Sunday, September 23, 2012

Cut It in Half?

This essay marks a shift in the blog location of our 1829 series. Formerly part of the Eagles Byte blog, the geographical locale has entered the Finger Lakes, and Western New York, as we pass through the Syracuse area. We’ll continue James Stuart’s travels westward here in the CLR blog, approximately once a month.

Cut It in Half?

James Stuart may have found travel on the Erie Canal too tiresome to be borne last year, but now, in 1829, the canal boom continued across the eastern U. S., with projects in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Massachusetts, Ohio, Virginia, and Illinois. Canada opened its Welland Canal this year, as well. And New York was by no means done tinkering with its system. Back before the second war with Britain, in 1812, the state had commissioned engineer James Geddes to survey the route for a canal to link Seneca Lake with the Chemung River at Elmira. In 1825, with the war long settled, interest in the scheme was revived in the legislative halls at Albany. The salt fields around Onondaga Lake were being depleted; coal, the newly-developing miracle fuel from eastern Pennsylvania, might be brought up into the New York via the Susquehanna and Chemung rivers. Markets for New York produce and manufactures might open in states to the south. The legislature passed the authorization for funding in April and in November began advertising for contractor proposals.

Actually central New York didn't have to worry about running out of salt anytime soon. New technologies would allow extraction from more difficult-to-reach sources and keep the industry thriving for another 97 years. Clinton's ditch would spur a population explosion, swelling Syracuse's population to 2500, nearly equal to Salina, her neighboring village. The two would not merge until 1847. Which caused a dilemma for Samuel Forman, Oren Hutchinson and John Smith. The three men were named to a commission to select a location for the new Onondaga County courthouse, one whose jurisdiction would include consolidated courts at Ovid, Levana and Onondaga. Question was, where? The three men would do King Solomon proud. They decided to locate the home for the new court at the corner of North Salina and Ash streets, exactly between the two villages. It would remain there until 1857 when the third courthouse was constructed. That one lasted until 1906. Just up North Salina, within the Salina village boundary, Irish Catholics Thomas McCarthy and James Lynch, with some aid from friends in Albany, Utica and New York City - including some truly ecumenical assistance from local Protestants, erected St. John's Roman Catholic Church. For two years clergymen from the Diocese of New-York would visit once a month, but then the Reverend Francis O'Donoghue, was assigned as permanent pastor.

Off to the southwest in the Finger Lakes region another clergyman, the Reverend William Bostwick of St. James Episcopal Church in Hammondsport, had been traveling around, setting up new parishes there and in Bath and Penn Yan. With plenty of opportunity to ponder the rural scenery he soon realized the suitability of conditions for a new agricultural venture. He imported a few catawba grapevines from the Hudson Valley and planted them in his rectory garden, assuring his parishioners a future source of sacramental wine. Cuttings from his vines were later obtained by local merchant William Hastings; in 1847 he sent the first shipment of grapes from the area to New York City. Wine, sacramental and otherwise, would follow. The wines James Stuart is enjoying at various points throughout his journeys cannot have come from the region yet, but you were born in luckier times. So next time you follow the Wine Trail through the Finger Lakes of Central New York, raise a glass to Rector William Bostwick. Salud!

© 2012 David Minor / Eagles Byte

No comments: