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.

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