New York City / State Timeline
from Eagles Byte by David Minor
Year-by-year tracing the growth of the early days of the Republic
Mayor De Witt Clinton has strengthened New York's defenses toward the end of 1812. As January 1813 rolls around, he may wish he'd been able to do something about the city's offense. A British warship of 74 guns and several other vessels enter the mouth of the harbor and set up a blockade. The shipping goes into a sharp decline. Upstate, the Federal government purchases land at Watervliet for a new arsenal. Meanwhile a series of naval assaults, battles and skirmishes for control of Lake Ontario gets under way. U. S. forces under Zebulon Pike burn the town of York (later named Toronto) in April; Pike is blown to Kingdom Come along with the fort's powder magazine. But the cycle of revenge by fire has begun. British forces burn Sodus Point in June. In December they will capture Fort Niagara, burn Lewiston, then Buffalo, as inhabitants flee to the east, many reaching as far as Batavia.
This year Robert Fulton works on anti-ship devices with one hand, and continues developing steamboat service with the other, sends the steamer Firefly on a voyage upriver to Peekskill, puts the Fulton into service on Long Island Sound when the harbor clears of British and ice in the Spring, and launches the rebuilt Car of Neptune. He also begins ferry service between Manhattan and Brooklyn. Land transportation gets a boost when the Ontario and Western Turnpike, connecting Canandaigua with the Niagara Frontier, is completed.
New political entities are formed. Warren County is carved out of Washington County; Binghamton is incorporated; the town of Bellona is renamed Le Roy, after prominent resident Herman Le Roy. Rochesterville gets its first sawmill, post office, doctor, school and public conveyance. The development of natural resources continues, as Onondaga Salt Works superintendent William Kirkpatrick reports production in 1813 totaling over 221,000 bushels. Along the upper Hudson River the first of the great log drives gets underway, despite the unsettled military situation to the north. Education is not overlooked. In a pioneering move, Gideon Hawley is named the first state school superintendent in the U. S. And the New York regents charter the Albany Academy. For boys, of course. Pioneering can only go so far.
Some previous acquaintances reappear. Joseph Ellicott, former surveyor for the Holland Land Company, is appointed professor of mathematics at West Point's military academy. And war has not left Philip and Anna Church unaffected. Trapped in England by hostilities, he will naturally worry about Anna, as reports of military activities to her north, on the Niagara frontier, begin to filter back. Any fears will be groundless. In September, as Oliver Perry and Robert Barclay slug it out at Ohio's Put-in-Bay, Seneca chiefs surround the Angelica house. They will see no harm comes to their adopted Ye-nun-ke-a-wa.
No One's Finest Hour
The War of 1812 has now become the War of 1814. It will draw to an official end in December, but the smoke will not clear until the 8th day of the next year. This year will see the burning of Washington by the British in August, the unsuccessful siege of Fort McHenry in September (O, Say Can You See?), and the Treaty of Ghent in December. Interspersed between these will be large and small naval actions on New York lakes. the British will capture and destroy Fort Oswego in May. A raid on Pultneyville nine days later nets the British two prisoners and a supply of moldy flour. Several British ships are ambushed at Sandy Creek at month's end and are captured. In August British forces try an old favorite from the Revolution, sailing down Lake Champlain in an attempt to split enemy forces. It didn't work then; it doesn't work now. Both Lake Ontario navies go into hibernation in October, and will see no further action.
Robert Fulton keeps chugging along, as usual. On January 25th New Jersey governor Aaron Odgen petitions the New York State legislature to repeal or modify Fulton's steamboat monopoly. Hearings begin a month later, at the end of March the petition is voted down, 51 to 43. Meanwhile Fulton applies for patents on his steamship designs. In April he and three partners obtain incorporation status for a company to mine coal in the Ohio Valley and steamboat it to New York City by way of New Orleans. With his country at war, does he sense that De Witt Clinton's plans for a canal across the state are years in the future? Besides that, war is good for business. On May 9th Congress authorizes $320,000 for a floating battery based on his steam frigate design. The keel for the first frigate, Fulton I, is laid in August; the vessel launched on October 29th. Then in November it's towed by the Car of Neptune to the Jersey City workshops for further outfitting. He never will get that one right. Perhaps Fulton does sense the future. In December he makes out his will. Within two months he will be dead; his invention will go on.
Up in the Genesee Country civilization marches on. Canandaigua printer James D. Bemis issues "The Farmer's Diary or Western Almanack," the first almanac in the area. In Rochesterville the eponymous Nathaniel Rochester (who will be chosen this year as an elector in U. S. Presidential and Vice-Presidential elections), along with partners Charles Carroll and William Fitzhugh, divide up their 100-acre tract. Gideon Cobb arrives, establishes a cattle and hay yard here. To the northeast Daniel Penfield builds a flour mill on Irondequoit Creek, and just to the south, Brighton and Pittsford are formed from the Smallwood Tract.
Life in Manhattan grows more varied. The first grand encampment of the Knights Templar in the U. S. is held here. Castle Garden is built at the southern tip as a defensive battery. Charles Berrault founds a dancing school. And a tradition is begun with the building of a theater on Anthony Street, off-Broadway.
© 2000, David Minor
The Eagles Byte New York City / State Timeline is from David Minor's radio scripts for Simon Pontin's Salmagundy radio program on WXXI-FM (91.5). David can be heard every Saturday morning at 10:15 talking about various aspects of world history.