Monday, November 28, 2011

A Stage Passenger's 'Empty Dream'

Oxford Gazette
Wednesday, May 3, 1826
   Mr. Chauncey Morgan, Editor. - Not long since, I was riding in a stagecoach, over a rough road in your vicinity, and being the only passenger, as the day was somewhat cold, I wrapped myself in my cloak, and reclined upon the seat, where my drowsy eyelids were shortly closed in sleep. Transported suddenly by imagination, I found myself traveling through a fertile region of country which bore marks of late and rapid improvement.
    The season was that in which the golden harvest waves in the zephyrs, and the summer sun darts his warmest rays, to mature the fields for the sickle of the reaper. As we passed along in an elegant coach, I perceived new buildings and villages, rising as if by magic, and we were greeted by the signs of taverns, nearly as often as by mile stones, while many a jolly landlord gazed upon us from his window.
    I observed that although we traveled with the velocity of Jehu, our carriage moved as easily as a ship on the water; and looked out of the coach, I found that the road was covered with a surface of pounded stone, and perfectly smooth, never varying more than three degrees from the horizon. I inquired the cause of so great improvement, when a fellow traveler informed me that this was the "Great State Road" from the Hudson River to Lake Erie," which was now completed, and notwithstanding it had met with much opposition, was found to be profitable to the state.
    He added that the stages passed, from the Hudson to the lake, in about 50 hours, but he was interrupted by a dispute between two other gentlemen, on the expense of a steam engine, which was shortly to be made for propelling loaded carriages upon the road. Meanwhile, rising over a hill by a circuitous route, we came in view of Oxford village. Having formerly been acquainted there, I was surprised to find that its extent, wealth and population had doubled since that period, and still rapidly increasing.
  But what was my astonishment, when having entered the village, we drover over the bridge of a canal, (which as I then learned, was completed from Utica to Binghamton); and I saw the boats rapidly passing under us, some laden with lumber, grain &c. for New York, via Utica, others with various articles for the merchants of Chenango valley, and others with passengers.  Our stage drove to the door of a magnificent inn, where I was soon seated, and viewing the bustle of business, the neatness of the streets and other signs of general prosperity produced by the road and canal.
   I exclaimed, happy people! Highly and justly have you been favored with these stupendous works of art, through the faithful exertions and accommodating spirit of your public officers. You now enjoy free intercourse with the East, West, North and South; and can transport the productions of your soil to distant markets, and receive a large price for them, bringing back treasures and knowledge of every region on the globe, for your use.
   You no longer complain of hard times, and scarcity of specie, but - at this moment, falling into a hole in the road, the Lines and one of the Traces, being somewhat feeble, gave way; the young driver hallooed whoa! with a few curses, and the noise awoke me. Alas! I found this delectable picture to be an empty dream.      

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