Samuel W Durant.

History of Oneida County, New York : with illustrations and biographical sketches of some of its prominent men and pioneers online

. (page 50 of 192)
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Rome, and -carry a level along the road to the east end of Oneida
Lake, thence to the west end along the southern shore, and connect

t Life of Clinton. % March 15.

§ The French gentleman was Marc Isambort Brunei. ,



this love! with Onondaga Lake, thcnoe to the canal line, and thenoe
working east, laying sections on said line. This was acooraplished,
and nine miles were laid ofF into sections. Mr. Wright had in the
mean time carried a level along the canal line, and the commissionera
remarked that when his level had been carried to the place where
Mr. Geddes terminated his line, the levels of these two engineers,
whioh embraced a distance of nearly ode hundred miles, differed from
each other less than one inch and a half. This result exhibits in tbe
engineers a degree of care, skill, and precision never exceeded.

" The first contract, which was awarded to Judge John Richardson,
of Cayuga, was dated June 27, 1817. The remainder of the middle
section was put under contract soon after. The excavation was com-
menced at Rome, with appropriate ceremonies, July 4, 1817."

The place selected was a few rods west of the United
States Arsenal, and the honor of casting the first earth was
given to Hon. Joshua Hathaway.* Isaac Briggs, Esq., an
eminent mathematician, who had been employed by the
commissioners as an engineer, after procuring the necessary
instruments, was directed to operate between Utlca and

By an act of the Legislature passed June 19, 1812, the
commissioners were empowered to purchase the rights, in-
terests, and estate of the " Western Inland Lock Navigation
Company," and by a law passed April 15, 1817, the Supreme
Court was empowered to appoint a commission to appraise
its property. In pursuance of this authority, Richard
Varick, Nathaniel \V. Howell, William W. Woolsey,
Obadiah German, and Elisha Jenkins were named as such
commission. The amount paid was $152,7 18. 52. J

" Governor De Witt Clinton, in his annual message of
1820, reported 94 miles of the middle section, from Utica
to the Seneca Kiver, completed, including the lateral canal
to Salina."

The entire work was completed from Lake Erie to the
Hudson River on the 26th of October, 1825, having oc-
cupied eight years, three months, and twenty-two days
in building. The total cost, as given in the history of
Onondaga County, and including the Champlain Canal, was

According to the "State Gazetteer," published in 1872,
the cost of the Erie Canal was 87,143,789.86, and of the
Champlain Canal, $875,000.

The first boats used were said to have been those in use
on the Mohawk River, with walking-boards for poling.
The section from Utica to Montezuma was in use for several
years before the other portions.

That portion of the canal between Rome and Utica
was in navigable condition in the fall of 1819. On the
21 st of October the channel was filled with water from
the Oriskany Creek, and on the 22d the first boat made a
trip from Rome to Utica. It is described in Dr. Bagg's
work as an " elegant boat, constructed to carry passengers,
and was called the ' Chief Engineer,' in compliment to
Benjamin Wright. On the 23d, the Governor of the State
and the Board of Commissioners, attended by about seventy
ladies and gentlemen of Utica and vicinity, embarked upon
it to return to Rome. The embarkation took place amid

* The canal originally passed a half-mile south of Kome, but was
changed to its present location in 1844.
t Report of Commissioners, 1S18.
X State Civil List for 1874.

the ringing of bells, the roaring of cannon, and the loud
acclamations of thousands of spectators."

The following letter, written by a citizen of Utica, ap-
peared soon after in the Albany Dally Advertiser :

"The last two days have presented in this village a scene of the
liveliest interest; and I consider it among the privileges of my life to
have been present to witness it. On Friday afternoon I walked to
the head of the grand canal, the eastern extremity of which reaches
to within a very short distance of the village, and from one of the
slight and airy bridges which crossed it I had a sight which could not
but exhilarate and elevate the mind. The waters were rushing in from
the westward, and coming down their untried channel towards the sea.
Their course, owing to the absorption of the new banks of the canal,
and the distance they had to run from where the stream entered it^
was much slower than I had anticipated. They continued gradually
to steal along from bridge to bridge, and at first only epreoding over
the bed of the canal, imperceptibly rose and washed its sides with, a
gentle wave. It was dark before they reached the eastern extremity,
but at sunrise next morning they were on a level two feet and a half
deep throughout the whole distance of thirteen miles. The interest
manifested by the whole country as this new internal river rolled its
first waves through the State cannot be described. .You might sfee the
people running across the fields, climbing on trees and fences, and
crowding tbe bank of the canal to gaze upon the welcome sight. A
boat had been prepared at Rome, and as the waters came down the
canal you might mark their progress by that of this new ' Argo,' which
floated triumphantly along the Hellespont of the West, accompanied
by the shouts of the people, and having on her deck a military band.
At nine the next morning the bells began a merry peal, and the com-
missioners proceeded in carriages from Bagg's Hotel to the place of
embarkatioD. The Governor, accompanied by General Van Rensselaer,
Rev. Mr. Stansbury, of Albany, Rev. Mr. Blatohford, of Lansingburg,
Judge Miller, of Utica, Mr. HoUey, Mr, Seymour, Judge Wright, Colo-
nel Lansing, Mr. Childs, Mr. Clark, Mr. Bonner, and a large company
of their friends embarked, and were received'with the roll of the drum
and the shouts of a large multitude of spectators. The boat which
received them is built for passengers, is 61 feet in length, and 74 feet
in width, having two rising cabins of 14 feet each, with a fint deck
between them. In forty minutes the company reached Whitesboro*,
the boat being drawn by a single horse, which walked on the towing-
path, attached to a tow-rope about 60 feet long. The horse traveled
apparently with the utmost ease. The boat, though literally loaded
with passengers, drew but fourteen inches of water. A military band
played patriotic airs. From bridge to bridge, from village to village,
the procession was saluted with cannon, and every bell whose sound
could reach the canal swung as with instinctive life as it pas:^ed by.
At Whitesboro' a number of ladies embarked, and heightened by
their smiles a scene that wanted but this to make it complete."

The following paragraph is from one of the Utica papers
of that date: i . .

" Seldom has there been seen more heartfe't joy than was manifested
on this occasion J and the feelings of those who viewed the departure
from Utica of. this, the first boat which the patera of the canal had
ever borne, bordered on enthusiasm. All the way to the embankment
across the Sanquoit creek many hunJreds of spectators followed the
boat, and frequently filled the air with therr animating cheers. At
Whitesboro' the arrival was announscd by a national salute, and by
the cheers of the people assembled to witness the. scene. , After a sail
of a little more than four hours the boat arrived at Rome. It re-
mained at that place until a quarter past three, when it set out upon
its return, dnd arrived at Utica teii minutes before eight. 'This first
trial of the canal was highly gratifying, not only to the commissioners,
hut to all who beheld itj and if ever deep-felt gladness was exhibited,
it was in universal and full display throughout this excursion." , ,

In April, 1820, there was an excursion trip from Uiica
to Montezuma and return ; and on the 20th of May of
the same year two boats, the " Montezuma" and " Chief
Engineer," having on board Governor Clinton^ the canal
commissioners, and a large party from Utica and Whites-
boro', made, an excursion from Utlca to the Seneca River



and return. A procession of the citizens of Utica escorted
the distinguished guests to the boats, where the president
of the village, Mr. Snyder, made an address to the Gover-
nor, who replied on behalf of the commissioners.

On the 1st of June, 1820, " The Erie Canal Navigation
Company" announced that the canal was in operation for
the accommodation of passengers for a distance of 100 miles.
Boats left Utica every Monday and Thursday morning, at
nine o'clock, and arrived at Canastota at seven p.m. ; price
of passage, including board, four dollars. " A small advance
to be made when the toll and lockage are established. For
passage apply to Doolittle & Gould, or at the stage-office."

The Fourth of July was celebrated in that year by a
great gathering of people along the canal. The " Oneida
Chief," from Utica, and the " Montezuma," from Cayuga
Lake, met at Syracuse. Among the party from Utica was
the Governor. Many other boats were present, crowded with
people from every part of the country lying adjacent to the
canal. The celebration was held in an open field.

"About two o'clock," says the narrator, "the whole moved, in a
novel and imposing style of procession, to Salina ; the side canal le id-
ing to that place, one mile and a quarter in length, being covered with
about twenty boats of various sizes, all thickly crowded with as many
passengers as they could contain ; while those who could not thus be
accoiumodiitcd lined the banks, and, with the accompaniment of an
excellent band of music, exhibited a spectacle more interesting and
impressive than has ever, it is presumed, been exhibited in our country
on any occasion whatever."

The canal lengthened apace, and business increased. In
April, 1823, the Canal Navigation Company announced
that they had put on four new, spacious, and beautiful
boats, which were making regular trips between Utica and
Rochester. A boat started every day, Sundays excepted,
from Utica and Rochester, at six o'clock a.m., and made
the passage in forty-eight hours. Post-coaches ran from
Rochester to Lewiston, on the Niagara River, where pass-
engers arrived after a passage of three dat/s from Utica.
Both boats and coaches conveyed passengers from Utica
eastward. " The Western Passage-Boat Company" put in
operation a new line during this year, consisting of five
packet-boats, which left their termini every evening, and
made the trip in forty-five hours. In June, 1823, the canal
was opened between Utica and Schenectady, and a line of
" elegant packet-boats" was put on, which made the trip in
twenty-four hours. On the 8th of October, 1823, the canal
was opened from Rochester to Albany, and there was a
grand celebration at the latter city in honor of the event.
The western portion, from Rochester to Buffalo, was not
completed until about two years later.

It was expected that the completion of the canal would
prove injurious to the business of the Seneca Turnpike
Company; but the result was directly the contrary, for
although the heavy freighting business mostly departed to
the canal, yet the lighter travel increased to such an extent
that the company was able to make surplus dividends, equal
to their regular ones before the canal was completed. This
was a most remarkable result, when we consider that for a
distance of 112 miles the turnpike and canal ran parallel
to, and near, each other.

The canal was completed and water let into it at Black
Rock, on the 26th of October, 1825. The opening cere-

monies were as grand and impressive as could well be imag-
ined. Guns were planted along the canal at the distance
of a few miles apart, and fired in rapid succession, thus
announcing in the course of a very short time the com-
pletion of the great work, — one of the most important and
remarkable, considering the difficulties under which it was
constructed by the efforts of a single State, to be found in
the history of the world.

A flotilla, carrying Governor Clinton and officers of the
State Government, a committee of the Common Council of
the city of New York, and a numerous delegation from the
towns along the line of the canal, made the passage from
Lake Erie to New York City. The grand procession left
Buffalo on Wednesday morning, expecting to reach Utica
Saturday evening, but unforeseen causes delayed them until
Sunday noon. In the afternoon the delegation attended
the Presbyterian church.

On Monday morning the excursionists were received at
the court-house, in Utica, where Judge Ezakiel Bacon
delivered an address to Governor Clinton, to which he
replied in a happy and feeling manner. After the cere-
monies were over the company re-embarked and proceeded
on their voyage, everywhere hailed with the liveliest demon-
strations of enthusiasm. At Utica, in the evening, a species
of novel fire-works was exhibited, consisting of tar barrels
on fire floating on the surface of the canal.

According to Dr. Bagg, the number of boats arriving at
Albany in 1823 was 1329 ; in 1824, 2687 ; in 1825, 3336 ;
and in 1826, nearly 7000.

The construction of the lateral canals from time to time
has added largely to the growth of business, and, notwith-
standing the vast railway competition, the canal still holds
its own, and is acknowledged by all to be a great necessity ;
and while the immense grain exports of the northwest con-
tinue, it must remain a great thoroughfare for the trans-
portation of the bulkier articles of merchandise and grain.
For names of persons who have filled positions in the canal
department from Oneida County, see " Oneida Civil List,"
Chapter XVII. of this work.

The principal promoters of this great work were Judges
James Geddes and Joshua Forman, of Onondaga County,
Judge Jonas Piatt and Hon. Henry Seymour, of Oneida,
and Governor De Witt Clinton, who labored unceasingly
through all the long years during which it was in course
of construction, and against all opposition, until they be-
held their efforts crowned with success, and one of the most
remarkable artificial works in the world put into successful

About 35 miles of this canal are in the county of Oneida,
and are included in the long level from Utica to Syracuse.
A lateral canal was constructed from Higginsville on the
Erie Canal to Wood Creek, and thence down that stream
by slack-water navigation two and one-fourth miles (o
Oneida Lake, at a cost of $64,837.68 ; but it was allowed
to fall into decay, and is not now in use excepting about
one mile of it, running to the stone quarries in the town
of Verona.. Its total length including the creek was six
miles, and the descent 56 feet. By an act passed May 16,
1867, a new canal was ordered built from Durhamviile to
Oneida Lake, five and three-tenths miles in length. This



canal has six locks of the same size as those of the en-
larged Erie Canal. The whole cost of the work has been
$416,000. This latter work is in Madison County, and
follows the left bank of Oneida Creek.

