Stagecoach drivers had it rough in the winter.
A Stagecoach Driver Froze to Death in Camillus
[Syracuse Herald, August 21, 1898]
Mr. Myron C. Merriman was born in Elbridge on the old turnpike road, which is known in the cities and villages of the state as Genesee Street, and has lived on it all his life. The old states which were of the thorough-brace patter, were very popular in those days and were named after notable cities or events.
The line-stage "Telegraph," which thundered along East and West Genesee Street over the turnpike was driven ten miles an hour and changed horses every ten miles. The packet boats on the canal were patronized by a great many people, and were comfortable and luxurious affairs for those days, but their speed was to slow, and in consequence those people who could afford to patronize the line of stages did so to the last.
Mr. Merriman relates an incident which occurred between this city and Camillus, which will be remembered by the octogenarians of the county, fir it was the talk of this section of the state for a long time. Between Syracuse and Camillus there is a long, high hill, which in the winter time is believed to be about the coldest spot in the state. On a bitter cold winter's day a driver of a line stage actually froze to death while driving over this hill.
The horses drawing the stage went down the hill, and, as was their custom, stopped before the tavern at Camillus. The driver was found seated on the box frozen stiff, and stone dead, with the reins clasped in his hands as natural as life.
The stage drivers of those days were great characters and were possessed of a vast fund of information and gossip, and it was the height of a passenger's ambition to get a seat on the box, where he could be entertained by the driver, who would while away the tedious hours of a long journey with story and anecdote. There was good wheeling for the old stagecoaches along the turnpike in this section of the state, for the road bed was mostly gravel, but east of here and west of Skaneateles the road was hard and accidents were of frequent occurrence.
Jason Woodruff, afterward Mayor of the city of Syracuse, was originally a stage driver and drove the stage "Governor." When he did his inaugural address at the City Hall, Mayor Woodruff stated that the first time that he ever came to Syracuse he held the reins of the government in his hands.
Genesee Street, along which the old stages used to run, really is the longest street in the world. It starts from Albany and runs through the state to Buffalo. It is Genesee Street in all the cities and villages through which it runs, and the Genesee turnpike through the country intervening, and was the old stage route for 300 miles.