Saturday, November 19, 2011

Stagecoach Days on the Ridge Road



House known as the Walling Cobblestone Tavern at 7851 Ridge Road (old Route 104 in the hamlet of Wallington, Wayne County, is a Federal style cobblestone building erected about 1834. It is a two story, five bay, gabled roof structure. It is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Rochester Democrat & Chronicle
August 25. 1929

Early Tavern Loses Its Romance
But Not Comfort as Modern Home
______
Stage Coach Once Rattled to Door of Turnpike House
Where Weary Travelers Rested or Made Merry:
Remodeled, It Shelters 20th Century Family
____

Wallington, Aug. 24. - The days of stagecoaches and quaint-looking taverns where many years ago travelers along the main turnpike between Eastern and Western New York made merry over the flowing bowl as the village fiddler played "Money Musk," "Pop Goes the Weasel" and other old-tome airs are recalled in an old cobblestone house standing close to the Pennsylvania Railroad tracks here. The Wallington Tavern, for as such it was known in stagecoach days, was built entirely of cobblestones in 1834 by William Walling, the village's honored sage. Shortly afterward the tavern became known as the halfway house between Oswego and Rochester. Here coach horses either rested or were exchanged and passengers whiled away the hours in rollicking pastime. Stories of merry holiday parties, especially around Christmas time, are still narrated and it is said that the jovial landlord spared neither the best of his wine cellar nor the most appetizing which his larder afforded to give his guests a welcome would insure their early return. Many years ago a traveler stopped at the tavern to rest and refresh himself, according to a story which is still told in this village. He entered the tavern through swinging doors over which appeared the boldly painted sign: "Beer." After he had remained in the taproom for some time, he was struck with a blunt instrument by another guest and killed. The motive may have been robbery or revenge. That point has never been made clear in the narrative. After he was killed the body was taken to strip of woods near the village, a shallow grave dug and the body thrown into it. Years late, his remains were accidentally unearthed, but his identity never was established definitely. Above the present front of the once old tavern, now an attractive dwelling owned and occupied by Charles E. Whiting, the marble stone sign bearing the words "William Walling, 1834," is sill plainly visible. Walling conducted the tavern, which he later called the Wallington Hotel, for many years, and its ownership subsequently changed several times until the Town of Sodus went dry under the local option law and eventually Gabriel Ackerman, the last proprietor, barred the doors.
New Family Home
With the coming of the automobile and interurban bus lines, this famous old landmark has been converted into an attractive and comfortable home by its present owner. There are other cobblestone buildings in this vicinity. Some of them are old, while a few of them existed when a war between the United Stages and Mexico never was dreamed of by early residents of the northern tier of Wayne County. The passing of the stagecoach has left many reminders of those romantic days in this section, but the old Walling Tavern will probably be known a long time hence as the popular rendezvous of weary but fun-loving travelers close to a century ago between the "Lake City" and the "Flower City."





[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








































































Niagara Falls Gazette
December 24, 1955

First Stagecoach Line Linking City
With Rochester Did 'Roaring Business'
By CLARENCE O. LEWIS
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.









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.



______






House known as the Walling Cobblestone Tavern at 7851 Ridge Road (old Route 104 in the hamlet of Wallington, Wayne County, is a Federal style cobblestone building erected about 1834. It is a two story, five bay, gabled roof structure. It is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Rochester Democrat & Chronicle
August 25. 1929

Early Tavern Loses Its Romance
But Not Comfort as Modern Home
______
Stage Coach Once Rattled to Door of Turnpike House
Where Weary Travelers Rested or Made Merry:
Remodeled, It Shelters 20th Century Family
____
Wallington, Aug. 24. - The days of stagecoaches and quaint-looking taverns where many years ago travelers along the main turnpike between Eastern and Western New York made merry over the flowing bowl as the village fiddler played "Money Musk," "Pop Goes the Weasel" and other old-tome airs are recalled in an old cobblestone house standing close to the Pennsylvania Railroad tracks here.
The Wallington Tavern, for as such it was known in stagecoach days, was built entirely of cobblestones in 1834 by William Walling, the village's honored sage. Shortly afterward the tavern became known as the halfway house between Oswego and Rochester. Here coach horses either rested or were exchanged and passengers whiled away the hours in rollicking pastime.
Stories of merry holiday parties, especially around Christmas time, are still narrated and it is said that the jovial landlord spared neither the best of his wine cellar nor the most appetizing which his larder afforded to give his guests a welcome would insure their early return.
Many years ago a traveler stopped at the tavern to rest and refresh himself, according to a story which is still told in this village. He entered the tavern through swinging doors over which appeared the boldly painted sign: "Beer."
After he had remained in the taproom for some time, he was struck with a blunt instrument by another guest and killed. The motive may have been robbery or revenge. That point has never been made clear in the narrative. After he was killed the body was taken to strip of woods near the village, a shallow grave dug and the body thrown into it. Years late, his remains were accidentally unearthed, but his identity never was established definitely.
Above the present front of the once old tavern, now an attractive dwelling owned and occupied by Charles E. Whiting, the marble stone sign bearing the words "William Walling, 1834," is sill plainly visible. Walling conducted the tavern, which he later called the Wallington Hotel, for many years, and its ownership subsequently changed several times until the Town of Sodus went dry under the local option law and eventually Gabriel Ackerman, the last proprietor, barred the doors.
New Family Home
With the coming of the automobile and interurban bus lines, this famous old landmark has been converted into an attractive and comfortable home by its present owner. There are other cobblestone buildings in this vicinity. Some of them are old, while a few of them existed when a war between the United Stages and Mexico never was dreamed of by early residents of the northern tier of Wayne County. The passing of the stagecoach has left many reminders of those romantic days in this section, but the old Walling Tavern will probably be known a long time hence as the popular rendezvous of weary but fun-loving travelers close to a century ago between the "Lake City" and the "Flower City."




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