As originally constructed, the Erie Canal was 363 miles
in len>»th, 40 feet wide at the top, 28 feet at the bottom,
and 4 feet deep. The locks were 90 feet in length and 15
feet wide. The total lockage (rise and fall) was 645} feet.

An enlargement was ordered by an act of May 11, 1835,
and the work was commenced in August, 1836, and com-
pleted in September, 1862, at a cost of $36,495,535. The
length as enlarged is 350} miles. Its average dimensions
are 70 feet at the surface, 52} feet at the bottom, and 7
feet deep. The chambers of the enlarged locks are 110 by
18 feet, and their lift from 3 to 15} feet. The total lock-
age is 654.8 feet. Capacity of boats, from 210 to 240 tons.
Capacity of boats on the original canal, 70 to 76 tons.

In this connection we introduce a subscription raised in
Utica for the construction of a basin at that point, with
the subscribers' names attached. The document is from the
papers of Hon. Morris S. Miller :

Mepsrs. Blceker, Dudley,

Millur, nnd Brinkerhuff $4500

Samuel Stocking 200

J. C. <t N. Devereux 200

Asnhol Snvard 300

Gerrit Smith 500

W. Williams 160

M. Hunt 200

M. Combe 200

Orcn Clark 100

Elun Andrews ]U0

Mo.«e8 Bagg 100

E. P. Shearuinn 75

Hugh Williams 50

JoDftthan Ball 50

Jos. S. Porter 50

John Williams 50

Geo. J. Uop])er 50

J. II. Hubbard 50

HubboU 4 Whipple 60

Kzekiel Bacnn 50

J. H. Ostroin 35

Thomas S. Mitchell 20

James Ingalls 25

Thos. F. Field 25

James Oana 25

J. P. Ballou.-. 25

Alexander Seymour 25

K.R.Lansing 25

Wm. Clarke 50

Thos. M. Francis 15

Alfred Burden 20

Abram Culver 15

John A. Russ 15

John P 10

Waterman Johnson 10

Isaac Wilbur 10



This work, connecting the Erie Canal at Utica with the
Susquehanna River at Binghamton, was authorized Feb. 23,
1833, commenced in July, 1834, and finished in October,
1836, at a cost of $2,782,124. It is 97 miles long exclu-
sive of 13| miles of feeders, none of which are navigable.*
This canal is carried over the high divide between the waters
of the Mohawk and those of the Susquehanna, and has
1015.3 feet of lockage up and down. The locks are built
of rubble stone, and cost an average of $8000 each. The
canal is calculated for boats of from 50 to 70 tons. It is
40 feet wide at the suiface, 24 at the bottom, and 4 feet
deep. There are 116 locks, with dimensions of 90 by 15
feet. It is the intention to complete this work to the Penn-
sylvania line, and make connections with the canal system
of that State. There are about 20 miles of this work in
Oneida County, and it passes through the city of Utica
and the towns of New Hartford, Kirkland, and Marshall,
and across the southeast corner of Augusta. It crosses
Saoquoit Creek near the village of New Hartford, and from
the village of Clinton follows the valley of Oriskany Creek
to the county line.

» State Gazetteer.


The first legislative action taken with a view to inaugu-
rating this work was an act passed April 22, 1834, author-
izing a survey from the Erie Canal, in the village of Rome,
to the foot of the High Falls on Black River, in Lewis
County. Following this preliminary survey, an act was
passed by the Legislature, April 19, 1836, providing for
the construction of a canal on the proposed line, with a
feeder from the Black River, at Forestport, to the main
canal at Boonville. Work was soon afterwards commenced
and continued, with various delays, until 1851, when it was
put in operation to Port Ley den.

