Saturday, October 1, 2011

Stagecoach Days in Western New York

     The Eagle Tavern in Rochester. 
From "Sketches of Rochester" By Henry O'Reilly (1838)

                       Nunda Square in the 1830s

(From: P. 617, Centennial  History of Nunda, N.Y. , 1808-1908. Edited by H. Wells Hand. Published by Rochester Herald Printing).
       Our First Stage Routes, Proprietors and Stage Drivers

The very first stage route through from Leicester to Angelica previous to the completion of the State Road, must have passed over the River Road.
After 1827, it may have come through Nunda, but it is doubtful if it came before then, as the settlement  was too small to warrant it, and the post office was in Portage till then.
Our first stage driver that has been mentioned was Matt Jackson an older brother of Leonard Jackson of this place. This must have been after the first post office came to "Nunda Valley." He was not the first driver, but possibly the first stage driver from Nunda. William Martin was the best known of the early stage drivers, his four horse establishment would attract more attention today than a dozen automobiles. His route was from Mt. Morris to Angelica and Belvedere. Another route was from Nunda to Pike. In his youth Robert Wright drove stage for Britton & Co. to Pike, this was probably sixty years ago.
Strange and almost incredible is the fact that there was a stage line from Hornell, then Hornellsville, to Attica passing through Nunda Valley, until the railroad between those two places was built in 1852 and the proprietors lived in Nunda, and sent out their stages in both directions, and from Mt. Morris to Angelica. They had the whole job in every direction, Seranus Button and his brothers-in-law, William Martin, Charles and William Russell, and,   I believe, Hiram Grover, constituted this firm. The Jacksons, Wright, and William G. Russell and probably Joseph Britton were the drivers.
   After railroad days the stage business from Hornell to Attica stopped, but not until our railroad was completed was it discontinued to Mt. Morris. William H. Smith, now of Rochester, was the driver. Almiron Paine had the route to Nunda station or Dalton, nearly as long as he lived, his son Allie was (P. 618) was his successor. John Hughes had it for a time, the Whites until the present year and Frank Carter and son Allen are now carrying the mail, passengers and freight between Nunda and Dalton.
 The transfer route to West Nunda has been chiefly conducted by Mrs. Mattie Herrick, and is now conducted by William Niew.

                                                    Fredonia Censor
July 5, 1816

Fredonia Censor
July 5, 1816


                                          Rochester Telegraph, June 1, 1819

Rochester Republican
December 3, 1838


                                      Perry Democrat, Aug. 12, 1841


Naples Neapolitan

December 9, 1841

                  CANANDAIGUA & COHOCTON
                               Line of
                 Two Horse Mail Coaches
 The Proprietors of the above named route, would respectfully inform the Travelling Public in general that they have, at considerable expense, procured a new and splendid Coach, together with first rate Teams, and that they are now prepared to carry all who may wish, in a safe, comfortable, and expeditious manner.
   They will leave Canandaigua (touching at Rushvile, Naples, &c.) for Liberty, intersecting the stages for Bath, Dansville, &c. &c. at 8 o'clock every Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings. Returning, will leave Liberty at 6 o'clock every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday morning, and arrive in Canandaigua, in time for the Cars for Rochester, &c.&c.
                                                              BLOOD & HUNTLEY.
September, 1841.


(From Lima Recorder, Aug. 30, 1962)

