© Richard Palmer and Shirley Farone, July 4, 2011,


See Mr. Palmer's stagecoach blog, created in July of 2011. All recently found articles and photos will now appear on Mr. Palmer's Blog. Dick Palmer's Blog.







Richard Palmer

"How travelers once got to Auburn by 'stages' "



Richard Palmer

"North Syracuse was really called Podunk"



Onondaga Historical Association

“Old Coaching Days”
When the Syracuse House Was in Its Glory--      Manlius was in a Hustle.


September 12, 1811

Albany Gazette

"Mail Stage From Albany
  to Niagara Falls"


August 23, 1820

Johnstown, NY Republican

“Expert Driving”
   Mr. Powell, driver


August 28, 1822

Geneva Palladium

“The Post-Coach Line"
  Albany to Buffalo


May 7, 1823

Onondaga Register

Seneca Turnpike Company
  declared dividend


February 11, 1824

Onondaga Gazette

"Getting There By Stages"


January 19, 1839

Ontario County Clerk Records
Book K, Miscellaneous Records
Page 183-4

"Articles of Association"
   Stage Drivers Library &
   Reading Room Association


July 20, 1865

Boonville Herald

Arrival of Dignitaries


February 18, 1870

Watertown Daily Times

"Staging in Winter or Light
    Reading for Lazy People"


September 1, 1886

Syracuse Herald

"The Genesee Pike"
Reminiscences of One of the Three
   Surviving First Stage Drivers
A Racy Story of Early Travel
Recollections of Marcy,
   General Scott, Fanny Kemble, Humphrey,
    and Other Famous Passengers.


August 18, 1892

Boonville Herald



March 23, 1938

Lowville Journal & Republican

"Motor Trucks and Autos Replace Boats
    Along Route of Canal to Port


unknown date

Watertown Daily Times

"An Old Stage Coach
    Tavern - (Blodgett's)


December 13, 1904
Oct. 12, 1923
July 28, 1923

Auburn Weekly Bulletin
Auburn Semi-Weekly Journal
Auburn Citizen

3 Articles Re: Aaron Kirk:
"Has Driven 254,082 Miles"
"Veteran of the Road"
"Oldest Surviving Stage Driver"


May 19, 1928

Watertown Daily Times
   by Richard C.

"Stagecoach Days in Northern New York"

Three articles about Stage Driver Aaron Kirk sent by Richard Palmer in June of 2011 - (No. 11) - individually posted:

Has Driven 254,082 Miles

Veteran of the Road

Oldest Surviving Stage Driver In U.S.
  Celebrates 90th Birthday in Auburn


by Richard Palmer


In December, 1837, the newly-completed Auburn & Syracuse Railroad, which passed through the towns of Geddes, Camillus and Elbridge, contracted with Col. John M. Sherwood of Auburn to operate the line using his horses and altered stagecoaches until such time as the company could afford to purchase locomotives.

At the time, scrap iron was also unavailable, so locomotive operation would have been impractical on the plain wooden rails that had been laid. Sherwood was one of the major partners in a consortium loosely called the "Old Line Mail," which had controlled public land transportation between Albany and Buffalo and had the mail contracts since about 1800.

According to Thomas Y. How, Jr., treasurer, as recorded in the company letter book, the directors had decided it was in their interest to contract with Sherwood and also secure his business rather than compete against him. This arrangement lasted for about 14 months until locomotives were purchased from Rogers Locomotive Works of Patterson, N.J.

Following is an account of a ride in one of the horsecar trains from James S. Buckingham's "Travels in the Eastern and Western States of America," published in London in 1842. The author and his party had traveled by canal packet to Utica, and then by stagecoach to Syracuse. He noted that the journey from Utica to Syracuse, a little more than 50 miles, took eight hours, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., or an average of 6 1/4 miles per hour.

"On the following morning, Thursday, August 9th (1838), we left Syracuse in a coach that conveyed us to a rail-way, beginning at a distance of 3 or 4 miles from the town, to take us to Auburn; but great was our disappointment at finding, that instead of a locomotive engine, the cars were drawn by horses, of which there were only two, to draw about 20 passengers, the horses being placed one before the other, as tandems are driven, and not abreast.

"The rails, too, were of wood instead of iron, and the rate of travelling was estimated to be about six miles an hour. We had to wait half an hour before starting, and our progress was then so tedious that we all thought of getting out to walk the distance, as the most expeditious mode of the two. To add to our mortification, we met a train of cars drawn by a single horse coming right against us, and, the rails being single, and the places for turning off being wide apart, we had to shift our tandem pair from the front to the hind part of the train, and be drawn back about a mile and a half to get off the track, and let our advancing rival go past us.

"After a very tedious ride of four hours in performing 22 miles, we reached Auburn, the entrance to which was by the great State Prison, and the other public buildings, which gave it a very striking appearance."

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The ensuing article appears to have been written recently by Richard Palmer. (December, 2003)

North Syracuse was really called Podunk

by Richard Palmer

Tradition has it that North Syracuse was successively called Podunk and Centerville before taking on its present name. Although many have dismissed as folklore, new uncovered evidence substantiates the fact that Podunk was its original name.

During the summer of 1847, David Lum and his family of New York City toured this region using a variety of public transportation including trains, packet boats and stagecoaches. One of their tours was from Syracuse to Oswego on a canal packet, across Lake Ontario and down the St. Lawrence River to Ogdensburg, then returning overland by stagecoach.

Finally arriving back in Syracuse, Lum, on July 19, 1847, wrote a letter describing his adventure to the North Country which was published in the Syracuse Daily Star the following day. He wrote:

"From Watertown I took the stage to this place, being desirous to see the interior of the country and to ride on the Plank Road. At Richland, in Oswego county, we were regaled with salmon for dinner - a species of fish, I am told very abundant there, and forming the chief article of commerce of the place.

"We struck the Plank Road at Brewerton, close by the outlet of Oneida Lake, and I was delighted with this novel and most excellent species of road. The road is made by moderately leveling the of the intended road, then laying down sleepers length-wise and crossing them with thick plank, so that you have all the smoothness of a railroad.

"Travelers upon it are perfectly delighted with it, I am told - except when they come to the gate and have to pay toll - they grumble then. I stopped for the night at the village of Podunk some seven miles from Syracuse, and put up at the Podunk Hotel.

"This village has taken a new start since the opening of the Plank Road, and bids fair to become a large place. Its steam saw mill an shops produce lumber and salt barrels in abundance, and I noticed a goodly number of stores, groceries and meat shops.

"I was informed that a large number of building lots, had lately been laid out adjacent to the village, forming quite a little town, and called ‘Stearne's Addition to Podunk' - a safe indication of the thriving character of the place.

"In the morning of my departure, the landlord handed me his bill. I was a little surprised at it, for I supposed that gentlemen of the quill went scot free - at least, landlords so far had politely waived any payment from me. The honor and the notice of the House balancing the eating and sleeping. However, I considered that the Plank Road had lately been opened, and mine host, somewhat ignorant of the modern improvements in these matters, so I paid his demand, and left for Syracuse, where I committed myself to the hospitality, and luxuries of my friend Capt. Cody of the Empire House."

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The Genesee Pike
Syracuse Herald, Sept. 1, 1886

Reminiscences of One of the Three Surviving First Stage Drivers.

A Racy Story of Early Travel

Recollections of Marcy, General Scott, Fanny Kemble, Humphrey and Other Famous Passengers.


Norman Maxon, who was a driver on the ‘Old Sherwood Stage Line’ which began operations in this county in 1809, is still living at his home in Elbridge. His funny or anecdote and humorous stories makes him a much sought-for companion in that village. To a Herald reporter he gave the following account of his experience on the road:

‘I began driving in 1828 and the only old drivers known to be living beside myself are, Consider Carter, who lives in Chicago, and George Brown of Danforth. Col. John M. Sherwood controlled that part of the line from Manlius and Fayetteville to Geneva. It was divided into three sections. Eastward from Auburn one line ran through Skaneateles, Marcellus and Onondaga Hill to Manlius. Another went over the Seneca Turnpike through the villages of Elbridge, Geddes and Syracuse to Fayetteville.

‘That part of the road between Auburn and Geneva comprised the third section. It would be impossible now for me to tell you the exact number of teams that were employed on the line, but I think 80 would be near the figures. At that time the stages ran through from Albany, the horses only being changed. The teams and their drivers were in the rounds, that is, ‘first in, first out.’ For instance, a coach came into Fayetteville. My team had been in the stable longest, I would hitch on and drive it to Syracuse, where another team would take it and go on to Camillus.

‘When it came my turn I would follow to Camillus and then in order to Elbridge and lastly to Auburn, where I would turn. On the down trip stops were made at the same changing places until I got to Fayetteville, where Parker and Faxton’s teams met ours. The same method was pursued on the Genesee Turnpike and between Auburn and Geneva. The advantage of such a course was it gave the horses shorter drives and saved passengers the delay which would result in stopping to feed.

‘The Eway-bill,’ which every driver carried, was another feature of the road. If a person in Auburn was going to Albany he would go to the stage office in that village and the agent would register on it by the agent of the station where the passenger took passage. By such a system the driver was saved the trouble of handling the fares. We carried the mail, too, and the distribution was done at each post office along the route except the through mails. Very few newspapers were carried, as people had not got to reading them. I think we would bring about five into Elbridge, one of them going to the hotel and the other four supplying the town with its weekly reading matter.

‘To give you an idea of the circulation of the secular press, I will speak of the number that supplied the country from Syracuse to Christian Hollow, three miles below Cardiff. On publication day I have been in Lewis H. Redfield’s office and seen him put up the papers for the above-mentioned territory. I could put my two hands around the entire list. Colonel Sherwood had the contracts for carrying the mails over a large section of Central New York, but he relet them all except over the main stage lines. Assistant Postmaster General Porter rode with me once. He gave Colonel Sherwood the credit of being the best stage proprietor in the United States so far as prompt deliver of mails was concerned. And doubtless the compliment was merited by the old gentleman, for he took great pride in having his stages run on time and always kept good horses for that purpose.

‘The first stage on the Seneca Turnpike was nothing but a two-horse wagon, and Consider Carter ran it for Isaac Sherwood, (the colonel’s father who started the business) in 1820. Carter is yet living, being more than 90 years old, and has been seen by Charles Briggs of Auburn within a short time.

Sherwood ran lateral lines of stages to Weedsport, Lyons and Montezuma. But there was no money in these side lines and they were continually changing hands. I spent two summers and one winter on the Genesee Turnpike, and that would bring me into Skaneateles. Colonel Sherwood lived there and a noble old fellow he was. He weighed 410 pounds and on account of his fleshiness was a careful eater. He had a fondness for crackers, and several times a day he would eat one or two and then wash them down with a swallow of rum. And his rum was no common stuff, but would come in cases which he kept in the cellar. Myself and another driver would go down and get a case, drink the rum and fill the bottles with water and return the case to the cellar. We congratulated ourselves on our shrewdness in evading detection, but the old Colonel was onto us from the start and enjoyed the joke as well as we did.

‘I went to the funeral of the first white child born in this county. It was Colonel Phillips’s wife, the daughter of Aaa Danforth. The Phillips family lived on the corner where the Vanderbilt House now stands. The house, I think, was used afterwards as a coffee house and kept by the Cooks. Mrs. Phillips was buried in a little graveyard that stood off the canal not far from the present site of Greenway's brewery. After the death of his wife the old Colonel would not enter his house for more than three months unless I was with him. I was well acquainted with him because he was the Syracuse agent for the stage company.

‘While I was in Syracuse, William H. Marcy would come to our office and hire a team and driver to take him to General Mann’s. I took him the first time he went. He would always ask for me after that. I had a fine gray team and it became a great favorite of his. General Winfield Scott went up the line with me once. He was on his way to Fort Erie, and wore a military cloak and cap. When he got out at Elbridge he made me think of a pair of tongs he was so tall and thin, but afterward he fleshed up.

‘Another time I had Fanny Kemble, the English actress, as a passenger. She was a vivacious woman and full of fun. There was a young Southerner coming up at the same time, and he as fuming because he could not stop over at Syracuse and get breakfast at the Syracuse House. It was fun for the English woman to hear the young snob take on. She took breakfast at Elbridge, and years afterwards someone brought me a paper containing an article which she had written and in it was an account of that meal at Elbridge. She spoke in very complimentary terms of my wife, who had prepared the meal for her.

Enos T. Throop would occasionally take passage with me, but I was never anxious to have him in my stage. He was a very selfish person and had no regard for the comforts of others. One morning I was called up to take him to Weedsport to catch the packet. It was late in the fall and the day was cold and stormy. It was the last packet east that season and he was anxious to get it.

‘That is what he said at the stage office when he ordered the turnout the night before. His home was near the foot of the lake, but he stayed in Auburn that night with his brother George. I was at the house at the time agreed upon, but Throop was not ready. He sent out word that he was eating his breakfast. It was a full hour before he got outside. We began quarreling before we got outside of the village, and kept it up until we reached Weedsport. We got there just as the packet drew up to the dock.

Frank Granger was a constant traveler and was very popular with the boys. The spring succeeding the fall he ran for Governor on the anti-Mason ticket I had him as a passenger. My trip took me to Camillus, and from there into Syracuse. Jess Williams drove the stage. It was a raw day, and Frank got chilled before reaching there. When he got out of the stage he lectured Jess about the poor run from Camillus. Williams replied: ŒSay (sic), Mass Granger, I guess I’ve made as good a run as you did last fall when you run for anti-Mason governor.’ Granger was so pleased with the report that he gave Williams a new buffalo robe which he had with him. Williams told the story on his return, and when Granger got back he told it to a party of friends.

‘One other person deserves some notice - that of Humphrey, the bank runner. At that time the system of banking by checks and drafts was not in vogue. Merchants would go to New York to buy goods, taking the money with them for payment. They would take bank bills in preference to coin because of the convenience of carrying them. After the merchants from the interior had got through trading and returned home the New York banks would collect all the Western bank bills and start out Humphrey to have them redeemed.

‘He was always accompanied by a guard, and both men were armed. On the up trip Humphrey would call at each bank and present such bills as had been issued by that particular bank. If the bank had Eastern bank bills he would accept them in exchange, but if not, specie would be paid. The money would then be deposited for safe keeping until the return trip from the West, when the deposits would be collected. Very few, if any, of the banks would have sufficient paper money to redeem their bills, and the consequence would be that Humphrey would accumulate a large quantity of gold and silver. I recollect once of going out of Syracuse with a four-horse team, purposely to carry Humphrey and his money. I think he said he had $60,000 with him.

`‘The money usually was put into trunks and the trunks thrown into the boot under the driver’s feet. Crosby, the guide, always rode on the seat while Humphrey rode inside. I gave Humphrey a good scare once just east of Syracuse. It was on a trip out and the trunks were in the boot as usual. Crosby and myself were on the seat and Humphrey inside asleep.

‘It was a pleasant day in winter time and the thaw had made the roads slippery. I was driving at a brisk trot and a sudden turn in the road sent the sleigh over on its side, throwing out the trunks. Humphrey was dozing at the time, but the way he crawled out of the stage was amusing. The sudden awakening and the idea of robbery, which probably always haunted him, doubtless was the incentive to his quick movement.

‘About the time the agitation concerning the old United States Bank was at its height, Nicholas Biddle, the president of the concern, came down over the line from Niagara Falls, then the great summer resort of the country. He was in great haste to get east and Colonel Sherwood called on me to take him from Auburn to Elbridge. His instructions were to make the trip in forty minutes, the usual time being one hour and fifteen minutes. I did it and it was considered a very creditable feat. It would not be thought much of a drive now with a light wagon, but you must recollect our stages weighed 2,400 pounds.

‘Towards the east the Seneca turnpike got to be the favorite thoroughfare, because it ran through a leveler country than did the Genesee. Another thing that contributed to make it popular was that it led through Syracuse.

‘The old line stage barns stood on the ground afterward occupied by he old New York Central depot on Vanderbilt Square. The Presbyterian Church on the green south of the barns, and Jake Hosenpratt’s farm house still further out, were the only buildings on that side of the road until you got outside what is now the corporate limits of Syracuse.

‘To give you an idea of the value of land in the village then I will refer to a land purchase by Landlord Comstock of the Syracuse House. He bought 10 acres about forty rods east of the hotel and paid $1,000 for it. The price was the town talk for a long time, and Comstock was classed as a fool for paying such a price for the land. People said it would never be good for anything except as a cow pasture. The deal made him the laughing stock of the town for a long time.

‘But Salina! It was worth a man’s life to get out of there. Saltpointers had an especial dislike for the residents of Syracuse. Why they did I never knew. I speak from personal knowledge when I say it was not healthful for a Syracusan to be caught in Salina. Dean Richmond was king of the bullies, and he always had a big gang at is beck and call. Fighting in the community was an essential element of their religion. A man was not in good standing in his church unless he would fight. The bigger the bruiser he was the better Christian he was the better Christian he was considered.

‘They were delighted when some outside bully would come in and the poor devil had the pluck to do it would be sure not to repeat the visit. On one occasion they got beat at their own game. A great stalwart Englishman named Rand, who owned a farm near Onondaga Hill, was waylaid one day by the boilers. But he knocked them right and left with his bare fists and ever afterwards he was never molested. Rand was a very powerful man, somewhere about six feet four inches and broad in proportion, with a bony muscular frame.

‘One peculiar thing about the politics of the county was the large Democratic majority. And yet every prominent lawyer in the county was a Whig. I attributed it to the lack of education and intelligence, for all you had to do to make anything popular with the masses was to label it Democracy and it was accepted unquestioned.

‘There was no party that ever existed that compared in ability with the old Whig party. I was at Syracuse when Seward was nominated for Governor, and that night 11 stages and a long string of wagons loaded with members of the convention went to Auburn to call on him.’

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Getting There By Stages
Onondaga Gazette, Syracuse, N.Y., Feb. 11, 1824

In order to inform our distant readers of the public travel through this place, we are informed as a fact, that on Wednesday last, the passengers in the stages passing through this place, amounted to between sixty and seventy, averaging from nine to eleven in each stage. The lines of stages now through this village, consist of the old and new lines from Albany and Utica, east, and from Buffalo and Canandaigua, west; which pass daily. In addition to these, the Cherry Valley Mail Line also passes every day, east or west, Sundays excepted.

Also a new line of stages has recently been established from Sacket’s Harbor to this place, running three times a week. There is not a place in the western district, perhaps, where public travel has increased to such an extent, as through our now flourishing village, and extensive works for the manufacture of coarse salt seems to excite the admiration and elicit the praise of all who view them.

We think we hazard nothing in saying, that, from the peculiar advantages of our village, it must become a place of importance worthy the attention of the enterprising emigrants who wish to locate in a growing place of business; and particularly inviting to honest and industrious mechanics.

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Book D, Miscellaneous Records, Page 183-4, Ontario County Clerk, Recorded
January 19th, 1839

Articles of Association
Stage Drivers Library and Reading Room Association

Article 1. We the undersigned Stage Drivers of the Village of Canandaigua hereby form ourselves into a society to be known and distinguished by the appellation of The Canandaigua Stage Drivers Library and Reading-Room Association and bind ourselves individually to pay the sum of 12 1/2 cents per month to the President of Said Association which said monies are to be expended from time to time as said President shall see fit for the purchase of Books, Periodicals, &c. for the benefit of the association.

Article 2. No member of this Association or any other person shall have the privilege of removing any book, periodical or other property of this Association from the room in which said books &c are kept.

Article 3. The officers of this Association shall be a president, vice president and librarian who shall be elected by ballot, on the first day of January in each year.

Article 4. The President shall perform all the duties usually incumbent on that office and in his absence those duties shall be performed by the Vice-President.

Article 5. Any Stage Driver in Canandaigua may become a member of this Association by subscribing this constitution and complying with the requirements herein contained.

Article 6. This constitution may be amended by vote of two-thirds of the members of the Association.

Canandaigua, January 1st, 1839.
President Stephen B. Austin
Vice President George B. Hotchkiss
Librarian Perry G. Wadhams &c.

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Old Coaching Days
(Undated newspaper clipping in files of Onondaga Historical Assn.)

When the Syracuse House Was in Its Glory - Manlius was in a Hustle.

There are very few Syracusans left who remember the old-fashioned Concord coaches that were wont to draw up in front of the Syracuse House during the “Twenties,” when that famous hostelry was the most popular stopping place for travelers between Albany and Buffalo. Syracuse was not a very attractive village in those days, but its central location made it the starting point for innumerable stage coaches going east and west over this great thoroughfare.

The road as it passed through Syracuse followed nearly the same direction as East and West Genesee streets do now. Before the Erie Canal was dug, however, the turnpike ran straight across the space now occupied by the packet dock.

East Genesee street beyond where Fayette Park is now was full of treacherous mud-holes, and with low, swampy land on both sides. For many years a large red post, which marked the eastern limit of the village, stood opposite the present site of the Chemical engine house. The corduroy style of architecture, which consisted of logs laid side by side with a small amount of dirt thrown on top, was usually productive of a great deal of profanity on the part of the drivers, and it frequently happened that the passengers were obliged to dismount while rails were brought from a neighboring fence and the coach wheels pried out of from some unusually deep mud hole. Syracuse real estate was not valuable property in those days. The village cows roamed through the Seventh and Eighth wards unrestrained by fences, and the only objection to this common pasturage was the difficulty in getting the cattle home at night. As late as 1829 the land on the north side of East Genesee and east of Orange street sold for ten dollars an acre.

The ride from Syracuse to Albany was not a pleasure trip, and ladies were seldom seen traveling by stagecoach. The Syracusan who had a business in Albany or New York climbed into one of the many coaches standing in front of the Syracuse House about 9 o’clock in the morning after paying from five to six dollars for his ticket, and proceeded to make himself as comfortable as the narrow quarters would allow. Accident insurance policies were not in vogue then, so the passenger was obliged to assume all risks of injury. The driver was usually a jolly, good-natured individual, a good story-teller, a confirmed tobacco-chewer, and above all a first-rate horseman. Four horses composed the team unless the roads were unusually muddy, when two more were added, and the coach was hauled along at a six-mile-an-hour gait, despite ruts or holes.

The coaches were all of the Concord pattern, with heavy yellow bodies swung upon stout, thorough-braces. A “boot” behind held the mail bags and heavy baggage. A loud blast from the driver’s horn was given as the stagecoach drew up in front of the tavern in Manlius, where dinner was eaten while a fresh team was being hitched up.

Manlius in stagecoaching days was a thrifty, bustling village with several large cotton mills and three rival taverns. From Manlius the route lay through Cazenovia to Nelson Flats, where another fresh team was booked. About forty-eight hours after leaving Syracuse, the passengers would disembark in Albany, lame and stiff from the trip.

