming, Livingston, Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Allegany will be created out of the new county. Four towns – Batavia, Northampton, Southampton and Leicester - are formed. ** The Cayuga County towns of Brutus, Cato, Owasco, and Jefferson (now named Mentz) are split off of the town of Aurelius.

Jul 21

James Brisbane becomes Batavia's first postmaster.


The town of Southampton is formed out of Northampton to form the village of Caledonia. ** Captain Philip Church pioneers Allegany County's Angelica, naming it after his mother. ** Lucius Carey sells the Geneva Gazette and Genesee Advertiser to a company of Canandaigua federalists, who employ John K. Gould as editor of the new paper. ** Colonel James McMahan pioneers Westfield, the first settlement in Chautauqua County. ** Virginia native Robert Selden Rose moves to central New York State. ** Joseph Ellicott warns Holland Land Company General Agent Paolo Busti that if the land around New Amsterdam (Buffalo) is not opened to development quickly, the state will beat them to the punch by opening the Mile Strip and establishing a town there. He's given permission to survey the company's land and sell lots. ** Connecticut agent General Paine opens a wagon road from Buffalo to Chautauqua Creek, to ease travel to Ohio's Connecticut Reserve lands. ** Vermonters William Barber, John Tolles and Jacob Wright settle the Genesee (later Wyoming) County town of Bennington. ** Painter John Vanderlyn visits the falls of the Genesee. ** Urged by Sir William Pulteney, anxious to liquidate his New York holdings, an inventory is made appraising the One-Hundred-Acre mill site on the Genesee at $1,040.27. ** James Hutchinson of Connecticut settles the Onondaga Hill area west of today's Syracuse. ** The first Broome County Courthouse is built, in Binghamton. ** Elmira's Baptist Burying Ground (Wisner Burial Ground) opens. ** Northampton elects Le Royan Richard M. Stoddard a commissioner of highways and Batavian Isaac Sutherland a constable. The following pathmasters are also elected: Abel Rowe (Greece); Asa Utley (Scottsville); Daniel Buell (Le Roy); James McNaughton (Caledonia); Ezekial Lane (Buffalo), Joseph Howell (Niagara Falls); and Lemuel Cooke (Lewiston). ** Future ornithologist Alexander Wilson teaches school in Seneca Falls. ** Construction begins on an east-west Military Road across the northern section of western New York, from Le Roy to Fort Niagara. ** David Morse buys Keuka Lake farmland next to that of his cousin John Beddoe, from him. ** Fitzhugh, Carroll, and Rochester visit the Genesee Valley a third time, purchase land there at the Falls of the Genesee (the future Rochester) from Pulteney, for $1759. ** Scottish immigrant Matthew McNair arrives in Oswego where he will become a shipping forwarder. He will die in 1862, the oldest inhabitant, at the age of 88.


Holland Land Company field agent Joseph Ellicott replaces his log field office with a frame structure. Sales are hampered by the inconvenience of having the county seat at Canandaigua, and by prohibitive taxes. ** Complying with the Holland Land Company's act of organization, Joseph Ellicott sets aside one acre of land for a county seat. Besides Ellicott as First Judge, other company officers are District Attorney Daniel D. Brown, Company Clerk James W. Stevens, Sheriff Richard M. Stoddard, and Surrogate Jeremiah R. Manson. The first county courthouse west of the Genesee River is completed, located in the same one-story building as a tavern, at the site.


Twice-monthly postal service begins, delivering mail as far away as Batavia. ** Avon lawyer George Hosmer begins practicing. ** Land speculator Oliver Phelps settles down to retirement here.

Le Roy

Ganson's Tavern is built. ** The proprietors of the Triangle Tract widen the Indian path leading north out of Le Roy to Lake Ontario, the future Lake Road, to 64 feet.

Steuben County

The county treasurer is required to post its first official bond - $2,000. ** It is decided that the Board of Supervisors will be compensated for time spent on county work, at $3.00 per day. The total audited for the year is $89.69. ** The Pulteney land firm donates the land parcels on Bath's town square where the courthouse and jail are located, to the county.

London, England

The family of eight-year-old future New York State settler David Piffard moves From the Pentonville suburb to Paris.

