INTERNAL IMPROVEMENTS --- WESTERN INLAND LOCK NAVIGATION COMPANY --- OLD GENESEE ROAD --- SENECA TURNPIKE CO. --- FIRST MAIL THROUGH MADISON COUNTY --- OTHER TURNPIKES --- OTHER MEANS OF TRANSPORTATION --- FIRST SURVEY FOR ERIE CANAL --- FIRST BOARD OF CANAL COMMISSIONERS --- REMARKABLE INSTANCE OF ENGINEERING SKILL --- CONSTRUCTION AUTHORIZED --- COMMISSIONERS OF THE CANAL FUND --- FIRST CONTRACT ON ERIE CANAL --- FIRST PACKET BOAT ON --- CELEBRATION OF ERIE CANAL COMPLETION --- ERIE CANAL ENLARGEMENT --- CHENANGO CANAL --- PRELIMINARY MEASURES --- CONSTRUCTION AUTHORIZED --- ABANDONED --- NEW YORK CENTRAL AND HUDSON RIVER RAILROAD --- NEW YORK AND OSWEGO MIDLAND RAILROAD AND ITS BRANCHES --- ALBANY AND SUSQUEHANNA RAILROAD --- CAZENOVIA AND CANASTOTA RAILROAD --- UTICA, CHENANGO AND SUSQUEHANNA VALLEY RAILROAD --- UTICA, CLINTON AND BINGHAMTON RAILROAD --- UTICA, CHENANGO AND CORTLAND RAILROAD --- SYRACUSE AND CHENANGO VALLEY RAILROAD --- RAILROAD INDEBTEDNESS OF CHENANGO AND MADISON COUNTIES.
FROM an early period in English colonial history, the subject of improving the internal water courses between the Hudson and the great lakes engaged the attention of the Government. In 1724, Cadwallader Colden, then Surveyor-General of New York, after mentioning the communication between Oswego (Onondaga) River and Lake Ontario, (Cadaraqui,) intimates that Seneca River might give a more advantageous route to Lake Erie, and avoid the Falls of Niagara, (Jagara,) by which the French were obliged to reach it.1 This is doubtless the first speculation in regard to an interior water communication between the Mohawk and Lake Erie; and "was but the expression of a hope that a more safe, as well as convenient way might be found to the trade of the upper lakes than that frequented by the French, and made dangerous to the frail boats then employed in the fur trade by the storms of Lake Ontario.2 In his report of that year, (1724,) Colden describes the portage between the Mohawk and Wood Creek as being three miles long, except in very dry weather, when goods must be carried two miles further. This portage was obviated as early as 1766, for Carver, who traversed the lake country in that year, said the passage between those streams was effected by means of sluices.3 In 1768, Sir Henry Moore, in a message to the Colonial Legislature, suggested as a remedy for the obstructions to navigation in the Mohawk between Schenectady and Rome, (Fort Stanwix,) sluices like those in the great Canal of Languedoc, France.4 In 1784, and again in 1785, Christopher Colles, of New York city, memorialized the Legislature and procured an appropriation of one hundred and twenty-five dollars to enable him to examine the Mohawk River, with a view to its improvement;5 and in 1786, Jeffrey Smith, a member of the Legislature, introduced a bill to effect this improvement, and for "extending the same, if practicable, to Lake Erie."6
Before and during the Revolutionary war, the Mohawk was navigated by bateaux of light draught and easy transport over the carrying place at the lesser falls. At this time the main traveled road between the East and West Canada Creeks was on the south side of the river. As early as April, 1790, the Legislature appropriated "one hundred pounds for the purpose of erecting a bridge across the East Canada Creek, not exceeding three miles from the mouth thereof, upon the road from the Mohawk River to the Royal Grant."7
In 1791, Gov. George Clinton urged upon the Legislature the necessity of improving the natural water channels, so as to facilitate communication with the frontier settlements, and in that year a law was passed to authorize the Commissioners of the Land Office to survey the portage at Rome and the Mohawk to the Hudson, for improvement by locks, and one hundred pounds were appropriated for the object.8 The survey was made by Abraham Hardenburgh, under the advice of William Weston, an English Engineer.9 The report of the Commissioners was so favorable that March 30, 1792, the Legislature incorporated the "Western Inland Lock Navigation Company," with power to open lock navigation from the Hudson to Ontario and Seneca Lakes, to "encourage agriculture, promote commerce and facilitate intercourse between the citizens" of the State.10 The capital stock of the company was fixed at twenty-five thousand dollars, and afterwards increased to three hundred thousand dollars.11 The improvement made consisted in the construction of locks and a canal around Little Falls, the removal of other obstructions in the Mohawk, connecting that river with Wood Creek by a canal from Rome, straightening Wood Creek and shortening the distance over it nearly one-half, and the removal of obstructions in Oswego and Seneca rivers. These improvements, slight as they were, are said to have doubled the value of contiguous lands, and greatly aided the settlement and development of the resources of Central and Western New York.12
As early as 1796, navigation was opened from Schenectady to Seneca Lake for boats of sixteen tons burden, in favorable stages of the water in the rivers; but the locks being constructed of wood and brick soon failed and had to be replaced with stone. In 1813 the company had expended $480,000, towards which, in 1795, the state subscribed $10,000, and in 1796, loaned $37,500, taking a mortgage on the canal and locks at Little Falls.13
In 1794 and 1795 the State made appropriations for the improvement of the road which followed the trail extending through the north part of Madison County, afterwards known as the "Ontario and Genesee Turnpike," and subsequently as the "Genesee Road," which was completed to New Amsterdam (Buffalo) as early as 1809, in which year also a "New State Road" was finished to within a few miles of Rochester, passing through Madison County in close proximity to Oneida Lake.14 Two years previous to the former date, (in 1792,) Oneida is described as an Indian town of five hundred and fifty inhabitants, who (the natives) were "very friendly." Between that village and Clinton, which was described as a "very large and thriving town," there were no inhabitants.15
Some idea of the condition of the old Genesee Road at this period may be formed from the following extract from the description of a journey to the Genesee country:---