Very few stagecoaches ran through the entire distances, and a system of way-bills was used by the different stage owners, who would meet once a month and balance accounts. These way-bills were passed from driver to driver, to be shown to the company’s agents at different points along the road, who would identify each passenger in the coach. All the extra fare that a driver could pick up between the stations was considered lawful plunder.

The coaches which carried the mail were usually considered the most desirable to travel in, as they were required to go through on time, no matter what interfered. Many conscientious people were opposed to the Sunday travel, and an “anti-Sunday” route was established in 1825.* This line was never very successful. When the Erie canal was completed a heavy stone bridge was covered with broad flat stones and was a favorite lounging place for all the village idlers.

The immense amount of travel over the turnpike in its palmy (sic) days was a source of wealth to the many tavern-keepers along the line. These taverns were always well kept, with large, roomy bar-rooms fragrant with tobacco smoke and the perfume of applejack. These were the gathering places of the male members of the community and were sometimes the scene of fierce fights. There is a four corners west of Auburn which formerly had a tavern upon each corner. This crossroad bore for many years the unsavory name of “Hell’s Half Acre.” This has been softened in later years by the omission of the first word.

One of the best known men along the entire road was Col. Phillips, the grandfather of Mrs. Andrew D. White, who was for many years the proprietor of the Syracuse House. He was always on hand to greet the guests as they disembarked, and could always call a former visitor by name.

*The “Pioneer Line.”

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Staging in Winter, or Light Reading for Lazy People.
Watertown Daily Times, Feb. 18, 1870


Staging in Winter, or Light Reading for Lazy People.

We take our seat in the stage, bound from Watertown to Clayton, making the sixth passenger inside, a very comfortable number, and when the seventh comes to get in, he is obliged to lower himself gradually between two other passengers, who are seated, until he is conscious of an exact fit. As we jog along, we discuss railroads, politics and religion, till at last the passengers rest their weary minds, and take refuge from ennui, by propounding and receiving answers to conundrums, after the following manner: What kind of hair does a mourner's dog have? Dog's hair of course. Why is a hen like Heaven? Because her son never sets. Why is a moderate sized hill like a lazy dog? Because it is a slow pup (slope up.)

At this point we are interrupted by the driver's opening the door, and asking us to get out and help keep the sleigh in equilibrium, which we do by standing on the rave. This is exactly the same point between Stone Mills and Lafargeville, where, one year ago, we were performing the important operation of keeping the sleigh right side up, by executing, what in salutatory language might be called the "double pigeon wing" on the rave, when we were careless enough to remain too long in position, and, in the language of the immortal "Julius Caesar," "directly afterward we heard something drop;" when we found ourselves in the snow, the sleigh inverted, everything in confusion, and the lady and gentleman inside not heard from. We repeated the beautiful language of Shakespeare, "All the world's a 'stage,' and all the men and women merely players;" fearful in this case that the play would turn out a tragedy, and hearing no sound inside, we sprang on to the covered sleigh, and making an opening about nine by fourteen inches, we peered cautiously in expecting to see the mangled remains of somebody; but to our surprise we beheld the lady, sitting upon the U.S. mail, looking as innocent as Eve, before she offered the apple to Adam.

We politely enquired if she could get out through the orifice we had made. She replied that she was so frightened she could do nothing. Her exit effected, we again peeped through the opening into the stage - there sat the gent, looking just as though he had stolen a sheep. But "All's well that ends well." With properly directed effort, our stage assumed a vertical position, and rejoicing in our deliverance from difficulty, and hopeful for the future, we resumed our journey and prosecuted it to a successful termination without further mishap.

This happened one year ago. Nothing of the kind is to be feared now, as we have careful and experienced drivers, whose good judgment is equaled only by their good nature. In this latter statement we speak especially of our friend Waful.

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Boonville Herald, August 18, 1892


To the Editor of The Herald - Sir: I recently read in The Herald with natural interest, some reminiscences of early life in Boonville, my own native village. Among its incidents, named by your contributor, was the way in which coin was sometimes carried from Watertown to Utica in boxes which would occasionally appear at the Hulbert hotel (of endearing memory.) Let me tell you of what I myself saw there more than fifty years ago, when the Hulbert hotel in its first installment was the more humble "Jackson's tavern" of which Mr. Jackson was himself the proprietor.

A handsome young fellow, White by name, arrived from the north one evening on the coach as a pioneer of the now great express business, and flung from the driver's seat and (as transcribed ?) "boot" two bags of silver coin to the sidewalk. The bags were made of strong canvas. They were decorated with heavy red seals at their openings, of the regulation sealing-wax pattern of those days. The sounds that were emitted from the bags when they fell from the coach was as suggestive as the fact was astounding that such large sums of the dollar of our lamented daddies should be tossed about in that reckless manner by the handsome young man from Watertown. When Mr. White went to supper leaving the bloated money- bags lying unguarded on the ground with as much actual indifference as though they were so many scraps of old iron, astonishment was turned into something like the marvelous in the surrounding mind. Whether this indifference was due to the avoirdupois of the the thousands of solid dollars in the bags, or to Mr. White's confidence in the integrity of the founders and fathers of Boonville, I leave you to decide.

Omaha, Neb., Aug. 15, 1892.

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Lowville Journal and Republican
March 23, 1938


Port Leyden — If wraiths of the hard fighting, heavy drinking boatmen who plied the raging Erie when it was the last word in transportation across the state follow the old route that led from Rome to Carthage, they must marvel at the craft that travel the canal bed.

For the big ditch that made this town a port is a motor highway, passed each day by more passengers and probably as much freight as the northern branch of the Erie bore before railroads began the slow process of strangling the water way.

If Port Leyden has lost the meaning of its prefix, it has gained a new traffic route to restore it to the main line of travel after years of remote location. More or less it must thank the long-gone canal builders, who pointed the way to the highway engineers. The Black River canal made Leyden a port. Before the ditch was extended into this community on its way to Lyons Falls the place was known as Kelsey's Mills from Eber L. Kelsey, who had acquired the adjacent water power. Kelsey had built here, about 1800, the second mill in Lewis county.

Influence Felt

Long before a shovel of dirt was dug from the line the canal was to take its mere possibility had influenced the settlement. So certain were the hopeful that the canal was coming that Eleazer Spencer prepared for the boom in the final 1830s, staking out village lots for the future commercial center which then was named Port Leyden.

Not until the fall of 1850 was the ditch ready for water and it was not in use to this port until the spring of 1851. Five years were necessary to extend it less than three miles to Lyons Falls. Cheap transportation provided by the canal aided the growth of Port Leyden. The Woolworth tannery, one of the early industries, came under new management and was enlarged in the 50s, to be the biggest of its kind in the whole northern New York. Its capacity was 40,000 sides of sole leather annually from 162 vats using 3,800 cords of bark.

The canal passed through the very center of the village bisecting its main street. Here were the docks where boats tied up to take on or discharge cargo or lie while crews refreshed themselves at the saloons that marked every canal port. Scarcely was it carrying traffic before agitation for a railroad assured a rival system.

Railroad Built

In 1855, the year canal boats dropped down the locks into Black river at Lyons Falls, the railroad reached Boonville. It was pushed through to Port Leyden immediately on its way to parallel the canal system through Lowville to Carthage.

Tannery and canal followed the Indian into oblivion before the advance of progress. Loss of the tannery perhaps was more serious to the place than the canal, which was superceded in popular use by the railroad. For years the muddy bottom and caved banks of the ditch lay like an open grave through the community, filled with wraiths of the toilers who builded it and put it to use through its brief history.

