Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Old time advertisement

Rochester Album
September 5, 1826

Save the Mileposts!

Oswego Palladium Times
March 28, 1931

Oswego, N.Y., March 27, 1931
Editor, Palladium-Times
Sir - Passing along the highway between Oswego and Mexico I noticed that two of the stone monuments marking the original one and Oswego Plank road had been uprooted and cast aside. I assume this was done during the reconstruction of the state highway, known as Route 3 last summer. Probably whoever did it was unaware of the historic value of these markers. I have spoken of this matter to many persons and find many who were not aware that these monuments were placed along the road. It is true that many of the markers are barely visible because of being hidden by brush and weeds.
Some people, myself included, have noticed these low stone monuments for many years, and we deplore their destruction or impairment. To me it smacks of vandalism. I hope that proper authorities will give this matter their attention and and protect these historical markers.
My information is that the markers were placed about 1847 by Charles Cross, engineer of that time, one of the pioneers of that great profession which has done so much in the matter of road improvement. My history tells me that the Rome and Oswego plank road was a private enterprise and was capitalized at $100,000. J.L. McWhorter of Oswego was president, and Henry Matthews, secretary, treasurer and superintendent. Directors were the two officers named, and Moses Merrick, Oswego; E. Bruce, New Haven; Hiram Towsley, Williamstown; Alvin Lawrence, James S. Chandler, Solomon Matthew and Myron Everts, Mexico.
The markers were placed one mile apart with the initials R and O and the distance marked on. These old mileposts are accurate to the foot. For the purpose of testing this accuracy I have several time measured the distance by the speedometer of my car and have found the posts spaced just a mile apart.
Destruction of ancient landmarks and historic sites has become all too prevalent in this age of material progress. I hope that these mile posts will be saved from such a fate.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Some of the Old Stage Drivers

Catskill Examiner

June 17, 1917

Of course none of us remember back to the time when the first stagecoach ran between Catskill and Otsego counties. However, among the older inhabitants there may be some whose memory will take them back to the early '50s when men, nearly all of whom have passed to the great beyond, drove stagecoaches between this village and Delhi or made the longer trip to Ithaca.

The earliest stage routes of which any knowledge is known, ran from Albany to New Jersey in 1803. By an act of the Legislature passed February 26, 1803, seven men were granted the exclusive right of running stages between the above points for a sum of seven years. These men were permitted to charge five cents a mile for each passenger, the latter being allowed to carry fourteen pounds of baggage free. A fine of $500 was decreed as a penalty for interference in any way the stage owners' rights. The line began running October 1, 1803, passing through Catskill in other direction every Tuesday and Friday.

During the winter of 1804 some men residing in Greene, Delaware, Schoharie and Otsego counties felt that a stage should be run between Catskill Landing and Unadilla, to take care of the business over the territory which the line would touch.

On March 28, 1805, the monopoly of running the stage line between the two points above named places was granted to David Bostwick, Stephen Benton, Lemuel Hotchkiss and Terrence Donnelly, for seven years. The legislature fixed a penalty of $50 for any infringement of this right. It also specified the two wagons on sleigh with a sufficient number of horses should be kept on the line. This grant was renewed by Terrence Donnelly, June 8, 1812, for an additional term of seven years.

The stages were required to make the round trip as often as once in eight days. The fare for passengers was fixed at five cents per mile. The stage leaving Catskill on Wednesday morning would arrive in Unadilla Friday evening, and leaving that point Sunday morning would arrive in Catskill on Tuesday.

These stages passed through Cairo, Windham, Prattsville, Roxbury, Stamford, Kortwright, Meredith, Frankford, Unadilla, and a few years later through Oxford, Greene and Lisle to Ithaca. As soon as the stage lines began to branch out, the fare was reduced to four cents a mile.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Plank Roads

Madison Observer, Morrisville

Oct. 31, 1848

Success of Plank Roads. - The people of this section are now reaping the benefit of the plank roads which have been constructed within the past year. For the past week the weather has been rainy, and traveling on the ordinary roads has become considerably obstructed by the mud, but on the plank roads the passage is as smooth and rapid as in midsummer.

