Three Rivers
History From America's Most Famous Valleys

The Frontiersmen of New York
by Jeptha R. Simms
Albany, NY 1883

Volume I, Page 404

Gov. Clinton Serenaded at Fort Plain.-Having conversed with half a score of persons who were present when the Seneca Chief, bearing Gov. Clinton and suite to tide-water reached Fort Plain, we can speak understandingly of the event. It was expected the boat would arrive on the evening of Monday. October 31st (possibly heralded by stages), anticipating which event a large concourse of people gathered from a distance of several miles around. Preparations had been made to proclaIm the event by erecting two long poles on Prospect Hill, each with a half barrel of pitch upon the top, with cords to hoist lighted shavings to ignite them. A cannon was also placed between them. To herald the event, James A. Lee, a constable, was sent on horseback to Countryman's lock, some miles above; and, to speed the tidings, two young men-Rugene Webster and Solomon Norton-were delegated to Jacob Abeel's tavern, half a mile west, to telegram with a musket from that point. Headquarters were at the new store of Warner, then directly above the guard-lock, the windows of which were illuminated. It was 11 o'clock at night when the mounted express reached Abeel's, where was also a jolly crowd. Norton fired the overloaded musket, and experienced its fearful rebound, to be followed by the thunder of the 32-pounder signal gun, still remaining on the site of the Glaessel House.

In a very few minutes the beacons were on fire, and war's mouth-piece on the hill heralded the approach of the Seneca Chief. Gov. Clinton-with a waiter by his side holding a lamp --as the boat, towed by three horses, ran in by the store, came on deck; limping a little, rubbing his eyes and looking up at the light seemingly in the clouds, he exclaimed in admiration of the view, "My God! what is that?" His wonder was, how the light could be burning so far heavenward. The truth was, the night was dark and foggy, obscuring the bold bluff, on which the lights were burning more than a hundred feet above his boat, a scene calculated to astonish any beholder not knowing the circumstances. But the visit must be brief, and every eye of the hundreds present-whether Clintonians or not-desired to see the projector of "Clinton's Ditch," and somebody must say something. John Taylor, an Irish school-master sometimes witty, and always garrulous-stepped upon the bow of the boat and said (not knowing what else to say) : "Gov. Clinton, this is my friend John Warner's store." Poor Taylor, I am sorry to say, that in attempting to regain the shore, he fell into the canal, but, having thus reduced the bead on the contents of his stomach, he was rescued without injury. Later in life it was his fate to be drowned in the canal. Lawrence Gros, who was then just commencing trade as a partner of Warner in his new store, and Dr. Webster, were possibly the -only ones present, who could claim a personal acquaintance with the Governor, and so desirous was Col. Crouse, and perhaps others, for an introduction to his Excellency, that they stepped on board, and, entering the cabin, rode down to the lock one-quarter of a mile below. It is presumed the Governor discovered that some of his guests had, in waiting, kept their own spirits up in a manner often resorted to at that period. Martial music attended the boat down to the lock, and as the Fort Plain guests stepped on shore the band struck up Yankee Doodle, when Gov. Clinton, from the deck, swung the crowd an adieu with his hat, entered the cabin with Canal Commissioner Bouck and others, and the Seneca Chief moved forward.

How Canal Boats first Crossed the Schoharie Creek.- The experiment was first tried of propelling boats across the creek by a large windlass and an endless rope, drawn by horse power, a scow boat taking over the teams: possibly this was a test before the canal was completed. Next Maj. Isaiah Depuy built a bridge in parts, to be taken out in the fall, which a freshet carried off. Then the State paid for the construction of a towing-path on the toll-bridge just above the canal, which necessitated a canal bridge on each side of the creek, to get on and off the bridge from and to the tow-path. This crossing was used until the bed of the canal was changed and the creek was crossed by an aqueduct.-Jacob Fonda.