"On the 15th of February, 1792, I left Albany, on my route to the Genesee River; but the country was thought so remote, and so very little known, that I could not prevail on the owner of the sled I had engaged to go further than Whitestown, a new settlement on the head of the Mohawk River, one hundred miles west from Albany. The road, as far as Whitestown, had been made passable for wagons; but from that to the Genesee River it was little better than an Indian path, just sufficiently opened to allow a sled to pass, and the most impassable streams bridged. At Whitestown I was obliged to change my sled; the Albany driver would proceed no further; he found that for the next one hundred and fifty miles we were not only obliged to take provision for ourselves and our horses, but also blankets as a substitute for beds. After leaving Whitestown, we found only a few straggling huts scattered along the path at a distance of from ten to twenty miles, and they affording nothing but the convenience of fire and a kind of shelter from the snow. On the evening of the third day's journey from Whitestown, we were very agreeably surprised to find ourselves on the east side of the Seneca Lake, which we found perfectly open and free from ice as in the month of June. The evening was pleasant and agreeable, and what added to our surprise and admiration, was to see a boat and canoe plying on the lake. This, after having passed from New York over three hundred and sixty miles of country completely frozen, was a sight of pleasure and interest."16
In 1797, the State authorized the raising of forty-five thousand dollars by lotteries, to be expended in improving various roads. Of that sum, thirteen thousand, nine hundred dollars were appropriated to the improvement of this road from Fort Schuyler to Geneva.17 "The inhabitants of the country through which the road passed made a voluntary offer of their services, to aid the State Commissioner, and subscribed four thousand days' work, which they performed with fidelity and cheerfulness. By this generous and uncommon exertion, and by some other contributions, the State Commissioner was enabled to complete this road of near one hundred miles, opening it sixty-four feet wide, and paving with logs and gravel the moist parts of the low country through which it was carried. Hence, the road from Fort Schuyler * * to Genesee, from being, in the month of June, 1797, a little better than an Indian path, was so far improved, that a stage started from Fort Schuyler on the 30th of September, and arrived at the hotel in Geneva in the afternoon of the third day, with four passengers. * * Not less than fifty families settled on it in the space of four months after it was opened."18
The Seneca Turnpike Company was chartered in 1800, having for its object the improvement of this road.19 The company was required to construct a road six rods wide from Utica to Canandaigua; twenty-five feet of it, in the center, was to be covered with gravel, or broken stone, to the depth of fifteen inches. They were permitted to place gates at intervals of ten miles, and exact twelve and one-half cents toll for two-horse teams, and twenty-five cents for four horses. Its charter was amended in 1801, so as to allow the company to change the direction of the road and thus avoid Canaseraga and Onondaga hills. Mrs. Hammond thus facetiously describes an incident which occurred at that time:---
"They [the commissioners] found little opposition to the changes made from Westmoreland to Chittenango; as there were but few white inhabitants on the way, but at the latter place they were met by a large delegation from Manlius and Onondaga, who feared the commissioners would select a more northern route. The settlers on the northern route had not sufficient interest in the road to send on their advocates, and consequently, by the aid of a pretty fair ruse, those in favor of the southern, had it all their own way. Being well acquainted with the country, they proposed to pilot the commissioners over the most suitable ground for the road. They first led them up the ravine north-west of Chittenango, a mile and a half, when they found themselves hemmed in on three sides by a perpendicular ledge of rocks more than a hundred feet high, with no way of getting out but by backing out. With well feigned sincerity, the guides explained this as a mistake, and the commissioners were led over the next best supposable route, across this ravine along the great hill toward Hartsville and into one of the most dismal of all places, then dignified by the very significant name of Gulf of Mexico, now called the Basin, a place where the mountainous heights permit the sun to make only short diurnal visits.
"The forbidding aspect of the country all about them compelled them to return to Chenango the way they had come. The weary Commissioners resigned themselves to the sophistry of those interested advocates; the northern route was declared impracticable, and the Seneca Turnpike was laid out over the hill passing the county line a short distance above Deep Spring, where William Sayles kept tavern in 1793, on through Manlius Square, Jamesville and Onondaga Hollow. Not long afterwards the company learned they had not availed themselves of the most favorable route. They solicited an amendment to the charter, which was granted in 1806. They were now enabled to build a new road from Chittenango through the Onondaga Reservation, near the Salt Springs, to Cayuga Bridge,20 and fifty thousand dollars were added to the capital stock. * * * * *
"The First United States mail through this county [Madison] was carried by a Mr. Langdon, from Whitestown to Genesee on horseback, in 1797 or '98, who distributed papers and unsealed letters by the way, before intermediate offices were established. Mr. Lucas succeeded Mr. Langdon in transporting the mail, which, in 1800, had become so heavy as to require a wagon to carry it. Mr. Lucas established a sort of two-horse passenger hack, and did a brisk and profitable business. The first four horse mail coach was sent through once a week by Jason Parker, in 1803, and in 1804 commenced running regularly twice a week from Utica to Canandaigua, carrying the United States mail and passengers. In 1804, an act was passed, granting to Jason Parker and Levi Stephens, the exclusive right for seven years, of running a line of stages for the conveyance of passengers, at least twice a week, along the Genesee Road or Seneca Turnpike, between the villages of Utica and Canandaigua. They were bound to furnish four good and substantial wagons or sleighs, and sufficient horses to run the same; the fare not to exceed five cents per mile for each passenger, with fourteen pounds of baggage. They were by law bound to run through in forty-eight hours, accidents excepted, and not more than seven passengers were allowed in any one carriage, except by the unanimous consent of the said seven passengers; and, if four passengers above the seven applied for passage, they were bound to immediately fit out and start an extra for their accommodation; or any number less than four should be accommodated by paying the fare of four.
