Dan Weiskotten's History of Chittenango Landing Dry Dock
History of Chittenango Landing Dry Dock
Daniel H. Weiskotten
1991 (posted October 27, 1998)
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I have located some data regarding Chittenango Landing which may not have been found by other researchers.  Please excuse the disorganization of this section as I have not the time to properly put this data together.  I will not include here data from The Chittenango Landing Canal Boat Museum booklet (1986), or CLCBM: Its History, Purpose, and Goals (August 1989), unless I find it necessary.  Since this paper was written others have done more research on the site, but I have not seen any of this material and am not sure if or how it might affect my interpretations.  Please visit the Chittenango Landing Canal Boat Museum or check out some of the other canal resources on my Links Page.

The property was originally part of the Yates Estate (Erie Canal Structure Book 76:27, 28 (1851); map of Yates Estate in Madison County Clerk's Office) but was purchased by John H. Walrath from Daniel F. Kellogg for $1,400.00 on January 21, 1856 (Madison County Clerk's Office Deed CD:428.).  Kellogg is shown as the owner or occupant of the property in 1855 (Structure Book 62:35 (1855)) but it is not known who he was.  On July 15, 1856 John H. Walrath purchased for $550.00 the western part of the dry dock property from John I. Walrath (relation not known at this time) for the purpose of building a ditch ten feet wide at the top from the dry dock "now in the process of construction" to the Chittenango Creek near the aqueduct (Deed CD:427.).  Other data tells me that Walrath was in partnership with Hiram Graves and Mr. (Jurius, Julius, or Robert) French (County Times, Chittenango, April 22, 1910) but I found little data on Graves or French.  Julius French ran a canal store in and Hiram Graves was a carpenter in 1860 (1860 Federal Census, Town of Sullivan :158, 160), and Hiram Graves is listed as a boat builder in 1865 (1865 State Census :25) and as a carpenter in 1875 (1875 State Census :20) (1870 not checked).  No deeds were found for the dry dock property with Graves or French (Graves was checked in Grantor and Grantee indices, French in Grantees only).

As for John H. Walrath I find that he was married to Julia Yates (1865 State Census :53) (presumably the daughter of the late Judge John B. Yates who formerly owned the property).  He owned a saw mill on the creek just south of the dry dock property (Deed 100:312) and is said to have had a foundry in the village also (I find that it was Daniel J. Walrath).  He is not listed in the 1850 census (I only noted canal related occupations); in 1855 he was a 29 year old lumberman and is listed in the Census of Industry as a sawyer and lumber dealer (as was "Yates & Brother") (1855 Census (no page numbers)); in 1860 he was listed as a grocer but lived in the same dwelling as a boat builder, blacksmith, and clerk (1860 Census :160.); in 1865 he was listed as a boat builder and was listed in the Census of Industry other than Agricultural as "John H. Walrath & Co., Boat Building and Repairing" (1865 Census :53, Census of Industry).  Were the "Co." Graves and French?); and in 1875 he is listed as a boat builder and his 21 year old son Abraham was a book keeper for a lumber yard in Tonowanda (1875 Census :43).  Later census records were not located, did not list Walrath, or did not give occupations.

In 1869 it is found that John H. Walrath, Benjamin D. French, and Albert H. Downer, as Walrath, French, & Downer, were "boat builders, sash, blind and door manufs, lumber dealers and props. dry dock" (Child's Gazetteer and Business Directory of Madison County 1869).  It may be that they were a company of varied interests and not all necessarily at the dry dock.

On February 16, 1878 John H. Walrath and Albert H. Downer sold the dry dock to Franklin Hosley of Vernon for $6,000 (Deed 147:108).  Hosley had been at the Durhamville Dry Dock with Michael Doran as Hosley & Doran as early as April 1, 1863 (Deed 99:53) and as late as April 13, 1876 (Deeds 136:280, 138:333; undated (c.1905) and unsourced obituary of Michael Doran).  The description of Hosley's purchase reads in part: "Bounded on the north by the south line of the Erie Canal, on the east by the Chittenango Feeder to the Canal ... from the Feeder westerly and midway between the north side of the Engine House and the south side of the Work Shop to the southwest corner of the shed attached to the barn ..."  It also include the second parcel to the west with the right of way for the sluiceway.  A second deed, made October 17, 1879 between Daniel D. Walrath (relation to JHW not known) to Franklin Hosley for $2,514.81 (subject to a mortgage to Charlotte M. Stewart) (Deed 146:119), conveyed the same premises as above and may indicate that John H. and Daniel D. were co-owners of the dry dock.

