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Memorial history of Syracuse, N.Y., from its settlement to the present time online

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State (quite as we sometimes do in recent days) and adds that " capitalists

Early Village Indebtedness. 141

are already learning that a village where seven railroads terminate affords
them a fair opportunity for safe and profitable investments." Some of those
railroads must have been the ones the incorporation of which (but not the
building) we have just noticed. Again, on August 3d the same paper an-
nounces the sale of forty acres of land near the Lodi locks by the Syracuse
Company for §40,000. Also, "the farm of Mr. Forman, lying about one
and a half miles east of the village, has been purchased by H. Baldwin,
esq., for $40,000, being $200 the acre."

1837. — The liberal expenditures of the past year or two, by which the
village had incurred considerable indebtedness, seems to have impelled the
authorities to restrict appropriations for public improvements, and very
little was done this year in this direction. Warren and Montgomery streets
were improved between Jefferson and Genesee streets, by turnpiking and
by paving the gutters. At a public meeting it was voted to raise $500 "to
pay indebtedness to individuals." In July $400 were raised " for paving
squares and streets," and in December a tax levy was voted for $500 for
highway purposes. Moreover, the financial crisis of this year was felt to a
considerable extent, though with much less severity than at many other
points in the State. Business was somewhat crippled for a time, but it is
unquestioned that Syracuse had a foundation of financial prosperity, a rep-
utation for stability, as well as a natural source of income and profit not
vouchsafed to many places, and these co-operated to carry the business
community through the period of stringency.

1838. — In May of this year a loan of $3,500 was authorized " to pay
the village debts for street improvements," thus laying substantial founda-
tion for the present imposing obligations of the city.

The most important action of this year, as far as the village was con-
cerned, was the taking of preliminarj' steps toward? building a public mar-
ket. The old canal basin, which the misguided policy of the authorities
had permitted in the heart of the village, had long been an almost intolera-
ble nuisance. A pu'olic meeting was called on December 6th, at which it
was resolved to obtain by loan $15,000, with which to build " a market and
town house." Although the project of a public market was not consum-
mated until four years later, this was the first step towards it. This year
was also a memorable one for Syracuse on account of the building of the
first railroad through the village. The Auburn and Syracuse Railroad
Company received its charter in 1835 and work was begun in December of
that year. In January, 1838, the road was opened from Auburn to Geddes
and it was soon afterwards continued into the village, the sale of the neces-
sary lands for tracks and a station having been authorized by the Legisla-
ture in April, 1837. This was not much of a railroad, but its importance

142 Memorial History of Syracuse.

was appreciated by the people of Syracuse ; they looked upon it as the sure
forerunner of others. It was equipped with wooden rails and until June,
1839, the cars were drawn by horses. It was the noted landlord, Philo N.
Rust, who used to hook up his excellent team in Syracuse or Auburn, at
the hour for departure of a train on this early road, and wager that he
would travel the country road and reach the other end of the line ahead of
the cars. It is said that he found no takers of his offers, and not infre-
quently accomplished the feat.

During this period, too, the Syracuse and Utica railroad was becoming
a fact. Chartered in 1836, its construction was pushed along and it was
opened July 4th, 1839. John Wilkinson, with other prominent residents
of the village, was very influential in advancing this enterprise.

The opening of these railroads and the relief that soon followed the
financial stringency of that period, gave another impulse to the growth of
Syracuse and brought to it men of means and energy whose labors still
further advanced its prosperity. Horace White came from Homer to Syr-
acuse in 1838, and his brother Hamilton in 1839. Perhaps no two men left
a more enduring impress for good upon Syracuse than Horace and Hamil-
ton White. Horace founded the Bank of Syracuse, which was subse-
quently changed to a National Bank, and was interested in other banks.
Hamilton White was cashier of the Onondaga County Bank until 1854,
when he became a private banker. The two brothers were largelj' inter-
ested in what are now the New York Central, Lake Shore and Michigan
Southern railroads, and for many years held seats in their directorship.
They acquired extensive business interests, not only in Syracuse but also
elsewhere, and were leaders in all public enterprises. They were excep-
tionally sagacious and industrious and their large fortunes were honorably
earned. They were also influential in politics, were contemporaries of Wil-
liam H. Seward, Thurlow Weed and other Whig politicians of their day.
They gave liberally of their means to advance the interests of their party,
upon the success of which, they believed, the progress and prosperity of the
country largely depended. To these men the Syracuse of to-day is largely
indebted for their business foresight and energy which gave it impulse when
it was but a village, and evidences of their busy and successful lives and of
their public spirit are visible everywhere to-day. Horace White died in
1861, leaving a widow and two children — Andrew D. White and Horace K.
White. Hamilton White died in 1865, leaving a widow and five children
— Antoinette W., Clara W., Barrett R., Hamilton S., and Howard G.