An eyesore of a relic of the past was removed from Port Leyden when the canal bed was filled for the state road that follows the "lower level" from Boonville to Lowville. It put Port Leyden on the traffic map again, banishing the ghosts that had haunted it.

With all its losses in factories and a water way, Port Leyden is not itself a ghost. In 1860. when canal and railroad fought for business, it listed 200 persons. Today it claims 750. Its knitting mill employs 80 hands and has operated through the depression. The Johnson pulp mill keeps 20 men busy and the Gould paper mill branch employs others. It praises its drinking water and its school and brags that it is "on the railroad."

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Arrival of Dignitaries

Boonville Herald, Thursday, July 20, 1865

Arrival of Dignitaries - Some sensation was excited in our midst last Saturday, by the arrival of a passenger coach upon the Railroad, that apparently run itself without engine or tender. A close inspection revealed the fact that the "Dummy: manufactured at Philadelphia and designed to run on the Street Railroad from Utica to Clinton, had surprised us with visit.

The august presence of certain city worthies, among whom appeared his honor, Mayor Butterfield , M. McQuaide of the Telegraph, J. A. Hall, L. H. Babcock, J. H. Read, J. Griffiths, T. Foster, Jas. Sayre and others, constituting the Common Council of Utica, the President and Directors of the Utica & Black River Railroad, gave us to understand that the project of extending the railroad to Lyons Falls was being revived. The party procured carriages and proceeded to the Falls by way of Port Leyden, and the Telegraph man says they enjoyed themselves hugely as no doubt they did, but we do not learn that any definite result was reached by the excursion and meeting.

A word about the "Dummy."
It is a compact railway carriage, containing three compartments, an engine room, baggage room, and space to seat 40 passengers. It richly finished with oaken panels, well ventilated, and luxuriously cushioned.The steam is generated in an upright boiler, and the driving wheels sustain one end of the coach. The vertical boiler is very economical of space, not only, but enables the engine to overcome much steeper grades than the horizontal boiler. When the latter runs up or down steep grades the water flows to one end, and thus leaves the empty tubes exposed to the fire by which they are corroded, or intensely heated, by which their strength is much impaired.

Altogether, it was quite a novelty to our citizens and a fine specimen of the perfection to which the art of engine-building has arrived.

The above should have appeared last week but was unavoidably crowded out.

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Reprinted with Permission
of the
Watertown Daily Times

The following was found in the Watertown Daily Times files - with Brownville Hotel information. The article is undated - the author is not indicated.



The news item which appeared in The Times the other night to the effect that the Old Stone Tavern had again changed hands recalls the day when Blodgett’s, as it was then known, was a familiar stopping place for stage coach passengers.

It is hard for northern New York residents of the present day to realize the importance of the village of Denmark in Lewis county when stage coach travel was in its heydey. It was the Philadelphia of its day. Here the stage coach line from Rome had its terminus. At Denmark too the line from Utica turned off for Watertown and here the line for Ogdensburg, 64 miles away, had its start. A busy place was the Denmark of that day with its tavern filled with travelers, horses being changed and heavy coaches rumbling up its one street any time of the day and night. From Denmark the road to Watertown led through Champion and Rutland, while the road to Ogdensburg was by way of Carthage, Wilna, Antwerp, Dekalb and Heuvelton.

Of all the stage coach taverns of that day in northern New York, and of course there were literally hundreds of them, none was more famous than Blodgett’s. Four generations of Blodgetts operated the tavern beginning with the building, Jesse Blodgett. The first Blodgett realized the importance of Denmark as a stage junction point and the stone tavern which he built was one of the most pretentious in all northern New York. Three stories in height it could accommodate, if needs be, dozens of tired travelers in its sleeping rooms while its big tap room was a scene of bustling activity as the mail stages came in from Utica and Rome, Ogdensburg and Sackets Harbor.

Other famous stage coach taverns of that day were the Checkered House on the road from Mexico to Rome, the old Willard (?) Hotel at Oswego, Hastings Curtiss’ Brick Tavern at Central Square, the old Whitney House at Mexico, the Union House at Sackets Harbor, the Wayside Inn at Constableville, the Wilna Tavern, now known as Fargo’s, the old Prentice House at Canton and the Frontier House at Morristown.

Most of these old taverns have long since gone but a few notable examples remain. In addition to the Old Stone Tavern at Denmark there is the Union House overlooking the lake at Sackets Harbor, the century old stone hotel at Brownville and the celebrated “Brick Hotel” at Evans Mills where according to legend “Prince John” Van Buren, son of the president, and George Parish, the landed proprietor, gambled for Madame Vespucci.

It was always a gala occasion when a stage coach arrived at one of these taverns for a change of horses. The driver made quite a ceremony of it, whipping his four horses to a gallop and blowing lustily on his horn as he swung up to the tavern door. Nowhere in all the North Country was there more life and gaiety and activity than at the Old Stone Tavern in Denmark a century or so ago. It remains today a symbol of a colorful era in Northern New York history.

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Auburn Weekly Bulletin
Dec. 13, 1904

Has Driven 254,082 miles


Remarkable Record of a Man Who Has
Been a Driver 56 Years


In Auburn there is a man who has ridden more miles behind a team of horses than anyone in this vicinity, if not in the State. He is Aaron Kirk, a driver in the employ of S.C. Tallman. Mr. Kirk was born in the town of Sterling , July 17, 1833, and is now in the 72nd year of his age. From the time that he was 16 years of age until he as 46 he was a stage driver in this part of the State, driving which he covered 254,082 miles. For 12 years he drove daily between Ithaca and Auburn, a distance of 40 miles, making a total of 125,000 miles on this route.

For one year he drove between Auburn and Moravia, making 5,534 miles. For one year he drove between Cortland and Borodino, covering 6,260 miles."For four years he drove between Weedsport and Red Creek, and return daily, covering 45,072 miles. For four years he drove from Auburn to Weedsport and return daily, covering 22,136 miles. For eight years he drove on the Oswego road, averaging 20 miles daily, making a total of 60,080 miles. During the past 20 years Mr. Kirk has been one of the most competent and trusted drivers in the Tallman stable and although 72 years of age is hale and hearty.

No record has been kept of the number of miles of territory covered in later years, although it is safe to say that if it had his stage driving record would receive an addition of many thousand miles.

* * * * * * * * *


Auburn Semi-Weekly Journal
Oct. 25, 1912


Veteran of the Road


Aaron Kirk Tells Interesting Tales of
Stage Days - Thirty of Years Services

Drove Between Auburn and Oswego in '49

Tuesday, Oct. 22. - The number of men in Auburn who have held the same job for 30 years is small, but there is a veteran stage driver, still active as a horseman, who can brag some in his line.

This man did the same kind of work in the open, exposed to all kinds of weather for 30 years. Moreover, he was on the move all the time, for it was in the old stagecoach days, and he, during this span of a generation, sat on the box seat of the Pullman's predecessor, urging his panting horses through the dust or the muck and mire of Cayuga highways, at that time little more than trails.

This picturesque old man of 79 years held down that 30-year job and he is a living proof of the value o an outdoor life. He is Aaron Kirk, and he lives with his daughter, Miss Ada Kirk, in a comfortable little home on Park avenue near Nelson street. When an Advertiser man et Mr. Kirk an evening or two ago, he had just returned from driving a carriage in a funeral cortege.

Yes," said he, "I can't keep away from the horses. When I when I am on the box seat with a pair of spankers before me, I am in my element. It's like a locomotive engineer, he can't keep away from the roundhouse, or a sailor who can't keep away from the docks. You see I was driving years before I got out of knee breeches. I don't know of anybody who started in diving stage as young as I did. I was in July, 1849, when I was just turned 16, that I was promoted to the box seat of the stagecoach running from Auburn to Oswego, by way of Port Byron, Victory, Conquest and Serling Center, a distance of 40 miles. I succeeded in getting the job - a responsible one for a little shaver like me - because my brother John had the contract for carrying the mail over this route.

