|Exploring Oneida County History|
The history of Oneida County is a narrative of over two hundred years of our family. What we've done. Where we've been. Why we fought. Who we loved. What we built and accomplished. What failed. How we picked up the pieces and went on. It is a story, too, about the land, the forest and the waters of Oneida County that provide crops and livestock and power for mills of all kinds, and materials to build with. But mostly, it is a story about people and what they believed. Why they came here. Why they stayed.
The mid-1790s was a time of discontent for many pioneers who lived along Herkimer County’s western frontier. They longed for a county of their own. They wanted to govern themselves, enact and enforce their own laws, have their neighbors represent them in the State Assembly, set up their own fire and police protection and court system and decide for themselves where and when their roads would be built.
Most of all, they were weary of having to travel 20 miles and more over narrow, rugged dirt roads to Herkimer to conduct legal and other business. What they did about it ... and the distinctive geographical location they chose for their new county would shape the future of Oneida County.
Hugh White, who founded White’s Town in 1784, was one of the discontented. Jedediah Sanger, founder of New Hartford in 1788, was another. So was Moses Foot of Clinton and James Dean of Westmoreland. They and their neighbors were of tough stock strong, courageous men and women from places like Connecticut and Massachusetts who left their homes in the mid-1780s, journeyed up the Mohawk River and settled in the river’s upper region. They had tamed its wild woods and harnessed the raging power of its many creeks and rivers.
Many were veterans of the just-ended Revolutionary War who left New England, marched to and fought at places like Fort Stanwix (where Rome is today) and beyond. They saw firsthand the region’s fertile soil and lush forests with countless trees with which to build homes and boats, and abounding in animals large and small to hunt and trap. They spent the late 1780s spreading the news back in New England of the many attractions along New York’s western frontier.
By the 1790s, though, they were a discontented lot and had begun to lobby Albany for a local government of their own. Over two hundred years ago ... on March 15, 1798 ... they got their wish. The State Legislature took tens of thousands of acres from vast western Herkimer County and formed an Oneida County ... so named, legend has it, by a gentleman at a White’s Town meeting who admired the Oneida Indians, but whose name is lost to history.
The new county ... which was the home of the Oneidas for many years ... was vast, too, extending north to what today is Lewis and Jefferson Counties, and west to include part of today’s Oswego County. But it was its unique geographical location and not its vastness that would influence greatly its inhabitants through the years and determine where and how many of them would work, pray, learn and socialize and the routes they would travel. It was a location that would make Oneida County different from neighboring Herkimer, Madison, Lewis, Otsego and Chenango counties and contribute to its emergence as the region’s most populated county with the two largest cities ... Utica and Rome ... the most manufacturing industry and the center of higher education.
Long before permanent settlers arrived in what now is Oneida County, members of the Oneida Indian Nation lived in the region. “Onia” meant “stone” in their native tongue so they were called “Oneyotka-ono” or “Oniotaaug” since they were known as “the people of the upright stone,” which alluded to a large stone that was sacred to them. They built their villages in the region, planted their corn and squash and conducted their council gatherings around their sacred stone. They also hacked trails through virgin forests to the two most vital sites in the region ... sites where later would grow the cities of Utica and Rome.
The first was a fording place in the then-very wide and turbulent Mohawk River. It was the only place in the river that was so shallow they easily could wade across and head north to the Adirondacks to hunt and fish. In the 1750s, during the French and Indian War, the British built Fort Schuyler near the ford to serve as a supply fort and a garrison if the French tried to capture the strategic site (they never did.) In the 1780s, settlers also were attracted to the ford and began to build homes, stores, inns and taverns there. The settlement grew into a village and, in 1832, into the city of Utica.
The other site important to the Oneidas was “The Great Carry” …a mile-long stretch of land between the Mohawk River and Wood Creek where one could travel west from river to creek to Oneida Lake and, via the Oneida and Oswego rivers, to Lake Ontario and the other Great Lakes. In effect, the carrying spot allowed one to travel from the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes via the Mohawk and Hudson rivers.
The British also recognized the “carry” as a strategic piece of land. At the beginning of the French and Indian War, they built Fort Williams nearby and later Forts Bull, Craven, Newport, Wood Creek, Rickey and the much larger Fort Stanwix. By the 1780s, the site was attracting settlers like Dominick Lynch. Eventually, the settlements there would evolve into the city of Rome.
Many transportation routes in Oneida County today date back to pre-colonial days. Indian trails evolved into thoroughfares like the Genesee Road, Seneca Turnpike, Route 20, Route 5 and the Thruway. The flat, east-west, water level routes between Utica and Rome attracted builders of not only roads, but also railroads and canals. Even today, the Amtrak tracks, the Thruway and the Erie Canal run side by side. And it was Oneida County’s ideal location that convinced builders of the first Erie Canal in 1817 that they should build the middle section first, the section between Utica and Rome. The soft earth and flat terrain promised no major problems in construction and quick progress, thus quieting the foes of the canal.
The strategic location of the new Oneida County also led to its first manufacturing industries ... flour, saw and gristmills operated by water power generated by the region’s dozens of rushing streams. Early settlers like the Whites, Sangers, Foots and Deans built their mills along creeks like Oriskany and Sauquoit. They were followed by pioneers like John and Ann Bloomfield of Annsville, Christian Reall of Deerfield, Gerritt Boon of Trenton, Ebenezer Harger of Ava, James Farwell of Bridgewater, John Bellinger of Utica, Jesse Curtiss of Camden and Barnabas Mitchell of Remsen.
