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Whig paper. He returned to Syracuse and resumed
the editorship of his former paper, which is now
called the Svracuse Journal. In the fall of 184(>, lie


was elected County Clerk, and served for three years.
He was appointed by Governor Clark in 1855, Super-
intendent of the Onondaga Salt Springs, which office
he held for ten years. In 1873, he was appointed
Canal Appraiser by Governor John A. Dix. Mr.
Smith married, in 1832, Caroline Earll, the daughter
of Jonas Earll, jr., of Onondaga Hill, by whom he had
one son, Carroll E. Smith. His wife died in April,
1835. In 1839, he married Theodora Morey, daughter
of David Morey of Syracuse, by whom he had three
children: Fillmore M., Seward V. and Florence A.
Mr. Smith died in 1881.



The three-story brick building on the northwestern
corner of West Genesee and North Clinton streets,
part of which has now been torn down so as to widen
North Clinton street, was considered a very handsome
building in- the early days. It was known as the
Dana House, having been built by Deacon Daniel
Dana, but its correct title was the City Boarding
House. The residence part at the west of the building
was connected with the eastern part, under which
were the stores, and the whole was used for a
fashionable boarding house. Indeed, it was the most
fashionable boarding and lodging house in the city.
In the angle at the extreme eastern part of the
building, which was cut away when North Clinton
street was widened in 1858, there was a small building-
used for a blacksmith shop and various offices. An
account of this landmark will recall the names of
several men who were once prominent in the history
of Syracuse.


a KSs

THE CITY BOARDING HOUSE.— From a recent photograph.


The land whereon the building- stands was originally
part of the Walton Tract, which was purchased in
1814 for $9,000 by Forman, Wilson & Company,
composed of Joshua Forman, Ebenezer Wilson, jr.,
and John B. Creed. Forman & Wilson kept a country
store in Onondaga Valley. Mr. Creed married Mr.
Forman's daughter Mary, who, after her husband's
death, became the wife of Moses D. Burnet. About
the time of this purchase, Forman, Wilson & Com-
pany built and started a large slaughter house and
packing establishment in a grove north of Church
street (now West Willow street), where a large busi-
ness was done till 1817. During the latter part of the
war of 1812 they filled contracts for the army. It
was their ambition to found a city on the present site
of Syracuse. But misfortune overtook them ; for the
Walton Tract was sold by the Sheriff, Jonas Earll,
jr., October 26, 1818, to Daniel Kellogg and William
H. Sabin, for $10,915, to satisfy a claim of $10,000,
(reduced from $15,000,) against Joshua Forman by
the Bank of America of New York, and a claim of
$452.62 against the firm by the Ontario Bank of
Canandaigua." Messrs. Kellogg and Sabin sold the
two western lots, April 1, 1824, for $350 to William
Mead, a tailor, and Zina Denison, a wagon maker,
both of Onondaga. They sold the property to Seth K.
Akin, of the town of Salina, June 17, 1824, for $850.
On November 26, 1830, Mr. Akin, then of New


Bedford, Mass., sold the property to Daniel Dana
for $1,300.

Mr. Dana came to the village of Syracuse about
1824 from Albany, originally from New England, and
was for a year or two employed as paymaster by the
Syracuse Salt Company. He then opened a small
grocery and grain store in the block standing where
the Clinton block now stands, on the southwestern
corner of West Genesee and North Clinton streets.
There he continued in business for several years, till
his brother, Major Dana, came here and joined him,
under the firm name of D. & M. Dana. That firm
built the block of three stores on the northwestern
corner of Warren and East Water streets, where for
several years they successfully carried on one of the
largest grain and country stores in this section of the
State. Their principal competitor was Joseph Slo-
cum, who was one of the three Assessors for the
village during the years 1828-'29-'44 and '45, and who
was the father of Mrs. Russell Sage of New York