We have now extending from this city four district lines of plank roads - one extending to Boonville, on the north, a distance of 32 miles, one to Bridgewater, about 20 miles to the south, and soon to be extended 20 miles farther, another to Waterville, 20 miles southwest, and to be extended 15 miles more, to Hamilton, and the fourth extending westward to Rome, 16 miles, and forming by junction with others at Rome an uninterrupted plank road communication with the northern parts of Oneida and Lewis counties, and Lake Ontario and Salmon river in Oswego county.

There are also several direct and lateral extensions of this line now in progress and in contemplation, which, when completed, will link the extreme Northern with the extreme Southern counties of the State, and open an easy and rapid communication between suctions which have hitherto enjoyed but little intercourse with the other.

All the plank roads that have been put in operation in this State, are doing a prosperous and profitable business. The roads in tis section are all reaping a rich havest of toll. -Utica Morning Herald.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Old Time Toll Gate Keeper Remembered

By Dave Dorpfeld,
Greene County Historian
Recently Tommy Hobart of Coxsackie passed on a 1955 obituary for William T. Haswell. Mr. Haswell owned the last major operating toll road in Greene County – the Coxsackie-Greenville Turnpike, formally incorporated as the Coxsackie Turnpike-Road.
What has always interested me is that portions of the turnpike continued to operate as a privately owned venture up until 1909, a time when some motorized vehicles were likely using the route.
Fortunately we know a lot about the old toll road thanks to Raymond Beecher’s book “Out to Greenville.” The first two chapters deal exclusively with the turnpike.
The early part of the 19th century was a period of great road building. Turnpikes were authorized by the New York Legislature and built throughout Greene County. The most famous was the Susquehanna Turnpike which started in Salisbury, Connecticut, ran through Catskill, out through the Durham Valley and ended in Unadilla on the Susquehanna River. The Coxsackie Turnpike was a smaller venture built with the intent of giving Coxsackie and adjoining areas access to the Susquehanna Turnpike in Durham.
The act establishing the Coxsackie Turnpike was signed into law by Governor Morgan Lewis on March 21, 1806. The charter required that the road lead out of the village of Coxsackie “…and running westwardly in the most direct and convenient route so as to intersect the Susquehanna Turnpike between the twenty-first and twenty-second milestones in the town of Freehold” (now Durham). Stock subscriptions totaling $25,000 were sold to pay for the road. The corporation was granted the right of eminent domain to acquire property it deemed necessary to complete the work. The turnpike was completed in slightly more than two years and the first tollhouse was eventually placed in Climax about where the Thruway intersects Route 81.
Tolls were authorized for the passage to every conceivable type of conveyance and animal. There were some exceptions. The company was forbidden to collect tolls from persons attending public worship, voting, or securing the services of a physician or midwife, while attending as a juror or witness legally summoned by any court, and particularly when participating in militia training. There were also certain exceptions for those people living near tollgates.
The Coxsackie Turnpike was never a big moneymaker for the stockholders and the expense to keep the road in good order was considerable. The corporation would usually contract in the spring of each year with someone or some group of men to get the road in shape for another season. There were often complaints that the road was not in good shape and in his book Beecher says there were often cries of “fix the road or leave the gates open.” In 1872, William’s father, David Haswell bought the controlling interest in the road and moved his family to the Climax tollhouse. In his book Beecher also says that Hattie Thorne (niece of David Haswell) of Coxsackie could remember visiting at the tollhouse and a family member rushing to the window to collect a traveler’s toll.
Under William’s ownership the turnpike ceased to collect tolls in 1909 – over 100 years after its opening. In 1910 it was sold to the towns of Coxsackie and New Baltimore. The age of the toll road had ended in Greene County.
William Haswell was born in Berne, New York in 1869 and he had an interesting life. Besides spending many years working on the turnpike, he was a Mason for over 50 years, a volunteer fireman for over 50 years, a trustee of the Village of Coxsackie, Supervisor for the town of Coxsackie and Justice of the Peace.
What impressed me was the report that he served three years in the Sixth United States Cavalry, the traditional rival to the famed Seventh Cavalry commanded by General George Armstrong Custer of the Battle of Little Big Horn fame.
The Sixth Cavalry was formed during the Civil War. After the war, the cavalry moved west spending more than thirty years policing the frontier and participating in 10 Indian war campaigns facing many hostile tribes including the Comanches and Apaches. This led to many cavalry troopers receiving Medals of Honor – the nation’s highest award for bravery.
According to his obituary, Haswell at age 20 “was active in the last Sioux uprising in North Dakota in 1889, serving at Fort Mead and Rapids City. He served an entire winter at the later encampment, where the Cavalry scouting corps consisted of 25 Cheyenne Indians under William “Buffalo Bill” Cody.” It could be argued that the Indian Wars that followed the Civil War were not our nation’s finest honor. I agree that it was not, but at the same time, I would have liked to have heard some of the stories Haswell had to tell about that and all his other experiences.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Mexico Hotel Destroyed by fire

