Monday, September 2, 2013


Dear Mr. Minor,

My name is Elizabeth (call me Libby) Herbig and I am a tiresome genealogist. What makes me tiresome with the people I correspond with is my shiny, sunny outlook and my firm conviction that since I have placed my faith in them, why they must be able to help me find what I need. Tiresome, no?

I came across while taking up once again my search for information about my great-grandfather William Martin Sweeney (b. 25 Jun1874, d. 21 Nov 1912). When he died, he was the owner of The Brunswick, a bar and grill on N. Aurora St. in Ithaca, now the site of The Mahogany Grill. From their website, I can tell that the cool wooden bar at the Mahogany is the same one in the picture of my great granddad standing proudly behind his.
But before he bought his own place, he worked as a steward on a boat called the Ezra Cornell. I have a picture of a four-man crew with William standing in a natty uniform that says "Steward" on his cap and collar. There's a pair of officers seated and next to William stands a guy in a middy blouse with sailor collar and silly flat-topped hat. His hat and blouse both say Ezra Cornell. (This is how I know the name of the boat.) He looks like the guy who does all the scut work on a boat, since he doesn't have dressy togs like the others.

Now, knowing who Ezra Cornell (the guy, not the boat) was, and knowing that William lived in Ithaca, I'm making the leap in logic to say that the Ezra Cornell (the boat, not the guy--I told you I was tiresome!) probably plied the waters of Cayuga Lake, or at least one of the Fingers. Makes sense, right? But the Frontenac and the Mohawk, while they were lovely, I'm sure, seem to push all the other boats off the end of the Google search results pier, as it were. I can't find anything about a boat called Ezra Cornell aside from a World War II Liberty Ship, built 30 years after William died.

I wonder if some resources to which you might be privy would have some information about this boat. I'd be very grateful to you if you could help me or point me in the direction of someone who can. If you have any clarifying questions for me, or if I can supply any cool info from here in St. Louis, (like, say... pictures of graves of noted Mississippi River steamboat pilots, like that) please don't hesitate to ask. I love a good research quid pro quo!

Editors NOTE:
Other blogees (or even canal hoggees) who might possibly have further information on Libby's quest (man or boat) can reply to this post

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