The contract lasted for four years. he first contract let was to John Gilpin, who carried the mail from Auburn to Sterling three times week on horseback. Charles Comstock, I remember, succeeded Gilpin, still on horseback. At the end of his contract the stage was put on, with my brother as the first driver. Our starting place here was at the Western Exchange, a hotel located at the present corner of Exchange and Genesee streets, the site of which is now occupied by Smith & Pearson's Hardware store.

"I well remember," went on Mr. Kirk, with a humorous flash in his keen eye, "that year 1849, when I proudly took the lines in my hands. It was the year of the California fever. I remember that among a few others, Robert Patty went from here. Patty's father at that time kept a tannery on Market street where Sperr's wholesale house now stands. Young Patty did not become a Stanford or a Crocker on the coast for he came back here, two or three yeas later, with about as much as he brought out, and that was not a great deal."

"Say, I was proud those days, for I used to drive that stage through Sterling Center in full view of the old log cabin I was born in on July 17, 1833. I kept on this route from Auburn to Oswego for eight years. We changed horses at Victory, which was just about half way. Talk about roads! There were no county or state roads in those days at least in Cayuga or Wayne counties. In the rainy season those roads were simply bogs through which the horses floundered, mud up to their bellies. In winter we frequently could not get through because of the snowdrifts and then we would go to the nearest farmhouse and wait till the storm ended.

"Yes there was a railroad here when I was driving - the New York Central under a different name. The mainline through Port Byron was not built until several years later. After driving four years on the Oswego route, I drove between Auburn and Moravia, 20 miles, for a year. I don't believe Oswego is any larger today than it was back in the early '50s, but Moravia is a great deal larger. My next route was from Cortland to Borodino, about eight miles south of Skaneateles. I held this job down for about a year.

"Then I took up the route from Auburn to Ithaca, a distance of 40 mile. I drove on this route for 12 years. No we did not follow the route now taken by the Lehigh Valley railroad, which was not built at that time, but went by way of Poplar Ridge. Afterwards I drove a stage from Auburn to Meridian, a distance of 20 miles. I was four years on this run. Next, I drove from Red Creek, which is near Lake Ontario, to Port Byron, 20 miles out and back every day. I held that route for four years also. Port Byron was then larger than it is today. It had an extensive milling business, which practically died out when the canal was diverted."

"No, I never figured in any holdups like those the Wells-Fargo stages in the far West encountered. During the 30 years I was driving stage I never even carried a gun. We did not carry any large sums of money which might tempt desperate men to rival Black Bart or Jesse James, but merely small remittances from merchants along the route to be deposited in banks here. With the coming of the railroads the stagecoach business petered out, and I tell you, we old fellows who were happier on the box seat of the rumbling old vehicles than anywhere else, watched with the keenest regret, the iron horse gradually supplanting the patient, loyal animals we drove.

"But talking of muddy roads in Cayuga county. I went out to visit my brother's family in Illinois - I suppose it is 50 years ago now. I went by way of Chicago, at that time nearly as large as Auburn is today. Well, talk about mud. I remember riding to the hotel in the old-fashioned stagecoach. The mud was so deep the horse could hardly pull through it and when they reached the old-time hostelry, long since torn down I guess, they were flecked with foam and panting with exhaustion. It was certainly cruelty to animals to drive horses with loads through those so-called streets, which were worse than any road in York state I eve saw. It seemed a mystery to me why people should found a city in such a swamp as Chicago was in those old days. I am told that things are different there now, that instead of morasses there are wide, and beautiful boulevards and avenues and parkways second to none in the world. Wonder what time and money and energy will do."

But with the passing of the stagecoach Mr. Kirk did not by any means retire from driving. For many years after he drove for the Tallmans, J.H., Humphrey and S.C. Tallman. The latter sold out his business last year. Every Auburnian recollects the Tallman stables and carriage repository on Dill street. They are there no longer, the site being occupied by the Warner hotel conducted by Mr. and Mrs. James Wells. Up to his very day, this veteran of the lines, who until four years ago never knew a sick day, drives for various undertakers. Whenever they are short a driver they call up "Dad" at his comfortable Park avenue home, and he never fails them. He also drove for the Newkirk livery.

There is not a man in Auburn who at the age of 79 - or 60 at that - retains the use of his faculties and limbs as well as "Dad." You don't have to shout at him when you talk. His hearing is as acute as it was 30 years ago. So is his eyesight. His appetite, as is daughter confirmed, does not need condiments to give it zest. He eats what he wants and he smokes some. In addition to his active outdoor life, no doubt heredity has much to to with the old driver's splendid physical and mental condition. He comes - on his mother's side at least - of a long lived family. His mother was 81 summers. His brother John died at Leland, Ill., last year at the age of 91. Another brother, Isaiah, died some years ago in Louisiana aged 86. His sister, Sarah, died at Paw Paw, Ill., in her 80th year. Another sister, who died 18 years ago in this city, was 82 years old. Had she lived until this year she wold have seen a century. He has a brother William, who lives at Jewell Junction, Iowa, who is 85. Another brother, Robert Irving at Shell Rock, Iowa, is 83. Mr. Kirk's wife died on July 7, 1890.

Asked how he regarded automobiles, the old gentleman said he likes them, bit he draws the line at air ships.*

* He died March 25, 1924 - Cayuga Chief, Weedsport, March 28, 1924.


Auburn Citizen
Sat., July 28, 1923

Oldest Surviving Stage Driver in U. S.
Celebrates 90th Birthday in Auburn


Aaron Kirk of 35 Park Avenue, who is believed to be the oldest living stage driver in the United States, celebrated his 90th birthday at his home yesterday. The celebration was a joyous occasion with all of Mr. Kirks's near relatives present.

The afternoon and evening were spent in much merriment and supper was served on the lawn. Mr. Kirk received congratulations throughout the day from his many friends. Following the supper, Mr. Kirk related

many of his actual experiences as an old time stage driver which proved very thrilling to his hearers.

He dwelt especially on the old stage route between Auburn and Ithaca that he formerly traversed and told many of the hazards of the old thoroughfare. He also had many other routes throughout the state during his career as a stage driver and talked briefly concerning them.

Mr. Kirk was the recipient of many gifts in honor of his four score and 10 years among which was a large roll of bank notes.

The following were present at the birthday celebration: Mrs. Edward Preston, Mrs. A.P. Bowen, Miss Ada Kirk, all of Auburn, and Mrs. W.J. English of Gloversville, all sisters of Mr. Kirk.

Mrs. Laura Finch of Gloversville, Mrs. Burt Pierce of Auburn, Mrs. Cady Kinney of Belfast, Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Bowen and Mr. and Mrs. Kirk Bowen of Auburn, all grandchildren of the near-centenarian.

Edward Preston Jr., Arline Preston, Laura, George and Herbert Pierce, Eleanor Ann Bowen, all of this city, and Wilda, Grace and David Kinney of Gloversville, all of whom are great-grandchildren of Mr. Kirk.

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Watertown Daily Times
Saturday, May 19, 1928

Stagecoach Days in Northern New York


Stage Coach and Plank Road
Days In Northern New York

First Mail Route Came Through the Black River Valley
and Was Started in 1804 - One Round Trip a Week
From Utica to Brownville - Daniel Gould, the First
Carrier, Was Replaced by Rueben Chase.