In the early 1800s, that same water power helped to create a textile industry... Oneida County’s next major manufacturing industry. Enterprising young people like Seth Capron and Benjamin Walcott established the first cotton and woolen mills in the state in Whitestown and soon were employing hundreds of people. In the 1840s, local mills began to lose business to mills in New England, that had discarded water power and were operating with more efficient steam power. Once again, Oneida County’s ideal location came to the textile industry’s rescue.
The state decided to build a canal to link Pennsylvania and the Binghamton area with the Erie Canal via the Chenango Valley. The Erie passed through the center of Oneida County, so it was decided that the new Chenango Canal would join the Erie at Utica. It was completed in 1836, just in time to carry coal from fields in Pennsylvania to Oneida County ... coal needed to produce steam for modern textile mills. The county remained a giant in the textile industry until the 1950s, employing tens of thousands of men and women through the years and attracting thousands more from other regions ... and countries, too.
Many other industries in the county’s 200-year history owed their success to the county’s location. Among them was the manufacture of iron made possible by the discovery of iron ore in the early 1800s in places like Clinton, Kirkland and Clayville. Soon, hundreds were working in industries related to the discovery: the mining of the ore, the operation of blast furnaces that were fired up to make iron and the large number of blacksmiths needed to hammer the iron into articles like horseshoes, knives, forks, spoons, hinges and nails.
The availability of water in the region continued to play an important role in Oneida County’s industrial history as late as the 1950s during the “loom-to-boom” era. Most of the county’s textile mills relocated in the South and were being replaced by companies like Chicago Pneumatic, General Electric, Continental Can, Univac and Bendix. Leaders of these and other companies all agreed that one of the main reasons they had selected Oneida County as their new home was its abundant water supply.
From the very beginning, agriculture was a major industry in Oneida County and, once again, the county’s location played a vital role. The region was blessed with fertile soil along rivers and streams so that, first, the Native Americans, and later the first permanent settlers could plant their corn, wheat, oats, squash and barley. The ideal climate contributed to successful crops year after year. Late in the 19th century, it supported dozens of dairy farms, sheep-raising operations and crops like hops, beans and peas.
The county’s location helped farmers in another way, too. They were closer to New York City markets than were farmers in the Midwest, and that gave Oneida County farmers a big advantage when shipping milk and perishable crops in the days before refrigeration. Agriculture continues today to be an important industry in Oneida County and a major contributor to its economy.
Boonville Train Wreck - 1908
On Saturday morning July 4, 1908, the Thousand Island Special, or Clayton Flyer, as it is known among railroad men, on the Rome, Watertown & Ogdensburg Railroad ( R. W. & O. ) , was heading northbound filled with holiday excursionists. The train was composed of six sleepers, a day coach, a combination baggage and smoker, and an ordinary baggage coach—nine cars in all, drawn by two engines. This was a little more than the average size of this train.
The train left Utica, NY with Engineer Rieber and Fireman Lingerfelder on the leading engine and Engineer O'Brien and Fireman Brunett on the second.
Also on the R. W. & O. Railroad, southbound, was freight train No. 90. There were about 20 or 25 cars in the freight train which were filled with various shipments from the northern country, much of it being dairy produce, groceries and general merchandise. One of the first cars on the train was loaded with cheese. Fireman Palmer was usually at work with the engineer on this freight, but Saturday morning Mr. Michael was taking the run, with Engineer Hughes.
Denley, NY is the next station beyond Boonville, NY and the Black River road there depicts what might be called the middle part of an elongated letter “S” along the Black River Canal. The freight train came into the gradual curve from the upper part of this “S”, and in so doing came into a gentle but decided grade. So in any case it would be difficult to stop a heavy freight train at such a place, even though the track was straight for miles and an approaching train could be seen. The baggage man of the passenger train, stated that he felt the brakes being set even as the collision came.
The collision came at 6:30 am nearly midway between Denley and Boonville, which was about a mile and a half north of Boonville. With an impact, the sound of which was heard at least a mile away, the Thousand Island Special crashed head-on to freight train No. 90 piling engines and cars into a mass of wreckage killing four men outright and injuring 10 or more, two of whom later died in hospital.
In an instant the trains had toppled over towards the canal, and four lives had been forfeited. The dead: Albert Rieber, engineer, Utica; Stephen O'Brien, engineer, Utica; Andrew Wolner, trainman, Utica; Joseph Michael, trainman, Adams; F. W. Brunnet ( died in hospital ), fireman, Watertown; and John O'Brien ( died in hospital ), Glenfield.
In that same instant, other portions of the two trains were being wrecked and thrown from side to side to the sound of splintering wood, the rumble of freight cars striking into each other pilling up and falling over. Inside the cars passengers were thrown about and the injured were jammed against seats and against car windows. The cow catchers on the two engines that met were demolished and the boilers interlocked. The second engine on the passenger train remained on the roadbed, but left the tracks, which were torn up for a distance of several hundred feet. The day coach back of this engine did not leave the track, as did the remains of the combination car and baggage car, the latter of which lay beneath the combination, a total wreck.
As for the freight train, four cars were tumbled about back of the engine which had drawn them. The second of the freight cars piled itself up on top of the first and both rolled over into the marshy land near the track on the side of the canal. Two more, immediately back of them, rolled over into the ditch on the other side.