Dr. John M. Wieting came to Syracuse in 1837 as a civil engineer for
the Syracuse and Utica railroad. He surveyed many of the streets of Syr-
acuse, also Rose Hill Cemetery, and in later years became an enterprising
builder and a large owner of real estate. He died in 1888.

FuRTiiKK General Improvements. 143

Peter Burns, who first came to Syracuse in 1836, began his long and
successful career as a merchant and manufacturer soon after 1840 and is
still living to look back upon a successful and well spent life.

George and Peter Waggoner built up the northeast corner of James and
Salina streets and were for many years successful business men. Many
other names of men might be added, the work of whose lives in Syracuse,
coupled with that of those earlier citizens whose energies were expended as
well for the good of the community at large, as for their own, has contribu-
ted towards building up this great city.

The late Gen. E. W. Leavenworth had been appointed a village Trustee
in 1837, to fill a vacancy caused by the election of Elihu L. I^hillipsas
Sheriff. In 183S, 1839, and 1840 he was I'resident of the village, and during
that period he was indefatigable in intelligent and advanced efforts for the
proper upbuilding of the place. While the many reforms instituted by him
were eminently practical, his work was always tempered with his natural
appreciation of the artistic side. Broad streets, ample shade trees, numer-
ous parks — all these beautifiers of any village or city — were constantly pres-
ent in his contemplation of neetled improvements. It was, doubtless, this
characteristic which impelled him in 1838 to write the resolutions that pre-
served what is now Vanderbilt Square, by granting a portion of it to the
Syracuse and L'tica railroad company as a site for their historical depot,
and compelling the company to buy twenty-six feet on the south side and
four feet on the north side, to be devoted to public use. Here the old de-
pot was erected by Daniel Elliott, to stand until it had long outlived its
usefulness. The railroad company was also compelled to set shade trees
through Washington street and to build the first sewer that reached the
Yellow Brook and drained the swamp between the village and the highlands

In the winter of 1839, General Leavenworth drew the law under which
the Trustees were enabled to contract with the Turnpike Company to so
change the course of the road between Mulberry and Grape streets as to
pass around what is now Fayette Park — that beautiful oasis in the heart of
the bu.sy city.

Third South street (Fayette) was opened this year from Beech to Cherry
street; also, "the street running from Franklin to the Mill Race, between
the canal and Genesee street " (now Mechanic street). Water street be-
tween Warren and Montgomery streets was ordered paved.

With all the advancement thus described ; with the canal meeting the
expectations of the community ; with its enlargement then in progress ; with
railroads coming into the village from the east and the west, and with an all-
pervading feeling among the really far seeing men of the place that Judge
Forman's early predictions would be fulfilled, as far as they related to a

144 Memorial History of Syracuse.

large community growing up here, it is not to be wondered at that the ques-
tion of incorporating the village under a city charter was thus early broached.
A resolution was brought before the Trustees in December, 1838, that
application be made to the Legislature for a city charter. The matter was,
however, destined to be postponed several years.

1839. — But in many respects Syracuse was still a rural hamlet, when
compared with the modern city. Cattle were restrained from roaming in
the streets in 1839 only between the 15th of December and the 15th of
March. They could find no friendly pasture during that portion of the year.
This year was prolific in new sidewalks, brick and gravel being the chief
materials used in their construction. In March it was resolved that the vil-
lage would pay S50 towards covering Warren street with gravel, if the resi-
dents of the street would pay $150.

