Gurney S Strong.

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village, Messrs. Townsend and James offered the
county, free of expense, all that block of land on which
the Onondaga County Bank and Bank of Syracuse are
now located, with the exception of one lot on which
the First Presbyterian church then stood, on the cor-
ner of Salina and Fayette streets. This offer was re-
fused ; but as the sequel proved, it would have been
much the best bargain, for this property is now worth
at least ten times as much as the court-house lot was
recently sold for, besides being a much more conven-
ient site for the county buildings. But the site hav-
ing been fixed it could not be changed.

At this meeting, measures were also taken for the
erection of the county buildings by the appointment
of three men, styled building commissioners, consist-
ing of John Smith, Thomas Starr and Samuel For-
man, with power to cause plans and specifications to
be made, and to contract for the erection of the build-
ings. The County Treasurer was also empowered to
borrow $20,000 in two annual installments of $10,000


each. After the plans were submitted, the conimis-
sioners decided to build the jail of stone, fifty feet
square and two stories high, with a hall and stairs in
the centre. The south half was designed for the jail-
or's dwelling, and the north half for strong stone cells,
and the second story, over the cells, was appropriated
for cells for debtors, witnesses, etc. The court house
was to be built of brick, sixty feet square, with large
columns on the west side, and two stories high. The
first story was divided by a hall into four apartments
in each corner, for the use of the grand and petit jurors
and other purposes. The court room occupied all of
the second story except the landing of the stairs and
two petit jury rooms in each corner. The Judge's
seat was in the south side, opposite the landing of the
stairway. These were the county buildings the com-
missioners decided upon, and invited bids for their
erection. In the spring of 1829, the bids were received
according to the specifications and plans. John Wall
obtained the contract for the building of the jail,
which was erected by him early in the year 1829. The
cells in this jail were of the strongest kind. Since it
was taken down, they have been placed in the base-
ment of the new court house on Clinton square.

L. A. Cheney and Samuel Booth obtained the con-
tract for doing the mason work of the court house,
and David Staff ord obtained the contract for doing the
carpenter work. It was put up that year and enclosed.

204 chexey's reminiscences

In the following year, Mr. Wall made a bargain with
the commissioners to complete the edifice, and during
that year it was finished ready for the occupation of
the courts.

The estimate for these buildings proved to be some
thirty per centum short of their expense, the total cost
of them having been upwards of $27,000.

The jail was abandoned in 1850, after the erection
of the penitentiary and the removal of the jail pris-
oners to that institution. The materials were used in
the erection of the work-shops at the penitentiary and
the new court house.

Attempts were made from time to time to change
the site of this court house, but they all failed until
after the destruction of the building by fire, on the
morning of the oth of January, 185G. At a meeting
of the Board of Supervisors, April 28, 1856, it was
decided by a vote of twenty-four to one, "that the
site of the court house for Onondaga county be, and
is hereby, changed to the lot in Block 81, on the cor-
ner of Clinton square and Clinton alley."

The plan of the building, as presented in the report
of the committee, consisting of T. C. Cheney, Elizur
Clark and Bradley Cary, was then adopted; and
Messrs. Slocum, Johnson and District Attorney An-
drews were directed to execute the papers for an ex-
change of sites with Colonel Voorhees. The next day
Timothy C. Cheney, Luke Wells and D. C. Greenfield


were appointed a committee to superintend the erec-
tion of the building, and Horatio N. White, architect.
At a subsequent meeting of the Board in June, the
proposals for the erection of the building, advertised
for by the commissioners, were opened and the con-
tract awarded to Messrs. Cheney & Wilcox, at $37,750,
the contractors to have the materials of the old court
house and jail. Mr. Cheney thereupon resigned his
place as commissioner, and Elizur Clark was appointed
to fill the vacancy. Portions of the work were after-
wards sub-let — the cut stone work to Spalding &
Pollock, the carpenter and joiner work to Coburn &
Hurst, and the iron work to Featherly, Draper & Cole.
The building is now in process of construction, and
will be completed on the first day of October, next.

