Friday, September 30, 2011

Remembering Stagecoach Days



This old structure at Half Acre was once a tavern/inn on the Seneca Turnpike (also call the Genesee Road) two miles west of Auburn, N.Y.  It stood on the north side of the road. Built during the heyday of the stagecoach era, it was originally operated by Henry Ramsay in the 1820s or before. Later it was operated by Henry who in turn sold it to Diodorus Westover in 1856. Upon his death in 1864 his wife, Betsey, and daughter, Susan May, operated it. The local post office was located here "conveniently" next to the bar. The dining room in the old days could seat 40. There was a ballroom on he second floor. Many social events were held here. Upon Mrs. Westover's death in 1908 it was razed to allow expansion of the local cemetery. Two other taverns still stand at the corner as private homes. 


                         Getting There 'By Stages'
     The old stagecoach came into town with a flourish amid the clatter of galloping horses and sounding horn - its round body swung on leather strap thorough-braces; its passengers tossed about like dice in a box.
The gallant driver pulled on the reins and the four steaming horses halted in front of the inn. Shouting boys swinging from the “boot,” at the rear of the coach where baggage was stowed, fell off in a cloud of dust. After whirling up to the “stoop,” the traces of the horses were  unhooked and the exhausted animals were led around to the stable to their familiar stalls. Usually, stagecoaches in this part of the country employed four-horse teams. The horses in front were the leaders and the rear two, the wheelers.
    The stage driver himself, donned in a great-coat and buckskin gloves, strolled into the inn with his traveled air. He was a welcome figure in every village along the old turnpike which depended on his arrival for the mail and the latest news from the outside world. Gazed upon with awe by the boys, he was worshipped as a sort of romantic hero, who never worked, but drove his galloping horses back and forth through a perpetual holiday.
Soon the stable boys trotted out a fresh team and in a few moments the passengers reclaimed their seats. The driver mounted his seat, called the “box,” slung the mail sack beneath him, sounded his bugle, and with a crack of the whip over the tops of horses’ heads, he galloped off down the dusty road. This was the stagecoach era as it existed in upstate New York for a more than half a century. From 1790 until the completion of the network of railroads across the state in the early 1840s the stagecoach reigned as the supreme mode of public conveyance, supplementing the Erie Canal packet boats.
During this period the stage proprietors on the great western routes aligned, or associated themselves ;  working in close agreement to control the road to keep a tight rein on competition. This syndicate, as it might be called today, was known as the “Old Line Mail.” People such as Asa Sprague, Aaron Thorpe, Jason Parker, Isaac and John M. Sherwood had a virtual monopoly on the stage business across the state for nearly a half century. This conglomerate was a well-oiled machine that required vigilance and tight communication to keep the business moving and satisfy the demands of an impatient and exacting traveling public. It was highly-organized, employing hundreds of agents, drivers, station-keepers, runners, clerks, mechanics, blacksmiths and tavern keepers.
The “Old Line” proprietors proved themselves equal to the task. Their commanding energy in moving with regularity and order such a mass of human and animal elements was proverbial, considering the wretched roads and turnpikes they had to contend with, which varied with the seasons from bad to worse. During winter and spring the roads could be a terror to timid passengers, occasionally becoming impassable. Now and then the teams would become mired in the mud and passengers would assist in lifting the coach out of a mud hole. In winter, the coaches were mounted on runners, or as they used to say, "a set of bobs."
Long stretches of road through swamps were bridged on stretches of corduroy, formed by cutting down the adjacent timber, trimming off branches and placing the logs side-by-side across the right of way. Under such rough conditions, timid travelers would stop over at a convenient wayside tavern for the night and rest until another stage came along. Such a trip from Albany to Buffalo frequently required nearly a week in the very early days.  Although many hardships were encountered in traveling by stage, such a journey was not entirely void of pleasures. There were deep forests of towering hemlocks and pine trees. Here and there a little clearing appeared where a settler and his family had built a log house, feebly attempting to cultivate the rutted soil. The scenery was varied and interesting. The passengers generally were sociable, and many warm and lasting friendships were formed in the “old coach and four.”
Paralleling the Great Western Turnpike which ran from Albany to Manlius, to the north was “The Great Genesee Road” which ultimately became the Seneca Turnpike. It was much more of an extensive system of roads than the “Cherry Valley.” The main route was from Utica to Canandaigua. At Chittenango, a branch diverged and passed through Manlius, Jamesville, Marcellus and Skaneateles, and on to Auburn, where it rejoined the north or main branch (today’s Route 5) which passed through Syracuse, Camillus and Elbridge. Another branch diverged at Sennett and headed cross country to Cayuga, where it rejoined the main branch to form a single road again through Seneca Falls, to Canandaigua.
Several coaches ran regularly over these routes daily, besides “extras,” which ran frequently to meet travel demands. The “motive power” was first-quality horse-flesh, athletic, sure-footed and strong. A coach weighed 2,200 pounds, and carried 11 passengers with baggage. Each horse had a name, and, when called upon, responded to the driver’s commands. The driver’s whip was composed of a stalk four or five feet long, to which was attached a lash 10 to 12 feet long. At the end was a nicely braided silk “cracker.” It was a great piece of dexterity to hold the reins of four horses, and so wield the whip as to give a smart crack with it; or in coming down the hills, to crack the whip and blow the horn, holding the four reins in one hand and the horn in the other, with the horses under full gallop. It is said it was an inspiring sight.
Stage drivers were a daring lot, but very energetic and faithful to the performance of their duties. Accidents were few and far between. Hiram Reed of Marcellus recalled that as a boy he and a friend commuted to Skaneateles on the Auburn stage. One day they climbed up with the driver, which was not usually allowed. As they descended a steep hill between Marcellus and Skaneateles, one of the pole straps leading from the front end of the reach to the collars of the wheel horses, broke. 
“Hold on boys!” the driver shouted, and at once laid the whip to his horses. They galloped headlong down the steep hill in perfect safety. The driver was able to steer the coach to safety by controling the slack of the reach, or pole to which the wiffletrees were connected. This was also referred to as a thill. The was the last time the boys rode with the driver.
Horses were changed every 10 miles, but a driver would typically run 30 to 40 miles. If for some reason he was in a hurry and the roads were good, he could make 10 miles in less than an hour. But the Old Line proprietors did not encourage racing, even though it frequently occurred when there was a competitive stage line trying to make inroads.
   The stage fare was five cents per mile. The  ‘way-bill,’ which every driver carried, was another feature of the road. If a person in Auburn was going to Albany he would go to the stage office and the agent would register him. By this system the driver was saved the trouble of handling the fares.  Colonel Sherwood had the contracts for carrying the mails over a large section of Central New York, but he sub-contracted all except over the most lucrative main stage lines to others. The U.S. Post Office once gave Colonel Sherwood the credit of being the best stage proprietor in the United States so far as prompt deliver of mails was concerned. Sherwood, of Auburn,  took great pride in having his stages run on time and always kept good horses.
     Interviewed in 1886, Norman Maxon of Elbridge, an oldtime stage driver, told how the horse operated “in the rounds.”  He said:
    “I began driving in 1828 and the only old drivers known to be living beside myself are, Consider Carter, who lives in Chicago, and George Brown of Danforth.  Col. John M. Sherwood controlled that part of the line from Manlius and Fayetteville to Geneva.  It was divided into three sections. Eastward from Auburn one line ran through Skaneateles, Marcellus and Onondaga Hill to Manlius. Another went over the Seneca Turnpike through the villages of Elbridge, Geddes and Syracuse to Fayetteville.
“That part of the road between Auburn and Geneva comprised the third section. It would be impossible now for me to tell you the exact number of teams that were employed on the line, but I think 80 would be near the figures.  At that time the stages ran through from Albany, the horses only being changed. The teams and and their drivers were in the rounds, that is, ‘first in, first out.’ For instance, a coach came into Fayetteville. My team had been in the stable longest,  I would hitch on and drive it to Syracuse, where another team would take it and go on to Camillus.
“When it came my turn I would follow to Camillus and then in order to Elbridge and lastly to Auburn, where I would turn. On the down trip stops were made at the same changing places until I got to Fayetteville, where Parker and Faxton’s teams met ours. The same method was pursued on the Genesee Turnpike and between Auburn and Geneva. The advantage of such a course was it gave the horses shorter drives and saved passengers the delay which would result in stopping to feed.” Except for the lateral lines, most of the east-west stagecoach business ceased with the coming of the railroads.


New York Spectator
February 15, 1828



_____________

Geneva Courier, January 15, 1879

          THE LAST STAGE.
THE RAILROAD AND THE STAGES.
             _______
The last Stage leaves Geneva Saturday - A look at the past.
              _____
   Saturday next, January 18, 1879, will mark an era in the history and progress of Geneva. On that day the last stage will make its last trip - the Geneva and Clyde stage line will after Saturday be a thing of the past. The withdrawal of the stage would not in itself be a very noteworthy occurrence, but the fact that it brings the end of the stage business in Geneva is an interesting one.
   There was a time when stages were as plenty and nearly as noisy in Geneva as railroad trains are now; when it was a prominent station on the Albany and Buffalo stage route. Our older citizens well remember the sight and sound of the large, heavily loaded stages, as with cracking whips and blowing horns they rattled through the streets, on their way east and west through the villages and wilds of the then new state.
   In the busy season it was no uncommon thing for from three to six stages to pass through Geneva every three hours. All stopped at Hemenway's Hotel, now the Water Cure; driving up to the piazza with a grand flourish, the row of coaches standing in front of the house while passengers and drivers went in for refreshment - solid and liquid.
   Geneva was one of the important stations on the stage route, and in 1823 orders were given that the mails between Albany and Buffalo should be opened only at Geneva. The stage business was at its height in 1830. In those days stages were the only means of communication for persons desirous of losing no time. A gentleman of this village, who came here in 1822, by stage, left Northampton, Massachusetts, on Monday, and arrived in Geneva on Friday. On one of his trips west from Albany an attempt was made to rob the stage between Albany and Schenectady, by cutting loose the baggage in the boot behind.
  The passengers heard the noise, and turned out in time to save their goods. It was not an uncommon thing for the stage to be robbed.  In 1811, as shown by an old copy of the Expositor, printed here then, Geneva was the post3 office for Seneca, Sodus, Romulus, Phelps, Junius, Palmyra, Lyons, Crooked Lake, and many other places. E. White, post, informs his patrons that he will no longer carry papers. In 1808 a "post rider's notice" offers an opportunity for people indebted for newspapers delivered by Elijah Wilder so he could pay for his wheat.
  In 1823, a New York paper noted as an example of extraordinary speed that a stage traveled from Utica to Albany, 96 miles, in 9 hours and 10 minutes. The same year Ry's Register records that this village is connected with the outside world by three daily stages for Rochester and Buffalo west, Utica, Albany and Cherry Valley east; to Bath and Angelica twice a week; to Ithaca, Owego and Newburgh, three times weekly; and to Lyons and Sodus once a week.
    With the completion of the Central road, which was celebrated with great rejoicing on July 4, 1854, the main line of stages was of course discontinued. As the railroads have increased, the stage traffic has fallen off, till for several years the Clyde stage has been the only one left. The construction of the Geneva and Lyons Railroad now necessitates the abandonment of that route, and the victory of the locomotive over the stage is complete.

                  ___________________

   Reading Room for Stage Drivers


(From Book D, Miscellaneous Records, Page 183-4, Ontario County Clerk,  Canandaigua, Recorded January 19th, 1839).

         Articles of Association
  Stage Drivers Library and Reading Room Association

Article  1.  We the undersigned Stage Drivers of the Village of Canandaigua hereby form ourselves into a society to be known  and distinguished by the appellation of The Canandaigua Stage Drivers Library and Reading-Room Association and bind ourselves individually to pay the sum of 12 1/2 cents per month to the President of Said Association which  said monies are to be expended from time to time as said President shall se fit  for the purchase of Books, Periodicals, &c. for the benefit of the association.
Article 2. No  member of this Association or any other person shall have the privilege of removing any book, periodical or other property of this Association from the room in which said books &c are kept.
Article 3. The officers of this Association shall be a president, vice president  and librarian who shall be elected by ballot, on the first day of January in each year.
Article 4. The President shall perform all the duties usually  incumbent on that office and in  his absence those duties shall be performed by the Vice-President.
Article 5. Any Stage Driver  in Canandaigua may become a member of this Association by subscribing this constitution and complying with the requirements herein contained.
Article 6. This constitution may be amended by  vote of two-thirds of the members of the Association.
Canandaigua, January 1st, 1839.
President Stephen  B.  Austin
Vice  President George B. Hotchkiss
Librarian  Perry G. Wadhams  &c.