Gravel or brick sidewalks were made on portions of James, Grape, Fay-
ette, Genesee, Salina, Washington, and possibly other streets. The high-
way tax for the year was $3,500, and by an Act of Legislature (April 9, 1839,)
the Trustees were empowered to pledge the credit of the village for funds
not to exceed $10,000. Washington street was extended from Almond to
Chestnut, and " Forman Square " was declared a " public square." Sweep-
ing changes and additions were made in and to the ordinances this year,
giving the Trustees extended powers, by which street signs might be
ordered; buildings and fences that encroached on streets, moved back ; de-
positing of garbage and running of animals in the streets, prohibited ; the
meat markets closed on Sundays; stagnant pools abolished ; the storage of
gunpowder restricted ; boats and rafts kept out of the canal basin, except
for twenty-four hours or less, etc.

The opening of the railroad to Auburn was celebrated with considerable
enthusiasm on the lOth of September, when an e.xcursion embracing many
prominent people went over the road. This was a year of political activity
and several eminent politicians and statesmen visited the village, among
them being Henry Clay and William H. Seward. Building operations con-
tinued and several prominent structures were erected. About this time
Horace and Hamilton White contracted with Daniel Elliott for the erection
of the two-and a half story brick building on the corner of South Salina
and Washington streets, in which were located the Onondaga County Bank
and the Bank of Syracuse. The lower floor was used for many years by
the American Express Company. The building was removed to clear the
site for the splendid edifice which the children of Horace and Hamilton
White erected to their memory — the White Memorial Building.


PuRCiiASK or RosK IIii.i. Cemetery. 145



Kurihcr Progress of the Village — The Rose Ilill Cemetery Purchase — A Brief Era of Turbu-
lence — Additions to the Business Houses of the Village — The Great Gunpowder Explosion — Lists
of Killed and Injured — Public .\ction on the Casualties -Changes of Street Names — .V Disgraceful
Riot — Whisperings of a City Charter — Abolition of the Old Canal Basin — Erection of a Public
Market — Causes of its Failure — Incorporation as a City.

FROM the date under which the last chapter closed until the village was
incorporated as a city, many important events occurred and many
radical changes were effected in various directions. E. W. Leavenworth
was still President of the village and his firm and progressive hand was felt
in the inauguration of many improvements. In May the Syracuse and
Utica railroad company were made to properly drain the premises " around
their car house on Washington street, as agreed."

The subject of disposing of the old cemetery on Franklin street, just
north of Washington, had been frequently discussed, and this year the
whole matter was referred to John Wilkinson, Lyman Clary, and Samuel
Earned. The result of this action was the purchase of the Rose Hill tract,
at S300 per acre, in December.

Early in this year (1840) a meeting was held to consider the application
to the Legislature for a city charter, but it was decided as " not expedient "
at that time.

It would appear that at this time the village suffered somewhat from a
turbulent spirit in the rougher element of the population, and the authori-
ties deemed it necessary to take some action towards securing more strin-
gent and arbitrary government. This resulted (Januar>-) in a resolution to
the effect that the "Trustees and three other individuals be apppointed a
committee to report amendments to the ordinances that will give the villaf^e
a more vigorous police." The persons appointed, besides the Trustees, were
Thomas T. Davis, John Wilkinson, and David S. Colvin. In May it was
resolved that "there shall hereafter be a Police Justice in Syracuse, who
shall be appointed in the same manner as the Judges of the County Courts."

The sum of $4,000 was raised for highway purposes, and among the
street improvements made was the turnpiking of Jefferson, Grape, Cedar,
Madison, and Montgomery streets.

The volume of business had by this time considerably increased and
we find record of the following establishments then in existence, being
mainly in addition to those already mentioned :