In the year 1821, Judge Forman, who then resided
in Syracuse, conceived the idea of manufacturing salt
by solar evaporation. Mr. Forman, with Isaiah Town-
send of Albany, went to New Bedford for the purpose
of examining works that had been previously erected
there. He met in that noted sea-faring town Stephen
Smith, with whom he counseled upon the subject.
Upon Mr. Forman's statements in regard to the
strength of the water, its purity and abundance, Mr.
Smith consented to embark in the enterprise of erect-
ing similar works here. This gentleman, together
with William Rotch, jr., Samuel Rodman and James
Arnold of New Bedford, formed the " Onondaga Salt


Company." Of this company, Mr. Smith was the con-
trolling agent, and Henry Gifford superintended the

Subsequently to the formation of this company.
Judge Forman proceeded to Albany and procured the
passage of a law by the Legislature, authorizing the
company to take possession of the grounds and erect
the necessary works. He also endeavored to induce
William James and Isaiah and John Townsend to
form another company and embark in the manufac-
ture of coarse salt ; but they declined. He then ap-
plied to Henry Eckford, the celebrated naval architect
of New York, who consented, and with other gentle-
men, established "The Syracuse Salt Company."
Judge Forman was appointed the agent of this com-
pany and Matthew L. Davis, secretary.

Mr. Eckford was then owner of the "Walton Tract."
Before the works of this company had far advanced
William James and Isaiah and John Townsend of
Albany and James McBride of New York became the

At that period, the Salt Springs were termed the
" Old Federal Springs." The water was pumped by
hand labor by men perched on high stagings, and col-
lected into rude reservoirs for distribution.

The companies thus formed immediately set about
the execution of their plans. The first thing done
was to cut away the trees, clear the grounds (the


position between the " Genesee turnpike " and the Erie
canal was an almost impassable swamp), preparatory
to the erection of the vats. It was essential that a
greater supply of water should be procured. Accord-
ingly the two companies, at their joint expense, erected
the first great reservoir, pumps and aqueducts at
Salina ; the machinery propelled, as it now is, by sur-
plus water from a branch of the Erie canal. The
starting point for the vats was just north of Church

After these works were fairly under way, the
Onondaga Salt Company broke ground west of the
creek, near the dwelling subsequently occupied for
many years by Joseph Savage. Here the first growth
of trees was still standing, and yielded nearly a hun-
dred cords of wood to the acre. The building of vats
was prosecuted with great diligence and energy ; about
two million feet of lumber being consumed annually
for several years.

In 1826, Mr. Gifford covered twenty acres of ground
on private account; but he was unable to procure
water for three years. This investment was continued
by Mr. Gifford until the land was sold by the State,
a year or two since.

Such, in brief, was the origin of the coarse salt
manufacture. There are now in existence upwards
of 23,000 vats, or " covers," occupying about 380 acres,
in which is invested a capital of $1,161,000.

208 cheney's reminiscences

It may not be out of place here to make a brief
allusion to Stephen Smith. Mr. Smith in early life
was particularly noted for his persevering industry
in the pursuit of knowledge. He was a son of Abra-
ham Smith of New Bedford, with whom he learned
the trade of a blacksmith, but did not follow the oc-
cupation. At the age of twenty-one, he went to New
York, found employment in a celebrated commercial
firm there and became a partner in a ship-chandlery
establishment, which, during his absence in Europe,
became unsuccessful. In 1801, he went to England
and France on an agency. He made several voyages
as supercargo to India and China. Subsequently he
went on different occasions to Italy, Spain and

The war of 1812 and ill health detained him at
home, and he then embarked in the manufacture of
salt from sea water at Yarmouth on Cape Cod. It
was while prosecuting this enterprise that Judge For-
man met him and induced him to come to Syracuse,
as before stated. Mr. Smith continued to reside here
until his death, which occurred in 1854. He was a man
of strong mind, a close observer of passing events, lib-
eral views and unbending integrity. No man stood
higher in the community than Stephen Smith. The
monument at his grave marks the last resting place
of "God's noblest work, an honest man."