"In 1808, a daily line was established, and afterwards several others, which were continued until the completion of the Syracuse and Utica Railroad."21
The condition of the road in 1804 was far from being what could be desired, as is shown by the following extract from a letter written by James D. Bemis22 to friends in Albany, in January of that year, where, while enroute to Canada, he was induced to stop and open a store, which he had contemplated doing in Canada:
" 'After being detained at Utica upwards of seven weeks,' says Mr. Bemis, 'my patience was so far exhausted, that I determined, notwithstanding the badness of the roads, to make one more attempt to gain the place of my destination; and accordingly hired two wagons to take me to Canandaigua. They had proceeded about fifty rods, when one of them got mired to the hub! Good start! you will say. Well! we got out in about an hour and traveled eight miles the first day. * * * Next morning, after taking a warm breakfast, I again "weighed anchor," and trudged in solitude along the muddy waste, (for it is indeed solitary to have no company but swearing teamsters,) till we reached Oneida village, an Indian settlement, where, about dark, both wagons got again mired to the hub! Zounds and alack! what a pickle we were in! How did I invoke the aid of old Hercules to give one tug at the wheel! However, after lifting, grumbling, hallooing, and tugging three hours and a half, with the assistance of an Indian, we once more got "on land." It was now ten o'clock, and no tavern within our power to reach. Cold, fatigued and hungry, we were glad to get under shelter, and accordingly stopped at the first Indian hut we found, where there was no bed and no victuals, except a slice of rusty pork.
"'After a night spent in yawning, dozing, and gaping, we again got under headway, and hove in sight of a tavern about ten o'clock; but nothing like breakfast was to be had - all confusion - and we went on to Onondaga (50 miles west of Utica) where we arrived about ten at night. Here the house was full; and I obtained the privilege of sleeping with two strangers by paying for their lodging, and giving them a glass of bitters-an odd bargain to be sure! But I thought it cheap, had it been my last shilling. But fate decreed that the troubles of that day should not end by going to bed!" * * *
But we will not dwell upon those nocturnal difficulties. His letter continues:
" ' At this place, Onondaga, (near the site of the present city of Syracuse,) the wagoners got discouraged, and despaired of the practicability of traveling! They accordingly stored the goods and made the best of their way home again! Here I was obliged to remain two weeks, when a fine snow falling, I hired a man with a three horse sleigh, to carry me to Canada, and arrived at this place (Canandaigua) on Saturday evening the 14th of January, after a "short and pleasant passage" of sixty-two (62) days from Albany!"'23
Other companies were speedily chartered and roads constructed, prominent among which were the Esopus and Ithaca turnpike, extending through Southern Chenango, and crossing the towns of Bainbridge, Coventry and Greene about 1809; the Peterboro turnpike, extending from Vernon, through Peterboro to Cazenovia, in 1804; and the Cherry Valley turnpike, extending from Cherry Valley to Manlius, through Madison, Eaton, Nelson and Cazenovia, about that time. Population increased with wonderful rapidity and the public means of transportation were inadequate to meet the demands upon them. They were supplemented by private freight wagons, which carried to Albany the surplus productions of the farms and returned laden with merchandise. A caravan of teams from a neighborhood would go in company and assist each other, by doubling teams up steep hills and through the deep sloughs. These long journeys, the round trip often occupying two weeks, were thus cheered by mutual aid and sympathy, and were rather interesting episodes in the routine of early farm life. At the hospitable inns, which arose by the way-side every few miles, these hardy and happy teamsters would pass a noon, or night, as cheerfully as any modem traveler in the pretentious hotels of today. Besides these farm teams, heavy transportation wagons were regularly run over the Seneca Turnpike, often drawn by seven, sometimes nine horses, and carrying a proportionate load. The wagons were massive, with very broad-tired wheels, to prevent them from penetrating the roadbed. It was no uncommon thing to see long strings of these farm wagons, laden with produce, approaching some central and important mart, to the number of fifty or a hundred.
But the enterprise which had the most marked effect upon the settlements of Central and Western New York was the completion of the Erie Canal.
With the rapid increase in population came the demand for increased facilities for transportation. The old methods were inadequate, and for several years in the early part of the present century the minds of public men, statesmen and those whose genius adorned the humbler walks of life, were agitated by this intensely absorbing topic, as the necessities of its proximate cause became more immediate and pressing. To Gouverneur Morris is due the credit of first broaching the subject of connecting the waters of Lake Erie with those of the Hudson, a thought which took form in his brain as early as 1777,24 and found more tangible expression in 1800, in December of which year, he wrote his friend, John Parish, then of Hamburg, and in descanting on the glories of Lake Erie which he visited in that year, said:
"Here again the boundless waste of waters fills the mind with renewed astonishment; and here, as in turning a point of wood the lake broke on my view, I saw riding at anchor nine vessels, the least of them 100 tons. Can you bring your imagination to realize this scene? Does it seem like magic? Yet this magic is but the early effort of victorious industry. Hundreds of large ships will in no distant period bound on the billows of these inland seas. At this point commences a navigation of more than a thousand miles. Shall I lead your astonishment to the verge of incredulity? I will. Know, then, that one-tenth of the expenses borne by Britain in the last campaign would enable ships to sail from London through Hudson's River to Lake Erie."25
In 1803, in a conversation with Simeon DeWitt, who was then and had long been Surveyor-General of New York State, Mr. Morris adverted to the long cherished "project of tapping Lake Erie and leading its waters, in an artificial river directly across the country to Hudson's River;" but De Witt, with his intensely practical mind, regarded it as a chimerical scheme, and related it on several occasions in a spirit of levity, among others to James Geddes, a surveyor, who, in 1794, removed from Pennsylvania with the facilities for manufacturing salt, and located near the Onondaga salt springs, from whence, in 1804, he was sent to the Legislature. Mr. Geddes was strongly impressed with the plan, which, he afterwards wrote, "struck me as a grand desideratum," and untiringly pursued his investigations in regard to the nature of the intervening country, thus acquiring data which not only made him an ardent advocate of the project, but enabled him to create a public sentiment in its favor, so that it was made a political issue, and in April, 1807, Judge Joshua Forman, of Onondaga county, was elected to the Assembly as the representative of its advocates and supporters.