Mr. Dana, or, as he was generally called, Deacon
Dana, built his residence on the property he pur-
chased from Mr. Akin in 1830. This location was
then considered the best in the village. Several of
the prominent citizens resided in the neighborhood.
This brick dwelling house was very grand and stylish
in its day, especially as it was ornamented with an


iron railing around the front stone steps. This iron
work was made by Joseph I. Bradley, an uncle to
Christopher C. and Waterman C. Bradley, and it was
the first work of that kind used in the village. And
it was considered surprising as well as extravagant in
Deacon Dana that he should build such a fine house,
as he was very simple in his habits and not given to
expensive outlay of money. But though the Deacon
was a close business man, good at driving a bargain
and careful in expenditures, he was a pompous little
man, always well dressed in the black swallow-tail
commonly worn by the gentlemen of those days ; and
he carried a gold-handled cane with much dignity of
manner. He was a nervous man, always ready for
an argument, a close student of the Bible, possessed
of a large acquaintance throughout the State, and he
was a prominent member of the First Presbyterian
Church. He was an enterprising, capable business
man, though during the last few years of his life he
became rather eccentric. Mr. Dana does not appear
to have held any public office, excepting that he was
an elector for James K. Polk in 1844. He was a
Democrat of the old school and a strong party man.
He was an applicant for the postmastership of the
village at that time, but the office was given to Col.
William W. Teall, who served from 1845 to 1849.

On July 8, 1824, Messrs. Kellogg and Sabin sold
the two eastern lots for $250 to Daniel Hawks, jr., of


Hannibal, Oswego county. On March 18, 1829, Mr.
Hawks, then of the town of Clay, sold the property
for $1,025 to Dr. David S. Colvin, a prominent Dem-
ocrat, who sold it to John B. Ives, December 5, 1835,
for $3,400. Mr. Ives was a very successful contractor,
building railroads and canals, and he resided at James-
ville. His widow, Mrs. Ann Eliza Ives, daughter of
B. Davis Noxon, is now living at the Empire House.
The property was sold by Peter Outwater, jr., one of
the Masters in Chancery, whose daughter married
Andrew D. White, ex-President of Cornell University,
on the claim of John Y. L. Pruyn, a prominent citizen
of Albany, to Daniel Dana, September 25, 1845, for

Deacon Dana then erected the brick building, un-
usually large and handsome for those days, and, con-
necting it with his dwelling house, rented it to David
B. Blakely, who kept the City Boarding House. Mr.
Blakely and all his family were very musical, and
he frequently gave concerts. He was succeeded by
James A. Durnford, who for s^reral years kept the
boarding house. Some of the older and prominent
residents of this city boarded at that fashionable place.

Deacon Dana, after dissolving partnership with his
brother, Major, occupied the two stores for his grain
and grocery business. But because of his failing
health, his business was not as thriving as formerly.
His eccentricities took a religions turn, and he would


appeal to his friends to make repentance of their sins
and prepare for the hereafter. His kindly and court-
eous, though pompous, manners remained with him
to the last. He died at his residence December 21,
1858, aged sixty-seven years, and he was buried at
Rose Hill cemetery. Owing to the infirmities of his
afflicted widow the funeral was held at the First Bap-
tist Church, which was near by, the services being con-
ducted by the Rev. Dr. Sherman B. Canfield, pastor
of the First Presbyterian Church. Major Dana lived
several years thereafter. He is remembered as a care-
ful, methodical business man, though, in his later
years, much given to buying large quantities of mis-
cellaneous goods sold at public auction.

The entire property was sold November 6, 1858, to
John Ritchie for $11,500. Mr Ritchie was a partner
with David Leslie, as Ritchie & Leslie, and they kept
a very fine grocery in Robbers' Row, being succeeded
by D. & J. Leslie. Mr. Ritchie then retired from
active business, though he kept the open sheds for
farmers, on nearly the opposite side of the street,
which business is now carried on by his son, John
Ritchie. His daughter is the wife of Wilbur S. Peck.
The property has since changed hands, part of it being
sold to the city in widening North Clinton street.

Deacon Dana had no children. His brother, Major
Dana, who survived him several years, is survived by
a daughter, Mrs. Mary Dana Hicks, widow of Charles


Hicks, who was a promising young attorney. Mrs.
Hicks was a teacher of drawing in the public schools ;
and it was her work in this department that brought
her to the attention of L. Prang & Company, fine
art publishers of Boston, Mass. She is an artist of
considerable ability, and she has charge of an art
department in Prang's art works in Boston, living in
Cambridge, Mass.