Mexico House in the early 1900s. Mexico Historical Society.

Mexico Independent
Thursday, November 4, 1937

Fire Destroys Old Landmark
Built in 1823, Mexico Hotel
Important Building in
Town's History
One of the most famous Mexico landmarks was destroyed when fire of undetermined origin gutted the interior of the Sinclair Oil company at Main and Church streets Sunday morning and threatened a large area of the southwest residential section as a high north wind hurled flames and burning embers high into the air.
Flames were already eating rapidly through the second floor of the old painted brick building, formerly the Mexico Hotel, when Jesse Horton, proprietor of a restaurant across the street, discovered the fire at 6:40 a.m.
The fire gave Mexico volunteer firemen a stiff three-hour battle and it was only the capable work on the part of Chief Orson Pond and members of the Volunteer Corps which kept the flames from reaching the two-story home of Newton Parsons, about 20 feet south of the building.
At no time was the fire out of control, only danger of its spreading was by the wind which carried smoke and burning cinders over the southern part of Mexico.
No cause can be given for the fire which started, Chief Pond said, on the second floor, probably in the northwest corner. Sinclair Oil company officials said there were no fires burning in the building over night.
The brick walls of he old structure confined the heat and flames to its interior. The Town Hall, approximately 50 feet from the burning building was protected by fire proof walls and roof.
Four lines of hose, totally 2,00 get, were connected from a hydrant in front of the building and from a pumper connection on the Niagara Hudson Power company office in Main street. Two hoses were played on the blaze from Church street, another from Main street and a fourth from the rear of the building.
Mrs. Fred Ruth, Mrs. Clifford Ruth and Mrs. Glenn Walton thoughtfully furnished sandwiches and coffee to the firemen fighting the fire.
The building was 100 feet long on Church street and 60 feet on Main street. The second floor where the flames re alleged to have broke out has been unoccupied for some time, two families formerly making their home there. Part of the building had been used as a garage several years ago and another part for storage.
Damage was estimated at $4.000, partially covered by insurance.
One of the oldest buildings in the Mexico business section, the old hotel has had an interesting and varied career. The following history of the building, up to the period of 1870, has been submitted by Mrs. Frank Munson and Mis Ida Patten.
"The first regular hotel in Mexico village was erected on the site of the Mexico House by Mathias Whitney in 1823, and was succeeded by a better building which was burned July 22, 1864, while being conducted by Albin Meyers.
At the peak of its glory during days of stage coaches, Mexico hotel was one of the principal stopping places on the Watertown - Oswego post road. Mail carriers between the two villages would dash up to the hotel on horse back, change horses and clatter off again down the road.
Previous to Albin Meyers, the landlords were A.S. Chamberlain and Robbins, and J.B. Taylor. The hotel was rebuilt in 1865 and reopened by Ira Biddlecome, who in 1866 was followed by J.B. Davis. In January 1867 it passed into the hands of C.S. Mayo, whose name it bore for several years.
The appearance of the hotel was much different in those days, long covered porches running around both the upper and lower stories."
Landlords changed rapidly after Mayor left the hotel and some of their names have been forgotten in the long years which have followed.
Mr. William Sherman recalls that James "Jim" Sullivan was proprietor of the hotel during its most prosperous period, 52 years ago. The Mexico Fire Company had just been reorganized at the time and had bought a new steamer engine. Because Sullivan contributed to the fund raised by the firemen, one of the hoses was named after him.
The livery stables which once stood between the Hotel and the Town Hall have been torn down for 20 or more years.
Benjamin Nobles bought out Sullivan after the latter had operated the hotel for 15 years. Gantley sold the business to Ward See, the most recent proprietor of the much bought-and-sold hostelry. The building has not been operated as a hotel for the past 15 or 20 years.
For the past 10 years the building has been operated as a filling station, formerly by Anson McNett, manager for Fay C. Adams. The Sinclair Oil Refining company bought the building in 1931 from Fay Adams and leased it to Harold Fish. Recently the station has been in charge of Charles Vault.