© 2010 David Minor / Eagles Byte

Thursday, November 4, 2010



View the original Treaty of Canandaigua

Hear Ray Shedrick, Adjunct History Instructor, FLCC


Monday, November 8th, 11:00am – 12:30pm


Ontario County Historical Museum

55 N. Main Street



$5.00 per person

Additional Information

Bring a brown bag lunch and drink for a post lecture symposium


Contact Mike O'Neal at 586-6419


Kathy Hayes at 730-8451

Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Erie Canal Was Not So Glorious for Youth

by Richard Palmer

Authors, particularly of childrens' books, tend to paint a glorious and nostalgic

picture of what life was like on the Erie Canal, when in fact, most of it is

nonsense and a figment of their imaginations. Life was generally hard on the

canal and there was noting particularly glorious and romantic about it. They look

at the past through rose colored glasses. Boys who were hired by boat captains

were generally abused and taken advantage of.

The term "hoggie" has only existed in the minds of comparatively modern day

writers. These youngsters were always known as "canal drivers" and nothing


The Syracuse Daily Star of Feb. 15, 1846 carried the proceedings of a meeting of

the citizens of Syracuse to discuss the condition of orphan and destitute boys

who were engaged principally as "canal drivers" during the season of navigation,

and the alarming conditions under which they existed.

It was reported in the Syracuse Star that there were about 5,000 boys engaged

on the canal system, half of whom were orphans. Nearly all of them were

homeless ; and nearly all of whom were destitute as winter approached. Many of

these boys were under 12 years of age, lived in extreme poverty, and were taken

advantage of by canal boat captains who employed them to drive teams of

horses on the canal. It must be remembered there were no mules on the canal

until after the Civil War.

The Syracuse Star reported: "Most of them (the boys) 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 sixpenny 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 1,600 convicts who have been or now are inmates

of the Auburn State Prison, 480 had been canal boys."

At the Syracuse meeting a "memorial" was prepared for the New York State

Legislature stating, in very earnest and eloquent language the condition of these

boys. The memorial asked that the legislature appoint supervisors or guardians

of the canal boys, in suitable places, by whom registers were to be kept of all,

the youth under 20 years of age, who might be illegally employed on the canal


The memorial also requested that the state 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 influence.

The memorialists ask that in addition to these "Homes," a "House of

Refuge,"should be established at Syracuse, for the benefit of those boys who

maybe found guilty of petty crimes. What subsequently occurred is not known,

but such deprivation on the canal apparently continued to run rampant.

However, there was sort of an unofficial "safety net" established by the judicial

system under which boys caught stealing or found guilty of other petty crimes as

winter approached were sent to jail where they received relatively fair treatment,

had a warm place to sleep, a roof over their heads and food.

In the Troy Whig, Thursday, January 10, 1873 we find this sad story:

A young lad, poorly clad in a starving condition, wondered into the first

precinct station house yesterday afternoon in search of something to eat and a

place to rest his weary frame. Captain Quigley interrogated the unfortunate

stranger, and gleaned the following facts in regard to his past life and adventures.

The lad is seventeen years of age and his name is Wolcott Tier.

Two years ago he lived happily at his home in Oswego, but his father died and

his mother married a man by the name of Andrew View. His stepfather had no

sooner taken possession of the house than he laid all kinds of plans to get rid of

the boy.

For scarcely any cause whatever, he would whip him, notwithstanding

the earnest protestations of the mother, who was also abused by him

for interfering in her son's behalf. He stood the treatment for two months and then

resolved to leave the house and earn a living at some other place.

He informed his stepfather of his intentions and the latter encouraged

his resolution and told him never to enter the house again. He accordingly left

one cold night in December, 1871, after bidding his broken hearted mother

farewell, promising her he would return sometime, in better circumstances. But

his expectations have not been realized, as his career since that time has been

attended with a series of misfortunes.

He first went to Syracuse where he worked until the canal opened,

then obtaining a position as driver he remained on the tow path until he became

tired of the drudgery of his vocation knowing well that he was capable of better


Finally he concluded that he would return once more to his home. His mother

entreated her husband to let him remain, as he promised to use every endeavor

to make himself useful in the future, but her appeal was in vain. He stayed in

Oswego for some time and was often in sight of his mother's house, but never

after that time did he enter it.

When the canal was opened last spring, necessity, not choice, compelled him

to return again, as driver for a canal boat. He procured a position in that capacity

on the boat "A.D. Hoyt," and was promised $15 a month and his board. The

captain, however, took advantage of his condition, and only at times could he

obtain money, and then in small quantities.

The summer passed and his boat was among the last that came down the Erie

Canal from Buffalo. On reaching New York the captain decamped and

the employees, Tier among the rest, were left in a strange city without a cent. He

has managed, since that time, barely to keep himself alive, and yesterday arrived

in Troy exhausted and discouraged.

Captain Quigley kindly gave him a place to sleep and afterward had him taken

to the county house. He is willing to work, but ever since he left home, which now

has a "serpent on the hearth," he has been running again running against the

stream until at last he has been obliged to give up.