The wrecking crew from Utica, under Mr. Griffin, was summoned as soon as possible and the train was started shortly after 7 o'clock. The wrecking crew from Watertown was also put at work on the big task of clearing track, and help was also secured from Syracuse. A big party of laborers was kept busy laying a new track as soon as the twisted rails were taken out of the way.After a thorough investigation in the weeks following the accident, railroad officials declared that the wreck was caused by operator's error in transmitting orders, the result being the worst disaster in the history of the R. W. & O. Railroad since the road was established.
The "Big Snow" of 1925
Starting at 9 PM Thursday, January 29th, the “Big Snow” of 1925 hit hard and was continuous until mid morning on Friday, January 30th. High winds of blizzard proportions accompanied the snow and drifting added to the impact. Although the skies cleared before noon, the winds increased in velocity and drifting continued to cripple communications and travel.
Most of upstate New York was covered in a blanket of three feet of snow with the wind at an average velocity of 25 to 30 mph. Snowfall rivaled the famous blizzard of March 1888. Communication to and from the entire Adirondack region was badly crippled with many towns completely isolated. Highway connections were entirely cut off as were railroad connections in all directions.
In Old Forge, the snow was piled so high in the streets that houses were hidden. Streets were drifted so badly that coal dealers were unable to make deliveries, leaving some residents without coal. The village tractor plow battled for three hours with the snow Friday in making the trip from Boonville to Thendara. The plow was kept in operation throughout the night to keep the road open.
Many trains were stalled by huge snowdrifts. Two and three engines were necessary to haul fast deluxe specials which were delayed far beyond schedules. Passengers fatigued from a series of delays, were stranded at Union Station for long periods. Some of them slept all night on the benches in the waiting room as was done the previous night. More than 3,000 people were fed, at the station’s restaurant on Friday, at the expense of the New York Central Railroad.
New York Central trains, running from 12 to 16 hours late out of Utica became stalled frequently at points between Albany and Rochester. Clearing tracks for resumption of normal traffic was not possible before early the next week since continued drifting of snow made traction hard. In addition to the double heading of trains, 200 laborers with shovels and brooms were working in the New York Central yards to keep the tracks open. It was a tedious task, 15 to 20 men cleaning out a single switch only to have the wind cover up that switch again.
No freight was received at any of the three local freight stations Friday, huge drifts making it impossible for trucks to get near. All employees of the freight houses were kept busy for days digging the lanes necessary for shipping goods.
Trolley service was overwhelmed as the fury of the storm inundated the Utica lines of the New York State Railways more completely than those in Syracuse and Rochester where one or more lines were started on Friday morning (the depth of the snow, up to that time, was unparalleled in the history of Syracuse).
In Utica, plows and sweepers were unable to keep up with the snow that was rapidly covering the trolley rails as passenger cars ahead of the snow equipment became derailed by snow clogs leaving the plows and sweepers tied up helpless. More than 300 men with shovels were put on the job. Their first attempt being made to open the Genesee and Bleecker lines. Sixteen passengers on the third rail car out of Syracuse at 6:34 PM – including a few women and children - spent the night and the best part of the next day in the car. The management of the New York State Railways arranged with a nearby farm house to furnish meals and a supply of coal to heat the car.
Agriculture in Oneida County
Throughout its history, Oneida County has had no better friend than its good, rich soil. It nurtured crops and forests to sustain Indians, hunters and trappers in pre-Colonial times and did the same for pioneers who first began to trickle into the region in the early 1770s and arrive in larger numbers in the mid-1780s.
It made possible hilly, grazing pastures necessary for dairy farming and sheep-raising to be profitable during the first half of the 19th century and, after the Civil War, made the farm and the growing of cash crops a major part of the county’s growing economy.
Agriculture contributes much to the local economy. Farmers are consumers, too, and their purchases link dozens of businesses to the farm businesses such as insurance, farm machinery, feed, fertilizer, seed, electricity, banking and building supplies. Farmers tend to spend their money locally so one can begin to realize the importance of agriculture to the county’s economy.
The families of Barnabas Mitchell and James Wilson were typical of those who journeyed along the Mohawk River to Old Fort Schuyler (Utica). These families and their neighbors quickly discovered that the climate and average rainfall, too, was ideal to grow a variety of crops ... corn, oats, barley, potatoes, beans, squash, pumpkin, carrots and wheat. Families were able to grow enough food for themselves, but not much more. Farmers worried about surviving and not about producing food for market.
Between 1785 and 1800, agriculture in Oneida County certainly was no industry. There were two main reasons for the slow development: A handful of landowners owned large tracts of land. Many of them did not farm their land, hoping it would increase in value. In addition, though Land was plentiful it usually was worked until the soil was exhausted. Then, the farmer would move to another piece of land. Crop rotation was unheard of and little, if any, fertilizer was used.
Right after the Civil War, agriculture became a major industry in the county. Organizations such as the Oneida County Agriculture Society, American Dairymen’s Association and state fairs began to educate farmers in the sciences of soil, plants and livestock, and the benefits of fertilizer and crop rotation. Milo Mitchell, son of first settler Barnabas Mitchell, began to grow cash crops like wheat and soon was operating the largest farm in the Remsen area. James Wilson and his family did the same and soon they were the wealthiest people in Marcy.
