Monday, October 24, 2011

Freighting on the Great Western Turnpike

The old Great Western Turnpike was much different than today's Route 20. What can now be traveled in a few hours took days by stagecoach and wagon.

  (From: The Frontiersmen of New York by Jeptha Williams (Albany), 1883) Vol. 1, P. 359)

  The Great Western Turnpike.-- Alonzo Crosby assured the writer in 1851, that he entered the employ of the Great Western Turnpike Company in 1812, and continued the superintendence of the road from Albany to Cherry Valley for 36 years. Of course, he became familiar with every rod of ground in the 52 miles. On the road, at any early period, were the following in-keepers, whom he remembered from Albany westward: Two miles out was a Capron; in Guilderland, two miles further, a McGown, well known; half a mile above were George Brown and Frederick Follock; three miles above Brown were a Sloan and a Batterman, the latter at the Glass House, eight miles from Albany.
  Among the teamsters of those large wagons, remembered on the Great Western Turnpike, were Rosekrans, three; Lloyd, two; Artcher, four. Michael Artcher, afterwards a merchant in Albany, and sheriff or the county, John now living in Albany, aged 82 years. Humphrey, three. At this period John Humphrey kept tavern in Washington street, where, Loucks, a successor, kept for many years.        This old house was torn down in 1851. Robert Hunter, called Bob, was a well known teamster. Waite and Loren Chapin, brothers, Jess and Henry Greene, brothers, and Daniel Clark, all lived in the town of Winfield, and drove their own teams, consisting of from five to eight horses each. 
  They usually carried through freight between Albany and Buffalo. The Chapins, as also others on the road, had tight boxes, in which wheat could be carried in bulk, the freight on which, it is believed, was at one time one dollar a bushel. Another well known teamster on this road was Peter P. Fiero. Tom, a clever black fellow, who usually drove six large black horses, was also well remembered. He had the misfortune to kill two men at different times, by his whiffle-trees catching and upsetting their wagons; the first in Duanesburgh, and the other in Guilderland. When the second accident happened, Tom, who thought a strange fatality attended his avocation, quit the business, but no blame attached to him. 
  From two to ten of those large wagons were sometimes seen in company, and some of them carrying from three to four tons. The horses were usually fat. Some carried a jackscrew for raising an axle to take off a wheel; but this was seldom done, as a hole for pouring in tar or grease was made for the purpose. In ascending hills the wagon was blocked at intervals with a stone, carried by the teamster behind it. After those mammoth wagons were supplanted by the Erie canal, several of them might have been seen about the old Loucks tavern, as also at Paul Clark's inn, in the southwest part of Albany, where some of them rotted down.
Many interesting events transpired on this turnpike. Here is one of them: One Wilbur, a stage driver, above Cook's tavern in Springfield, had the misfortune to ride over and kill a deaf man, who kept in the road until stricken down. The driver was probably not to blame, but the matter affected him so seriously that he quit staging forever. This happened about 1820.

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