October 27, 1807, the first of a series of articles from the pen of Jesse Hawley, appeared in the Ontario Messenger, over the signature of Hercules, strongly advocating the construction of the canal. March 21, 1808, in consonance with a resolution previously introduced by. Mr. Forman, the Assembly passed a bill instructing the Surveyor-General "to cause an accurate survey to be made of the rivers, streams and waters, (not already accurately surveyed,) in the usual route of communication between the Hudson River and Lake Erie, and such other contemplated route as he may deem proper, and cause the same to be delineated on charts or maps for that purpose accompanying the same, with the elevations of the route, and such explanatory notes as may be necessary for all useful information in the premises, of which one copy shall be filed in the office of the Secretary of this State, and another transmitted to the President of the United States, which the person administering the government of this State is requested to do." The Senate concurred April 6th, and on the 11th of that month six hundred dollars were appropriated to carry out the provisions of the resolution.26 Upon James Geddes was devolved the task of making these surveys; and on the 11th of June, 1808, the Surveyor-General wrote him the following instructions:---
"As the provision made for the expenses of this business is not adequate to the effectual exploring of the country, you will, in the first place, examine what may appear to be the best place for a canal from Oneida Lake to Lake Ontario in the town of Mexico, and take a survey and level of it;--- also whether a canal cannot be made between Oneida Lake and Oswego, by a route in part to the west of the Oswego River, so as to avoid those parts along it where it will be impracticable to make a good navigation. The next object will be the ground between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, which must be examined with a view to determine what will be the most eligible tract for a canal, from below the Niagara Falls to Lake Erie. If your means will admit of it, it would be a desirable thing to have a level taken throughout the whole entire distance between the two lakes. As Mr. Joseph Ellicott has given me a description of the country from Tonnewand Creek to the Genesee River, and pointed out a route for a canal through that tract, it is important to have a continuation of it explored to the Seneca River. No leveling or survey of it will be necessary for the present, (because the appropriation will probably by this time be expended.) It must be left as a work by itself, to be undertaken hereafter, should the Government deem it necessary. A view of the ground only, with such information as may be obtained from others, is all that can now be required of you."
Mr. Geddes faithfully carried out the instructions of his superior, notwithstanding they did not contemplate the object of his desire, and their only practical utility was in determining the ineligibility of the Lake Ontario route. But in December of that year he satisfied himself of the feasibility of the interior route, advancing from his own funds the cost of the examination --- seventy-three dollars --- which was afterwards refunded to him by the State. January 20, 1809, he submitted his report to the Surveyor-General, who afterwards wrote that it marked out a route "almost precisely in the line which, after repeated, elaborate and expensive examinations, has been finally adopted," and thus was "the fact satisfactorily established, that a canal from Lake Erie to Hudson's River was not only practicable, but practicable with uncommon facility."27
The feasibility of the route having been satisfactorily established, Mr. Forman repaired to Washington and had an interview with President Jefferson, hoping thereby to enlist the aid of the General Government in the further prosecution of the enterprise. But he received no encouragement. After listening attentively to a narrative of the advantages which, it was urged, would follow its completion, the President replied it is a very fine project and might be executed a century hence; and after referring to the fact that the completion of a canal of a few miles, projected by General Washington, which, if finished, would make Washington a fine commercial city, languished for the want of an appropriation of $200,000 by the General Government, added, "it is a little short of madness to think of it at this day."28
The favorable report of judge Geddes silenced much local opposition, and induced the Legislature, March 15, 1810, to unanimously authorize the organization of a Board of Commissioners, "with powers and means to prosecute the business." That Board consisted of Gouverneur Morris, Stephen Van Rensselaer, De Witt Clinton, Simeon DeWitt, William North, Thomas Eddy and Peter P. Porter. During the session three thousand dollars were appropriated for the use of the Commission. From this time, De Witt Clinton, who was then a member of the State Senate, was a warm friend of the project, and gave it the aid of his vigorous and capacious intellect. In July, 1810, the Commissioners, accompanied by Mr. Geddes, passed over the mooted routes, to Oswego and Niagara, and March 2, 1811, they made a report recommending the adoption of the interior route, and protested against any private individual or company having the control of it, urging that it would prevent cheap transportation.
May 8, 1811, Robert R. Livingston and Robert Fulton were added to the Commission, who were empowered to employ engineers to make further surveys, and to apply to the National and State Governments for aid. Fifteen thousand dollars were appropriated in furtherance of that end. In November, 1811, Judge Benjamin Wright, of Rome, was employed to survey the north side of the Mohawk, and thus became an associate with Mr. Geddes. March 14, 1812, the Commission made a second report, based on the surveys of these gentlemen, after having submitted them to Mr. Weston, the English surveyor, who said, "From the perspicuous topographical description and neat plan and profile of the route of the contemplated canal, I entertain little doubt of the practicability of the measure." They were unsuccessful in their efforts to secure the aid of other Governments.
June 19, 1812, the commission was authorized to purchase all the right and interest of the Western Inland Lock Navigation Company, with certain provisos, and to borrow five millions of dollars to be used in the construction of the canal, but the ensuing war necessitated a suspension of operations, and April 15, 1814, the law authorizing this loan was repealed. Early in 1814, however, an English engineer was employed to ascertain the best line for a canal. In their report of March 8, 1814, the Commissioners expressed a "desire to not be held as committed exclusively to a canal descending according to the level of the country like an inclined plane.29
The project was revived in the fall of 1815. Public meetings were held along the whole line of the projected canal, and signatures to the number of more than a hundred thousand procured to a memorial to the Legislature, asking that the construction of the canal be proceeded with at once. In response to this appeal, on the 17th of April, 1836, the Legislature passed "an act to provide for the improvement of the internal navigation of this State," and after a very long discussion was so amended as to provide for the making of surveys and the gathering of information in regard to the whole cost, not only of the Erie Canal, but of a canal along the Hudson from tide water to Lake Champlain. But no authority was given to commence the work.30 A new board of Commissioners was appointed, consisting of Stephen Van Rensselaer, DeWitt Clinton, Samuel Young, Joseph Ellicott and Myron Holley.31 Twenty thousand dollars were appropriated to carry out the provisions of the law.