During the first decade of the 19th century, many Oneida County farmers began to grow cash crops like wheat, barley and rye for markets in New York City and Europe. Then, the farmers’ prosperity came to an abrupt end when Congress passed an Embargo Act in December 1807, hoping to deprive England and other European countries of U.S. products and force them to stop attacking U.S. ships. Eventually, the embargo was lifted, but the damage was done and the agriculture industry in Oneida County was at a near standstill. But it didn’t stand still for long.
When foreign markets disappeared, farmers in the county turned to raising sheep and dairy farming. The county’s fertile soil provided lush hilly pastures for sheep and cows to graze in. Women and children in farm families could help with butter-making and milking to reduce labor costs. Also, local dairy farmers were closer to important New York City markets than were farms further west. In those days before refrigeration, they easily could deliver milk and other products downstate before spoilage began.
By 1830, there were thousands of merino sheep in the county, especially in the Sangerfield-Bridgewater area. Merinos, originally raised in Spain, were famous for their fine wool. Sheep farmers had dozens of markets nearby, too, as woolen mills sprang up in Oriskany in 1809, Clinton in 1810, Sauquoit in 1812, Clayville in 1844 and Utica in 1846. By then, there were more than 200,000 sheep in Oneida County.
At the same time, dairy farms were booming, with butter- and cheese-making being a profitable part of the industry. In 1851, Jesse Williams and his sons, living near Rome, invented a method to convert milk directly into cheese in large quantities, something that never was done before. They erected cheese factories where they used milk from their neighbors’ farms to produce superior quality cheese. Soon, Williams was labeled “father of the cheese factory system” and Rome was “the cheese capital of the world.”
By 1860, agriculture slowly was developing into an important industry. Livestock needed feed and fodder so county farmers began to grow oats, barley and rye. The latter two also were sold to breweries. So were hops, first planted in the county in about 1820 and by 1850 a major crop, especially in the Waterville-Sangerfield-Bridgewater area. With the coming of the Erie Canal in 1825 and railroads a little later, wheat farming in the county grew rapidly and large shipments were sent weekly to New York City markets.
Nearly 90 percent of the county’s 800,000 acres were being farmed ... more than 700,000 acres mostly used for livestock, hay, oats, corn, potatoes, apples and hops. Beginning in the 1890s ... farmers were learning how to produce more with less farmland, and the number of farms began to decrease.
Agriculture not only is a major industry in Oneida County today, it is a changing one, too. The number of farms continue to decrease every year, mainly because of decreasing profits, increasing taxes and the high cost of tools and machinery. Many older farmers quit because they cannot find young people to take over.
According to the 2002 census, approximately 216,000 acres in the county is farm land. Oneida County has a mix of rural, suburban and urban land use with a population estimated at 235,000 people. Its agriculture is also diverse. The census identifies dairy as the leading agriculture industry with 61% of the total agricultural receipts, vegetables are next with 11% followed by cattle and calves (8%), nursery and greenhouse (8%), grains and dry beans (4%) and other products (8%). Of the 305 dairy farms there are a dozen farms with 300-2000 milking cows. Most of the 21,100 cows in the county are on small farms with 50-100 cows.
American Express Company
The American Express Company, which has played a prominent part in the industrial and commercial development of the United States, was the creation of John Butterfield. Born in Berne, New York, Butterfield had little schooling and in 1821 he left the farm at the age of 19 to seek his fortune. He shortly moved to Utica, New York, where he started his own livery business with the purchase of a horse and carriage.
Butterfield was the first to appreciate the commercial value of an express company to collect and deliver freight to and from the railroad depot in Utica. His business grew and prospered with the result that express companies were organized in other cities of the State. C & B Wasson & Company in Albany handled freight in that city and sometime in the 1840s, Butterfield joined with Wasson to form Butterfield, Wasson & Company to conduct the freight business between Albany and Utica.
The "Utica Daily Gazette" informed its readers on April 4, 1850: "The express lines of Wells & Co. and Butterfield, Wasson & Co. have been consolidated into the American Express Company. The direction of the company is vested in seven directors, and the principle of individual liability is incorporated in the articles of association. Henry Wells, of New York, has been chosen President; John Butterfield, of Utica, Vice President and W. G. Fargo, of Buffalo, Secretary."
With the signing of the Articles of Association on March 18, 1850, Wells & Co., Livingston, Fargo & Co., and Butterfield, Wasson & Co. consolidated to form the American Express Company. American Express was by no means a start-up operation in the modern sense. The three founders-Henry Wells, William G. Fargo and John Butterfield-were not newcomers to the express business. Each was engaged in his own express enterprise, and all three of those firms were competing for business along routes based in and around the state of New York, transporting packages, valuables and goods.
The new company was in a position to handle freight on the railroads from New York city to Buffalo and both the company and the railroads experienced a considerable increase in business and profits. When the original railroad depot in Utica was replaced a few years later by a new structure, the American Express Company occupied the old depot at Bagg's Square as its headquarters. This old depot was scheduled for demolition in 1910 and the finding of the old records of the company prompted the "Utica Sunday Tribune" of October 9, 1910 to report:
"Like the telegraph lines, the express companies were born and nurtured in this city, and the same man whose idea of the usefulness of the telegraph was laughed at was the one to see the commercial value of the express delivery system. That man was John Butterfield, and his express company business grew and grew with the result that others saw the possibilities of the scheme. In the early days of the American Express Company, Utica was its headquarters. In this city were the main offices, and Utica was the central point from which express was sent East and West. The auditing force and clerical staff of the company was located at Bagg's Square, and the other offices, including that in New York, were subsidiary to the local one.