The writer acknowledges with gratitude assistance in the preparation of this article from Mrs. Nora W. Cruikshank, Curator of the Jefferson County Historical Society; Miss Margaret Gillis, Librarian of Ogdensburg Public Library; the late Mr. Henry Miller and Mr. L.F. Hutchinson of Malone; Mrs. John Pierrpont Constable of Constableville; Mrs. Mrs. George Tuttillo of Plattsburgh; Mr. John K. Mills of Canton; Mr. Harold B. Johnson and Mr. Harry F. Landon of Watertown; Mr. S. Vigilante of the American History room in the New York Public Library, New York city, from officials of the New York State Library at Albany, and many others.

Four o'clock in the morning. Perhaps it is a bright and sunny morning in June, perhaps it is cold and dark, a morning in December. But whatever the month, whatever the season, the stagecoach is ready and waiting. Sleepy passenger emerge from the tavern, a sleepy driver climbs up to his place, cracks his long whip, and the stage is off.

Not always, to be sure, would the coach leave at this early hour. But it frequently did, frequently enough to stamp it as a characteristic of stage-coach days, in Northern New York, as well as elsewhere. Elise Lathrop, in her "Early American Inns and Taverns," says, speaking of the stage line between New York and Albany, "Three days were required for the trip in summer and four or more in winter, a day's journey lasting from five o'clock in the morning until ten at night." Traveling by stage-coach for eighteen or nineteen hours a day, journeying over roads only in name, closely confined within the compass of wagon-box, must have been inconvenient and uncomfortable, even though it was far in advance of traveling on horseback, which in turn marked a step forward in transportation from traveling on foot.

Having referred to the Boston stage and to the condition of the roads, it may not be amiss to quote a distinguished New Englander on both, Josiah Quincy, in 1784, described his trip from Boston to New York as follows: "I set out from Boston on the line of stage lately established by an enterprising Yankee, Pease by name, which at that day was considered a method of transportation of wonder expedition. The journey to New York took up a week. The carriages were old and shackling and much of the harness was made of rope. One pair of horses carried the stage eighteen miles. We generally reached our resting placed for the night, if no accident intervened, at ten o'clock, and after a frugal supper, went to bed with the notion we should be called at three the next morning, which generally proved to be half past two. Then, whether it snowed or rained, the traveler must rise and make ready by a horn lantern, or a farthing candle, and proceed on his way over bad roads. Then we traveled eighteen miles a day, sometimes obliged to get out and help the coachman lift the coach out of a quagmire or rut, and arrive at New York after a week's hard traveling, wondering at the ease as well as the expedition of our journey."

Although stages age said to have been running as early as 1733 between New York and Philadelphia, it is not until 1756 that there is authentic record of such a line, and it is not until 1785 that stages were running regularly between New York and Boston. It was not until some time after 1800 that stage lines penetrated northern New York. The reason of course, is not far to seek. With the exception of a few Indians and a feeble settlement of whites at Ogdensburg, a thin line of pioneers along the Black River valley, and scattered clearing here and there, there was neither roads nor commerce in northern New York. Mr. Ford, with the assistance of D.W. Church, had, indeed, at the cost of much money and more labor, put through his new Ogdensburg road, supplanting the old Oswegatchie road, and thee was a road from Plattsburgh through the Military Tract and across country to Ellenburgh and Malone, though Mr. Ford stoutly maintained that is road was better than the one through Chateaugay, as the old maps render the present-day Chateaugay. In1814, writing from LeRaysville to George Parish, then in Philadelphia, Pa., V. LeRay de Chaumont says: "Mr. DeLaunay and myself went yesterday to Sacket's Harbor. We left here after an early morning breakfast in my little waggon, tandem, remaining five hours in the village, during which we saw the fleet, the fortifications, dined with the Commodore, and were back here for supper.We were 9 1/2 hours on the way (48 miles including stops, which proved that are roads are not yet impassable." This would work out to about five miles an hour, and indicated that while the roads had improved over those of 1800, there was yet some distance to go. Note that three horses were used.

But in 1800 Macomb's great purchase was in the process of dissolution and the country was rapidly filling. William Constable, Gouverneur Morris, LeRay de Chaumont, Daniel McCormick, the Pierreponts, the Harisons, the Clarksons, Gerritt Van Horne, all owners each of them, of thousands of acres of land in Northern New York, were selling off farms and locating settlers. Watertown had begun its existence. Sacket's Harbor was a naval post of growing importance, and destined, in a few years, to play a large part in the coming war with Britain.

Mills had begun to appear at the Long Falls, now Carthage, and at Ogdensburg, and the Parishes, also land owners, would soon be building their iron works at Rossie and their distillery at Parishville. Civilization, or, if you prefer settlement, advances in waves, and so it is to be expected that the first stage lines into Northern New York would start from the settled Mohawk valley and advance up the Black River valley. So it was. The first mail route into Northern New York was through the Black River valley from Utica, and was established in 1804. Daniel Gould was the first mail carrier, and the fore-runner of the postal service of today.

Gould was soon succeeded by Reuben Chase. Chase performed one round trip each week between Utica and Brownville, for Brownville was then a place of major importance, as the home of Jacob Brown and as a mill and trading point. Chase lasted for several years, and the phrased is used advisedly. It was a task calling for herculean effort, this journey each week over the Trenton hills to Boon's in the town of Trenton. (Boon's was not the Boonville of today, but the house at Holland Patent of Gerritt Boon, agent for the Holland Land Company, though Boon did later give his name to Boonville.)

Beyond Boon came Storm's, now the site of Boonville, then came the High Falls, known today as Lyons Falls, then the level stretches of Turin and then the long up-hill into Martinsburg. Here Postman Chase could see Walter Martin's new house in building for Walter Martin, later General Martin was that year beginning to the erection of the stone house which still stands on top of the hill at Martinsburg, a witness to the sturdy qualities both of our forefathers and of their buildings.

This house, it is interesting to know, was modeled on the stone house of Sir William Johnson at Amsterdam, called Fort Johnson, which house had appealed to Martin, who had once spent a night there. Indeed, so anxious was he to reproduce the Johnson house in all its details that he sent his builder, David Waters, all the way to Amsterdam to make measurements and to copy the plan.

The mail rider no longer passes the General Martin house on his weekly trips and the many thousands who now travel the high grade in front of it, few know its historic association with Sir William Johnson.

But we are forgetting Reuben Chase. Leaving Martinsburg, soon to become the county seat of Lewis county (which indeed in 1805). At what is now Lowville, Nicholas Low, on one of his visits to his lands, was waiting for the post. In any event he must have heard the first rumblings of the county seat war, whereby Lowville, in 1805, tried to win the distinction from Martinsburg. The attempt was unsuccessful, and Lowville had to wait for the coming of the railroad, when the change was made almost overnight.

After Lowville, came Denmark, then Champion, then the Rutland hills and finally Watertown. Amos Lay's map of Watertown, New York published in 1812, a copy of which, once owned by William Constable, is still preserved at Constable Hall in Lewis county, bearing Mr. Constable's autograph signature on the cover, and the date, 1812, shows plainly the road these tireless postmen followed - and suggests, as well, the sparse population and primitive conditions through which they traveled.

Barnabas Dickinson, who succeeded Chase, was the progenitor of the stage line. He placed a two horse wagon in service, and carried both mail and passengers. About 1812, the roads having been improved, Parker and Company, for a year or two, ran a weekly stage over the route, but of them no more is now known. The Sackett's Gazette of October 8, 1818, says, "A new line of stages from Utica to Sackett's Harbor, through Adams and Rome is now advertised," but a copy of the paper containing this item contains no advertisement of the stage line. It will be noted that the line was to follow the western route, rather than the eastern one through the Black River valley. In 1824 there appeared upon the scene two or three men destined to play a large part in the transportation of northern New York for many years to come. These were Ela Merriam, N.W. Kiniston, E.W. Backus and a little later S. Backus. Merriam was the son of Nathaniel Merriam of Leyden. In January, 1824, Mr. Merriam, in company with Mr. Backus, M. Kiniston and John McElwaine, whose connection with the business seems to have been of brief duration, began the carrying of the Utica-Watertown mail. In connection with the stage route, and Mr. Merriam, at least, continued in the business for over forty years.