A Canal Accident at Schoharie Creek.-Originally, as is elsewhere shown, the Erie canal was carried through all the principal creeks by the erection of dams in those streams sufficiently high to keep the canal at its usual depth, necessitating. at freshets, guard-locks on each shore. More or less accidents occurred in crossing all of those streams until the canal enlargement took place, occasionally resulting in death. Among the serious ones at Schoharie creek, here is an account of one as furnished by a passenger on board, which occurred May 12, 1829, about nine o'clock in the evening, which was published at the time in a paper entitled The Little Falls Friend. I find the account preserved in the Christian Journal, published at Utica, N. Y., under date of May 22, 1829. The water was high and the current was strong, when the packet boat Hudson with 25 passengers-half of whom were women and children broke its tow-rope and drifted upon the dam stern first. The current swung the boat around broadside to the stream, and forced it over the dam into the creek, six or seven feet below. The alarm of all on board may well be imagined. Gen. Fuller, of Chittenango; Miss Shepard, of New Hartford; and Mr. Conkling, of New York, were thrown off the boat into the water. The first two, by the aid of ropes, regained the boat, and the last named went down the stream to shallow water, and was rescued in a canoe when nearly exhausted. A number of the passengers lost their trunks and clothing, and rumor said there was some $12,000 in two of them. Most of the windows of the boat were broken, and its furniture deranged. The boat lodged upon a shoal below; and after a night of fearful anxiety the passengers were taken off at 7 A.M., and transferred with the remaining baggage to the packet Delaware, in which they proceeded to Schenectada. The packet boat South America is remembered as having been carried over the dam, as also several line boats, some of which were attended by novel and serious accidents. Packet boats, after a freshet, were usually the first boats to cross the most rapid streams.

A proposed Canal.-On the completion of the Erie canal, several projects were started for lateral canals from it. Here is the printed evidence of one now before me: "A memorial of the inhabitants of the counties of Montgomery and Hamilton to the Legislature of the State of New York, relative to A CANAL from the Sacondaga river through Johnstown to the Erie canal, accompanied by a REPORT OF THE ENGINEER on that subject." This Memorial stated that "At an adjourned meeting of the inhabitants of Johnstown and Mayfield in the county of Montgomery, held at [Hethcoat] Johnson's hotel in the village of Johnstown, on the 14th of January, John H. Pool, Esq., one of the civil engineers in the employ of the State, made the following REPORT.

This report stated that he made a survey for a canal from the village of Caughnawaga to the Sacondaga river, through the towns of Johnstown and Mayfield, commencing on the 22d day of January, near the ashery of Abner A. Johnson in the village of Kingsborough, which was the height of ground between the ends of the contemplated canal. He called the route a feasible one. Striking the Sacondaga eight miles above Fish House, he went up the river seven miles into the town of of Wells, where, with a dam, he could make a feeder of the river to Kingsborough, to which place he expected to bring the canal-a distance of 25 miles-without a lock; from thence to the Mohawk-eight miles-he said it would require about 35 locks, of 10 feet lift each, to connect with the Erie canal at Caughnawaga. The canal is on the south side and Caughnawaga on the north side of the river, and a costly aqueduct would here be needed that was not even mentioned. He spoke of the whole route as feasible, and the estimated expense about $500,000.

He said the construction of this canal would tend to advance the value of the lands owned by the State, by whose cheap conveyance immense quantities of lumber would find an outlet and sale. He also suggested that the canal might be extended to Lakes Pleasant and Peseko, and thence by way of Grass river to the St. Lawrence. He thought the State lands in the wilderness would be enhanced in value a thousand per cent by such a canal. The report of Mr. Pool was dated at Johnstown, January 14, 1826. Like many other visionary projects, the enterprise was only constructed on paper. The expense of the measure was to find State paternity.

The Schoharie Greek Aqueduct.-In this connection I should, perhaps, mention the Fort Hunter aqueduct. It was constructed in 1841, while the canal enlargement was in progress, and is one of the best pieces of mason work on the Erie canal. Mr. Otis Eddy was the contractor for the work, in which he was assisted by several sons. The structure rests upon 13 stone piers, which were built upon spiles driven by steam. During the progress of the work the contractor had the misfortune to have a leg broken. I forget the cost of the work or its contract price; but I remember that Mr. Eddy, at the request of a commissioner or an engineer, varied some part of his labor for the benefit of the State, for which he was, at the time, promised remuneration-which obligation the official was afterwards disposed to shirk. The last time I saw Mr. Eddy, he was on his way to Albany, to endeavor to get that justice from the State which his labors merited; still he had but little expectation of success, since the one authorizing the extra labor, was unfortunately gifted with a short memory, and whether the job was a profitable one or not I cannot say; but he, no doubt, conscientiously performed more labor than his contract called for. Mr. Eddy was a very worthy man, and a gentleman of high-toned character.

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