______________



A typical stagecoach of the 1820-40 period called the "Troy Coach." This one was owned by Thorpe & Sprague of Albany.  From: "Forty Etchings, From Sketches Made With The Camera Lucida, in North America, in 1827 and 28" By Captain Basil Hall. (Cadell & Co., Edinburgh, 1829)

Geneva Gazette
Feb. 16, 1825

(Advertisement)

      Three times a Week
   From Geneva to Penn-Yan
   Leaves Geneva Mondays, Thursdays & Saturdays.
   Leaves Penn-Yan Tuesdays, Fridays & Sundays.
                  ____
     MAIL STAGES have commenced and will run regularly  twice a week from Owego, by the way of Tioga Point, Chemung, Elmira, Big Flats, Painted Post, Campbelltown, Bath, Howard, Hornellsville, Dansville, Geneseo and Avon, to Rochester. Also, to Olean Point by way of Bath and Angelica - through in less than 3 days - Fare, $6.25. Leaves Owego and Rochester on Wednesdays and Sundays, - From Geneva by Penn Yan, Wayne, Bath, Howard, Hornellsville, Almond, Angelica, Friendship, Oil Creek, to Olean Point  - through in  2 1/2 days - Fare, $5.00.  Leaves Geneva Mondays and Thursdays; Olean, Wednesdays and Sundays.
    These lines meet regularly at Bath and Hornellsville, so that travellers may pass to either section without delay. They intersect, at Geneva and Avon, the Albany and Buffalo lines; at Rochester, the Lewiston line; at Geneseo, the Canandaigua & Moscow line; at Painted Post,  a line to Williamsport, Pa.; at Elmira, a line to the latter pace - also, a line from Berwick, Pa. to Geneva, by way of Ovid; at Tioga Point, a line to Wilkesbarre; at Owego, the several lines from New York, Milford, Newburgh and Ithaca, Washington City, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Lancaster, Easton, Harrisburg, Northumberland, Wilkesbarre, Montrose, &c.
     Good Horses, new Coaches, and careful, attentive Drivers are employed. Every attention will be paid to the comfort and safety of Passengers. The Proprietors have expended large sums in establishing these lines, and are determined to conduct them at all times in such manner as to merit a liberal patronage.
                                                                         JOHN MAGEE, of Bath,
                                                                            and Others, Proprietors.

January 1, 1825.
N.B. - Boats and Skiffs of all sizes will be constantly kept at Olean to accommodate such as may wish to descend the Allegany river, during the months of April, May, June, July, October, November and the fore part of December. Travellers may generally pass from Geneva to Pittsburgh in about 5 or 6 days. When there are two or more in company, their whole expenses will not exceed ten dollars each.

Note: John Magee was a pioneer stagecoach proprietor in the Southern Tier.
                        _____________


Perry Democrat, Aug. 12, 1841

               STAND AWAY CANOES, 
               And let the Steamboat Come
     THE Subscriber has commenced running a Line 
                 of Mail Coaches from
             ALEXANDER to GENESEO,
   Leave Geneva every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, at three P.M. - arrive at Alexander at 11 P.M., intersecting the Swiftsure line of Stages to Buffalo and Batavia.
     Leave Alexander every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, at 5 o'clock A.M. - arrive  at Covington at 9 1-2 A.M., and Geneseo at 12 M., intersecting the Canandaigua, Dansville, Mount Morris and Rochester States, and the packets on the Genesee Valley Canal, passing through the following places: Attica, Vermal, Lindon, Middlebury, Pearl Creek, Covington, Peoria, Pifferdinia, to Geneseo.
    Passengers will find it to their advantage to take this Stage, as this is the shortest and most direct route from Canandaigua to Buffalo, and passage through a delightful country.
    Good Horses and Carriages, and none but careful Drivers employed.
                                                                                                                       J.D. BARTLETT.
Alexander, July, 1841