Additional surveys were made. The route was divided into three sections, eastern, middle and western, and entrusted respectively to Charles C. Broadhead, Benjamin Wright and James Geddes. The eastern section extended from Rome to the Hudson; the middle; from the Seneca River to Rome; and the western, from Lake Erie to the Seneca River. Ineffectual efforts had been made to secure the services of competent European engineers; but failing in this the Commissioners were obliged to engage home talent. This was a new source of difficulty, as it was taken advantage of by the enemies of the project to destroy or weaken the confidence of the people in the ability of the resident engineers. To put an end to these carpings the Commissioners decided, in 1837, to verify the work of the previous year. For this purpose Mr. Geddes was directed to start at a given point on the canal line at Rome and carry a level along the road to the east end of Oneida Lake, and taking the height of the lake while the water was tranquil, to then connect that lake with Onondaga Lake: then carry a level to the canal line, and from thence work eastward, laying off sections along that line. This he did, and laid out nine miles towards Rome. Mr. Wright was directed to start from the same point in Rome. He carried a level westward to the stakes set by Mr. Geddes; and when he had finished, the levels of these two engineers, which embraced a circuit of nearly one hundred miles, differed less than an inch and a half.32 This astonishing care and precision had the desired effect.
In March, 1817, the Commissioners made an elaborate report, and from revised estimates placed the cost at $5,000,000. April 15, 1817, the bill which established the canal policy of the State passed the Legislature, after a sharp and talented controversy, in which the opinions of Martin VanBuren in the Senate and the eminent Elisha Williams, of Hudson, in the Assembly, had great weight in turning the decision in its favor. Mr. Van Buren in an able and impressive speech insisted that the facts fully warranted the commencement of the work; while Mr. Williams, appealing to the members from New York City, who, almost to a man, were hostile to the project, said, addressing the leading members of that delegation, "if the canal is to be a shower of gold, it will fall upon New York; if a river of gold, it will flow into her lap."33 But it had still to pass the ordeal of the Council of Revision, where it had a precarious maternity. From the account given of the action of that body by judge Platt, of Oneida county, who ardently favored it, we learn that, of the number, consisting additionally of Lieutenant and Acting Governor Taylor, Chancellor Kent and Chief Justices Thompson and Yates,the latter was the only other one who at first favored it The Chancellor being called on for his opinion, "said he had given very little attention to the subject; that it appeared to him a gigantic project, which would require the wealth of the United States to accomplish; that it had passed the Legislature by small majorities, after a desperate struggle; and he thought it inexpedient to commit the State in such a vast undertaking until public opinion could be better united in its favor." Thompson said he "cherished no hostility to the canal, and that he would not inquire as to the majorities, as the Legislature had agreed to the measure he would be inclined to leave the responsibility with them; but he said the bill gave arbitrary powers to the Commissioners over private rights, without proper guards," and he therefore opposed it. But a more temperate examination of the bill, following a warm discussion, obviated in some measure the objections of the Chancellor and Chief Justice. Taylor "panted with honest zeal to strangle the infant Hercules in its birth by casting his vote in the negative." Daniel D. Tompkins happened in and joined in the discussion, decidedly opposing it. But singularly enough his objections determined its passage. Among other objections he stated that "the late peace with Great Britain was a mere truce; that we should undoubtedly soon have a renewed war with that country; and thai instead of wasting the credit and resources of the State on this chimerical project, we ought immediately to employ all the revenue and credit of the State in providing arsenals, arming the militia, erecting. fortifications and preparing for war. 'Do you think so, sir?' said Chancellor Kent. 'Yes, sir,' was the reply; `England will never forgive us for our victories on the land and on the ocean and the lakes; and my word for it, we shall have another war with her within two years.' The Chancellor, then rising from his seat, with great animation declared, `if we are to have war, or to have a canal, I am in favor of a canal, and I vote for the bill.'"34 This action turned the majority in its favor.
The Canal Commissioners were authorized by that law to commence constructing the canals from Lakes Erie and Champlain to the Hudson. The first contract for the Erie Canal was made June 27, 1817, with John Richardson, of Cayuga -County; and the first spadeful of earth was raised at Rome, with appropriate ceremonies, July 4, 1817. Ninety-four miles of canal, including the lateral branch to Salina, were completed in the autumn of 1820, on the middle section; and October 26, 1825, it was finished the entire length, a distance of three hundred and sixty-three miles, at a cost of $7,143,789.35
In July, 1820, the first packet boat, the Oneida Chief, of which George Perry, a resident of Sullivan, was Captain, commenced running between Utica and Montezuma, three times a week, the trip occupying two days. The fare, including board, was $4. The following year the canal was open to Schenectady.36
The final completion of the canal was the signal for an outburst of the wildest enthusiasm along its entire length, and the event was celebrated with imposing ceremonies at New York and other points, on the 4th of November, 1825. As the first boat, with Governor Clinton on board, entered the canal at Buffalo, on the morning of October 26th, the fact was signaled to New York by means of cannon previously stationed at intervals of a few miles along the entire length of the line and down the Hudson. The Governor was everywhere greeted with enthusiasm, and on reaching New York, the boat passed down to Sandy Hook, and the waters of Lake Erie were ceremoniously mingled with those of the Atlantic. New industries sprang into existence along its course, and Madison County was no exception to its invigorating influence. Lines of transportation which had hitherto converged at Albany, gave place to others extending from the interior villages to the nearest canal port, and the conveniences of travel and transportation were indefinitely multiplied.
Within the first decade after its completion the necessity for its enlargement was felt, and this work, which was ordered May 11, 1835, was commenced in August, 1836, and completed in September, 1862, at a cost of $36,495,535. This improvement reduced its length from 363 miles to 350˝ miles; changed the number of locks from 83, each 90 by 15 feet, to 72 each 110 by 18 feet, reducing the number of feet of lockage from 675.5 to 654.8; increased the width at top from 40 to 70 feet, and at bottom from 28 to 56 feet, and the depth from four to seven feet; and increased the burden of boats from 75 tons to 220 tons. The difference in length was occasioned by a change in route in various places, one of which was the locality of Chittenango.
