Monday, July 16, 2012

The Great Western Turnpike

by Jeptha R. Simms
(From: The Frontiersmen of New York,Volume I, Page 359.Published in Albany, 1883)
  The Great Western Turnpike.-- Alonzo Crosby assured the writer in 1851, that he entered the employ of the Great Western Turnpike Company in 1812, and continued the superintendence of the road from Albany to Cherry Valley for 36 years. Of course, he became familiar with every rod of ground in the 52 miles. On the road, at any early period, were the following in-keepers, whom he remembered from Albany westward: Two miles out was a Capron; in Guilderland, two miles further, a McGown, well known; half a mile above were George Brown and Frederick Follock; three miles above Brown were a Sloan and a Batterman, the latter at the Glass House, eight miles from Albany.     Next came another Sloan, John F. Schoolcraft, Russel Case, and within two miles of Case were two taverns, names now forgotten. Then came Charles Traver, ____ Boyer, ____Sharpe, _____Waldron, _______Sharpe, _____Relyea, John Winne, Peter German. In a corner of Princetown, 16 miles from Albany was Calvin Cheesman, celebrated as a shin plaster banker.
In Duanesburgh were George Young, Warren Fuller, ____Post, ____Baldwin, John Humphrey, ____Thompson, ____Vedder, _____Holliday, ____Thornton, Maj. Cyrus Marsh, ____Downer, ____Gibson--the latter at the bridge opposite Esperance, while in that place and above were ____Isham, Calvin Wright, ____Peck, Daniel House, John Brown, at Sloansville, Reuben Sloan, James Brown; in Carlisle, Henry Brown, Lucas Woodbeck, Danile Tucker, Philip Cromwell, Elijah Huntington, ___Sturgeon, ____Sloan, ____Doolittle, Siloin Parkinson; in Sharon, Zachariah Keyes, noted among the craft for his good flip and punch, ____Dockstader, ____Van Alstine, ____Cowden, ____Tinkham, ____Moyer, Madison Otis, ____Crysler; in Cherry Valley, Thomas Swift, ____ Burch, ____Coon (Village), Thomas Whitaker, ____Walton, Ezekiel Johnson; while in Springfield above were a Cook, A Fitch, a Cotes and others. Said Isaac Crosby, a brother of Alonzo, also familiar with the Western turnpike, at one time there were 62 taverns in the 52 miles between Albany and Cherry Valley.
Among the teamsters of those large wagons, remembered on the Great Western Turnpike, were Rosekrans, three; Lloyd, two; Artcher, four. Michael Artcher, afterwards a merchant in Albany, and sheriff or the county, John now living in Albany, aged 82 years. Humphrey, three. At this period John Humphrey kept tavern in Washington street, where, Loucks, a successor, kept for many years. 
This old house was torn down in 1851. Robert Hunter, called Bob, was a well known teamster. Waite and Loren Chapin, brothers, Jess and Henry Greene, brothers, and Daniel Clark, all lived in the town of Winfield, and drove their own teams, consisting of from five to eight horses each. They usually carried through freight between Albany and Buffalo. The Chapins, as also others on the road, had tight boxes, in which wheat could be carried in bulk, the freight on which, it is believed, was at one time one dollar a bushel. Another well known teamster on this road was Peter P. Fiero. Tom, a clever black fellow, who usually drove six large black horses, was also well remembered. 
He had the misfortune to kill two men at different times, by his whiffle-trees catching and upsetting their wagons; the first in Duanesburgh, and the other in Guilderland. When the second accident happened, Tom, who thought a strange fatality attended his avocation, quit the business, but no blame attached to him. From two to ten of those large wagons were sometimes seen in company, and some of them carrying from three to four tons. The horses were usually fat.
 Some carried a jackscrew for raising an axle to take off a wheel; but this was seldom done, as a hole for pouring in tar or grease was made for the purpose. In ascending hills the wagon was blocked at intervals with a stone, carried by the teamster behind it. After those mammoth wagons were supplanted by the Erie canal, several of them might have been seen about the old Loucks tavern, as also at Paul Clark's inn, in the southwest part of Albany, where some of them rotted down.
Many interesting events transpired on this turnpike. Here is one of them: One Wilbur, a stage driver, above Cook's tavern in Springfield, had the misfortune to ride over and kill a deaf man, who kept in the road until stricken down. The driver was probably not to blame, but the matter affected him so seriously that he quit staging forever. This happened about 1820.