The first furnace erected west of Oneida county


was built by Nicholas Mickles, father of Philo D.
Mickles, who emigrated from New England to lay the
foundation of a fortune in this then frontier county.
It is usually called the " Old Furnace," and has long
been a landmark on the road to Onondaga Hill. Judge
Forrnan was associated in this enterprise with Mr.
Mickles, and they did a heavy business for many
years in the manufacture of kettles for the western
country and for the salt works. During the war of
1812, they had a heavy contract with the government
for supplies of cannon balls and shells. These mis-
siles of death were transported by wagons to Salina,
whence they were taken by water to Oswego and there
distributed to various points along the frontier. Mr.
Mickles was a man of intelligence and probity and
highly esteemed.

In every community there are men with character-
istics so marked as to attract particular notice and
comment. Syracuse has not been wanting in this
respect. I propose to terminate these random
" Reminiscences " by adverting to one of them, who
was well known to many persons now residing in this
vicinity. I allude to James Sackett.

Mr. Sackett originally emigrated from New
England and settled in Skaneateles; but he removed
to Syracuse in 1826, long before which he acquired
the sobriquet of "Old Sackett," by which he was
ever afterwards known. He was very eccentric in

210 chexey's reminiscences

his habits and conversation. He acquired a large
property by the purchase of land warrants of Revo-
lutionary soldiers, and locating the lots in this
section of the State. He was very fond of horses, of
which he raised the finest breed in this county. He
had a habit of rounding off his sentences with the
very expressive but rather impolite phrase, "G — d

d n you!" Always a bachelor, he never made

more than one attempt to obtain a wife. The lady
he selected, and who resided in an adjoining county,
was first made acquainted with his intentions by
hearing an individual hallooing at her father's gate.
She went out to ascertain what was wanted. Mr.
Sackett sat in his buggy. On her inquiring his
errand, his response was : "I have made up my mind
to marry you ; will you have me, G — d d n you ? "

She replied: " Mr. Sackett, this is a short notice; I
will take ten days to consider."

"Ten days, ha! to consider on marrying Mr.

James Sackett ; ten days, G — d d n you ! ten days,

ha ! " and Mr. Sackett drove away, never calling

In 1824, he contracted with a man to build him a
house about 22 feet by 40. It was to be set on his
block on Salina street, opposite the Empire. That
block was owned by him, and nothing was on it except
at the south end, where were two or three little
buildings. It was a pretty field for a residence. The


contractor did not come and put up the house as he
agreed. He then contracted with another builder to
put up the same kind of a house. It was immediately
done. While the second contractor was finishing the
first house, the first contractor came with the second
house. Although Mr. Sackett was under no obliga-
tion to receive the house, he said to the builder :
" Here, put it up at the end of this one." Of course,
he had a house 22 by 80 feet. He had a rough board
fence put around the lot, which was entered by a
gate swinging on a post in the centre. After his
house was finished and he had resided in it a few
years, the crickets had taken joint occupancy with
him. They were rather noisy, and disturbed the old
man. Mr. Sackett was a timid man ; so he undertook
to expel them. He succeeded very well, with the
exception of one old chap that bid him defiance.
This fellow was located behind the chimney, where
he kept up a perpetual song. But he was not out of
the reach of harm. One Monday morning, masons
were seen at work taking down the chimney, which
was razed to the ground, and this noisy old chap
driven from his quarters, and the chimney rebuilt so
as to exclude him thereafter.

Mr. Sackett had also siugular tastes in the matter
of dress. He wore a frock coat reaching down to his
heels, a wide brimmed hat, with a large veil over his
face. Such an outfit on a tall, slim, fleshless man


like Mr. Sackett made him an object of notice to
every person. He always hired masons to fill his ice
house, so that the work should be well done. In
doing odd jobs, he would hire more men than were
necessary, and would often discharge them all before
the work on hand was completed. He usually
traveled about the country in an old, rickety buggy,
with a patched top of various colors, drawn by a
splendid horse. Wherever he went on foot, he
carried an old umbrella, with a large white patch on
the top. But with all his oddities, he was a well
disposed man, and correct and prompt in business
matters. He died worth an estate valued at $150,000.

FIRST PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH.— From a recent photograph.