Monday, September 26, 2011

The Erie Canal and the Stagecoach





                             ___

                  By Richard F. Palmer
  In 1821 a traveler could choose between the rough ride in the stagecoach over the dusty or muddy turnpikes or the more leisurely cruise on the Erie Canal, which had opened for navigation between Utica and Montezuma in May, 1821. But contrary to popular belief, this new mode of travel did not render stagecoach travel obsolete as the railroads did later. It merely complemented it as an alternative mode of travel.
   For the canal did not pass through all communities across upstate New York. Also, the stagecoach proprietors continued to hold all the mail contracts which provided a lucrative income.
  If travelers were in a hurry, or wanted to see a more varied countryside, they usually took the stage, rented one, or purchased their own carriage. If travel was particularly heave and one stage  could not handle the crowd, additional stages were put into service. Frequently three or four of these "extras" would follow the regular coach.
 By paying a certain price - usually the fare of seven passengers - an affluent traveler might reserve for himself and family and servants an "exclusive  extra," in which none but his party and invited gusts might enter. Such a charter ran on his orders in regard to ours of arrival and departure. However, the destination had to be reached within an agreed time.
    Canal packets were at first a popular novelty. However, it is said very few people - with the exception of emigrants  and tourists - traveled the entire length of the canal. Although the packet boat afforded an opportunity to "look around," the stagecoach offered variety of scenery and swiftness. That is if one was able to survive the bone-jolting ride over only moderately maintained turnpikes and public roads.
  Also the canal was closed four or five months of the year which left the stagecoach the exclusive mode of public transportation during the winter until the coming of the railroads. There was plenty of passenger business for both the canals and stagecoaches during the navigation season. Many travelers preferred the canal as it was less fatiguing and cheaper as meals and lodging were included in the fare, and it was restful.
    From the beginning the principal commodity carried on the canal was freight. The most common canal travelers were curious tourists and traveling families. Merchants, bankers and tradesmen bound to and from the metropolis, lawyers on their way to court and businessmen found the stagecoach more expeditious.
    By the the time the canal was opened, the stagecoach business had more than 20 years to develop in this part of the country.. By the 1820s, stagecoach routes spread over the state like a spiderweb. For about two years Montezuma was the western terminus of the canal. Here, perhaps more so than most other places, was a heavy concentration of stage lines that met the packets to convey passengers to their destinations. Connections were so arranged between the packetboat companies and the stage lines so there would be minimal detention.
   On Aug. 3, 1821 the editor of the Lyons Republican noted that the traveler could "choose between a continuation in post coaches, or take the canal for 100 miles; by the later mode he would behold that grand project, and form some idea of its vast advantages, but would forego the pleasures that the land conveyance always affords."
  Construction problems in the Cayuga Marshes west of Montezuma delayed the opening of that section of the canal until July 30, 1822. On that day the packet boat "Myron Holley" passed over the newly-completed stretch of the canal, from Lyons to Montezuma. That August, William Faulkner of Geneva and W.W. Fenlon of Montezuma established a daily stage line connecting with the packet boats. The stage left Gooding's Tavern in Canandaigua for Montezuma at 9 a.m. , also connecting with the steamboat "Enterprise" at Cayuga Bridge. The returning stage conveyed westbound passengers to Geneva and Canandaigua.
  Further evidence of the close association between stagecoach and packet is gleaned from newspaper advertisements. In June, 1823, Samuel Allen established  two daily north-south runs between Palmyra and Canandaigua, and Lyons and Geneva, respectively. The stages left Palmyra and Lyons in the morning, returning in the afternoon in time to connect with the packets, eastbound from Palnyra and westbound from  Lyons.
     An advocate of the canal  noted that packet boat passengers were charged only four cents a mile, including meals and lodging, "both which are as good, if not better, than at the taverns on the road." He claimed the passage from Utica to Weed's Basin (Weedsport), 87 miles was "as rapid as the stages travel, much less expensive, no risk of life or limb and no fatigue or dust attending."
  The creation of stagecoach service between Lyons and Geneva in June, 1823 also brought daily mail service to Lyons. In turn the Lyons Advertiser was able to get out its weekly newspaper two days earlier than previously. Stage passengers had to be early risers, however, as this coach left Woolsey's Tavern in Lyons at 5 a.m., returning from Geneva at 4 p.m.  It was advertised that "Passengers on the canal whose business may require to leave it for the Seneca Turnpike, will find the route a very pleasant one, and the carriages safe and expeditious." Also, that passengers could be assured of punctuality and that "sober and careful drivers will be furnished at all times."
     Sources reflect a gradual improvement in stagecoach service in the early 1820s in conjunction with the canal. Stage lines connected with packet boats at such canal towns as Canajoharie, Utica, Chittenango, Syracuse,  Weedsport, Montezuma, Lyons, Palmyra, Rochester and Lockport. At Buffalo there were excellent stagecoach accommodations in all directions, with daily lines to Lewiston and Niagara Falls, and long the Ridge Road and turnpikes.
   Spafford's 1824 edition of "Guide for New York Travellers" stated that the packet boat companies "have extensive connexions (sic) with the lines of stages, the hours of arrival and departure of which are so arranged that there is little detention, in passing, in almost any direction, at any of the considerable villages, from the canal line. These packets also carry the mails."  The packet boat companies also offered considerable daily service on the canal while steamboats had extensive service on Lake Ontario, the St. Lawrence River, Lake George and Lake Champlain, as well as on the Hudson River.
   Stage fare was generally four cents per mile, according to old guidebooks. Competition was keen. In January, 1823, a group of stage  proprietors across upstate New York called the "Old Line," reduced fares to two cents a mile to force out competition and retain  the mail contracts. One of their competitors was  W.W. Fenlon,  of Palmyra,  established the first such service between Rochester and Auburn in January, 1823.  This run east of Palmyra was over what was known as the Montezuma Turnpike, and operated three days a week.
  A popular alternative detour between Rochester and Niagara Falls was the scenic 80-mile stagecoach ride over the Ridge Road, which was heavily patronized in the early days especially by tourists. This essentially is today's Route 104. However, travelers had to be early risers as the stages left Rochester westbound, and Lewiston, eastbound, at 3 a.m. Under the best conditions, this trip took 16 hours and can be driven today in about two hours or less.
  Fenlon's route was 10 miles shorter than previously established routes. But the  the "Old Line" proprietors eventually got the upper hand and Fenlon withdrew from the business. Isaac Sherwood, one of the "Old Line" proprietors, and later  his son, John M. Sherwood, controlled most of the business between Utica and Rochester.
  The Erie Canal was opened its entire distance with a grand celebration on Oct. 26, 1825. Its benefits were almost immediate. Especially in the larger communities along the canal, stagecoaches lined the docks to take passengers to their final destinations.  
 An example of the cooperation between the packetboats and stagecoaches is reflected in this advertisement that appeared in the Oswego Palladium, June 6, 1832:

              New Line of Packet Boats
     Between Utica, Chittenango and Syracuse

     A line of very commodious boats, for the carriage of passengers and light frieight. The boats are fitted up in a superior style with spacious cabins for ladies and gentlemen. The arrangements for  sleeping are peculiarly good; every berth having a canvas bottom, and supplied with large and thick mattresses. No pains or has been spared to render the boats as commodious as possible. The boats on the line are --
The Philadelphia,   Capt. S. Haight,
The New Kentucky,  Capt. P. Westerman jr.
The Naid & Nerid,   Capt. J. Bellinger.
   And will have their station, at Utica, on the west side of Genesee street, adjoining the store of Butler, McDonough & Co.
  A boat will leave Utica every morning at 5 o'clock, after the arrival of the stages and boats from Schenectady - and as there is not a single lock between Chitttenango and Utica, passengers will be able to sleep with as much comfort and ease as in a private house, and every precaution will be taken to ensure quiet and silence.
 A boat will leave Chittenango, every evening at 5 o'clock after the arrival of the western and southern stages.
  In continuation of the line, a light boat will leave Chittenango every morning, and convey passengers to Syracuse. At 2 P.M. the light boat will again  leave Syracuse, and arrive at Chittenango by 6 o'clock, where they will take the larger boat for the night, and arrive in Utica the next morning.
  Passengers going  west, will arrive at Chittenango in season for the morning states; likewise, passengers wishing to go south, to Cazenovia, New Woodstock, DeRuyter, Homer, Ithaca, and to Perryville, Peterboro, Morrisville, Norwich, and Unadilla, can go immediately on without delay.
 This line has been established for village accommodation, and not with any design to compete with any other line of boats. Every attention will be given to those whose business or inclination may induce them to patronize the line. The proprietor has requested all the captains to avoid racing, and to keep out at their regular speed without collision, if practicable.
  The director of this line, solicits such a share of public patronage as his efforts to accommodate shall entitle him to; and while he would not deprecate the conveniences of other boats and stages he deems it due to the interest of the proprietor, to  caution the public against  misrepresentations which are often practiced by the agents of rival establishments.
 Application for passage to be made to the captains on board the boats.
       For the proprietor,
         GEORGE T. PERRY.
Chittenango, April 16,  1832.