"Those interested in the first company were Mr. Wells, whose name is perpetuated in the Wells-Fargo company, and Mr. Butterfield, and the organization was known as Wells, Butterfield & Co. This company owned the American Express Company as well as the New York, Albany & Buffalo Telegraph Company, over the lines of which were flashed the first message of a commercial nature forwarded in the world."Later the Wells Butterfield Company took over the Merchants' Union Express Exchange, which operated in the northern part of New York State though in a very small manner and at infrequent times.
"In 1868 the farthest that the company had extended its service was to St. Paul in the Northwest and to St. Joseph, Missouri in the West. This service was gradually extended and the present system which spans the country either way was due to the business acumen and foresights of Mr. Butterfield and Mr. Wells who with his partner saw the possibilities of such a system.
"In Utica in 1860 the Company employed three men and had six horses. In 1875 the Company had nine men. This year (1910) there are employed (in Utica) 53 men and 20 horses are required for deliveries and collections."
Battle of Oriskany
The defense of farms and villages in the Mohawk Valley brought nearly 800 Tryon County Militia and 62 Oneida Indians in answer to General Herkimer’s call from Fort Dayton (Village of Herkimer).
British forces under General Barry St. Leger had laid siege to Fort Stanwix (Rome, NY). St. Leger’s forces included 400 British Regular troops; 1,000 Mohawk and Seneca Indians, John Butler’s Indian Department force; Sir John Johnson’s Royal Regiment of New York, 400 men, plus a detachment of 100 Hessian mercenaries.
Molly Brant, the sister of Mohawk Chief Joseph Brant, sent scouts to warn St. Leger of the Tryon county Militia’s march as they left Fort Dayton, August 4, 1777. An ambush site was picked by the British and Indians, four miles east of Fort Stanwix. Here an earlier severe windstorm had leveled a wide swath of virgin trees on either side of the military road leading to the Fort. The site gave excellent cover among the downed trees, and the road had to traverse a small creek that led northward to the Mohawk River. Fully a mile beyond the creek the Hessian detachment was positioned across the road on high ground to prevent passage beyond that point. All the Indians, Butler’s and Johnson’s forces took cover on both sides of the road for a distance of two to three miles.
The battle occurred shortly after the foreguard group of the Canajoharie District Militia, under Colonel Cox, came under heavy attack, at the head of the militia column, from Indian forces. Hessian troops appeared and fired their short Yager rifles, point blank, at the surprised militia.
General Herkimer, on horseback, went east on the Military Road to form other units of the militia into defensive positions. Colonel Cox and most of the forward militia are killed or wounded in this early action. The supply wagons in the middle of the column are now under full attack, on both sides, by Indians and Tories dressed as Indians. Colonel Klock’s German Flatts and Colonel Bellinger’s Kingsland Militias now came under attack from the north and the south. Colonel Fischer’s Mohawk Militia and the Cherry Valley Militia retreated to the north along the small creek. Shortly, General Herkimer is shot through the leg, killing his horse. Due to the length of the militia column, the fighting develops three battle areas where the militia attempt to form-up defenses, and fight in pairs.
The battle lasted over five hours, in total, interrupted by a heavy downpour of rain. When fighting resumed no quarter was asked or given in dozens of individual combats. Men strived to kill each other with knives, spears, clubs, rifles and tomahawks. The end came as both sides, too weary to continue, disengaged.
Over 450 of the ‘Tryon County Militia were killed, wounded or captured. Five Seneca Indian Chiefs were killed, and many of the hostile Indians left the area, fleeing north. The Hessian and Tory forces retreated to encampments around Fort Stanwix only to find that, while they were away, soldiers from the Fort had taken their supplies, ammunition, maps and records. A few days later, on news of General Benedict Arnold’s approach with a column of Colonial Regulars, General St. Leger gave up the siege and retreated in haste to Canada, leaving the western Mohawk valley secure.
Oneida County During the Civil War
Until the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, the Utica Citizens Corps, which, since its organization in 1837, had been considered one of the crack military companies of the state, was largely social in its purpose and had been occupied principally in parades, laying of cornerstones, visiting corps in surrounding cities and entertaining corps from those cities. Now, the Corps held a meeting on April 15, two days after the war started, and on the very day when Lincoln called for volunteers, the Corps informed the government that it would be ready to march fully equipped on forty-eight hours' notice. Eight days later, it entrained for camp at Albany, Captain James McQuade in command.
The Ninety-seventh Regiment New York Volunteers, the "Conkling Rifles" or the Third Oneida Regiment, was enlisted largely in the northern townships of the county but contained one company largely from Utica. It was mustered into service at Boonville, February 18, 1862, with Charles Wheelock for colonel. It served at Culpepper, Rappahannock Station, Thoroughfare Gap, Second Bull Run, South Mountain, Antietam, and at least a dozen other battles. It was mustered out, July 18, 1865, Colonel Wheelock with the rank of brigadier general.
The One Hundred and Seventeenth Regiment New York Volunteers, or the Fourth Oneida Regiment, rendezvoused at Rome and left for service, August 22, 1862, Colonel William R. Pease commanding. It served at Drury's Bluff, around Petersburg, Fort Fisher, Williamstown, and other engagements.