Wattles 'Century Home,' located at Hub
Of Lakeville in Stagecoach Days, Sold
                By Jean Ketwig
    One of Lakeville's oldest and most beautiful homes has recently been purchased by Livingston County Sheriff James L. Emery from Allen Wattles, great-grandson of the man who built it in 1826.
    Mr. Wattles, who retired from business in Elmira 20 years ago, has moved to Waterville, Oneida County, the former home of Mrs. Wattles, who passed away several years ago.
    In the early days of Lakeville, the center of the town where the stage route from Geneseo to Canandaigua crossed that from Dansville to Rochester, a little west of the present village, at about the point where the Genesee Road and the West Lake Road now meet. The large hotels and other buildings that were Lakeville in the early 1800's have almost all disappeared over the years. Among those that remain, "The Wattles Place" as it is called by most everyone, is perhaps the best known.
  Lakeville's first post office was in the Wattles home, and David Wattles, grandfather of Allen, was the first postmaster. In one of the bedrooms of the home Allen Wattles was born, as was his father before him, and the pleasant little room with its original furnishings gave one a feeling of the continuity of life seldom felt in today's homes. The house and is furnishings were kept by Allen Wattles essentially the same as they were in the past, except for the addition of a wing on the east side about 25 years ago. This addition was so cleverly designed that it enhanced the original beauty of the house, and it is a surprise to learn that it is not a part of the original building.
   The Livingston County Historical Society, which Allen Wattles at one time served as president, recently made recognition of homes in Livingston County which have been in continuous ownership been in one family for 100 years or more. The Wattles home was one of them so recognized.
    The barn behind the house has an interesting history all its own an it is another of the few remaining buildings from days gone by. In it the people of Lakeville once gathered to hear speeches by Joseph Smith, discoverer of the golden tablets at Hill Cumorah, author of the Book of Mormon, and founder of the Mormon Church. The meeting pace became known as the "Mormon Barn."
    Another landmark in this immediate area is the present home of Wesley Pease. The Peace family purchased their farm from the great-grandfather of Allen Wattles in 1837,  and their home was another cited by the Livingston County Historical Society as being owned by the same family for over 100 years.
  "The Meeting House - Barn" must also be mentioned as one of Lakeville's reminders of the past. It looks just like any barn as it now stands on the property owned by Mr. and Mrs. R.B. Randolph. No one would guess that long ago, when it stood on the other side of the road, the first Presbyterian Church of Geneseo was formed and its meetings were held within its walls.

Rochester Telegraph, August 10, 1819

          Shortest & Cheapest route to N.Y.
           Newburgh & Geneva Mail Stage
      WILL leave Geneva every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday afternoon on the arrival of the Western Stages, running through Ithaca, Owego and Chenango to Newburgh in three days. Fare thro' $12. N.B. Gentlemen travelling to New-York by taking this line will save two dollars per day in stage fare, and the accommodations are equal to any other line of stages.
                                                                                                           OLIVER PHELPS & Co. 
                                                   Geneva, June 21, 1819                                               13w51

    Rochester Daily Advertiser & Telegram, May 20, 1829

From: History of Livingston County, N.Y. by C.L. Doty (Geneseo) 1876

P. 359.   In 1823 P. R. Bowman was running a line of stages from Canandaigua to Warsaw by way of Moscow. In the Livingston Gazette of July 3d of that year he gives notice that thereafter he "would continue his line once in each week. He will leave Moscow on Saturday afternoon and immediately after his arrival from Canandaigua, and return from Warsaw on Monday evening, and on Tuesday morning start again for Canandaigua."  Between Moscow and Canandaigua the stages were run twice each week, passing through Geneseo, Livonia, Richmond and Bristol. In connection with this line stages were run from Canandaigua to Palmyra, and (via Geneva) to Lyons, connecting with the Erie Canal.
 P. 373.  In the fall of 1824 the mail stage between Geneseo and Rochester ran three times a week each way, leaving the former place Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, at half past six o'clock in the morning. In April, 1825, E. Fisk advertises that the "Rochester stage will in the future leave Geneseo every morning at half past five o'clock," and the common wagons before in use were exchanged for "elegant coaches." In December of the same year the the stage was advertised to leave Geneseo for Dansville, Bath and Olean Sundays and Wednesdays, on the arrival of the Rochester stage.
    The line to Rochester intersected the east and west line at Avon, thus giving a daily communication with Rochester, Canandaigua and Batavia, and points east and west. "for this accommodation the public are indebted to the enterprise of Mr. E. Fisk, whose perseverance has, from the use of a common wagon which lately passed between this place and Rochester once a week, established a daily line of elegant coaches."
P. 417. A daily line of of stages gave comparatively easy communication with all points, and carried the mails with regularity and despatch. A line from Rochester to Bath, accommodating all the principal places in this county, and making connection with a Philadelphia and Washington line, and also with lines running to Buffalo, LLewiston, Utica and Albany; while the Genesee Valley Canal, now completed to Mount Morris, and rapidly approaching a finished state on its upper sections, afforded ample and cheap facilities for transporting the abundant products of the Valley.
P. 509. The year 1810 was memorable as the one in which a stage commenced running through the place, conveying the mail. This stage started from Canandaigua on Monday morning at 6 o'clock, and passing through this place, (Geneseo) Batavia and Buffalo, reaching Niagara on Thursday at 3 o'clock in the morning. The fare was six cents per mile. Six years afterward a tri-weekly stage ran west as far as Batavia. Thence to Buffalo an open wagon went whenever there were passengers.