The original site of the First Presbyterian church
was on the northeastern corner of Salina and Fayette
streets, where the retail dry goods store of D. Mc-
Carthy & Company now stands. The church edifice
was a plain, wooden structure, clapboarded and
painted white, with green outside blinds, two story,
and surmounted with a spire of moderate height, as
were all steeples of an early day. The inside
was finished with pine, painted white throughout,
the division of the pews being capped with cherry.
The gallery front was of an elliptical form. The
pulpit was situated in the west end of the building,
and the choir was for a time placed in the gallery
just above, but subsequently removed to the east
end. This edifice was the only one in the block upon
which it was situated, enclosed by Washington,
Fayette, Warren and Salina streets, and so continued
for many years. A portion of the remainder of the
square was occasionally used for the purpose of the



peripatetic shows of that day. This spot was called
a common or goose pasture.

This church building, though at first located
somewhat out of the village, afterwards, with the
growth of the village, became centrally located; and
it was often used for important public meetings, as
there were no public halls in which the people could
be accommodated. Suspended in the belfry was the
bell, which in those days sounded the alarm of fire,
the call to church and the funeral knell. It was then
the custom to strike upon the bell the number of
years of the age of the deceased as soon as the spirit
had departed, as was generally observed in all
country villages. The Fourth of July gatherings
were for many years held in this building. It was
also customary to read from the pulpit notices of
important meetings and transactions, and, among
others, was read annually for many years from the
pulpit of this church, the necrological record for the
previous year. These death notices were usually
read on the first Sunday in January.

The certificate of the incorporation of this church
society, as recorded in the County Clerk's office, was
executed and recorded December 22, 1824, before
David S. Colvin, a Commissioner, etc. This docu-
ment says that at a meeting of the members of the
Presbyterian Society in the village of Syracuse, in
the town of Salina, December 14, 1824, held at the


school house, Moses D. Burnet and Miles Seymour
were chosen to preside; and that the society was
named "First Presbyterian Society in the village of
Syracuse." These seven Trustees were elected by
"pluralities of voices" : Joshua Forrnan, Moses D.
Burnet, Heman Walbridge, Miles Seymour, Rufus
Moss, Joseph Slocum and Jonathan Day.

Another record in the County Clerk's office shows
that at an election ' ' holden " at the Presbyterian
meeting house, January 10, 1827, the society was
reincorporated, ' ' the incorporation being dissolved
by means of a neglect to exercise the powers necessary
for its preservation." The following were chosen
Trustees: Jonathan Day, Moses D. Burnet, Joseph
Slocum, George Hooker, Stephen W. Cadwell, Elbert
Norton and John Wall. The acknowledgment to
this certificate of reincorporation contains the follow-
ing clause: "I certify that on the 26th day of
January, 1827, came before me Frederick Phelps and
Edward Chapman, to me known to be the within
grantors, and acknowledged that they executed the
within. David S. Colvin, a Commissioner, etc."
It might be added that at the annual meeting of this
church society, held January 1st, 1894, a resolution
was passed, authorizing an application to the Court
to change the name to The First Presbyterian Society
of Syracuse.

According to the first church manual, published


by J. M. Patterson in 1835, the church, edifice was
built in the summer of 1825, and dedicated in January
of 1820. The Rev. Dirck C. Lansing, D. D., of
Auburn Theological Seminary, who had formerly
been the first pastor of the " United Church of Onon-
daga Hollow and Salina," from 1810 to 1814, preached
the dedication sermon. The church was organized
April 6, 1826, by a committee from the Onondaga
Presbytery, consisting of the following gentlemen:
Ministers, Hezekiah N. Woodruff, Hutchins Taylor,
Ralph Cushman, Washington Thatcher; Elders, Dr.
Joseph W. Brewster, William Eager, Harry Mose-
ley. Frederick Phelps and Edward Chapman were
elected Elders, and Pliny Dickinson, Deacon, at that
time. The society consisted, at its formation, of the
following twenty-six members: Frederick Phelps,
Edward Chapman, Pliny Dickinson, Rufus Moss,
J. W. Hanchett, Jonathan Day, Archibald L. Fel-
lows, Agrippa Martin, Benoni Stilson, Samuel Mead,
Anna Phelps, Florilla Chapman, Melinda Kasson,
Harriet Newton, Margaret Hanchett, Theodosia
Wall, Deborah Webb, Olive Pease, Catharine Mar-
ble, Nancy Toogood, Eliza Parsons, Eve Van Buren,
Elizabeth Cummings, Julia Northani, Mary A.
Huntington, Sarah Norton.