The Fifth Oneida, or One Hundred Forty-sixth Regiment New York Volunteers, was mustered in at Rome, October 10, 1862. It was also known as "Halleck's Infantry," in honor of General Halleck, a native of Westernville. The regiment called itself "Garrard's Tigers," in honor of its commander, Colonel Kenner Garrard. It left for the front, October I I, 1862. In the battle of the Wilderness, the regiment was almost completely wiped out. After Colonel Garrard was promoted to brigadier general and his successor, Colonel David I. Jenkins, was killed at the Wilderness, Colonel James Grindley took command, remaining until the end of the war, when he was mustered out as a brigadier general. In 1863, it adopted the Zouave uniform. It served in twenty-two battles including the Wilderness, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Spotsylvania, and Appomattox Courthouse. Of the 1,568 men who joined the regiment, only 427 remained to be mustered out, July 16, 1865.
The stimulus given to Utica industry by the introduction of steam and the development of the woolen and cotton mills in the late 1840's brought on a rapid growth of the city, a growth which continued for three-quarters of a century. Whereas previously the manufactories were only those which could be run by hand power with the occasional use of horse or even dog treadmills, from that time on, steam-driven machines appeared in more and more mills. Supplying the Army with equipment and clothing during the Civil War greatly spurred the development of Utica industries.
In 1816 Eliphalet Remington, of Ilion, New York decided to make his own rifle and from that effort grew the now famous Remington Arms Company. According to tradition, Remington forged his barrel from scrap iron. He had no machine to rifle the barrel and he came to Utica to have the work done. When it was finished, Remington returned to Ilion and shaped a stock for the gun and completed it. Later, he built his own rifling machine and by 1845, standard model rifles, shotguns and pistols replaced the old custom gunsmithing.
When the Civil War broke out, the federal government turned to Remington for rifles and pistols. The first contract was for 5,000 rifles and it took two years to complete the order. In addition, a contract for army revolvers was awarded the company. This was beyond the capacity of the Ilion plant and Remington decided to enlist the aid of the skilled gunsmiths of Utica.
In 1869, the Butterfield House was built by John Butterfield on the corner of Genesee and Devereux Streets, and for many years was, not only a most prosperous hotel, but the gathering place of Uticans for all kinds of social and patriotic meetings. Here was held the great ball at the time of the reunion of the Army of Cumberland in Utica in 1875, attended by Generals Grant and Sherman, Governor Tilden, and many other distinguished guests.
Oneida County was formed in 1798. The first settlers arrived in the Mohawk Valley Region in the mid-1780s and from the very beginning most of them cleared the forest and began to farm the land. A handful, however, opened businesses - from dry goods stores to wagon repair shops to general stores. As the area grew in population, so did the number of stores and commercial enterprises.
The county fortunately had the Mohawk River - and later railroads and the Erie, Chenango and Black River canals -flowing through its veins and was located ideally within easy reach of New York City, Boston, Montreal and other major markets.
Its farmers and manufacturers were able to compete successfully with regions to the east - especially in New England - and had a giant head start over the small number of communities and companies that existed at the time to the west.
Oneida County was fortunate, too, that entrepreneurs like Theodore Faxton, Alfred Munson, John Butterfield and Silas Childs were able to start businesses with their own money and local capital. Today’s circumstances among communities often depends on growth from new businesses moving in and using mostly outside capital and management.
Oneida County soon was producing more than it needed and began to export its excesses. Its farms and factories grew and made much money - sometimes millions - for its local owners and investors. That, in turn, attracted outsiders with ideas for new businesses, but in need of capital.
In the early 1900s, Oneida County was on its way to becoming a giant in the burgeoning automobile industry. Company owners, however, received little encouragement from area leaders in the textile industry who were wary of competition from automakers because they paid workers more than knitting mills did.
Bagg's Hotel in Utica was one of the first commercial successes and by the mid 19th century the area was dotted with dozens of hotels, inns and taverns. Many of them were built to accommodate westbound travelers who would stop overnight in the region to rest and resupply before heading to western territories. The Park House Hotel was built at the northern end of the Village Park in Clinton in the summer of 1800, and for a number of years was the only hotel in the village.
There also appeared in the area in those early days restaurants, blacksmith shops, jewelry stores, mineries, dressmaking shops, hardware stores, pottery works and cabinetmakers.
Many of the businesses were family-owned and employed not only husband and wife but also their children. Banking also quickly became a major business and by the early 19th century there were dozens of banks in the area. Some were owned by local persons, while others were branches of larger banks in New York city.
Downtown Utica in the first half of the 20th century was the cultural, commercial and professional center of the region. It was the home of many first-run theaters restaurants, department stores and fiveand-dimes. In the 1870s, Frank W Woolworth opened his first five-cent store on Bleecker Street in Utica. It evolved into the vast chain that dominated the country for years.
Fire Engines and Fire Horses
In the spring of 1864, Utica's old fire engines two, four, and five had been in use for more than twenty years and were worn out. The legislature authorized the Common Council to raise $10,000 for the purchase of two new “steam” engines. The prospect of a “steamer” did not excite any great enthusiasm with the volunteer firemen, who were very proud of their old hand-operated machines.
In May 1864, the two steamers arrived in Utica and were tested at the canal. Washington Company No. 7 brought out its old hand machine and attempted to show that it could throw a higher steam of water. In one case they did and in the other they claimed they did, but the newspapers declined to report whether this was done or not.