                Tabor Corners was a Stagecoach Stop

Tabor Corners is an extinct hamlet located in the town of Springwater in Livingston County, New York It was on a main stage route half way between Rochester and Bath. Horses were changed here while passengers took refreshment at one of the three taverns located there. At one time this was a busy settlement. There was an ashery where soap was made from potash and wood ashes, as well as a cheese factory.  But like many such communities, it faded away when railroads were built. By 1936, only four houses were left, everything else having disappeared. 

                      Yellow Wasp Tavern Memorialized

                                               located, and the site owned
                                               by the village.
                                                 The inn site may be made
                                               into a small park and would 
                                               have picnic and cooking grills
                                               which would be installed by
                                               Lima service clubs. The village
                                               will pipe in water.
                                                 A 70-foot flagpole which was
                                               donated by Empire Wrecking Co.
                                               will be erected in the park. After
                                               repainting the flagpole white and 
                                               placing an eight-inch gold ball on
                                               top, floodlights will be installed
                                               to shine on an eight by 12-foot flag.

Lima Recorder, Lima, N.Y.,
November 24, 1960


[The famous Ridge Road, described as the "Appian Way of Western New York," was one of the most popular stage routes east and west near the south shore of Lake Ontario. Today, it's essentially 121 miles of Old State Route 104 between Lewiston and Wolcott.  Map is from the book, "The Ridge," by Arch Merrill, published in 1944].

One of the few surviving stagecoach taverns on the old Ridge Road is the Cobblestone Inn is located at the crossroads hamlet of Oak-Orchard-on-the-Ridge, in the Town of Ridgeway, New York, United States. It is a cobblestone building dating to the 1830s. At the time of its construction it was a stagecoach stop on the busy road which is now Route 104. It remained in use as an inn well into the mid-20th century despite the passing of the stagecoach and even the railroad eras. It is believed to be the largest cobblestone building in New York State. In 2007 it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

[From: Spafford's 1824 Guide For New York Travelers, PP. 51-52]

  [From: History of Monroe County, N.Y.  P. 174, Philadelphia, 1877]
   As soon as the Ridge road was opened in 1816, Samuel Hildreth & Co. established a daily line of stages between Rochester and Lewiston. The post-office of Parma was then opened, with a daily mail each way, and J. Thompson postmaster. Until the opening of the Erie canal, it was the distributing office for Ogden Centre, Adams' Basin, and, later, for Spencerport. 
    Levi Talmage bought the line, and soon after sold it to Adams & Blynn, who held it until the completion of the canal, when it was discontinued. Two years previous, in consequence of the immense business, at times requiring three daily states, an opposition line, known as the Anti-Sunday line, was established by Aristarchus Champion, which was also stopped.

Rochester Daily Advertiser
May 20, 1828

Niagara Falls Gazette
November 4, 1949

    Reminiscences of Stage Coach Days in the 1840's
Perils of the Drivers: Incidents of the Old White Hotel

