Friday, November 25, 2011

The Stagecoach Era in Perry, N.Y.

Perry as it appeared in the 1840s. (From: Historical Collections of the State of New York by John W. Barber and Henry Howe, New York, 1845)
                         By Richard F. Palmer 
      Until the early 1850s, railroads had not reached the more remote regions of western New York. The only public transportation available since the settlement of the region had been the four-horse stagecoach.The road system was developed very early in the 19th century and horses and oxen made their slow tedious journeys to market hauling freight wagons.  Seemingly every other house on the main roads were wayside taverns that provided rest and provender for the weary traveler, teamster and cattle drover.  Roads in the rainy seasons of spring and fall were notoriously bad and only moderately maintained by local farmers in lieu of taxes who were supervised by a pathmaster.
     In the early days of the stage business Perry was one of the largest and most important villages in western New York. Incorporated in 1830, it was on the main stage route called the Allegany Road  between Canandaigua to Ellicottville.  After the opening of the Genesee Valley Canal between Rochester and Mount Morris in 1840, stages commenced running twice daily between Perry and Cuylerville.
    Now let us take a glance at the Village of Perry and see it as it was like in the 1830s and 1840s. At the time it possessed neither a railroad, a bank of a telegraph line. Residents listened for the toot of the horn of from the driver of the mail coach. Drawn by four horses, it dashed through the streets with a flourish and came to a halt in front of the old National Hotel, kept by Thomas Livingston, near the corner of Main and Lake streets.
    The stagecoach was the village's only communication with the outside world, and it brought not only the mail, but visitors, and goods people may have ordered.  
    The stagecoach network was very extensive and spread throughout southern and western New York like a spider web. J.A. McElwain was the proprietor of the stage line  which ran over hill and dale from Perry and Canandaigua, via Moscow, Geneseo, Livonia, Richmond and Bristol.
    A line also ran west from Perry to Buffalo, by way of Buffalo Corners, west via Orangeville, Sheldon, Wales, Aurora and Hamburg. The Warsaw and Batavia line passed through Wyoming and Bethany and connected at Batavia with the New York Central Railroad. Stages also carried the mail from Perry to Sardinia via Gainesville, Orangeville and Java.
  Those were the days when the hearts of the tavern-keepers rejoiced, for business was business, and there was plenty of it. There were 11 taverns alone between Castile and Geneseo, all of which were well patronized, and, to use  an old phrase, "full every night."  Interestingly many of these old taverns survive to this day as private homes and farm houses.
    Some of the drivers were quaint characters, and none more so than Edwin  Root, who everybody knew on the old road between Geneseo and Perry for years.   He had a merry laugh and a light-hearted manner which made him popular. He was the epitome of the stagecoach driver, friendly, talkative and skilled with handling horses. He guided his steeds up and down the hills, snapping his whip with the cracker on the end over their heads. Years of experience made him a master at holding whip and reins in one hand and tin horn up to his lips, blowing it to announced his pending arrival at a tavern or hotel.
  Root published a quarter-sheet poster to advertise his business. It was decorated from a milliner's sign to a skull and cross bones. In fact he used all the woodcuts to be found in a printing office and some that were not. Root advertised: 
 This would alert the boys to bring out a fresh team and allow the landlord to make ready meals for the passengers.  Stage horses galloped up to the stoop at full speed with a flourish and abruptly stopping right where the passengers could step out and into the tavern or hotel. Horses were changed every 10 to 15 miles. 
       Clear the track for the Lightning Line of Male and Female Stages!
         From Perry to Geneseo and back in a flash!
           Baggage, Persons and Eyesight at
             the risk of the owners, and no
                          questions answered. 
    Having bought the valuable rights of young Master James Howard in this line, the subscriber will streak it daily from Perry to Geneseo for the conveyance of Uncle Sam's mail and family, leaving Perry before the crows wake up in the morning and arriving at the first house this side of Geneseo about the same time. Returning, leave Genesee after the crows have gone to roost and reach Perry in time to join them. Passengers will please keep their mouths shut, for fear they will lose their teeth.
   The Public's Much Obliged Servant, Edwin Root.
 January 1st, 1844.
     The stage line between Batavia and Perry was also popular for many years.  A.B. Walker ran stages for years on the route from Pike, via Perry to Attica. 
The "palmy days of staging" and "the associations of the old road" were colorful. But by the mid 19th century, except in more remote regions, stagecoaches were rapidly giving way to the more practical railroads. The completion of the Buffalo & New York City (Erie) Railroad between Hornellsville and Attica on July 26, 1852 soon brought stagecoach days to an end to most long distance state travel. William Ward operated a stage between Perry and Castile and a stage continued to operate to Mount Morris and a one-horse wagon transported the mail to Covington, LaGrange and Perry Center.
History of the Town of Perry, N.Y. by Frank D. Roberts and Frank D. Clark, 1915
Warsaw Wyoming, January 10, 1895
Perry Record, September 30, 1915
Perry Herald, October 9, 1915

Western Repository, July 15, 1823

                                      New Establishment 
                             FROM MOSCOW TO WARSAW
  The subscriber has extended his line of Stages from Canandaigua to Warsaw once in each week. He will leave Moscow on Saturday afternoon, immediately after his arrival from Canandaigua, and return from Warsaw on Monday morning and on Tuesday morning start again for Canandaigua. He will continue as heretofore to run twice a week from Moscow to Canandaigua. His route from Warsaw to Canandaigua will be through Perry, Moscow, Geneseo, Livonia, Richmond and Bristol.
    Persons in the above district of country wishing to reach the Canal, will find daily Stages running from Canandaigua to Palmyra, and (via Geneva) to Lyons.
    All Baggage at the risk of the owner.
     For Seats apply at Putnam's Hotel in Warsaw, Boothby's Hotel in Moscow, at Belden's Hotel in Geneseo, and at Mead's Hotel in Canandaigua.
                                                              P. R. BOWMAN.
Moscow, June 27, 1823. 

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