New Service to Sacket's Harbor

Geneva Gazette

June 30, 1819

A line of stage coaches has recently been established between Utica and Sacket's Harbor, by way of Rome, Redfield and Adams. It goes through in one day, leaving Utica every Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday, and returning on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The old line to Sacket's Harbor, by way of Trenton, Martinsburgh and Watertown, leaves this village very Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and returns on Tuesday, and Saturday.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Oswego to Auburn - the Long Way

Oswego Times

April 29, 1859

New Proprietor: - New Coaches. - S.W. Cox Esq. of the Express Office has purchased the Oswego and Auburn and Sterling and Wolcott line of stages. A coach will leave Oswego at 8 A.M. every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, arriving at Auburn in the afternoon of the same day. A coach will leave Auburn on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday of each week, at 8 A.M. The line runs through the following places:

South West Oswego, North Sterling, Pelham, Sterling Centre, Fair Haven, Red Creek, Wolcott, Martville, Town Line, Victory, Conquest, Port Byron to Auburn. Mr. Cox has placed nothing but the best and most comfortable coaches on the line, with good teams under the charge of experienced drivers. It also makes a very convenient Express line, and everything entrusted to Mr. Cox for delivery in any of these places will promptly be delivered. Nothing is wanting to make the line a public convenience.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Jason C. Woodruff: From Rags to Riches

The second Syracuse House built in 1830,
on the east side of today's Clinton Square.

Jason Cooper Woodruff (Born March 11, 1800
in New Haven, Conn. Died July 16, 1878
in Syracuse, N.Y. Buried in Oakwood