A dam was subsequently constructed at the head of the
Long Falls, at Carthage, on Black River, by which naviga-
tion for canal-boats and small steamers was secured on that
stream a distance of 42 miles, to the foot of the High Falls,
where the canal connects. The following is an abstract of
the State engineer's report for 1851 :

" This canal diverges from the Erie Canal at the village of Rome,
Oneida Co., following up the valley of the Mohawk River, and its
tributary, the Lansing Kill, to the f^ummit level, a distance of twenty-
three miles; thence crossing the dividing ridge between the Mohawk
and Black Rivers, about two miles, to the village of Boonville ; thence
descending into the valley of Black River, and at the distance of
ten and one-third miles entering said river below the High Falls, in
the county of Lewis; thence following the river by slack -water navi-
gation, a distance of forty-two and a half miles, to the village of
Carthage, in Jofl'erson County, making the length of the canal and
river about seventy-eight miles.

" A navigable feeder of ten miles in length is constructed from the
Black River, entering the canal at the village of Boonville, which is
designed for a feeder to the Black River Canal, and also for the Erie
Canal. Add to the canal, river, and feeder two miles of navigation
on the reservoir above the State dam, making in all ninety miles of

"From Rome to Boonville, a distance of twenty-five miles, there
are seventy locks, overcoming on elevation of 693 feet. From Boon-
ville to the High Falls, a distance of ten nnd one-third miles, there
are thirty-nine locks, with a descent of 386 feet.

" On the whole line of canal, feeder, and river, there are one hun-
dred and nine locks, five aqueducts, eleven wasle-weirs, eighteen
culverts, thirty three road bridges, thirty-six farm bridges, three
change and tow-path bridges, two guard-locks, one dam and bulkhead,
three dams, thirty-three lock-houses, six stop-gates, two draw-bridges,
and the delta-feeder."

The dimensions of this canal originally were, 42 feet on
the surface, 26 feet at bottom, and 4 feet deep. The locks
were 90 by 15 feet, and admitted boats of 70 tons.




















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The first railway constructed in the State was between
Albany and Schenectady, a distance as given at the time



of 17 miles. It was incorporated under the name of the
Mohawk and Hudson Railroad Company, April 17, 1826.
The road was opened in 1831.

The first railway constructed in Oneida County was
known as the Utica and Schenectady Railroad, and, as its
name indicated, connected the two cities named. It was
78 miles long, and was opened in 1836.* The company
purchased the old turnpike-road on the north bank of the
Mohawk River. It was at first laid with light rails, which
were taken up and the track re-laid with heavy rails, in
1816—49. This section of "road was merged in the New
York Central Railway in 1853.

The Syracuse and Utica Road was incorporated May 11,
1836, and opened in 1839 from Syracuse to Utica, 53 miles.
This line was also merged in the New York Central Railway
in 1853.

TheiVcri! York Central Railroad ConijJanj/ was chartered
April 2, 1853. It was formed by the consolidation of the
following companies: Albany and Schenectady, Schenectady
and Troy, Utica and Schenectady, Mohawk Valley, Syra-
cuse and Uticaj Rochester and Syracuse, Rochester, Lock-
port and Niagara Falls, Rochester and Bufialo, Buffalo and
Lockport, of which the Mohawk Valley and the Syracuse
and Utica direct railroad have never been constructed. The
New York Central Road was merged in the New York
Central and Hudson River Railroad in 1869. This is the
only long line of railway in the Union (and possibly in the
world) having four steel tracks. The traffic over it is sim-
ply immense. No other lines cross it throughout its whole
extent, and its facilities for the transportation of freight
and passengers, live-stock, etc., are unsurpassed in any
country. It passes through the cities and towns of Utica,
Whitestown, Rome, and Verona, in Oneida County, the
total number of miles being not far from thirty.

Black River and Utica Railroad Company was formed
Jan. 29, 1853. The road was opened from Utica to Tren-
ton on the 1st of January, 1855. Under an act of March
31, 1860, the holders of mortgage bonds foreclosed, and
changed the name of the road to the Utica and Black
River Railroad. At this date its capital was fixed at

Tliis road connects with Watertown, Sacket's Harbor,
Clayton, Morristown, and Ogdensburg, the line having
been opened between the two last-mentioned places recently.

Rome, Watertown. and Ogdensburg. — This road was

Online LibrarySamuel W DurantHistory of Oneida County, New York : with illustrations and biographical sketches of some of its prominent men and pioneers → online text (page 50 of 192)