    The editor of the Wayne County Sentinel of Palmyra noted on May 19, 1826:
     "Since the completion of the canal, the travel through this country has gradually though rapidly increased. There are now nine lines of stages that leave Rochester daily and one semi-weekly in the following manner:
  "Three lines via Canandaigua to Albany, one via Palmyra and Montezuma to Albany, one to Geneseo, one to Lewiston, one to Batavia via Scottsville, via Churchville, one to Penfield, all daily and one to Oswego, semi-weekly; besides which there is a departure  of three packet boats daily, one east and two west.
   "In addition to which, the transportation (freight) boats take a great share of passengers. At a modern calculation there depart daily the round number of 130 persons from Rochester, the site of which 14 years ago was literally a forest. "
  This cooperative effort continued until the completion of the chain of railroads across New York State that was to become the New York Central. By 1854, the passenger packet boats were a thing of the past, although stage lines continued to operate on routes not served by either canals or railroads.
                                                _____


                            Geneva Gazette, September 30, 1835




Stagecoach Days in New York State


This old engraving captures the spirit old time stagecoaching.

Remembering Stagecoach Days
By Richard F. Palmer
The old stagecoach came into town with a flourish amid the clatter of galloping horses and sounding horn - its round body swung on leather strap thoroughbraces; its passengers tossed about like dice in a box.
The gallant driver pulled on the reins and the four steaming horses halted in front of the inn. Shouting boys swinging from the “boot,” at the rear of the coach where baggage was stowed, fell off in a cloud of dust. After whirling up to the “stoop,” the traces of the horses were unhooked and the exhausted animals were led around to the stable to their familiar stalls. Usually, stagecoaches in this part of the country employed four-horse teams. The horses in front were the leaders and the rear two, the wheelers.
The stage driver himself, donned in a great-coat and buckskin gloves, strolled into the inn with his traveled air. He was a welcome figure in every village along the old turnpike which depended on his arrival for the mail and the latest news from the outside world. Gazed upon with awe by the boys, he was worshipped as a sort of romantic hero, who never worked, but drove his galloping horses back and forth through a perpetual holiday.
Soon the stable boys trotted out a fresh team and in a few moments the passengers reclaimed their seats. The driver mounted his seat, called the “box,” slung the mail sack beneath him, sounded his bugle, and with a crack of the whip over the tops of horses’ heads, he galloped off down the dusty road. This was the stagecoach era as it existed in upstate New York for a more than half a century. From 1790 until the completion of the network of railroads across the state in the early 1840s the stagecoach reigned as the supreme mode of public conveyance, supplementing the Erie Canal packet boats.
During this period the stage proprietors on the great western routes aligned, or associated themselves ; working in close agreement to control the road to keep a tight rein on competition. This syndicate, as it might be called today, was known as the “Old Line Mail.” People such as Asa Sprague, Aaron Thorpe, Jason Parker, Isaac and John M. Sherwood had a virtual monopoly on the stage business across the state for nearly a half century. This conglomerate was a well-oiled machine that required vigilance and tight communication to keep the business moving and satisfy the demands of an impatient and exacting traveling public. It was highly-organized, employing hundreds of agents, drivers, station-keepers, runners, clerks, mechanics, blacksmiths and tavern keepers.
The “Old Line” proprietors proved themselves equal to the task. Their commanding energy in moving with regularity and order such a mass of human and animal elements was proverbial, considering the wretched roads and turnpikes they had to contend with, which varied with the seasons from bad to worse. During winter and spring the roads could be a terror to timid passengers, occasionally becoming impassable. Now and then the teams would become mired in the mud and passengers would assist in lifting the coach out of a mud hole. In winter, the coaches were mounted on runners, or as they used to say, "a set of bobs."
Long stretches of road through swamps were bridged on stretches of corduroy, formed by cutting down the adjacent timber, trimming off branches and placing the logs side-by-side across the right of way. Under such rough conditions, timid travelers would stop over at a convenient wayside tavern for the night and rest until another stage came along. Such a trip from Albany to Buffalo frequently required nearly a week in the very early days. Although many hardships were encountered in traveling by stage, such a journey was not entirely void of pleasures. There were deep forests of towering hemlocks and pine trees. Here and there a little clearing appeared where a settler and his family had built a log house, feebly attempting to cultivate the rutted soil. The scenery was varied and interesting. The passengers generally were sociable, and many warm and lasting friendships were formed in the “old coach and four.”