For a short time after the steamers became a part of the fire department, they were drawn to fires by the members of the company to which it was assigned. The engines were heavy and the men were exhausted by the time they reached the scene of the fire. The city then contracted with the proprietors of the livery stable nearest the fire station to furnish a team of horses for the steamer at every alarm of fire. This would cause delay and often the teams furnished had no experience hauling a fire engine. The city then purchased its own horses for the steamers, for the heavy ladder trucks which were added, and for the chiefs rig.
Between 1864 and 1917 when the fire department was motorized, Utica's fire horses were the pride of the firemen. One newspaper report remarked that, “Many a youth of those days thrilled watching the ‘hitch' made in an engine house. With the first stroke of the big gong the horses came dashing from their stalls. The fire animals knew just what to do and within seconds, were standing under the harness swinging evenly over the pole of the engine. They needed no command but trotted out of their stalls and into place under the harness in perfect step. The harness fell upon their backs and the firemen snapped the collars about their necks with amazing speed. A slight pull of a cord released a catch in the iron framework that held up the harness and the framework flew up to the ceiling. The driver jumped to the seat, grabbed the reins and within seconds after the first stroke of the alarm bell, the doors flew open, and the big apparatus, weighing up to four tons or more was off to the fire, followed by the chemical wagon and hose carts.
“Three practice hitches were made each day, at 8 o'clock in the morning, at noon and at 7:15 in the evening. The last hitch was always more successful that the other two, perhaps because the horses knew that they would be fed after the night hitch. The horses could tell the difference between a real and a practice drill. They had one way of answering a false alarm and another of responding to a fire. They came at a trot, in comparison with the dash which followed a real alarm. When the horses saw the men run to the indicator box and the drivers run to the engine, they knew it was the real thing.”
Fire horses required much stamina, strength and natural ability. One expert of the time said it was usually a one-in-a-hundred selection. Their training took between one and two years. Even when retired, the old fire horses never forgot the meaning of a fire alarm. On one occasion, a horse who had been retired for two years was brought to the fire house to settle a dispute. He was placed in his old stall and when the alarm was sounded, he was in his old place under the harness as promptly as he had ever done in his active days.
Fraser's Department Store
Today it's the Stetson-Harza Building, and for 50 years before that it housed Woolworth's. From 1880 to 1939, though, the entire six-floor building was the home of Fraser's Department Store, founded in 1876 by Robert Fraser on the west side of Genesee Street. Four years later he moved across the street to 173-181 Genesee St.
A local historian once wrote that Fraser's was "the busiest and finest department store under one roof between New York City and Buffalo." The store had dozens of departments ranging from men's and women's clothing to carpeting to furniture and appliances.
One of the highlights of the city's summer season was Fraser's annual picnic at Madison Lake for his employees. Large crowds lined Genesee Street the morning of the outing to see the Fraser family and dozens of employees parade up Genesee to Oneida Square where they boarded trolleys for the trip to the lake, just south of the village of Madison. They were led by marching bands and were greeted at the Square by a display of fireworks.
"Fraser's is on fire!" From one end of the city to the other at the supper hour on the evening of May 10, 1905, the word sped, and within a matter of minutes the streets were filled with young and old hurrying toward downtown. The fire, a $500,000 loss, had broken out at about 5 that afternoon, when smoke was observed seeping through the boards of the first floor of the drygoods store, from the basement.
In a, matter of minutes, the building was emptied of clerks and office staff. Almost immediately the fire was sweeping through the lower part of the store, soon to leap in bursts of flame to the second, third and fourth stories.
The fire department, every company of which was on the scene in record time after the alarm was turned in, worked valiantly. But the force of the streams of water, provided by the steam-pipe engines then in use, made little impression on the flames.
It looked for a time as though the whole block of business places would go. As it was, damage to the stores adjacent to Fraser's was considerable. In the Genesee Street block, from the left, were the A. B. Mather Bank, at Genesee and Bleecker; Tygert's Restaurant, John H. Sheehan's Drug Store, John A. Roberts Drygoods Store, Buckingham & Moak, Piano Dealers, with Mansbach's Millinery Store on the first floor; Fraser's Drygoods Store, Howarth & Ballard's Drug Store, the Parlor Shoe Store and Parker's Grocery at Genesee and Elizabeth Streets.
John C. Swan, office manager for Fraser's store then, recalled how Robert Fraser indominatably dispatched his store buyers to New York the day after the fire for an entire new stork of everything from thread to carpets. Within 30 days Fraser's had its headquarters established in the Sherwood & Golden crockery store at 125 Genesee. Shortly thereafter Robert Fraser bought that store, crockery and all, and did a flourishing business there while the burned-out drygoods store was being rebuilt.
That job was completed in March, 1907, when Fraser's moved back to the old stand. There, until 1939, when it went out of business, the store, up-to-date in every particular, catered to shoppers from all over Central New York. In 1940, the F.W. Woolworth Co. remodeled the first two floors and moved in.
Griffiss Air Force Base, Rome N. Y.
Ground was broken on August 2, 1941 and the base, named the Rome Air Depot, was activated on Feburary 1, 1942. It's primary activities involved the storage, maintenance, and shipment of equipment for the Air Logistics Command. In September 1948, the base was renamed in honor of Lt. Col. Townsend E. Griffiss, a Buffalo native and 1922 West Point graduate who, in 1942, became the first U.S. airman to be killed in the line of duty in the European Theatre of World War II when the Consolidated B-24 Liberator in which he was flying was shot down by friendly fire over the English Channel.
