Transportation-Routes of Travel

Transcribed by B. McCulloch

From  History of Oneida County Vol 1. by Henry Cookinham
Chapter XXXI

Transportation-Routes of Travel

Indian Trails-The main artery of travel through the central part of what is now New York State were the Indian trails along the streams, the main thoroughfare being the Mohawk river through what is now Oneida county.  The river also furnished means, both to the Indians and white man, of transportation, much easier than upon horse back or upon the ox cart of the early settler.  For this reason settlements occurred near the waterways earlier than elsewhere, and attention was given to improving the waterways before anything was done in the way of highway improvement.

Western Inland Lock Navigation Company- In 1796 the Western Inland Lock Navigation Company was incorporated for the purpose of constructing a canal and locks around the falls at Little Falls on the Mohawk, and to construct a canal across the Carrying Place at Rome from the Mohawk river to Wood creek.  This canal must have been completed about the year 1800, as it is shown on the maps printed in 1802 of that location.  It is claimed that Cadwallader Colden, then surveyor general of New York, proposed a system of inland navigation as early as 1724.  If this is so, he must have been the pioneer of this laudable enterprise, but nothing seems to have been accomplished until about 1800 in that direction.

Passenger Boats- Soon after 1800 a line of boats was established upon the Mohawk river, and ran weekly between Schenectady and Cayuga.  By 1812 boats ran twice a week between Utica and Schenectady, and the time occupied in making a trip was about twenty-four hours.

Genesee Turnpike- A highway was improved from the Utica westerly to the Genesee river about 1794, which was called the Genesee Turnpike, and led through Utica, Whitestown, Oriskany, Fort Stanwix and Verona.  About the same year a road was improved from Albany to Utica.

Seneca Turnpike- In 1800 the charter of the Seneca Turnpike Company was granted to build a road through New Hartford, Kirkland, Vernon, Oneida Castle, and on westward.

Mail and Stage Routes- In 1792 Congress provided for a post road between Albany and Whitesboro.  The mail was carried by Jason Parker, who had established a line of stages about that time.  Parker and Levi Stephens had received an exclusive right for seven years to run a line of stages twice each week over the route from Albany to Onondaga, and the charge was to be not exceeding five cents per passenger per mile.  Three quite extraordinary men joined Mr. Parker in this enterprise.  They were Theodore S. Faxton, Silas B. Childs and John Butterfield.

 Jason Parker settled in New Hartford in 1794.  He was a native of Wilbraham, Mass.  He cleared up two farms, and displayed great energy in making improvements upon his property, but his health failed and he was obliged to give up farming and take up some other line of business.  He first employed post riders between Canajoharie and Whitestown.  The contract from the government for the transportation of the mails, which had been given the year previous to one Simeon Pool, soon passed into his hands.  It is related by Dr. Bagg that on one occasion, when Mr. Parker arrived with the great western mail from Albany, it was discovered that it contained six letters for the inhabitants of the old Fort Schuyler.  This remarkable fact was heralded from one end of the settlement to the other, and some were incredulous until assured of its truth by the postmaster, John Post.  In 1810, Mr. Parker had established a daily line of stages between Albany and Utica, and in September 1811, another line three times a week was added to the daily one.  Mr. Parker was eminently successful.  He died in Utica in 1830, and was succeeded in the business of transportation largely by Theodore S. Faxton, Silas D. Childs and John Butterfield.  These gentlemen from time to time extended the stage routes from Utica, until they reached out in every direction, as far east as Albany, south to the Unadilla country, west to the westerly part of the state, and north to the St. Lawrence river.

 Theodore S. Faxton came to Utica about 1812, obtained a position as stage driver, and continued in that employment for about four years.  Afterward he became one of the proprietors of the establishment, but even then, on occasions he would mount the box and know how he could handle the dashing hour or six horses.  It is related to him that in the winter of 1822-3, he drove a team of six horses from Utica to Albany and return in eighteen hours, and had as guests on that occasion the eminent gentlemen, James Platt, Richard R. Lansing, John H. Ostrom, Charles P. Kirkland, Joseph S. Porter and William Williams.  They left Utica at midnight, reached Albany before the opening of the morning session of the legislature, and, after an hour's rest, started out on their return.  After they reached Utica they were not content until they eked out the one hundred miles by a ride to New Hartford and return.  Mr. Faxton accumulated a large fortune, and, as he had no children, he gave liberally of his large means to charities.  Among other institutions, he founded or endowed the Faxton Hospital, Home for the Homeless, and the Old Couples' Home, all in Utica.  He also gave liberally to other charities, and left a name most enviable in the annals of the city of Utica.

