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... History of Oswego County, New York online

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cessfully resisted, and, in the spring of 1817, a law author-
izing the construction of a canal was passed, the work being
commenced soon after. These proceedings dispelled the
dream of those who had expected the whole commerce of
the west to pass up the Oswego river. The dwellers on
its shores saw that to get even a share of that commerce
they must be connected with the great artery of the State,
and soon began to take measures to that end.

One event, which tended to revive their hopes of a great
lake-commerce, occurred this same spring. One fine day
the whole population of the little village of Oswego — men,
women, and children — poured out into the streets and
hurried towards the wharf

" It's come ! She's come ! There she is ! See her
come ! Hurrah ! Now we will have some business ! Good
gracious, what a smoke !" such were the mingled exclama-
tions of surprise and pleasure which broke from the lips of
the excited people as they crowded down to the river.

The cause was to be sought in an object out on the lake,
the like of which perhaps not one of the spectators had
ever before seen. Coming from the northeast, and heading
directly towards the harbor, was a large vessel, moving
rapidly without sails or oars, while from a tall pipe rolled a
huge column of smoke. It was the first steamboat west of
the Hudson. It had been built the year before at Sackett's
Harbor by General Brown, Commodore Woolsey, and other
prominent men of that vicinity, had a capacity of four hun-
dred tons, and had been christened the " Ontario," in honor
of the great lake which it was to navigate.

As it came up to the wharf the most extravagant mani-
festations of joy were indulged in by the people, who thought
the steam-boat would certainly beat the canal-boat, and
bring the whole wealth of the west directly to their
wharves. In fact, they were so excited over this new
wonder that they kept up their rejoicings with beating of
drums and blazing bonfires all night long, and until the
steamer departed the next morning. The steamer " Fron-
tenac" was built at Kingston, Canada, the ensuing season,
and ere long a vessel of that kind was no wonder on Lake

We may note in passing that the first term of the com-
mon pleas for the eastern jury district, being the second
in the county, was held on the 4th of February, 1817, at
the school-house in the fourth school-district of Richland
(Pulaski), with Barnet Mooney, the new first judge, pre-
siding, assisted by Judges Hugunin and Dunlap. Jamss
F. Wight, Joseph Pynchon Rosseter, Thomas C. Chitten-
den, Benjamin Wright, and Daniel Wardwell were ad-
mitted to the bar ; most of them (except Wright) being
doubtless outsiders who were already practitioners. It was
provided by law that circuit courts or courts of oyer and
terminer need not be held in the new county until the
circuit judges should decide that it was necessary, and none
were held for several years.

An event which occurred at Oswego in the winter of
1817-18 is curiously illustrative of the manners of the
period. Two Scotchmen, named McDonald and Campbell,
had a quarrel about the wife of the latter. Campbell's
jealousy at length became so great that he challenged Mo-
Donald to fight a duel. The latter accepted, and chose rifles
as the weapons. Each invited a friend to act as second,
but dueling was under the ban of the law, and not at all
popular ; so the persons invited declined to act. Mr. Wil-
liam Squires, who was asked by McDonald to be his sec-
ond, refused, but conquered his scruples sufficiently to lend
his rifle to the duelist.

Being unable to find seconds, the principals determined
to get along without them. The duel came ofi' in due
time, and what distinguishes it from most combats of that
nature was that it was fought on the ice. The field of
battle was on the Oswego river, a little above the mouth,
and near the east side, about in front of where the marine
elevator now stands. At the appointed time, which had
become generally known, a large crowd of men was as-
sembled on the bank, who, though none of them were
disposed to take part in the fight themselves, were all
perfectly willing it should proceed.

The principals had necessarily made their own arrange-
ments, according to which they marked two lines on the
ice ten rods apart. Midway between these lines the
enemies took their places, back to back, with their rifles
at a "carry." When both were ready, they started by
mutual consent, marched steadily to their respective lines,
and faced about. When both were faced, Campbell lifted
his rifle and fired, McDonald following an instant later.
The latter remained unharmed, but Campbell dropped as
if shot through the heart. On examination, however, it
was found that he had only received a fle.sli wound in the

McDonald hid for a short time, and left for parts un-
known. Campbell, too, soon recovered from his wound,
and made his way to Canada ; but what became of the fair
Helen of this Oswego Iliad history saith not. This battle
on ice was the last display of old-fashioned chivalry within
the limits of Oswego County.

The year 1818 was distinguished for the erection of three
towns. On the 28th of February, Orwell was formed from
Richland ; including within its boundaries the present towns
of Orwell and Boylston. On the 20th of April, the towns
of Oswego and Granby were formed from Hannibal. They


li;id nearly tbe same boundaries as now, but the dividing
line was a little farther north, so that a small part of the
jircsent Granby was then in Oswego, which also included
all of the present city on the west side of the river.

lu the summer of 1818, two court-houses were begun at
both Oswego and Pulaski. The one at the former was a
wooden building of very moderate dimensions, designed for
a court-house alone, while that at was a substantial
wooden structure, of which the lower part was intended for
a jail. The buildings were not completed till a year or two

The eastern portion of the canal was now being rapidly
constructed. The Oswego peojile, as well as many others,
were anxious to turn it down to Oswego, and not construct
the western part, — the "hole for the little cat." Failing
in that, the Oswegonians wanted a branch canal from Syra-
cuse down the Oswego river to its mouth. Mr. Bronson,
being at that time the principal merchant and leading
citizen of the county, made fref|uent journeys to Albany in
the interest of his locality. He had not then acquired the
facility with his pen for which he was afterwards noted, but
he furnished a large portion of the facts and arguments
from which S. B. Beach, Esq., and Dr. Walter Colton wrote
pamphlets on the subject.

With a supply of Colton 's pamphlets, Mr. B. went to
Albany, and so impressed the leading friends of the Erie
canal that they obtained an appropriation of twenty-five
thousand dollars for the improvement of the Oswego river.
This was not what was wanted, but was accepted for the
time as a preparatory step towards a branch canal. No
action, however, was taken under the law.

The number of inhabitants in Oswego County by the
census of 1820 was twelve thousand three hundred and
sixty-four. By this time the county had begun to lose its
primitive appearance. A few frame houses had taken the
place of log houses on some of the main roads. The log
school-house at the four corners was, in a few localities, re-
placed by the red frame familiar to the memories of the
present generation. The convenient windlass was some-
times substituted for the picturesque well-sweep, but the
pump was still unknown in the farmer's yard. The clear-
ings had increased rapidly since the war, but even in the
western part of the county there were often many miles of
road to be seen bordered by woods on both sides, and in
the eastern portion the forest held its own with still more
tenacity. Besides Oswego, several little hamlets had begun
to look village-like, — such as Pulaski, Mexico, Fulton, and
Constantia, but there was still not a .solitary church edifice
in the county. The deer still coursed in large numbers
through the woods, and the salmon ascended the .streams
in immense shoals.

Mr. William Squires tells of chasing a door on to the ice
of Lake Ontario, near Oswego, about this time, and fol-
lowing it with his dogs out of .sight of land, until at length
his four-footed assistants caught the fugitive, and brought
it, not to the earth, but to the ice. Mr. Cross, of Pulaski,
relates how, when he was a youngster, in his father's saw-
mill, on Trout brook, in the town of Albion, the salmon
u.sed to come up and collect below the dam in great

Online LibraryCrisfield. cn Johnson... History of Oswego County, New York → online text (page 18 of 120)