  (From: PP. 33-34, "Grip's" Historical Souvenir Series No. 20  Wolcott. N.Y. and    Vicinity" By Edgar Luderne Walsh, Syracuse, 1905).
   Amos Nash, an old driver on the Butterfield stage line, is now seventy-eight years old. When a lad, in 1846, he came to Wolcott from Williamson. He married Mary E., the eldest daughter of Nelson W. Moore, who lived to he ninety-four years old and who from 1860 to '67 ran the grist mill here. Moore's business contemporaries were Jedediah Wilder, Roswell Benedict and Messrs. Galloway and Churchill who at different times owned carding machines in Wolcott. For fifty-three years Amos Nash and his wife have lived in their present home.
   "After coming to Wolcott," said Mr. Nash, "I was employed on the J. P. Butterfield stage line running through Wolcott between Oswego and Rochester. Butterfield was a Wolcott man who carried on the old Chester Dutton farm and ran the White Hotel east of the creek, which was the stopping place for the stages and where they changed horses. His livery barns were on the present site of the Metcalf stables.
               Route of Coaches
  "During seasons of bad roads the coaches were drawn by four horses, coming up from Oswego and back the next day. Stopping at the White Hotel to change horses they passed on down Mill street into Main and then on out of the village along the west road over to Port Glasgow, now Resort, which we then called the Bay Bridge. There were two hotels there, one conducted by a man named Ward, which was burned. From there the line ran along west to Irondequoit and into Rochester. The first relay after leaving Oswego was Fair Haven; then Wolcott, Sodus and Webster, Sometimes, on good roads, we drove on to Williamson or Alton for change of teams. The coaches were the heavy Concord thoroughbrace style swinging on straps and carrying from twelve to sixteen passengers. The nearest railroad to Wolcott was the Auburn road. The last owners of the coach line were J. W. Olmstead and James Hyde.
  Lifting Coaches Out of the Mud
"To get through with the coaches at times was a real hardship and some peril. I was located in Wolcott but often went out as a driver. In the winter the coaches were frequently stalled in snow. In the spring and fall after the hard rains the heavy coach would get mired in mud. Then the passengers were called upon to turn out, get a fence rail and help pry the coach out. After the close of navigation on the lakes a great many sailors took passage on the coaches at Oswego for their homes in the country. It pleased the drivers to call upon them to lend a and in lifting the coach out of the mud, for it took the conceit out of them.
   On a Float Bridge at Night
"A coach from Oswego delayed all day on the road has called me out to hitch up and drive it through when I would be all night on the road. The great peril of that trip was in crossing the float bridge at Port Glasgow on planks supported by stringers floating on the water, the wind blowing a gale, the coach lights all out and not to be lighted in the wind and the horses and
in the town, the first at Wolcott, the second at Red Creek and the wind-up at Thompson's Corners. On one election day that I recollect a white man this side of the creek got his friends together, inviting them to go over to White Hotel and see him 'pick a nigger,' an old colored man who hung around there a great deal. The party managed to start the quarrel after calling all up for drinks, and the white man was soon busy with the nigger. In a brief round the nigger laid the white man on the floor in a heap and then took to the roads leading south, never again being seen in this section. He no doubt thought he had killed his opponent.


