Watertown Daily Times
August 14, 1923
The Old Stage Drivers
Who remembers Ben Hall, stage driver? He went his happy way over the roads of Southern St. Lawrence for many years. His native town was Fowler. he drove stage between Gouverneur and Fine. He was crippled in a battle of the Civil War. Possibly it was in the Wilderness. A shell burst near him . It tore his abdomen seriously. War Glazier, also of Fowler, found him. Glazier bound up a grew cut with a coat and carried him to a wound-dresser.
Ben Hall recovered from the injuries afar many months but the surgery employed in dressing the wound must have been crude for he was afterward pitifully bent over to one side. Yet he could ride a stage and he was a stage driver and mail carrier for many years.
Ward Glazier, the man who saved his life, was 45 years of age before he enlisted. He was the father of Willard Glazier of the Ira Harris cavalry, later well known author of "Capture. Prison Pen and Escape," "Ocean to Ocean on Horseback," and a score of other books. Ward Glazier himself was seriously crippled.
Ben Hall was something of a verse writer. He was accustomed to work out in his head the rhymes and jingles as he traveled over the rough roads of Fowler, Edwards and Fine. One that he delighted most in had to do with his own injuries:
Shot and Ball
Couldn't kill Ben Hall
But shot and shell,
Came near sending
Poor Ben to hell.
Over all Jefferson, S. Lawrence and Lewis counties these stage drives of a generation ago heroically made heir way, in winter and summer. Weather was a minor matter with them. Usually they were philosophers who knew life in many phases. Usually they were shrewd, many times thrifty. At least they knew men and the world.
They were heroes to the farm boys. How childhood of that day watched them as they went down the road, over the hills and far away. Home boundaries were restricted in those days. Childhood didn't wander much farther than the next farm or the cheese factory. The stage drivers were world travelers. To childhood and boyhood, they had seen life. Some day childhood and boyhood would take the very stage and go far and far out into the world beyond the sunset's golden rim.
What a contrast in appearance hose men of another day to our Coach drivers of the present. What if old Ben Hall could see one of the Colonial drivers of today dressed in the uniform of the organization, gray knickers with all the accoutrements. The stretch of time is the greatest wonder worker of all.
Stage Coach and Plank Road
One pair of horses carried the stage eighteen miles. We generally reached our resting placed for the night, if no accident intervened, at ten o'clock, and after a frugal supper, went to bed with the notion we should be called at three the next morning, which generally proved to be half past two. Then, whether it snowed or rained, the traveler must rise and make ready by a horn lantern, or a farthing candle, and proceed on his way over bad roads. Then we traveled eighteen miles a day, sometimes obliged to get out and help the coachman lift the coach out of a quagmire or rut, and arrive at New York after a week's hard traveling, wondering at the ease as well as the expedition of our journey."
Mr. Ford, with the assistance of D.W. Church, had, indeed, at the cost of much money and more labor, put through his new Ogdensburg road, supplanting the old Oswegatchie road, and thee was a road from Plattsburgh through the Military Tract and across country to Ellenburgh and Malone, though Mr. Ford stoutly maintained that is road was better than the one through Chateaugay, as the old maps render the present-day Chateaugay. In 1814, writing from LeRaysville to George Parish, then in Philadelphia, Pa., V. LeRay de Chaumont says: "Mr. DeLaunay and myself went yesterday to Sacket's Harbor. We left here after an early morning breakfast in my little waggon, tandem, remaining five hours in the village, during which we saw the fleet, the fortifications, dined with the Commodore, and were back here for supper. We were 9 1/2 hours on the way (48 miles including stops, which proved that are roads are not yet impassable." This would work out to about five miles an hour, and indicated that while the roads had improved over those of 1800, there was yet some distance to go. Note that three horses were used.
It will be noted that the line was to follow the western route, rather than the eastern one through the Black River valley. In 1824 there appeared upon the scene two or three men destined to play a large part in the transportation of northern New York for many years to come. These were Ela Merriam, N.W. Kiniston, E.W. Backus and a little later S. Backus. Merriam was the son of Nathaniel Merriam of Leyden. In January, 1824, Mr. Merriam, in company with Mr. Backus, M. Kiniston and John McElwaine, whose connection with the business seems to have been of brief duration, began the carrying of the Utica-Watertown mail. In connection with the stage route, and Mr. Merriam, at least, continued in the business for over forty years.
This was not the only way of reaching Utica from Sackett's Harbor. In the Jeffersonian for November 20, 1826, N.W. Kiniston and Company announced that the "Old Line" of stages from Sackett's Harbor to Utica, by way of Watertown and Lowville, run through every day, and that Kingston may be reached by a line of stages from Watertown to Cape Vincent. And in these advertisements come the first suggestion of a line to Syracuse. Kiniston and Company advertise Watertown and Syracuse stages leaving Watertown every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, returning Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, "through in one day, when the roads will permit."
New York Spectator, July 6, 1825
June 1, 1882
Ye Olden Time
A recent ride from Boonville to Turin, through the town of Leyden, via Talcottville, Leyden Hill and Collinsville, brought up a world of memories regarding the pioneer settlers of that town, and awakening reminiscences of the men and events of fifty years ago of that locality. I remember the road as it was over thirty years ago, when General Merriam ran a line of stages on the route, and when passengers had to get out of the over-loaded coaches in the spring of the year, and foot it part of the way.
In some places pry, with rails, the vehicles out of the ruts, because of the depth of the mud; and then again pleasanter memories came, as I remember the plank road which came later, and how the four-horse stages rattled over the route, stopping at the "Hulbert House" in Boonville for the passengers to take their meals, and then push their way, at a spanking rate of speed, over the hills, and across the picturesque country; l and now and again, comes another change.
We are in the dirt and mud once more, but the old-fashioned and crowded stages are gone - the pioneer settlers are gone - those who were conspicuous and leading actors in Lewis county half a century ago, they too are gone. The thrift and busy times in the little hamlets above named, especially at the taverns when the stages arrived, are also gone. In fact not much remains to remind one what the town and men of Leyden once were, except as chronicled in the history of the past, or impressed upon the memories of those yet living, whose recollections go back for more than half a century.
Watertown Daily Times, January 25, 1895