Paralleling the Great Western Turnpike which ran from Albany to Manlius, to the north was “The Great Genesee Road” which ultimately became the Seneca Turnpike. It was much more of an extensive system of roads than the “Cherry Valley.” The main route was from Utica to Canandaigua. At Chittenango, a branch diverged and passed through Manlius, Jamesville, Marcellus and Skaneateles, and on to Auburn, where it rejoined the north or main branch (today’s Route 5) which passed through Syracuse, Camillus and Elbridge. Another branch diverged at Sennett and headed cross country to Cayuga, where it rejoined the main branch to form a single road again through Seneca Falls, to Canandaigua.
Several coaches ran regularly over these routes daily, besides “extras,” which ran frequently to meet travel demands. The “motive power” was first-quality horse-flesh, athletic, sure-footed and strong. A coach weighed 2,200 pounds, and carried 11 passengers with baggage. Each horse had a name, and, when called upon, responded to the driver’s commands. The driver’s whip was composed of a stalk four or five feet long, to which was attached a lash 10 to 12 feet long. At the end was a nicely braided silk “cracker.” It was a great piece of dexterity to hold the reins of four horses, and so wield the whip as to give a smart crack with it; or in coming down the hills, to crack the whip and blow the horn, holding the four reins in one hand and the horn in the other, with the horses under full gallop. It is said it was an inspiring sight.
Stage drivers were a daring lot, but very energetic and faithful to the performance of their duties. Accidents were few and far between. Hiram Reed of Marcellus recalled that as a boy he and a friend commuted to Skaneateles on the Auburn stage. One day they climbed up with the driver, which was not usually allowed. As they descended a steep hill between Marcellus and Skaneateles, one of the pole straps leading from the front end of the reach to the collars of the wheel horses, broke.
“Hold on boys!” the driver shouted, and at once laid the whip to his horses. They galloped headlong down the steep hill in perfect safety. The driver was able to steer the coach to safety by controling the slack of the reach, or pole to which the wiffletrees were connected. This was also referred to as a thill. The was the last time the boys rode with the driver.
Horses were changed every 10 miles, but a driver would typically run 30 to 40 miles. If for some reason he was in a hurry and the roads were good, he could make 10 miles in less than an hour. But the Old Line proprietors did not encourage racing, even though it frequently occurred when there was a competitive stage line trying to make inroads.
The stage fare was five cents per mile. The ‘way-bill,’ which every driver carried, was another feature of the road. If a person in Auburn was going to Albany he would go to the stage office and the agent would register him. By this system the driver was saved the trouble of handling the fares. Colonel Sherwood had the contracts for carrying the mails over a large section of Central New York, but he sub-contracted all except over the most lucrative main stage lines to others. The U.S. Post Office once gave Colonel Sherwood the credit of being the best stage proprietor in the United States so far as prompt deliver of mails was concerned. Sherwood, of Auburn, took great pride in having his stages run on time and always kept good horses.
Interviewed in 1886, Norman Maxon of Elbridge, an oldtime stage driver, told how the horse operated “in the rounds.” He said:
“I began driving in 1828 and the only old drivers known to be living beside myself are, Consider Carter, who lives in Chicago, and George Brown of Danforth. Col. John M. Sherwood controlled that part of the line from Manlius and Fayetteville to Geneva. It was divided into three sections. Eastward from Auburn one line ran through Skaneateles, Marcellus and Onondaga Hill to Manlius. Another went over the Seneca Turnpike through the villages of Elbridge, Geddes and Syracuse to Fayetteville.
“That part of the road between Auburn and Geneva comprised the third section. It would be impossible now for me to tell you the exact number of teams that were employed on the line, but I think 80 would be near the figures. At that time the stages ran through from Albany, the horses only being changed. The teams and and their drivers were in the rounds, that is, ‘first in, first out.’ For instance, a coach came into Fayetteville. My team had been in the stable longest, I would hitch on and drive it to Syracuse, where another team would take it and go on to Camillus.
“When it came my turn I would follow to Camillus and then in order to Elbridge and lastly to Auburn, where I would turn. On the down trip stops were made at the same changing places until I got to Fayetteville, where Parker and Faxton’s teams met ours. The same method was pursued on the Genesee Turnpike and between Auburn and Geneva. The advantage of such a course was it gave the horses shorter drives and saved passengers the delay which would result in stopping to feed.” Except for the lateral lines, most of the east-west stagecoach business ceased with the coming of the railroads.