The tolls on one hundred tons each way have decreased from $1,530 in 1830 to $140 in 1877; the freight, for the same period, from $1,378 to $314; and the total charge from $2,808 to $454. The number of tons carried to tide water by the Erie Canal increased from 497,839 in 1835 to 2,298,008 in 1877.37
The Chenango Canal, though of far less magnitude, had a marked and beneficial influence on the industries of the country through which it passed, prior to the advent of the railroads, which, while they have stimulated some enterprises have depressed others. The project of connecting the Chenango Valley with the Erie Canal was agitated soon after the construction of the latter work was begun; and Judge Elisha Smith was among the earliest advocates of the measure. Other friends of the project were Governor Bouck, Henry Seymour, Rufus Bacon, James B. Eldridge, John G. Slower, Sands Higinbotham, Moses Maynard, Lot Clark, Julius Pond, and Thomas Wylie, all widely known and influential throughout Central New York. In November, 1823, ten years before its construction was authorized, the following reference to it appeared in the Oxford Gazette:---
"Few counties can approach the Erie Canal with so much ease and facility as Chenango, that are situated so far from it. We may therefore justly consider Chenango as destined, at some future period, to become an important branch of that vast inland navigation which secures to New York a proud pre-eminence among the States of the Union. The Chenango River can be made boatable to its source, and by a short canal, the expense of which would be comparatively trifling, may be united with the waters of the Oneida Creek, which leads directly into the Erie Canal. This has been pronounced by competent judges practicable and safe; and at no distant day will engage the attention of our enterprising citizens."
The plan herein indicated was substantially that advocated by Judge Smith, and conformed to the idea then very generally entertained of using the Chenango River in part. The idea of a canal as at present constructed began to take shape about 1824, in which year John F. Hubbard, then a member of the Assembly from Chenango, presented a memorial to the Legislature setting forth the views and wishes of the community. The committee to whom it was referred made a favorable report, but it was not acted upon.
In 1825, a survey was made by direction of the Legislature, and the following year a bill for the construction of the canal was introduced, but the Legislature, fearing the survey had not been made with sufficient accuracy, rejected it.
In 1826, the residents of the Chenango valley, at their own expense, employed Mr. Jones, an engineer then residing at Utica, to survey a route through the valley for a canal connecting with the Erie, and make an estimate of the cost of its construction; but he was taken suddenly ill at Norwich, and died before the completion of the survey. In 1827, a bill passed the Assembly, but was rejected by the Senate; and during the summer of that year the citizens, at great expense, procured another survey. They employed Mr. Roberts, an able engineer, who concluded that the canal could be constructed for less than a million dollars; an opinion which was concurred in by Mr. Hutchinson, who carefully examined the estimates, and by Mr. Wright, who personally reviewed the whole line. In 1828, a bill for its construction again passed the Assembly, and was a second time rejected in the Senate.38
In 1829, an act was passed by the Legislature authorizing the Canal Commissioners to survey the route and commence work upon it, if, upon examination, it was certain that there was an adequate supply of water; that the cost of construction would not exceed one million dollars; and that when completed it would produce to the State in connection with the increased tolls on the Erie Canal, for the first ten years after its construction, tolls equaling in amount the interest on its cost, together with the cost of repairs and the expense of attendance. If a negative conclusion was reached on either of these provisos the Commissioners were directed to report their surveys and estimates to the next Legislature.
January 21, 1830, the Commissioners made an elaborate but adverse report, which stated that an adequate supply of water might be procured by a resort to reservoirs for the summit level, without taking, any of the waters of Oriskany or Sauquoit creeks; that the cost would exceed one million dollars;39 and lastly that it would not produce tolls "equal to the interest of its cost and the expense of its repairs and superintendence, or of either of them."40
During the four succeeding years of Legislative inactivity, the Hon. John F. Hubbard did not allow the project to rest or lose interest, but "dealt out strong, vigorous and telling arguments" in favor of the immediate construction of the canal. In 1831, while a member of the Committee on Canals, he prepared an elaborate report dissenting from the conclusions of the Commissioners' report of 1830. To his energetic championship was largely due the Legislative action, which, on the 23d day of February, 1833, authorized the construction of a canal from Utica to Binghamton. Work was commenced in July, 1834, and was completed in October, 1836, at a cost of $4,542,107.41 The canal is ninety-seven miles long; forty feet wide at the top and twenty-eight at the bottom, and four feet deep. There are one hundred and sixteen locks, each ninety by fifteen feet, all of which are constructed of rubble stone. There are 1,015 1/3 feet of lockage. The greatest lift of locks is thirteen feet; and least, five feet. From Utica to the summit it rises 706 feet by seventy-six locks; and from thence it descends 303 feet, by forty locks. It is supplied by Chenango River and six reservoirs, viz: Madison Brook, Woodman's Pond, Leland's Pond, Bradley's Brook, Hatch's Lake and Eaton Brook reservoirs, all of which are in the south part of Madison County.
Both the commencement and completion of the work occasioned great rejoicing along its route, and were made the subject of elaborate celebrations. It continued for some years to be a great convenience to the section of country through which it passed; but the revenues failing to meet the running expenses it became a leech upon the public treasury and was abandoned in 1876, forty years after its completion. The laws of 1877, amended in 1878, provided for its sale, which was advertised April 8, 1879, to take place in July of that year. But the sale was postponed, and the canal remains a literal stench in the nostrils of those it once benefited.
The New York Central and Hudson River Railroad was incorporated November 1, 1869, and was formed by the consolidation of the two roads named in its title, the former of which was formed April 2, 1853, by the consolidation of ten companies,42 and the latter May 12, 1846. That portion of the road extending through the towns of Lenox and Sullivan, in the northern part of Madison county, constituted a part of the Syracuse and Utica Railroad, which was incorporated May 11, 1836, and superseded the old Seneca Turnpike, which it robbed of its passenger traffic as the Erie Canal had some years before of its freight. It received the hearty support of men of influence in the northern part of that county, and was completed and opened for business in 1839; forming a connection east with the Utica and Schenectady Railroad opened in 1835, and west with the Auburn and Syracuse Railroad, opened in 1836. It was fifty-three miles long and was merged in the New York Central Railroad in 1853, its stock being received at one hundred and sixty.