THE WETGH-LOCK HOUSE— From a recent photograph.



One of the old landmarks of this city, and one of
which little has been written, is the weigh-lock house
at the foot of Market street on East Water street and
on the heel-path side of the Erie canal. The house,
a low, long, dingy-looking brick building, was erected
by the State for the enlargement of the Erie Canal.
The contract was awarded to William D. Champlain,
James Thorn and Edward Fuller, and it was dated
September 28, 1849. Champlain and Thorn did the
mason work and Fuller was the carpenter. The con-
tract price was $7,950 with $333.37 as items of extra
work, making the final estimate $8,283.37. These
accounts were settled November 19, 1850, so that the
building was doubtless completed by that time.

The house stands to-day practically in the same
condition as when erected, excepting that improve-
ments were made in the winter of 1892 to the interior
of the second floor, where the Superintendent of the
Middle Division, the Superintendent of Section No.



6, the Division Engineer, and the Resident Engineer
have their offices. The first floor with the weigh-
lock on the north side facing the canal presents a
romantic, picturesque appearance ; and it is here that
the Canal Collector and his assistant have their
offices. The Inspector of Boats also has his office on
this floor.

The year of 1893 was one of the most prosperous
seasons known in several years by the boatmen, es-
pecially on the Erie canal. By far the greater part
of the merchandise transported by the canal consists
of grain, stone, clay, lumber, coal and iron and other
ores. The best year on all the canals was in 18G8,
when the total movement of articles amounted to
$305,301,920, representing 6,442,225 tons of freight.
The amount of produce cleared from Syracuse during
the season of 1824, four years after the middle section
of the canal was first opened for navigation, was
12,065 barrels of flour, 2,802 barrels of provisions,
2,565 barrels of ashes, 76,031 barrels of salt and
64,240 bushels of wheat; and the amount of toll
received at the Syracuse office during that season was
$18,491.58. It will be seen that the village of Syra-
cuse as early as 1824 was not only a shipping point
for salt, the most important product, but also for
wheat and flour. This was a prosperous wheat-pro-
ducing county in the early days, and there was some
thriving flour mills in the vicinity of Syracuse. Since


1883, tolls have been abolished on the canals, by
amendment to the State Constitution at the preced-
ing fall election. During the year of 1893, ending
September 30, the appropriations from the State for
constructing and improvements in the middle division
of the Erie canal were $209,300, showing that con-
tinued and large expenditures are being made on
this great and important regulator of railroad freight

The former Canal Collector's office stood between
the bridges spanning the junction of the Erie and
Oswego canals. A foundation of hewn timber was
laid upon "Goose Island" on the north side of the
towing-path, and upon this was erected a small frame
house, which was designated as the Canal Collector's
office. Dr. David S. Colvin was the Collector in 1824,
and he employed Benjamin C. Lathrop and B. F.
Colvin as clerks in his office. The old weigh-lock was
completed that year. It was built upon an entirely
different plan from the one now followed ; the weight
of the boat being determined by measuring the quan-
tity of water it displaced. Deacon Thomas Spencer
then owned and occupied the old boat yard near the
Oswego canal. This boat yard, afterwards owned by
John Durston and now the site of the Durston block,
corner of James and Warren streets, was then con-
sidered out of town, the easiest approach being by
the tow-path. But it was convenient to both the Erie


and Oswego canals, the principal part of the business
consisting in building and repairing the canal boats.

In 1824, soon after the completion of the Erie
canal through Syracuse, it was thought necessary to
have a basin where boats could run in and be out of
the way of navigation. It was decided to locate the
basin in what is now the western part of the present
weigh-lock and extending south half-way to Washing-
ton street, taking in the former site of the old Market
Hall, now the northern portion of the City Hall. As
there was no current in the water that was in the
basin, the place became a miserable, nasty hole ; and
it was the dread of all the inhabitants, because it
tainted and infected the whole atmosphere with

A little low frame building stood on the bank of
the basin partly hid by the bushes that grew in great
profusion in that region. Joseph Thompson kept a
small grocery in the building, and derived most of his
custom from the canal boatmen by furnishing them
with supplies. A small barn stood on the south side
of the basin, with a path on one side leading into it,
which was used as a watering place for cattle and
horses. In those days there was a large number of
scow-boats used to transport wood for the salt blocks.
They were not in use more than half of the time, and
this basin, or frog pond, as it was called, became
filled with these unsightly craft. Many of them


were neglected and sunk to the bottom, and they
were afterwards found by the workmen in excavating
near the present City Hall.

