New York City / State Timeline
from Eagles Byte by David Minor
Year-by-year tracing the growth of the early days of the Republic
Although Congress made Buffalo, New York, an official port of entry in 1805, the city could not provide mooring facilities for another 14 years. A group of nine citizens headed up by Judge Samuel Wilkeson, determined to rectify the situation, had started construction on a pier out into Lake Erie in 1819. The state agreed to a loan of $12,000, but only if the investors pledged their own property and income as collateral. The work had gone on for 221 days (excluding Sundays) and now, in the first week of September of 1820, it looked like they'd be missing the season and any possible income until 1821. Hadn't even had a chance to test it. Then on the 7th, nature provided the test. A vicious, early, pre-autumn storm blew up out of the lake. As did two vessels. Their captains managed to moor to the new structure. The judge and his fellow investors watched anxiously as the ships were tumbled back and forth. Men stood by to cut the lines if the whole thing began to crumble. Probably a few prayers were mumbled. If so, they worked. The pier held up. Not much income this year, but wait until next Spring.
New York was coming to depend less and less upon pack animal and wheel in 1820. More people and goods were being carried on and below the decks of floating transport. Downlake from Buffalo a lighthouse was built at Dunkirk's Point Gratiot (grass-e ut). New York's other Great Lake, Ontario, got a light on Galloo Island off Sackett's Harbor. Buffalo might wait for profits, but Lake Ontario was already chugging along quite nicely. In spite of reduced clearance at the entrance to the Genesee, caused by three dry years in a row, Rochesterville's neighbor at Carthage was visited by 316 vessels carrying 67,468 bushels of flour, over 5300 barrels of pearl and pot ash, 26,743 barrels of beef and pork, and 709 barrels of whiskey. Ogdenburgh was visited by 18 schooners, 1 sloop and a steamboat, carrying flour, pork, beef, ashes, oil, hops, tar, as well as ploughs and plough-shares, whiskey, butter and lard, hams, and salt. 20 Durham boats bound for Canada had added to the totals. Non-spoilable items that made it down to New York could be reloaded on the steamer now in regular service to New Orleans.
Although it was still five years away from being completed, what there was of Clinton's Ditch was also humming. The section between Utica and the Seneca River opened for public use in May and by July tolls were being collected. You could soon walk aboard the canal boats Montezuma or Oneida Chief, leave Utica and Montezuma every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning at 8 o-clock, meet the other boat at Manlius; proceed the next day at 4a.m. and arrive at Utica and Montezuma at 6, all for $4, including provisions and lodging—Way Passengers, 3¢ per mile. When you disembarked, stages were waiting at most of the villages on the Canal to carry you to the Turnpike. Investors were active even at unbuilt sections. In the-future Lockport a group of 15 far-seeing men, mostly Quakers, had bought up most of the land. Toward the eastern end, Queen Anne's Chapel was torn down to make room for the Fort Hunter section. The state began selling off lots on the Onondaga Salt Spring Reservation, with the proceeds to go to a Canal fund. Bitten by the canal bug, investors in Canandaigua began planning an Ontario Canal Company, to connect their village with Lake Ontario. By the time early freezes in November locked up the ports at Albany and New York, maritime interests were not looking back.
Things are happening on dry land as well as on the lakes, rivers and canals. New York grows more settled and cultivated. On Greenpoint, Long Island, the Conklin House is built. It's considered an American "cottage temple," a sign that even humble domestic structures, not just public buildings, can borrow elements from the Greek temple form. It's "revived" architectural descendants will transform the look of the state in years to come. One structure that will not remain beyond the end of the year is last year's Carthage Bridge over the Genesee chasm, where most of it ends up. Buffalo's Orchard Downs Hotel has better luck. It lasts on into the year 2001. But not beyond, if 21st century developers have their way.
The state now has a population of 1,372,812 people, more than half of them New Englanders and their descendants. Albany has a population of 13,000, Rochesterville has 1502. While all of the above undoubtedly have an interesting story to tell, this might be a good time to catch up with a few of the busier citizens, some of whom we've met before. Down on the southern tier, the village of Angelica is rising above the wild frontier beginnings of our last visit, with the Church family, in 1811. Now a newspaper (Franklin Cowdery's Angelica Republican), a jail, two stores, and several mills, powered by water from Black Creek, line the main street. Amos Eaton is appointed professor of natural history at the medical school of Vermont's Castleton College. Under the patronage of Stephen van Rensselaer he begins a survey of Albany and Rensselaer counties and completed the publication of his geologic profile of the region between Boston and south-central New York. Another scientist, Dr. T. Romeyn Beck, conducts an agricultural survey of Albany County, the first such in the state. DeWitt Clinton has won back the governorship, but is saddled with a Bucktail (read Republican) legislature. Prominent Bucktail lawyer Martin Van Buren, seeking a platform for his views, becomes a major investor in the Albany Argus. You didn't think it was only recently that money translated into political power, did you?
Now meet some newcomers to the scene, who will help alter transport, Utopian life, the city of Rochester, the travel guide and-most profoundly—religion. Utica's J. Parker and Company stage line hires a new driver by the name of John Butterfield, whose vehicles will one day criss-cross the American West. Meet Vermont trapper Sewell Newhouse who moves to New York's woods to try his luck. He'll build a better bear trap and the world will beat a path to the Oneida Community's door. There's Matthew Brown who builds a sawmill and millrace at the High Falls on the Genesee. (A restored section of the race can be seen there in our own time.) Also at Rochester, Everard Peck begins publishing the Farmer's Calendar, or Ontario and Genesee Almanac. And, speaking of publishing, a soon-to-be publisher with the patriotic name of Horatio Gates Spafford throws in the towel on his failing experimental farm at Venango, Pennsylvania, and moves to Balston Spa, New York. He will bounce back, publish a series of travel guides and gazetteers, and become the Baedecker of America. The newcomer who will most profoundly alter New York and the world is only 14. Near Palmyra, a young Joseph Smith reports seeing God and Christ while praying in a maple grove.
© 2002, 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.