By Richard Palmer
When Jason C. Woodruff made his first trip as a stagecoach driver between Utica and Syracuse he only had eight cents in his pocket. By the time railroads came into vogue, he was owner of part owner of a vast stagecoach network in central New York, with headquarters in Syracuse. Woodruff was born in New Haven, Conn., in 1800 in humble circumstances. He was left fatherless when he was only two years old. One of several children, his mother struggled to maintain a home the best she could.
At the age of nine, Jason found a job herding sheep which he did for four years. Then he was employed by the same firm, Prescott & Sherman of New Haven, unloading salt, which he did for two years. At the age of 15 he went to work in a tannery with the idea of learning that trade until one day he accidentally fell into a vat. Then he decided farming was less dangerous. The following winter he attended a district school. Being now nearly 17, he then decided to become a blacksmith - an occupation he followed for five years in Great Barrington, Mass.
At the end of his apprenticeship, his only assets were a thorough knowledge of the business, a limited wardrobe, and eight cents. But he had the urged to go west and seek his fortune, which he did, and eventually he found himself in Utica in the fall of 1822. Having a fund of knowledge of horses, in 1824 he became a stagecoach driver for an opposition line to the long established "Old Line Mail" proprietors. He spent the next four years driving stage to Canandaigua.
When, for the first time, he, with so much pride, wheeled up his coach-and-four in front of the Syracuse House door, he had little thought that the dismal swamp through which he had passed would be the heart of a city; that the road-bed of logs would give place to paved streets lined with spacious mansions, and, most all, that he would become mayor of Syracuse. In the parlor of the second Syracuse in 1852 he would introduce to the citizens of the city General Winfield Scott, the hero of many battles of the Mexican War.
Mr. Woodruff was the epitome the poor boy from humble circumstances could rising from poverty to the position of much authority and responsibility.
On his early travels he could see how central New York was rapidly developing and eventually made Syracuse his home. He purchased a livery business from Philo Rust in 1826 and developed his own stagecoach business, primarily on the north and south routes out of Syracuse, which he operated until superseded by railroads.
From 1831 to 1837 he was manager of the United States Banking system and in 1852 was elected mayor of Syracuse. He was twice president of the Onondaga County Agricultural Society and also served as vice president of the New York State Agricultural Society. He also was one of the oldest members of First Presbyterian Church.
In 1826 he married Amanda Johnson, a native of Lee, Mass. They had eight children. An example of his extensive stagecoach business is found in this advertisement in the Syracuse Gazette & General Advertiser of June 4, 1828:
Syracuse, Homer and Ithaca Line of Stages.
A Line of Stages for the above places will leave the general Stage Office in this village every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, which goes through to Ithaca in one day, and returns every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
Jason C. Woodruff, Syracuse
Oliver W. Brewster, Onondaga Hollow.
A Line of Stages will will also leave the Stage office for Oswego and Watertown by the way of Central Square and Mexico, every day, Sundays excepted.
For the above line of Stages a share of public patronage is solicited, as good horses, carriages and drivers will be provided, and every exertion made to accommodate travelers.
J.C. Woodruff, Syracuse,
W. Green, Salina,
H. Curtis, Central Square,
A. Russel, Adams,
Hungerford & Co., Watertown
Mr. Woodruff went on to become a prominent local businessman and erected a flour mill at a cost of $30,000 which was a fortune in those time.
Woodruff, and John Butterfield of Utica, decided to give the fledgling Syracuse & Utica Railroad, opened 1839, some competition. Accordingly they established a line of daily except Sunday stages between the two cities. They intended to perform the distance in as good time as the trains, and occasionally beat them. They traveled by daylight only. The editor of the Oneida Whig on January 7, 1840 noted: "We hope the enterprising proprietors will not be left by the traveling public to pocket the loss."
But the stage proprietors soon realized that they could not compete with trains. Woodruff's stages continued to operate for several more years on routes where there were no railroads. We find this advertisement in the Syracuse Standard dated September 6, 1851:
Two Lines of Stages are now running on the Homer and Cortland Road, leaving the Stage Office at the Syracuse House, at 8 o'clock in the morning and 2 in the afternoon; leaving Cortland every morning for Binghamton. The proprietors have great confidence in presenting their Stages to the public; having withdrawn all the old stock on the road and replaced it with entirely new, and will run in as good time as any road in the State.
P.S. Stages leave every morning at 8 o'clock for the North, intersecting the Cars at Sandy Creek.
The last hold out was on the route south. This advertisement in the Syracuse Standard dated April 22, 1854 indicates Woodruff's desire to get out of the stagecoach business. By that time the Syracuse & Binghamton Railroad was under construction:

The subscriber having sold his Livery and disposed of his interest in the Northern Stages, is desirous of selling his Stock in the
HOMER AND CORTLAND Road, Consisting of Twenty First Class Road Horses and Harness, Five Post Coaches, Three Stage Wagons and Three Sleighs, now running as per the following schedule:
Going South
Mail leaves Syracuse at 8 o'clock A.M.
Accommodation leaves Syracuse at 2 o'clock P.M.
Express leaves Syracuse at 3 o'clock P.M.
Making three daily runs to Tully and two to Cortland.
The Mail and Express leave Cortland and Homer every morning, (Sunday excepted,) at from 6 to 7 o'clock. The accommodation will leave Tully at 6 in the morning, and will arrive early in the day, providing the President of the Plank Road Co. will discharge his duty to the public with that energy of character for which he has so favorably distinguished himself in subserving his own private interests.
Syracuse, April 14, 1854

Clayton, W.W., History of Onondaga County, N.Y., 1878
Hand, M.C., From a Forest to a City, Syracuse, N.Y., 1889
Obituary in the Syracuse Daily Journal, July 16, 1878