In the Jeffersonian for October 12, 1826, it is announced that a new line of post-coaches from Sackett's Harbor via Adams and Rome to Utica, a distance of 91 miles, leaving Sackett's Harbor on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, arriving the same day in Utica, had been established. The line had been so arranged as to meet the steamboat Ontario and Kingston Packet at Sackett's Harbor, the Syracuse stage at Adams and the canal packet boats at Rome. This was not the only way of reaching Utica from Sackett's Harbor. In the Jeffersonian for November 20, 1826, N.W. Kiniston and Company announced that the "Old Line" of stages from Sackett's Harbor to Utica, by way of Watertown and Lowville, run through every day, and that Kingston may be reached by a line of stages from Watertown to Cape Vincent. And in these advertisements come the first suggestion of a line to Syracuse. Kiniston and Company advertise Watertown and Syracuse stages leaving Watertown every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, returning Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, "through in one day, when the roads will permit."

Significant, that last clause, and reminiscent of Quincy's note on New England roads, already quoted. And in 1828, A. Russell, proprietor of the Eagle hotel and stage house, in Adams, announces that stages leave his house for Syracuse and Oswego every morning, and for Watertown and Ogdensburg every evening. Western business has evidently picked up in the two years since 1826, when the Syracuse stages run three times a week. Mr. Russell also announces that the Utica and Sackett's Harbor stages leave his house for Utica on Monday, Wednesday and Friday in the morning and for Sackett's Harbor Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday in the evening.

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Johnstown (N.Y.) Republican
August 23, 1820

Johnstown (N.Y.) Republican, August 23, 1820

Expert Driving: - The following is one of the most remarkable instances of presence of mind that we ever heard: -

As one of the stages belonging to Mr. Powell, was on the way from Utica to Albany, about two weeks since, and was on the point of turning a curve of the road, which was dug from the edge of the bank of the river (a short distance below Palatine Bridge,) on the summit of a hill, and very narrow, it was met by a six horse team, which was passing diagonally across the rod, in order to ascend the hill with less difficulty.

The horses in the stage were going at a round trot, and came in contact with those of the large wagon on the lower side, and in such a manner that it was impossible for the driver to stop the horses quickly enough to prevent the stage interlocking with the large wagon, and inevitably overturned down the bank of the river which was very steep, and descending about thirty feet. At this juncture the driver very promptly wheeled his leaders, gave them the whip, and drove in a straight line down the bank into the river, which at this place was quite shallow.

This act in all probability, saved the lives of the passengers, and the horses. Maj. Gen. Scott, of the U.S. Army, who was one of the passengers, immediately presented him with five dollars, as a reward for his great resolution of mind, and skill as a driver.

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Ononadga Register, May 7, 1823

The Seneca Turnpike Road Company declared on the 20th inst. a dividend of one dollar on a share, for the last six months, the usual semi-annual dividend; and also at the same time, a surplus dividend of one dollar on each share of said stock. Previous to the completion of the middle section of the Erie Canal, the proprietors of the road apprehended a great diminution in the value of their stock, by the effect the canal would have upon this road - which runs its whole length, 112 miles, parallel to the canal.

The experiment has proved to be very beneficial to the interest of the Road Company. The heavy teams with six to eight horses are now mostly removed from the road, in consequence of the reduced price of transportation, and the light travel increased by the natural increase of business, produced by the facility of intercourse with New York. The repairs of the road are much lessened by the absence of the heavily loaded wagons.

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Albany Gazette, September 12, 1811

                  MAIL STAGE,
                  From Albany to Niagara Falls.

Leaves Albany every morning, at 4 o'clock A.M. and arrives at Utica the same day at 7 P.M. Leaves Utica every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, at 4 A.M. and arrives at Geneva and Canandaigua the following days. Leaves Canandaigua every Monday and Friday morning, and arrives at Buffalo the following day - and returns in like manner.


From Albany to Utica,                               $5.50
From Utica to Geneva,                               5.00
From Utica to Canandaigua,                      5.75
From Canandaigua to Buffalo,              6 cts. per mile.

The subscribers having formed themselves into a company for the purpose of running a Stage on the above mentioned route, solicit the patronage of the public. The proprietors of this line are so well known, that the traveller may rest confident that the best horses and carriages will be employed, with careful and trusty drivers, and that nothing shall be wanting to add to the comfort and convenience of the passenger.

Seats may be taken at Dunn's Tavern, Green-Street, Albany; at Powell's Coffee-House, Schenectady; and at Bagg's Tavern, Utica.


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Geneva Palladium, August 28, 1822

Mr. Editor -

Among the many improvements which have of late taken place in our country, there are few, if any, which have been more rapid in their progress, of which have aded more to the comfort and accommodation of the traveller, than is found in the Post-Coach Line for the conveyance of passengers from Albany to Buffalo. Yet in this line, respectable and useful as it is, there is at least one defect, the evils of which are seen and felt every day, and which, but for the obstinacy of one individual, might be remedied without expense, and the Line thereby rendered more respectable, more profitable to the Proprietors, and by far more useful to the public - I alluded to the arrangement by which the State Drivers are now allowed to receive or land passengers at the Hotel in this village.

This establishment has an airy and commanding situation - is among the oldest and most respectable in the western country, and is now kept in a style which would not perhaps suffer by a comparison with any house of entertainment in this state. Yet the Stage Proprietor, who has the control of the regular line, in consequence of a paltry quarrel with the keeper of the Hotel, has interdicted all communication between the Stages and that house, and will not suffer his Coaches to stop there to deliver or receive passengers or baggage under pain of dismissal to the driver that dares offend against his stern decree. Hence we often witness the aged and infirm, the young and the feeble, compelled to traverse the streets on foot, or be left to hire conveyances to pursue their journey upon the mail road.

The stages in Albany, Schenectady and Utica will call at any public house in those places for passengers, and on their arrival travelers are set down at such places as they direct; but in this village the traveller is not allowed to call at the place of his choice without going on foot from the stage-house, although the coaches are daily driven directly by the front door of the Hotel, and within fifty feet of it, on their way to the stables and carriage-yard of the proprietor for the purpose of changing horses. One instance of this description will be sufficient to satisfy the public, that the conduct of the individual above alluded to merits the severest reprobation of an insulted community, and particularly of every citizen who has the least spark of independence, or the slightest reverence for age and respectability.

In the mail coach which arrived in this village on Sunday morning last, among other passengers was the venerable Egbert Benson, Esq. late one of the Justices of the Supreme Court of this state, who has usually, heretofore, when in this village, put up and Faulkner's Hotel. At the arrival of the coach at the stage-house, he requested to be taken to Faulkner's, but was told that the coach did not go any farther, and that if he wanted to to to Faulkner's, he must walk there. Mr. Benson, thereupon, got out of the carriage, in which he had arrived, driven past him, and within a few feet of the Hotel door, on its way to the stables to change horses. The next morning, wishing to go to the west, he sent to the stage-house to engage his passage, and requested that the coach might call for him at Faulkner's, and received for answer that the coach could not call for him, and that if he wished to go on, he must walk to the stage-house, which, with a becoming spirit he refused to do, and Mr. Faulkner then sent him on in a gig.

Upon such an outrage I leave the public to make its own comments. Numberless other instances of a like nature might be mentioned, but the above will suffice to apprise travelers and others of the treatment they are subjected to in this village by traveling in that line.

          A CITIZEN.

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