It was not until 1845 that the final abolition of this
old canal basin, long regarded as a necessary evil, was
accomplished, and the erection of a public market
building on its site carried out. It was a project
which had been discussed three years. The plan was
to erect a building with market stalls on the ground
floor, which were to be leased for the sale of provis-
ions, as had been and is the practice in New York and
other cities; and a commodious hall was to be pro-
vided on the second floor. The location of this new
market was the subject of numerous and warm dis-
cussions, but the place finally selected was between
Montgomery and Market streets, where the canal basin
had long existed as a nuisance, the cost of the land
being $5,000.

After the completion of the building, and to over-
come the seeming reluctance on the part of some of
the market-men to give up their former place of bus-
iness for the market stalls, a paper was drawn up
which the leading dealers signed, agreeing to try the
new plan. This was in March, 1846. The stalls were
accordingly taken and lavishly provided with meats,
and the square in front of the building was the daily
resort of farmers' teams for the sale of various kinds
of produce. It all looked well, quite metropolitan,


but it did not pay. Customers did not like it and
neither did the rival dealers, and the project was soon
abandoned. But the public hall was a great conven-
ience, and in it was transacted for many years all the
public business; and it was often occupied for other
purposes. It will be remembered that the market
place was convenient for public out-of-door gatherings
when distinguished visitors were in town. General
Scott in 1852 reviewed the military companies of the
city in front of the City Hall and there made an
address. In the same year an elaborate stand was
erected on this square for the reception of Louis

It is perhaps a singular coincidence that the first
movement in the Halls of Legislation, relative to the
Erie canal, was made by a member from Onondaga,
Joshua Forman ; that the first exploration was made
by an engineer of Onondaga, James Geddes; that the
first contract was given to, and the first ground broken
by a contractor, John Richardson, who had been sev-
eral years a resident of Onondaga ; and all of whom
had been judges of Onondaga's county courts and
members of the Legislature from Onondaga county.
Mr. Forman introduced the great project in the Leg-
islature in 1808 ; Mr. Geddes submitted to the Surveyor
General his report of three different routes for con-
structing the Erie canal in 1809.

The first contract, given to John Richardson of


Cayuga, was dated June 27, 1817, and the remaining
part of the whole middle section was under contract
very soon thereafter; and on the 4th of July follow-
ing, the excavation was commenced at Rome with
appropriate ceremonies. In 1819 the middle section,
from Utica to Seneca river including a lateral canal
to Salina, about ninety-four miles, was reported by
Governor Clinton in his annual message of 1820, as
completed. By the opening of this portion of the
canal the resources of Onondaga were more fully
ascertained and developed. And finally, November
1, 1825, a period of only eight years and four months,
it was proclaimed to the world that the waters of Lake
Erie were connected with those of the Hudson river
without one foot of portage, through one of the longest
canals in the world ; and the cost, according to the
books of the Comptroller, including the Champlain
canal, was $8,273,122.06. After the canal was com-
pleted, all things were ready and the water was let in.
For a long time it would not flow further west on the
Syracuse level than the stone bridge, now called the
swing bridge, at the junction of Salina and Genesee
streets, as the water all disappeared in a bed of loose
ground. Many despaired of ever making the canal
tight; but after a deal of perplexity this place was
stopped and the water run on to the Raynor block,
northwestern corner of West Water and Franklin
streets, and there performed the same freak, and it
was several weeks before this level could be filled.


If the canal benefitted the people of Onondaga,
the men of Onondaga were principal promoters of the
undertaking in all its incipient steps. Two men of
Onondaga labored faithfully and effectually through-
out; Judge Geddes as an able engineer, Judge Forman
as an unwavering promoter of the canal's utility.
These two men furnished more solid information
relative to the canal than all others put together.
Till they took hold of it, the whole matter was con-
sidered by most men but an idle dream, a delusion, a
false, unfeasible project. Oliver Teall was appointed
the first Superintendent on the Erie canal, and Joshua
Forman, the first Collector; office at Syracuse.