146 Memorial History of Syracuse.

Butler & Hobby, " No. i, next door to the Onondaga County Bank,"
announced the receipt of new goods "by railroad." They were in the dry
goods trade on East Genesee street. The Onondaga Bookstore and Syra-
cuse Bazaar was the rather pretentious title selected by Madame A. J. Raoul
for her store, which was on Water street, opposite Hanover Square. J. F.
& A. Wind advertised the arrival at their music store (on the west side of
South Salina street, just north of Railroad street) of " two superior Iron Harp
Chickering Pianos." S. Gardiner, jr., kept a music store in the Franklin
Buildings. The " City Drug Store " was kept by E. Hough ; it was on the
west side of Salina street, a little north of Railroad street. Lewis H. Red-
field had a bookstore in connection with his printing business, on East Wa-
ter street, and Barnet & Gurnsey, boots and shoes, had then recently taken
the store " lately occupied as a dry goods store, second door west of the
Mansion House." A. Root & Co. sold boots and shoes about where J.
Dean Hawley's store is now located. Cook & Fitch (Volney Cook and
George S. Fitch,) were selling dry goods on East Water street, near War-
ren street, while at the same time, in connection with Ezra Town, who is
still living, they sold groceries under the style of Cook, Fitch & Town.

The " Syracuse Crockery Store" was kept by Ransom Curtis and S. P.
Pierce at No. 2 Slocum Building. This was about where Covell & Morris's
grocery now is. Sylvester P. Pierce came to Syracuse in 1839 and is now
one of the oldest business men in the city. He began the crockery trade
here with Mr. Curtis, as stated, and has ever since been connected with it,
either at retail or wholesale. Charles Pope carried on a plating business,
about the first in the place, " fifty rods east of the Syracuse House on
Genesee street." He was in a part of the old Unitarian church building.
Mr. Pope became a man of prominence in the community and was suitably
honored by his fellow citizens for his sterling qualities. Charles Rust sold
furniture in the " Prison Wareroom " adjoining W. & H. Raynor, one door
west of Wright & Wheaton, who were in the dry goods line. These latter
stores were on West Water street. Philo D. Mickles, stoves and hardware,
" sign of the padlock." This store was on the Weiting block corner, where
hardware had been sold many years. Philo Dorwin Mickles was the eldest
son of Nicholas Mickles and was born on the 2d of August, 1798. Two
years later the family moved to Onondaga Hill. In 1827, on the death of
his father, he removed to Salina and a little later to Syracuse, where he es-
tablished the first furnace in the village ; it was located on Canal street, and
there he made plows and some of the first stoves in use. In 1837 he was
involved in the general financial wreck, but he recovered and in 1838 opened
a "temperance grocery store," where McCarthy & Redfield were afterwards
located. He is said to have been the first man in Syracuse to do a business
of $150,000 a year. In 1839 he engaged in the hardware trade, and in 1849

Competition of the New Railroad. 14;

went to California and for two years followed mining operations with varying
success, returning then to Syracuse. He died on the 19th of April, 1874.
Barnes & Stapley had a furnace and machine shop on the Oswego canal,
"a little north of the weigh lock." Jason C. Woodruff, associated with
J. Uutterficld & Co., of Utica, advertised their stage lines in opposition to
the new railroad. The competition between this mode of travel, the packet
boats, and the railroad became very active, and for a few years it was an
open question which was the most desirable one— and even which was the
quickest of the three. Runners from the packet docks haunted the railroad
station and used all of their eloquence to persuade passengers to come on
board their delightful and safe vessels, which they guaranteed would make
as good time on the average as the cars, while the advocates of the stage
lines were little less persuasive and imaginative as to the safety and expe-
dition of their elegant coaches. But the boats and the coaches were soon
relegated to a slower age.

Hargin & Shaw were dealers in stoves and hardware on the corner of
Water and Warren streets, and the " New York Cheap Bookstore," Louis
D. Pomeroy, proprietor, was on West Water street. H. W. Durnford &
Co. were grocers on the corner of East Water and Warren streets, opposite
the Bastable block site. Hall, Rhoades & Sherman did a large hardware
business on the site of the new Everson building. William H. Alexander
& Co. offered stoves, etc., " at their furnace," which was on the corner of
Water and Franklin streets. Malcolm & Hudson were in the hardware
business at the second door west of the corner of Salina and West Water
streets, and Zophar H. Adams was the leading brick-maker, his yard then
being about on the site of the Novelty Manufacturing Company on Dick-
inson street. Zaccheus T. Newcomb and Charles A. Baker had joined the
already mentioned attorneys of the village. The latter was a son of Eras-
tus Baker, a pioneer in the town of LaFayette. He married a daughter of
Thaddeus M. Wood and lived for a time in Salina, removing to Syracuse
when the village began to improve rapidly. He lived for a time in what
was known as the Larned house, on the site of the Florence fiats. He pur-
chased one hundred acres, which included "the swamp" in the Seventh and
Eighth wards, and his wife became possessed of eighty acres from the lar^re
estate of her father, which extended along both sides of Salina street tn
the southern part of the city and including much of the most desirable part
of Danforth. In later years Mr. Baker built the brick residence now occu-
pied by H. R. Olmsted. Mr. Baker was an able and public spirited man
and was honored with many evidences of the confidence of the community.
He died in October, 1881.