The New York Central and Hudson River Railroad is, doubtless, all things considered, the best sample of American railroads, in the country. Running parallel with its great competitor, the Erie Canal, it has far outstripped that, and, indeed, all the canals of the State combined in the aggregate amount of its annual tonnage.43 The canal was a work of great national importance. It opened a cheap, ample and, comparatively, rapid means of communication between the populous East and the nearly unoccupied West, and facilitated the exchange of the manufactures of the former for the agricultural productions of the latter. The settlement of the West was made both possible and profitable. To its broad and fertile prairies the surplus labor and capital of the East was speedily turned, and its settlement and general improvement were rapid beyond all precedent, doubtless advanced a full quarter of a century beyond what they would have been without that great avenue of commerce. Railroads, after experience had perfected them, would at a later day, have produced similar results, but their construction would have been delayed; for the passengers and freight to be transported between the East and West were the outgrowth of the Erie Canal improvement that had populated the latter.
In 1827, the Hon. Francis Granger, a man of large experience, and, so far as time had developed results, of generally sound views, predicted that railroads could never successfully compete with canals, but would become valuable tributaries to them. Could he have foreseen the changes which a half century has produced, he would have revised his conclusion.
In 1877, the New York Central Railroad carried 6,803,680 tons, of which 4,300,000 was eastward bound freight - a quantity sufficient to load one of the largest canal boats now in use every fifteen minutes, day and night, during the entire season of canal navigation. Yet it is but one of six trunk lines running from the West to the seaboard, and their united eastward bound freight would require a fully loaded boat to depart every two and a half minutes. But the facilities for the transportation of passengers have not only kept pace with those for the movement of freight, but have, in many respects, surpassed them. Wherever the nature of the country would permit it, air line railroads have been constructed, connecting the main points of the country by the shortest practical routes; the road-beds are carefully graded and firmly ballasted; steel rails have taken the place of iron, thus securing safety and durability; strong locomotives with an extreme power of movement of little less than a hundred miles per hour; coaches luxurious in their appointments, wherein days and nights may be spent in the enjoyment of conveniences, nearly equaling those of a good hotel, and in which may be reached in a few days the farthest bounds of the continent, have all been brought into requisition.
The New York and Oswego Midland Railroad, now known as the New York, Ontario and Western Railroad, was incorporated January 11, 1866, and has since been the subject of much special legislation. It extends from Jersey City, opposite New York, to Oswego, a distance of about two hundred and forty miles, passing through the eastern portion of the towns of Lenox, Stockbridge, Eaton and Lebanon, in Madison County, and Smyrna, the nort(h)-east comer of Plymouth, the western parts of North Norwich and Norwich, the north-east part of Oxford, and diagonally across the town of Guilford, in Chenango County, leaving the county in the south-east corner of the latter town. It was opened from Oneida to Central Square, a distance of thirty-one miles, in October, 1869; from Oswego to Norwich, one hundred miles, in November, 1869; from Norwich to Sidney Plains, twenty-five miles, in June, 1870; from Middletown to Thompson's Station, (except the tunnel,) twenty-nine miles, in January, 1871; and completed to New York in 1872. Much of the line is through an exceedingly rugged country, presenting some magnificent landscapes, but requiring the exercise of a good deal of engineering skill. It crosses some of the most inaccessible portions of Madison County, and presents some points of interest in Chenango County, where some heavy grades occur, especially in the town of Guilford. 'From the Susquehanna Valley it commences an ascending grade over the divide between that valley and the valley of the Chenango, attaining an elevation of 390 feet at Guilford Center, 1,486 feet at Guilford, less than two miles distant, and 1,616 feet at the summit, one and one-half miles beyond. In the next five miles the descent is 460 feet. About three miles north of Oxford it crosses Lyon Brook, which is spanned by an iron trestle bridge, 800 feet long and 165 feet high. This is one of the finest triumphs of engineering skill on the line of the road. The Shawangunk44 tunnel, in Sullivan County, is another fine specimen of engineering skill. It is 1,470 feet long, 26 feet wide, and 24 feet high, and is cut through solid rock, the stratification of which is so even that the roof is nearly perfectly smooth. The work upon it was begun in March, 1869, and finished so as to admit the first train of cars January 24, 1872.
The road has numerous branch connections, two of which interest Chenango County:., first the New Berlin Branch, which leaves the main line two and one-half miles beyond the Susquehanna, at East Guilford, in the south-east corner of Guilford, extends thence northward twenty-two miles up the valley and on the west side of the Unadilla, crossing the east borders of Guilford, Norwich and New Berlin, and terminating at New Berlin village, to which point it was completed in August, 1870; and the Auburn Branch, extending from Norwich up the valley of the Canasawacta and down those of Middletown and Mann's Brooks, crossing diagonally the towns of Plymouth and Otselic and the south-west corner of Smyrna, in Chenango county, and the south-west corner of Georgetown, and the southern portion of DeRuyter in Madison county. From thence it extends through Truxton and Cortland to Freeville, and thence north up the valley of Salmon Creek, to Scipio Summit, twelve miles south of Auburn, to which point it was open and in operation in 1872. In 1879, the road was abandoned between Norwich and DeRuyter, one train a week only being run between Norwich and Otselic during the summer and fall to accommodate the cheese factories on its line.
The road was projected on a magnificent scale, but has been encompassed with various difficulties from an early period in its history. It was built mainly by town subscriptions, and the disasters which have befallen it have entailed heavy losses and imposed heavy burdens on the towns along its line, most of which issued bonds for large sums in its aid.45
The first passenger train on the main line was run between Oneida and West Monroe, August 29, 1869, for the purpose of bringing in hop pickers. It was drawn by engine No. 4, the Delaware, Edwin Williams was engineer, and James T. Purdy, conductor.46
Under an act passed April 5, 1871, the company are permitted to extend their road to any point on Lake Erie or the Niagara River. A line was early proposed from Hancock, crossing the Susquehanna near Nineveh, and the Chenango near the mouth of the Genegantslet; thence through Smithville, Willett, Cincinnatus and Solon to Cortland.