The weigh-lock at Syracuse and the one at Troy
are the only ones along the Erie canal that are now
in good condition and capable of weighing the canal
boats. Since the canals are now free there is no
necessity of weighing the cargoes for the purpose of
collecting the tolls ; but this weigh-lock is very useful
in finding the weight of cargoes for the benefit of the
canal captain, the shipper and the purchaser.

The weight of each canal boat is registered in the
Collector's office. When the weight of the cargo is
desired, the boat is run into the slip, directly in the
rear of the weigh-lock house. The gates are then
closed and the water in the slip is taken out through
a tunnel which runs under the canal and into Onon-
daga creek, near the High School building. The


boat then rests upon a cradle, suspended by strong
beams from above, and it rests high and dry, just as
ships do when placed in a dry dock. The weight of
the cargo is then easily ascertained by means of fine
scales used for that purpose. This weigh-lock is also
used when repairs are necessary to be done on a dis-
abled boat; and if it were not for this weigh-lock,
there would be no place along the canal where such
repairs could be done. And if it were not for this
weigh-lock, acting as a dry dock, the disabled boats
would, of necessity, sink into the canal, thus ob-
structing further travel along this great water way.
In the early days travel in the packet boats and in
the line boats, which also carried freight, was quite
popular and common. But it was slow traveling and
far from pleasant if the journey was a long one, since
the continued scraping of the towing line, the bump-
ing of the boat against the sides of the canal, and the
noise of the horses which were also quartered in the
boat, interfered with the passenger's slumbering and
prevented him from enjoying pleasant dreams. The
canals met a serious competition in transporting both
passengers and freight when the. railroads came into
use. The Syracuse and Utica railroad went into oper-
ation July 3, 1839 ; the Auburn and Syracuse Railroad
in 1841 ; and the Oswego and Syracuse, October, 18-48.
But the speed of these early railroads was very slow
as compared with the rapid transit of to-day. The


maximum speed was about fifteen miles an hour, with
an average of from seven to ten.

The stage coach driver was slow in relinquishing
his profitable trade to either the packet boat or the
railway car. It is remembered that Jason C. Wood-
ruff, who afterwards filled the office of Mayor of Syra-
cuse, and who excelled all other stage drivers on the
road, would wheel up his coach-and-four, " as he cut
a clean 6 and swept a bold 8," in front of the Syracuse
House, and offer a wager that he could reach the end
of the journey quicker than either the railroad car or
the packet boat. But so great was his skill and so
excellent his horses that he had no takers. The stage
coach is now almost forgotten and the canals are
maintained mainly to regulate railroad freight rates ;
but there is no question but that the village of Syra-
cuse is the offspring of the Erie canal, and that the
villages of Onondaga Valley and Salina, by declining
to render material assistance to Judge Forman in his
canal undertaking, lost their golden opportunity.



The following are the ' ' Reminiscences of Syra-
cuse," from the personal recollections of Timothy C.
Cheney, compiled by Parish B. Johnson. These
reminiscences give a description of Syracuse in 1824,
and they were published in pamphlet form in 1857.
They are invaluable, since they contain almost the
only authentic records of Syracuse at that early date.
Very few of the pamphlets are now in existence. Mr.
Cheney was one of the earliest settlers in the village
of Syracuse, and he was intimately connected with
the business and history of the place, both as a village
and a city. His reminiscences give an account of the
most important local events that have transpired, and
brief sketches and anecdotes of several of the early
inhabitants : —

My father, with his family, came to this county
in the winter of 1811 and '12. This county then
formed part of the "Military Tract," and was the
residence of large numbers of Revolutionary soldiers,



who had obtained the land for their services in our
war for freedom. They were generally athletic, hardy
and energetic, and well fitted to settle a new country.

We lived on Onondaga East Hill about two years.
My brothers and myself went to school in an old log

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Online LibraryGurney S StrongEarly landmarks of Syracuse → online text (page 6 of 22)