1841.— The crowning disaster of this year, and indeed of any year in
the history of Syracuse, was an explosion of gunpowder, which occurred


148 Memorial History of Syracuse.

on the 2ist of August, by which twenty-six persons lost their lives and
many more were seriously injured. Various accounts of this terrible occur-
rence have been published, but we are assured that no more reliable record
of it can be expected than the one which appeared in the Onondaga
Standard. Having been written at the time and amid the harrowing de-
tails of the distressing event, it bears the impress of accuracy and vivid
particularity. It is as follows :


"One of the most deeply afflicting events that ever occurred in our town, took place last night.
About half past nine o'clock, the alarm of fire was given, which brought most of our citizens to
a wooden building situated on the tow path of the Oswego canal, nearly in rear of the County
Clerk's office, and occupied as a joiner's shop by Charles Cloings. At the time we had reached the
spot, the roof of the building was completely enveloped in flames. The engine companies were near
the fire and appeared to be doing good e.xecution. Presently we heard the cry of 'Powder! Pow-
der! There is powder in the building! ' When this cry was first given, nearly the whole crowd
rushed back, but the move was but momentary. Most of those nearest the fire, maintained their
position, and very few appeared to place any credit in the report. At this time we were standing
within 50 or 60 feet of the flames; the building had been on fire perhaps fifteen minutes, when a
tremendous explosion took place, completely checking the fire and demolishing the building. This
explosion lasted we should think three or four seconds, filling the air with fragments of the building,
and creating the greatest consternation imaginable. The noise of the explosion having ceased, all
was still for a moment, and then the most heart-rending groans that ever reached our ears, were
distinctly heard.

"The first person whom we met after the shock was Mr. Myers, the lock-tender, a tall, athletic
man, with part of his face blown off. and his head and shoulders completely covered with cinders
and blood. He begged some one to go home with him, and two persons readily accompanied him.
The next was a person brought out dead; one side of his head having been blown off, and his brains
fallen out. Oh, Mercy, what a sight. From this followed other scenes which it is impossible to
describe. All was confusion. .•\lthough the sight of the dead and dying was horrible, it was
scarcely less than that of the living, inquiring for their relatives— parents for their children, and
wives almost frantic with despair, for their husbands.

"Fverything, we believe, was done that could have been done under the circumstances. An
extra train of cars was run to .Auburn for physicians, and our hotel keepers threw open their doors
for the reception of the wounded. We were on the ground an hour after the explosion occurred,
and witnessed the greatest kindness on the part of all. Every effort was made to extricate the
bodies, and to afford all the consolation that could be afforded.

"As to the origin of the fire, it is unknown; but it is supposed that it was the work of an in-
cendiary. The fire appeared to have commenced in the top of the building. The powder — some
say ten, others fifteen kegs — was placed on the lower floor, under a work bench, and belonged to
Malcolm & Hudson.

"Such is a brief and imperfect sketch of this awful calamity — a calamity which, from the care-
lessness, avarice or malignity of one, or two, or three, has sent or probably will send not less than
thirty of their fellow beings from time into eternity, and most of them without a moment's warning.
What a subject for reflection. Let those who escaped — and we were one among the number — feel
grateful to that good Being, whose ways, though inscrutable, are always just. Mr. Hudson, firm
of Malcom & Hudson, the owners of the powder, in his testimony before the jurj', stated that there
were twenty-three kegs, containing twenty-five pounds each, and four kegs containing twelve and a
half pounds each, making in all, six hundred and twenty-five pounds deposited in the upper story of

Online LibraryDwight Hall BruceMemorial history of Syracuse, N.Y., from its settlement to the present time → online text (page 16 of 110)