When the church edifice was dedicated, in Janu-
ary, 1820, Dr. Lansing brought with him the Rev.
John Watson Adams, at that time engaged in theo-


logical studies at Auburn Seminary. Mr. Adams
was then thirty years of age. The society invited
the young clergyman to preach a few sermons, with
a view to settlement, at a salary of $600 per year.
Mr. Adams accepted the invitation, and the result
was that he was ordained and installed pastor of the
church June 28, 1826. He was the first pastor of
this church, and he sustained this relation uninter-
ruptedly till his decease, April 4, 1850, in the fifty-
fourth year of his age.

Dr. Adams, for he had been honored with the
degree of D. D., is remembered with the kindest
feelings by his congregation and associates, as he was
a man of scholarly attainments, warm friendships,
in spite of the occasional coldness of his exterior, and
a preacher whose views of divine truth were lucid,
comprehensive and sound. The character of this
remarkable man, combined with acumen and strength
of intellect and the higher qualities of moral virtue, a
peculiar native diffidence and self-distrust. In his
labors among the people of this city, where the whole
life of his manhood was spent, he was successful and
highly useful, fully meeting, in this regard, the
anticipations and predictions of his earliest friends.

Dr. Adams commenced a history of Onondaga
County, and he was for several years engaged upon
the work, with a view of ultimate publication;
but his parochial duties and other uncontrollable


circumstances interposed, and the idea was abandoned.
His material, however, was used and acknowledged
by Joshua V. H. Clark in writing "Clark's Onon-

In the early days, when the Calvinistic teachings
prevailed more extensively than in these progressive
days, the people were bound by strict religious
observances. At a meeting of the First Presbyterian
Church and Society, held March 31, 1835, certain
rules and regulations were unanimously adopted and
ordered to be printed as an appendix to the articles
of faith of the church. The first rule was: "We
regard the Sabbath as holy time, and all profanations
of it, by walking or riding out for pleasure, journey-
ing, or engaging in other secular employments, un-
less when compelled so to do by the paramount claims
of mercy, as a violation of our covenant engagements.
Therefore, resolved unanimously, that the Session of
this church be requested to make such violations a
subject of discipline."

There were some exceptions to this prevailing cus-
tom, as is shown in the following entry from the Sun-
day school minute book, under date of March 16, 1831 :
" Last night was the great conflagration of our vil-
lage. Blocks 03 and 94, and the one on the opposite
side of the canal, being the great centre of business,
were entirely consumed. All are engaged in saving
their property, and there is no church or Sabbath


A form of covenant was adopted, March 31, 1835.
After the great powder explosion, a relief meeting was
held in the church, August 23, 1841, at which $2,800
was raised at once for the benefit of the victims. On
January 5, 1816, steps were taken for the erection of
a new church edifice; and on June 28, 1846, the build-
ing was commenced on the opposite side of Fayette
street, on the site now occupied by the present church
edifice. The original church site was a gift from the
Syracuse Company. Many thought at the time that
it was too far away from the village, and much com-
plaint was made of the mud encountered in going to
the services. At that time, thirty-three feet on the
north side of the canal, where most of the people had
settled, could have been purchased for thirty dollars
per foot ; but the trustees thought the price too high.
The new and present site was purchased at a cost of
$10,000, and the following building committee was
appointed: Henry Gifford, Elias W. Leavenworth,
Thomas B. Fitch, Zebulon Ostrum and Albert A.
Hudson. The services of the celebrated architect,
Lefever, were solicited, and plans were submitted by
him of the noble edifice which has so long ornamented
the centre of the city. The church was erected at a
cost of about $40,000; and $10,000 has been since ex-
pended upon it. The new edifice was completed and
first services were held therein November 24, 1850.
It was dedicated two days thereafter.


The old church property was purchased by Heury
A. Dillaye, who erected upon that site a handsome
five-story block, at that time by far the finest build-
ing in Salina street. The block covered the entire lot,
and it was then thought to be too far from the centre
of business to be profitable for leasing ; but the in-
vestment proved to be a good one. The building was
burned in 1855, and was rebuilt the following year.

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Online LibraryGurney S StrongEarly landmarks of Syracuse → online text (page 12 of 22)