On the Mohawk Turnpike.-- As remembered by Andrew A. Fink, George Wagner and others, were the following inn-keepers from Herkimer, 79 miles from Albany, descending the valley. They may not be named in just the order in which they stood. John Rasback, John Potter, ____Heacock; across W. C. (West Canada) Creek, Nathaniel Etheridge, ____ Upham, James Artcher, a teamster married one of his daughters. This inn had a peculiar sign. On one side was painted a gentleman richly clad and elegantly mounted on horseback with the motto--I am going to law. On the reverse side was a very dilapidated man on a horse, the very picture of poverty saying, I have been to law; John McCombs, Warner Dygert; at Little Falls, John Shelden, ____Carr, ____Harris, Major Morgan; below the Falls, A. A. Fink. From Fink's to E. C. (East Canada) Creek it was five miles, and in that distance were 13 dwelling, 12 of which were taverns occupied as follows: ____Bauder, William Smith, his sign had on it an Indian chief; John Petrie, Henry Shults, James Van Valkenburgh, Lawrence Timmerman, John Wagner, ____Owens, Nathan Christie, Esq., David Richtmyer, Frederick Getman, James and Luther Pardee; below E. Creek, John Stauring, ____ Van Dreser, James Billington, John Backer, Michael U. Bauder, ____ Yates, Jacob Failing, a favorite place for large wagons; ____Zimmerman, Joseph Klock, Christian Klock, Daniel C. Nellis, John C. Nellis, ____ Brown, Gen. Peter C. Fox, at Pal. Church; George Fox, John C. Lipe, Geroge Wagner, Charles Walrath, ____ Harris, ____ Weaver, Richard Bortle, Nicholas Gros, Samuel Fenner, an old sea captain, who spun his skipper yarns to customers; Jacob Hees, who also had a boat and lumber landing on the river at Palatine Bridge; Josiah Shepard, a stage house; ____ Weatherby, Jost Spraker, John DeWandler, now Schenk place below the Nose; Frederick Dockstader, kept many large wagons; ____Connelly, Fred Dockstader, 2d, who had a run of double teams; Gen. Henry Fonda, at now village of Fonda; Giles Fonda, ____Pride, ____Hardenburgh, ____Conyne,____Lepper; on Tribes Hill, ____Kline, ____Putman, ____Wilson; Guy Park, a favorable place for large wagons, kept at one time by ____McGerk, Col. William Shuler, at Amsterdam; below were ____Crane, of Cranesville; Lewis Groat, Swart, and other on this part of the route not remembered. At Schenectada are recalled: ____ Tucker, Jacob Wagner, ____ Sheilds, while the names of two others are forgotten; one of them had a house in "Frog Alley" which was burned by the slacking of lime. Between Schenectada and Albany were: ____ Havely, ____ Brooks, ____Vielie; the Half-way house was a stage house, and kept by Leavitt Kingsbury, which became noted for its delicious coffee.
In the period of wagon transport, when hay was $20.00 a ton, inn-keepers had a $1.00 a span for keeping horses overnight; and when $10.00 a ton they had 50 cents a span, or one shilling a pound for hay. In spring and fall it was a common sight to see 10 or 15 horses drawing a single wagon from its fastness in the mud. The first load of hemp from the west, said Fink, was a five horse load from Wadsworth's flats in the Genesee valley.
Teamsters remembered on the Mohawk Turnpike, were four Artcher brothers, James, Edward, Michael, and John; James Humphrey, Robert and James Hunter, Fred Getman, Samuel and Nathan Brown, eight horse teams; ____ Rice, who drove one of Brown's teams; two Haverlys, one owning a brick tavern between Albany and Schenectada; two Hitchcock brothers, Justley Simmons, of Rochester, of good repute; ____Van Epps, George Kellogg, Chauncey Ingraham, Jo. Burton, three Cheenys; ____Glasby, ____ Higby, ____Armstrong, Ruben Taff, Jerome Barhydt, and a brother, and a Vielie, of Schenectada; Theodore Faxton, of Utica; Ezra Smith, George Keller, Kit Richardson, Isaac Burlingham, ____ Sage, a heavy contractor; James Harris, ____ Best, Solomon Norton, ____McNeil, a bully; George Allenborugh, Jack Schell, a black fellow who owned a fine six horse team and usually went with Allenboro'; John and Henry Parker, brothers of good repute; James Istell, ____ Spellman, Heacox, ____ Petrie, who had a horse stolen, and Archibald Patten, who, much in debt, stepped out. Some of the teamsters were at different times on both turnpikes. Robert Hunter was celebrated as a hay contractor, and was very successful in obtaining freight. ____Sherman, of Utica, owned several teams driven by others, as also did the Doxes, of Geneva, and ____ Wadsworth, of Geneseo. Freight from Albany to Buffalo was at first $5.00 per hundred weight, but competition at one time brought it down to $1.25. The teamsters on those turnpikes were as jovial and accommodating a set of men, as ever engaged in any avocation, seldom having any feuds or lasting difficulties.
While on this subject, said Mr. Fink, in 1905-06, when India and adjoining counties were receiving many of their pioneer settlers, New England people came prospecting on horseback, with well filled saddle-bags and portmanteaus, and he often had 30 or 40 in a single night to entertain at his house below Little Falls.
A Serious Accident.-- When the moving of those large wagons came the following incident: Major Andrew Find, a well informed and very patriotic officer of the Revolution, late in life, and when somewhat inform, was seriously hurt in the following novel manner: He had been to the village of Little Falls, and was going to his home below the falls at the time. Very many Revolutionary men who had been served with liquor as a military ration continued to use it in after life. Maj. Find was not an exception to this rule, and on the day in question, he had sufficiently imbibed to elevate his ideas. He was by nature a proud and spirited man, and at this time, somewhat overbearing. Meeting a teamster named Van Derlip with a three or four horse team, he kept in the road and ordered the former to turn out and give him the half of it. Looking at the matter as a practical joke, for who would think that a footman would make so unreasonable a demand, the teamster, after twice leading him out of the road, did not attempt to give the room demanded. The consequence was, that Maj. Fink maintained the position until struck by the team or a wheel, and was knocked down and seriously bruised. Tradition says that Van Derlip, who had the reputation of an accommodating teamster, did what he could to alleviate Mr. Find's suffering, which he had thus heedlessly brought upon himself. Doctor Joshua Webster, of Fort Plain, as appears by his day book, visited Major Fink, October 20, 21, and 25, 1802, to dress his wounds, etc. It is said the injuries he thus sustained shortened his days. It seems a pity that a man who had maintained so honorable and commanding a position as did Maj. Fink during the Revolution, for no American officer on the frontiers of New York won a more enviable reputation, should so unwisely have brought upon himself such a fate.