For Chittenango Landing during this period I was able to find information in the 1865 State "Census of Industry other than Agricultural", and the 1870 and 1880 Federal "Census of Industry" records.  The record of 1865 shows: John H. Walrath & Co.; Boat Building and Repairing; $10,000 capitol invested; ($3,600 lumber); $4,000 miscellaneous raw material; annual product of one canal boat at $3,000, and repairing of $10,000; 15 persons employed; average monthly wages of $45.  1870 shows: Walrath and Downer; Boat Builders; $13,000 capitol invested; 20 men employed; $7,000 in annual wages; twelve months in operation; stock of lumber, paint, oakum, timber, and iron valued at $5,000; produced three canal boats valued at $15,000 (no notice of repairing).  For 1880 we have: Frank Hosley; Dry Dock and Boat Building; $9,000 capitol invested; 20 employees at any one time; 15 being males over age 16; working ten hour work days; $1.63 (per day) is the average wage of skilled labor; $4,000 paid in wages last year (1879); being in operation for eight months; four months idle; using $5,780 worth of materials; with $10,600 worth of annual product.

It seems that the property was foreclosed upon about 1888 as on May 1st of that year the property was sold by Charlotte M. Stewart to Robert J. Scott for $3,000 (Deed 173:29).  Scott almost immediately conveyed the property to Robert G. Nesbitt on December 28, 1888 for $1.00 (Deed 173:31).  Nesbitt immediately (that same day) conveyed the property for $1.00 to Ella or Ellen A. Scott (Deed 173:28).  Scott's name appears on the Sanborn Insurance maps for the years 1890, 1895, and 1900 and is said to have been the proprietor until about 1904 (County Times April 22, 1910).  The 1905 census (:10) lists a Robert A. Scott, age 24, as a boat builder.

After Scott, from 1905 to about 1909, the property was part of the LeRoy Estate and the dry dock was idle.  In 1910 it was purchased by George Dewitt who had operated it the year before.  He fitted the docks up for boat repairs with hopes that business would be brisk (the Barge Canal project was already under way which would bypass the dry dock).  In 1910 there were two houses, a storehouse, wood working shop, blacksmith shop, and three docks: a loaded dock, a hundred ton dock, and a light dock (County Times April 22, 1910).  The dock was still operated by "C." Dewitt in 1911 according to the Sanborn map of that year.  I found nothing to indicate the activities on the site after 1911 and when the next known property owners were living there.  The dry dock is generally considered to have been closed in 1917 when the Barge Canal opened although it may have continued in operation during the crucial war years.

The next known owners of the property were the Beeman family who had long been involved with the canal and the dry dock.  Morris Beeman came into the possession of the premises November 21, 1946 from Lulu Walrath (Deed 398:128).  Morris' wife's name was Lula (Deed 566:596) so I wonder if Morris was married to Lulu Walrath).  The 1860 census (:160) shows that 26 year old Edward Beeman was a boat builder and lived very near if not at the dry dock site.  In 1875 (census :7) 31 year old William Beeman worked on the canal, 36 year old Albert Beeman worked on the State Scow (:18), and 31 year old George Beeman worked as a boat caulker as did Edward F. Beeman age 49 (:21).  In 1892 George R. Beeman age 48 was a boat caulker (:3), and in 1905 he was a boat builder (:13).  Also in 1905 John H. Beeman, age 42, was a ship carpenter (:10), and so he was also in 1915 (:2).  George R. Beeman, then 70 years old, was still listed as a boat builder in 1915 (:8), and Malcolm Beeman (son of Albert), who gave many clues to the dry dock's history when it was first being investigated in 1985, was a 14 year old school student living on Tuscarora Street (:2).

The latter part of the history of the dry dock should be written, but I leave that up to others!