 Silas D. Childs, also a partner with Mr. Parker in the transportation business, came to Utica from Conway, Mass.  He was a man of great energy, accumulated a large fortune, and at his death left a substantial sum to charities and benevolent objects, among with was Hamilton College.  He left a large portion of his property to his wife during her life, and at her death the beneficiaries under his will reaped further benefit.  Mr. Childs left no descendants, and his large estate went to collateral relatives and to charities, for which the citizens of Oneida county have ever been grateful.

 John Butterfield came to Utica and entered the employ of Jason Parker as a stage driver.  He was a man of very limited education, but of remarkable business capacity.  Soon after locating in Utica he started a livery business.  This was conducted during his entire life, and his establishment was famed throughout the entire state.  He was a dealer in horses, buying them in large numbers, and selling them to dealers in all directions.  It is reported of him that he transported the first live animal that was ever freighted upon the steam cars.  As the report goes, he sold a team to Erastus Corning of Albany, and agreed to have them in that city the following morning.  When asked how he expected to do it, he said he would send them by railroad.  He took a platform car, arranged it so that the horses would be safe upon it, placed them on it, and the next morning they were in Albany.  He was also instrumental in building the Utica & Schenectady railroad; the Utica & Black River railroad, and the Utica & Chenango Valley railroad; was one of the organizers of the American Express Company; and was the organizer of the Overland Mail Route to California, a stage line of 2,800 miles.  His capacity for organization was very great, and his judgement as to what should be done commanded the respect of his friends, so that he was able to command money for any enterprise he would undertake.  It is related of him that when he thought to be on his deathbed, he purchased iron for the Utica & Chenango Valley railroad, he, at the time, being president of that company, and that the directories refused to acquiesce in his purchase.  He then said to them, "Very well, I will take the iron."  This was the approach of the Civil war, and there was an almost immediate advance in the price of railroad iron.  Soon after the directors of the company went to him and said that they had changed their minds and would take the iron.  He answered, "The iron is mine, and you can have it at market price," which gave him a substantial profit.  He died in Utica in 1889, leaving a large fortune and estate which inventoried nearly a million dollars, but he made no charitable bequests.

 Erie Canal- The Erie Canal was started in Rome, July 4, 1817.  This great waterway was finished October 20, 1825, and an immense celebration occurred in Utica, at which Governor Clinton and many notables were present.  It may well be said here that the foremost engineer connected with the canal was John B. Jervis of Rome.

 The Chenango Canal, running southward from Utica, was begun in 1834, and was completed in 1836.  It was 97 miles long, and its object was to bring coal into central New York.  After the completion of the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western railroad, and the Utica, Clinton & Binghamton railroad, this canal was abandoned.  This was accomplished through the influence of the railroad companies.  It was a castarophe to the public that the canal was abandoned, and it seems incomprehensible that it could have been accomplished.  From that time until the present day the railroads have had absolute control of the coal fields and coal markets.  If the canal had remained open, it is probable that coal would have been purchased much cheaper in central New York than at the present time.

 Black River Canal-was built largely as a feeder for the Erie Canal.  Its construction was authorized in 1836, and it was opened in 1851 between Rome and Port Leyden.  It has ceased to be of great practical use to the state, and but very little business has been done over it until it was utilized for the purposes of the work upon the Barge Canal, and particularly at Delta, where the material for the construction of the great dam there came over this canal.  Just what this canal will amount to after the construction of the Barge Canal is impossible to say at this time.  The great feeders for the Barge Canal, being constructed at Delta and Hinckley, would seem to be sufficient to supply water without use of that which formerly passed through the Black River Canal.

