Friday, January 10, 2014

Aaron Kirk of Auburn, 83, Formerly Drove a Stagecoach

Syracuse Herald
Sunday, July 16, 1916

              His Routes Were From Auburn to Oswego and From
                            Auburn to Ithaca

    Auburn, July 15. - Aaron Kirk, who for many years drove a stage coach, will celebrate on Monday, surrounded by three generations, his 83rd birthday. In the best of health, vigorous, keen and with a great fund of stories of the days before the gasoline vehicle, which a retentive memory helps him to keep intact. M. Kirk is looking forward to a happy day.
    He enjoys the record of being one of the oldest stage drivers in the United States. From many parts of the country relatives will come this year, as they have in all recent years, to be with him on his birthday and listen to him spin thrilling yards of the days when the stage coach was the only means of conveyance from village to village in this section, and the mails were carried on the heaving and creaking vehicles. Mr. Kirk lives at No. 38 Park avenue. He had a remarkable career as a pioneer in opening up the roads of this region and he is known in many counties of the State.
   Mr. Kirk began staging it at the age of 12 years and once in a while now he will mount the box of a hack just to handle the reins again. For 70 years he has occupied the driver’s seat on scores of stages and other vehicles and has probably traveled over more miles by horse drawn conveyance than any other mean in the State.
                                        Born in Sterling.
   He was born in the town of Sterling 83 years ago, but when he was a mere lad of 12 he made Auburn his headquarters much of the time as he drive the stage owned by his brother into town. From that time until practically the present he has remained in the occupation for which he took a liking when but a stripling.
   For a number of years Mr. Kirk drove a stage from Auburn to Oswego and from Auburn to Ithaca, maintaining a regular route in the absence of steamer or trolley transportation. Through snow drifts, which compelled him to dig his teams out with shovels, and through summer heat, which made the dusty stage routes resemble the arid, blistering reaches of the Arizona desert, the grizzled driver piloted hundreds of pioneer travelers. In his memory are vivid pictures of night battles with storms, smashups in inky darkness, and encounters with mud up to the floor of the old hickory stage.
    As may be imagined, the veteran driver has met with more adventures than the average man. There have been experiences in his life which would make tales of the desperate incidents in the careers of Nick Carter and Wild Bill  pale into insignificance. In fact, the manifold stories of Mr. Kirk are something of a wonder to all who know him.
                                    Interesting Experiences.
    If it is true that an old-time stage driver has seen more of every phase of life, the joyous or the pathetic, the easy road and the hard, the good and evil of the world, than any other man. Mr. Kirk has the concentrated view of a dozen ordinary individuals, inside his conveyances have transpired little dramas of life which would eclipse the interest in most of the best sellers of the season.
    As a student of character the Auburn stage driver is hardly to be surpassed. At the time of the Civil War he was behind teams carrying injured soldiers back to their Northern homes and at the present he is able, and enjoys, driving everything from a spirited sulky horse to pompous hearse horses.
    It is a legend among Auburn liverymen that Aaron Kirk can negotiate sharper turns and steeper inclines with a hearse than probably any other driver in the city. To this day, 83 though he is, his services are in demand, for his skill as a driver is with him still.
    It is interesting to hear the veteran talk about the gasoline “wagons.” Though he loves horses, he is not fond of the motor car. Only he wishes drivers would not be too hoggish in demanding the highways and by-ways for themselves. He admits that the horse is looked upon as an ancient and honorable institution, but he does not think he will ever vanish entirely from the land  and the use of man.
                                     Hardships of the Old Days.
    “These people in their trim automobiles, that can leave a horse far behind in the road sniffling dust and gasoline fumes, do not stop to consider the hardships, and, yes, the pleasures, too, of travel in the old days over these highways that are now so smooth and hard, When I was driving a stage in the pioneer days an improved road was unknown. Mud holes and ‘thank-you mams’ were numerous, and every road had its rough spots. But there were thrills.”

    The craze for speed was unknown when he was in his prime so that travelers really enjoyed the stage journey when the weather was not too hot or too cold.

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