The Albany and Susquehanna Railroad Company was organized April 2, 1851, and was largely aided in the construction of its road by State grants and local subscriptions, by counties, towns and the city of Albany. During an active rivalry for the control of the road in 1869, most of the towns sold their stock at par. The road was completed from Albany to Schoharie, fifty-five miles, September 16, 1863; to Cobleskill, ten miles, January 2, 1865; to Richmondville, five miles, June 1, 1865; to Worcester, twelve miles, July 17, 1865; to Schenevus, five miles, August 7, 1865; to Oneonta, fifteen miles, August 28, 1865; to Otego, eight miles, January 23, 1866; to Unadilla, nine miles, March 2, 1866; to Sidney, four miles, March 2, 1866; to Bainbridge, five miles, July 10, 1867; to Afton, six miles, November 11, 1867; to Harpersville, six miles, December 25, 1867; and to Binghamton, twenty-eight miles, January 14, 1869. The road was leased February 24, 1870, for the term of its charter, one hundred and fifty years, to the Delaware and Hudson Canal Company, under powers given to the latter by an act of May 9, 1867. The rent is $490,000, or seven per cent. on its capital and bonded debts, the lessees to pay taxes, cost of maintenance and repairs, and all payments due or to become due, not exceeding $15,000,000.
The road enters Chenango County with the Susquehanna near the north-east corner of the tows of Bainbridge, and extends along the valley and west bank of that liver through Bainbridge and Afton, leaving the county near the south-west corner of the latter town.
The Cazenovia and Canastota Railroad was incorporated January 22, 1868, with a capital of $300,000. It was completed in 1870 between the termini indicated in the title, a distance of 14 3/4 miles, and extended in 1872 to DeRuyter, connecting there with the Utica, Chenango and Cortland Railroad. It crosses the south-western part of Lenox, the south-east corner of Sullivan, the west border of Fenner, the central part of Cazenovia, and the northern and western parts of DeRuyter, terminating at DeRuyter village.
The first directors were: Benj. F. Jarvis, Charles Brown, Lewison Fairchild, O. W. Sage, Charles Stebbins, Jr., and George L. Rouse, of Cazenovia; Dr. Theodore Mead and John Wilson, of Fenner; and Charles Stroud, John Montross, Thomas N. Jarvis; Perkins Clark and Ralph H. Avery, 0f Canastota. Lewison Fairchild was the first president.
The Utica, Chenango and Susquehanna Valley Railroad Company was formed January 11, 1866, and received aid from Utica to the amount of half a million dollars and considerable sums from towns along the line, under the provisions of chapter 50 of the laws of 1866, The road was constructed to a point on the Midland near Sherburne Four Corners in 1868-'9; and in 1870, under the provisions of an act passed April 21, 1868, was extended to Chenango Forks, where it connects with the Syracuse and Binghamton Railroad, which is operated by the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad Company, by whom this extension was made, and by whom this road is now leased and operated, as the Utica Division of the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad. The right of way from Greene to Chenango Forks was transferred to this company by the Greene Railroad Company.47 The road enters the county of Madison in the north-west corner of Brookfield, crosses the south-east corner of Madison, extends diagonally across Hamilton, the western part of Sherburne, the north-east part of Plymouth, running parallel with the Midland from North Norwich to Norwich, from which point it deflects to the west, following the Chenango Valley through the west part of Norwich and diagonally across the towns of Oxford and Greene.
The Utica, Clinton and Binghamton Railroad was incorporated as the Utica City Railroad, August 13, 1862, and the name changed to the Utica City and Waterville Railroad in 1864. The name was again changed as above March 25, 1868.48 It was opened in 1870 to Smith's Valley, in Lebanon, where it-connects with the Midland Railroad. It is leased and operated by the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad Company. It enters Madison County in the north-east part of the town of Madison, extends through the northern and western portions of that town and the north-west corner of Hamilton, uniting with the Midland in the east part of Lebanon.
The Utica, Chenango and Cortland Railroad was incorporated April 9, 1870, with a capital of $800,000 and extends from the terminus of the Ithaca and Cortland Railroad at Cortland to Otselic, about thirty-two miles, and- formed a link of the Auburn branch of the Midland between those points.
The Utica, Georgetown and Elmira Railroad was organized March 28, 1870, with a capital of $350,000, for the purpose of constructing eighteen miles of railroad from Otselic to connect Utica with the Utica, Chenango and Cortland Railroad; but the road was not built.
The Syracuse and Chenango Valley Railroad was incorporated April 15, 1868, with a capital of $1,000,000; and by an act passed May 7, 1868, the Syracuse, Fayetteville and Manlius Railroad Company were allowed to transfer their franchises to this company. The road extends from Syracuse to Earlville, a distance of about fifty miles, through a beautiful and fertile section of country, which it greatly benefits, and was completed in 1872. It enters Madison county on the west line of Cazenovia, passing near that point through a tunnel sixteen hundred feet in length, and crossing diagonally the central part of that town, the south-west part of Nelson, the north-east part of Georgetown and the town of Lebanon, connects with the Midland in the south-east corner of the latter town. At its northern terminus it connects with the New York Central, the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western and the Syracuse Northern railroads.49
|New Berlin Branch, Personal||12,300|
|Auburn " "||8,800||$1,583,400|
|Madison County, Personal||20,500||768,600|
The railroad indebtedness of Chenango County in 2875, which was $1,966,950, exceeded by more than half a million dollars that of any other county in the State, except Oswego, which had a railroad indebtedness of $2,014,112.
46 - Hammond's History of Madison County, 136.
47 - See History of town of Greene in this work.
48 - Hough's Gazetteer of New York, 152.
49 - The Railroad indebtedness of the several towns and villages in Chenango and Madison Counties in 1875 was as follows:---
|CHENANGO COUNTY --- TOTAL, $1,966,950|
|Afton||$ 30,000|||||Otselic||$ 83,700|
|MADISON COUNTY --- TOTAL, $1,008,375|