 Plank Road-In 1847 a Plank Road Company was organized to plank the roads through law, wet and rough places.  One road extended from Deerfield to Remsen; one was afterwards built from Utica to Rome and on westward; one to Schuyler and Frankfort; and one to New Hartford, Clinton, Waterville and Burlington.  While the hemlock lumber, which was generally used for plank roads, was plentiful, the roads could be kept planked without enormous expense; but as the lumber became scarce it was so expensive to plank the roads that finally they fell into dilapidation, and they were worse than if they had never been planked.  They became at times in the spring and fall almost impassable.  Finally the planks were removed, and nothing of importance was done for many years in regard to the construction of proper highways.  The state, however, having voted to spend $50,000,000 under certain conditions upon the highways, the countie3s and towns have taken up the subject, and within the last ten years great advance has been made in the construction of suitable highways.  The number of miles of first class macadam road which have3e been constructed within the county to date is 105.  The incentive to good roads was first caused by the invention of the bicycle.  The bicycle riders desired good roads, an organization was perfected in the state, and a systematic campaign was carried on for years in favor of better highways.  This was accentuated when the automobile became a practically assured fact, and at the present time there is no other thought in the public mind except to perfect our highways as rapidly as they can be economically constructed upon approved engineering principles.

 The Utica & Schenectady Railroad Company was incorporated in 1833.  A railroad had been constructed from Albany to Schenectady in 1832, and the proposed line from Utica to Schenectady was to connect with that.  The road was to be upon the north side of the Erie Canal, with its terminus in the city of Utica.
 In 1836 a road was built between Utica and Syracuse.  Cars were run then through from Albany to Syracuse, and within a short time the road was continued to Buffalo, which made a continuous line, although consisting of different railroads, from New York through to Buffalo.

 New York Central & Hudson River Railroad Company - In 1853 the legislature passed a bill consolidating all the railroads between Albany and Buffalo, which gave birth to the great corporation known as the New York Central Railroad Company, which was afterwards consolidated with the Hudson River Railroad Company, making the great combination now called the New York Central & Hudson River Railroad Company.

 Utica & Black River Railroad Company- In 1853 a railroad was organized in Utica called the Black River & Utica Railroad , the object being to build a road northward from Utica.  This road was constructed as far as Boonville about 1855.  The expense of the road was so great that it was a financial failure, a receiver was appointed, the property sold, and a reorganization was effected in May 1861, under the name of Utica & Black River Railroad Company.  This line has been extended to Watertown and the St. Lawrence river, and was for many years conducted as a separate line, but was finally leased to the Rome, Watertown & Ogdensburg Railroad Company and the Utica & Black River Railroad Company became a part of the New York Central & Hudson River Railroad system.

 Utica, Chenango & Susquehanna Valley Railroad Company-Lewis Lawrence and other prominent Utica capitalists organized this road in 1866.  The object was to build a line of railroads southerly from Utica into the Chenango valley.  This was completed in 1870, and was leased to the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad Company, which has ever since had control of it.  This railroad is the principal source of the coal supply to Utica and vicinity.

 Utica, Clinton & Binghamton Railroad Company- In 1862 John Butterfield and other of the business men of Utica organized a railroad company known as the Utica, Clinton & Binghamton Railroad Company, the object being to construct a horse or steam railroad to connect Clinton with New Hartford, Utica and Whitesboro.  In 1863 the railroad was built within the city of Utica, and as far south as New Hartford.  Horse cars were used in the city, and as far as New Hartford.  From New Hartford to Clinton a dummy engine was used to draw the cars back and forth.  In 1867 the road was extended to Smith's Valley.  In 1870 a steam road was built from Utica to New Hartford, but not on the line of the street railroad, as the street railroad had passed up Genesee street, the principal resident street in Utica, and the steam road was built up the westerly outskirts of the city.  This line of railroad was first leased to the New York, Ontario & Western Railroad Company, and afterwards to the Delaware & Hudson Canal Company.  As soon as electricity became a practical means of propelling street cars, the system in Utica was changed, and electricity was used to propel all of the street cars over this line of railroad, both through the city and to the suburban villages.