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Stagecoach Days in Syracuse

(From: From a Forest to a City. by M.C. Hand [Syracuse] 1889. PP. 35-39).
The old four-horse stage-coach was a strong and crude contrivance and as uncomfortable a mode of travel as could be imagined, with its perfume of tar-grease and reeking horses. Steel springs not having been invented, the coach body was suspended upon heavy leather straps, and a large rack was fastened on the rear and called the "boot," where baggage was stowed away.
The top was decked over and a strong iron railing placed around the outside of the deck to keep packages from falling off. When passengers were plenty and anxious to go, twelve persons were crowded inside, and I have seen nearly as many on the outside at the same time. Five miles an hour, under such circumstances, was astonishing velocity.
A journey from Albany to Buffalo in those (P. 36) days, for ladies and gentlemen who were not strong, was undertaken with much reluctance; for sea-sickness was as common on such journeys as on a voyage across the ocean, as the egg-shaped box suspended on these straps, or belts, had the motion of a rocking chair. A that time, when the country was comparatively new, many swamps were bridged over by logs being laid close together across the road and filled in between with coarse gravel which was soon partly forced out, and the most intolerable road was the result.
As the stage went thumping and jolting, long in and log out, over this road the motion of the stagecoach resembled the action of the walking-beam of a ugh pressure engine, and those occupying the rear seat seat would have to grasp, with both hands, the straps that were provided to hold on with, to prevent from being thrown headlong from their3 seats. Under such conditions passengers who were not strong would soon tire out and be compelled to stop at the taverns and rest until another stage was due, sometimes requiring a week to make the trip from Albany to Buffalo.
In those days there was but little traveling for pleasure, yet it was an improvement over what had been, and travelers were satisfied because they knew of nothing better. Although many hardships were encountered, the journey was not altogether void of attractions, - such as the deep dark forest with towering hemlocks and pines, with here and there a little clearing with a log house and a feeble attempt to cultivate the soil. The scenery was varied and sometimes interesting. The passengers were social, and many a warm and lasting friendship had its origin in the old stage-coach. The drivers were hardy class of men capable of great endurance.. This was a necessity, as they were exposed to many hardships which they bore with great cheerfulness.
In the year 1822 there was a great excitement throughout the length of the Genesee turnpike, in consequence of an opposition line of stages from Uticato the west. There were Vanderbilts in those days, and everything possible was done to make this line a success. Its coaches were superior to any that had been used before; the horses were the best that could be found, and the drivers were selected with great care.
At the time there was a young blacksmith in Utica, who had applied for a position as a driver on the new line. It was soon found he had a great knowledge of horses, and that, with his lively and energetic manner, won for him the privilege of selection his horses and coach from all that were to be placed on the line; and as he had the best outfit, he was elected to drive out of Utica the first stage on the new opposition line, which was a great event in this days and was witnessed by a crowd of interested spectators.
These pages may be of value to some young men who have life before them and no definite aim yet decided upon, to watch he carer of this young coachman and emulate his example; for none could commence life nearer to zero than he. All the regular instruction he ever had in school was gained in one winter term in a district school, and after spending five years to learn the blacksmith's trade he started out in the world to seek his fortune with a capital of only eight cents.
Thus the old stage-coach whirls along, up hill and down, through dark forests miles in extent, passing over tedious corduroy roads, then where cultivated fields line the roadside, with here and there humble dwellings, the homes of people who were living in quiet simplicity, never dreaming of the comforts and improvements of the present day.
I always felt the greatest sympathy for this hardy class of people who endured great toil and hardships in clearing the forests away and preparing the soil for cultivated fields of waving grain. They seem to have been martyrs who wore their lives away in hard labor, that the next generation might enjoy the results.
This young stage-driver the we have been describing, encountered nowhere between Syracuse and Utica a worse piece of road, or a more dismal prospect, than that between the hills on the eastern boundaries of the town and the Syracuse House. Every foot of the road-bed was ma de by laying logs close together through the swamp. Pools of water lined the sides of the road where Fayette Park is located, and had a team of horses stepped off this road-bed of logs they would have mired in the swamp and probably never regained the road.
The approach from the east to the Syracuse House at that time was most unfavorable for a display of the stage-driver's skill. When within a mile of their stage-house where horses were changed, it was customary for the drivers to blow a horn to announce their arrival, and constant practice with this simple, straight tin horn enabled some drivers to produce as much music out of it as from a key-bugle.
At the first blast of the horn the weary, tired horses knew that their journey was ended, and taught by their drivers to make a display as they approached their stopping place, would quicken their steps until within a few rods of the house when they would spring into a gallop and, guided to the oppose side of the street, would cut a circle with the utmost precision as they whirled up to the door of the Syracuse House.