Niagara Falls Gazette
December 24, 1955

   First Stagecoach Line Linking City 
   With Rochester Did 'Roaring Business'
     Niagara County Historian
   The stagecoach was the first and only public conveyance in Niagara County prior to the advent of the canal packet in 1825. They were heavy cumbersome vehicles with the body slung on thick leather straps. Twelve first-class passengers rode inside and the second-class fares rode on top. Four horse teams pulled them at top speed over the roughly graded highway and occasional stretches of log or "corduroy roads." In winter "bob sleighs" with long box-like rectangular bodies were used.
   Traveling by stagecoach under such primitive conditions was a far cry  from our automobiles and paved roads of today. Nevertheless, when the first stagecoach line from Rochester Niagara Falls via the Ridge Road to Lewis way started it did a "roaring business men and emigrants quick stop in front of the tavern. Sometimes the drivers of rival lines would race to get a regular station first and pick up the waiting passengers. Many new communities sprang up around these stagecoach stops and prosperity of the people along the Ridge road in the pre-railroad days was due largely to the stagecoach lines.
                                           Road Cuts Forest
   In 1822-3 a narrow and "tortuous" road was cut through the forest from Wright's Corners to the village of Lockport. Thereafter for several years a wagon met the stagecoach at Wright's Corners and brought passengers and mail to Lockport. his service was organized by Otis Hathaway. There being no Market street at that time the "stage wagon" reached the village by way of what later became known as "Factory Hill" and later "Depot Hill" otherwise an extension of Washington street.
   As Lockport and county roads were improved, a regular line of stagecoaches left the ridge at Wright's, stopped at the Old Coffee House in the Court House Square in Lockport and continued on to Niagara Falls stopping at the Eagle Hotel there and later at the Cataract.
    Another line came from Batavia to Lockport by way of the Old Niagara Road and stopped at Lockport's Eagle Hotel, which stood on the site of the present Lox Plaza. It was a commodious three-story stone building with a Grecian porch and four large white pillars extending nearly to the top of the building with a Grecian porch and four large white pillars extending nearly to the top of the building. It had a covered and lighted stairway down to the towpath of the canal. Here the packet boats stopped and passengers could alight and go up into the hotel for the night and take the stage for Niagara Falls in the morning.
                                 Driverless Coach
    One winter's day in 1837 a "stage sleigh" stopped at the Eagle Hotel in Lockport. When the passengers alighted they noticed there was no driver. He had lingered too long at the last tavern and the horses started off without him. It was about five miles from this tavern to Lockport. The coach moved with the usual speed, passed several teams and traversed Main street and reached the hotel with the customary burst of speed and yet the passengers were unaware they had no driver. 
     Early in the spring of 1838 steam engines replaced the horses that had been used the first year on the Lockport and Niagara Falls or "strap railroad." The one or two car trains pulled by the "tea kettles on wheels" traveled only slightly faster than the stagecoaches and quite frequently due to jumping the track too longer to reach Niagara Falls.
    One day at the Frontier House in Lewiston Alva Hill and George Rector, respectively railroad engineer and stagecoach driver from Lewiston to Niagara Falls, got into an argument as to the speed of their conveyances. Finally each wagered $50 that he could beat the other.  Word of the race got around and quite a crowd gathered at both ends of the route. On the appointed day Rector and his stage coach and Alva Hill with his one-car horse-drawn Lewiston Railroad train started from the Frontier House.
    The railroad made a long gradual ascent of the escarpment to the junction on the Upper Mountain Road road with the strap railroad from Lockport. Here an engine with steam pressure near maximum was awaiting Hill. The horses soon were replaced by the engine and the little train was off to a quick start.
                            Engine Runs Off Track
     In the meantime the stagecoach had traveled a considerable distance along the River road and had come to where the road and railroad tracks were parallel and not far apart. Soon the engine appeared and began to gain on the stagecoach. Recto stood up and lashed his horses and yelling like an Indian. Engineer Hill had the steam pressure at the danger point but kept yelling to the fireman to throw more wood on the fire. Just before reaching the Falls the road crossed the railroad tracks and both contestants wanted to make the crossing first. It looked like a victory for the engine, but while taking a curve, before reaching the crossing at too high a speed the engine ran off the track. Thus the stagecoach amidst the cheers of the passengers reached the Cataract House first and Rector won the wager.
    George Rector later became a hotel man and a very popular one. He was one of the first proprietors in 1861 of the Judson House (the present Lox Plaza). His sons born in Niagara County started the Rector chain of restaurants in New York City and Chicago.
    Alva Hill became the popular sheriff of Niagara County in 1849. Both men loved to tell about that wild race.
                          Line's Ad Is Cited
   By 1845 there were as many as ten stagecoaches each way daily on the Ridge road and branch lines running to various communities both to the north and south. The Batavia-Lockport Line in order to complete for Rochester passengers sold through-tickets at the American Hotel. The coaches left the hotel at 8 a.m. and arrived at Batavia in time for the passengers to catch the train leaving for Rochester at 4 p.m. They advertised a big saving in time by their line.
    An advertisement of "The Old Line Company" reads as follows:
   "Mail coach from Lewiston via Lockport leaves Lewiston at 3 a.m. passes Lockport at 9 a.m. and arrives in Rochester at 7 p.m. Extra coaches will be all times be furnished. Seats taken at the Frontier House at Lewiston and at the Mansion House and Washington Houses at Lockport. Baggage at the risk of the owner. December 17, 1828. Samuel Barton, Agent."
   After the advent of the railroad from Rochester to Lockport and Niagara Falls in 1851-52 the stagecoach business on the Ridge road began to dwindle although some coaches continued to run for many years longer. Stagecoaches from Lockport to Youngstown, Wilson and Olcott and Johnson's Creek continued to run nearly to the beginning of this century.
    In 1843 the trip from Lockport to the Falls by stagecoach was 50 cents. It is hard for us to realize the discomforts of travel in the stagecoach days.



  1. I came across your blog while searching for stagecoach route maps. I'm doing a presentation on immigration and migration. I'm wondering if you have discovered a map showing just stage routes, without canals, turnpikes or railroads.