 New York, West Shore & Buffalo Railroad Company- In 1884 it was proposed to build a railroad from New York to the west, known as the New York, West Shore & Buffalo Railroad Company. This line passed through Oneida county, and the road was substantially completed by the person who had organized it, but soon after they got into financial difficulties, a receiver was appointed, the property sold, and fell into the hands of the New York Central & Hudson River Railroad Company.  This railroad had endeavored to compete with the New York Central by carrying passengers at one cent per mile and freight at a ruinous rate.  It was short lived, and the New York Central reaped the benefit of the visionary financiering of the managers of the insolvent corporation.

 Mohawk & Malone Railroad Company- A railroad was organized in 1893 to run from Herkimer, northward into the Adirondacks.  It was constructed by the Vanderbilt money, and soon after was leased to the New York Central & Hudson River Railroad Company.  As the New York Central had also control of the Utica & Black River Railroad, it changed the system of running trains on the Mohawk & Malone Railroad, and, instead of having them pass through Herkimer over the new railroad to Remsen and on into the Adirondacks, their principal trains run through Utica and over the Utica & Black River Railroad to Remsen and on into the Adirondacks, thus making Utica the real terminal of the Mohawk & Malone Railroad.  This is the last steam railroad that has been perfected in this county.

 The Rome & Clinton Railroad Company, whose line extends between Rome and Clinton, was constructed in 1871.  It was intended as a coal road, and soon after its completion was leased to the Delaware & Hudson Canal Company, and has ever since been controlled by that organization.

 Rome, Watertown & Ogdensburg Railroad Company- In 1848 the Rome, Watertown & Ogdensburg Railroad was commenced, and was opened as far as Pierrepont Manor in May 1851.  The year afterward it was extended northward to Watertown.  This road had financial difficulties, and, after the building of the Utica & Black River Railroad through to Watertown, the competition became so sharp that both roads suffered in consequence.  In 1886 the Utica & Black River Railroad was leased by Rome, Watertown & Ogdensburg Railroad, and afterward both roads were leased to the New York Central & Hudson River Railroad Company, and all competition faded away.

 The Utica Belt Line Company was organized in 1886, its object being to get control of all the street railroads in Utica, which was accomplished that same year.  Electricity was substituted for horse cars, and great development was made in the local street railroad system.  In 1897 the line was extended to Oriskany and Summit Park.  The Bleecker Street Railroad was also acquired by the Belt Line Company, the Oneida Railroad procured the rights in the streets of Utica, and finally a majority of the stock of all these local companies was acquired by the New York Central & Hudson River Railroad Company, a line was constructed to Rome, the West Shore Railroad was electrified between Utica and Syracuse, an electric line constructed as far south as Little Falls, and, although there are several different corporations, the dominating one is the New York Central & Hudson River Railroad Company.

 Barge Canal- One of the greatest industrial elements in Oneida county is the Barge Canal, which is at this time in process of construction.  The county, indeed, plays a very important part in this great waterway, as the two large reservoirs, which are to furnish the water for the great level through the central part of the state, are to be located within its boundaries-one at Delta, and the other at Hinckley.  The dam at Delta at this writing is nearly completed and the one at Hinckley has only been in process of construction since the spring of 1911.  The dam at Delta submerges several square miles of territory, and has necessitated the removal of Delta village.  The dam at Hinckley crosses the West Canada creek a short distance above the residence of the late Albert Hinckley.  It is more than 4,400 feet long, and the effect will be to destroy the upper part of the village of Hinckley, and the villages of the Northwood and Grant, Herkimer county.  At the present writing the work upon the canal through Oneida county has not progressed sufficiently so that an accurate description can be given of the situation.  For several years a controversy existed between the city of Utica and the state of New York in regard to whether the canal should pass along the new channel of the Mohawk river or whether it should be placed further northward, and the state finally decided to adopt the northerly course, which is about 1,800 feet northward from the old river channel of the Mohawk.  This old channel has, during the last year, had been entirely filled up at the foot of the Genesee street, and in the historical river and the famous ford has ceased to exist.