In June 1951, the Rome Air Development Center (RADC) was created for the research, development and testing of electronic systems for the then Air Research and Development Command. Also, in 1951, the Rome Air Depot was renamed the Rome Air Force Specialized Depot, responsible for ground communications and electronics.
The headquarters of the Ground Electronics Engineering Installation Agency (GEEIA) was formed in June 1958 to engineer and install ground communications equipment throughout the world. GEEIA assumed host responsibilities for the base on January 1, 1968.
Rome Air Force Specialized Depot was redesignated the Rome Air Materiel Area (ROAMA) in late 1958. Its main function being the management of Air Force communications support programs. Six years later, ROAMA was chosen for phase-out which was completed in 1967.
In May of 1959, the 465th Fighter Interceptor Squadron was assigned to Griffiss with F-89 Scorpion all weather fighters. A year later, the 49th FIS assumed operational control over the 465th FIS and became a major tenant at Griffiss. The 49th operated F-101 Voodoo's until late 1968 when it re-equipped with F-106 Delta Darts.
Also in 1959, the 4039th Strategic Wing of the Strategic Air Command was activiated as a tenant on base, equipped with B-52 Stratofortress bombers and KC-135 tankers. In February 1963, it was inactivated and the 416th Bombardment Wing was activated in its place. The 416th assumed base host responsibilities in July 1970 and conducted strategic bombardment training and air refueling operations on a global scale based at Griffiss.
In 1970, GEEIA merged with the Air Force Communications Command (AFCC) to form a single organization, the Northern Communications Area (NCA). On June 1, 1981, NCA was replaced by the Continental Communications Division, one of the seven divisions of AFCC.
In May 1979, it was announced that Griffiss would be the first base to receive the Air Launched Cruise Missile. The missiles began arriving in early 1981; the entire wing became fully operational with cruise missiles and associated equipment by late 1982.
The base closed in 1995 and its airfield is now Griffiss International Airport, owned by Oneida County. Realigned for civilian and non-combat purposes in 1995, it is now home to the Griffiss Business and Technology Park and the Rome Research Site of the Air Force Research Laboratory. The New York Air National Guard operates the Eastern Air Defense Sector (EADS) of North American Air Defense Command (NORAD) from a small complex of buildings in the Technology Park.
In 1886, the Utica Belt Line Railroad Company was organized. It leased the New Hartford and Whitesboro lines of the old company; doubled the track on Genesee Street; and began the construction of the South Street and Blandina Street routes. The Belt Line was electrified in March 1890. The first trip was made on March 10th at night, so that if anything went wrong, there would be few people to notice it. The “Morning Herald” the next morning reported:
“At 11:19 last night electric motor car No. 20, brilliant with electric light, started out from the Main street depot of the Belt Line Company on its first trip to Whitestown. The connections were completed, the car was shoved out on the tracks, the trolley was sprung against the wire, and in less time than it takes to tell it, the car was jammed with people. Harry G. Floyd, who has had charge of the construction, took his position at the brakes and turned on the current. There was a whir beneath the car and amid the cheers of the passengers, car No. 20 started on its first journey."
“When the car moved into Genesee Street and took the run up over the Genesee Street bridge at a speed of seven miles an hour, there was another cheer. It was not until the car got into Columbia Street that Mr. Floyd let on the strength of the current. A speed of 15 miles per hour was attained there. In going over the switches the speed was diminished quickly and easily. The car arrived at the old terminus in Whitesboro at 11:59. During the trip many street passengers hung on to the car for short distances in order to have the distinction of having ridden on the first trip of electric cars in Utica.”
The weight of the new electric cars put a strain on Whipple’s bridge over the Erie Canal at Genesee Street, and the State on September 11, 1890 condemned the old bridge, prohibiting the passage of the new trolley cars across it. The result was that the street railway company had to suspend its cars running from the depot on Main Street at the north side of the bridge. Passengers then had to cross the bridge on foot and take the car at the southern end. This caused a serious disruption in traffic and the city had to devise a way to rebuild the bridge to take care of the street cars. James F. Mann suggested that the design include a permanently built raised “hump” in the center over which the street cars could pass and a lift bridge on each side for carriages and wagons as well as a raised footpath. This was adopted.
On May 6, 1891, the State appropriated $30,000 and authorized the city to raise $15,000 in corporate bonds for the construction of the new bridge. The plans were drawn by Dean & Westbrook and the contract was awarded to the Hilton Bridge Company and work commenced November 30, 1893. Traffic on Genesee Street was seriously disrupted for many years because of the difficulties in getting the lifts to work properly. In the spring of 1895, the new bridge was given its first test. The lifts were operated by compressed air, activated by waterpower taken from the canal and discharged into the John Street sewer. This proved unsatisfactory in the fall when the water was low. A scheme for operating the air compressor by electricity was devised.
The total cost of the bridge when completed was $96,000 of which $73,000 was borne by the State and $23,000 by the city. In 1918, the old Erie Canal through Utica was abandoned and in 1920, the canal lands were given to the city. By 1923, the canal bed had been filled in and leveled off and the old “Hump” bridge was removed and the level lowered.
An Italian Band in Utica by Malio Cardarelli
Long past due is a complete and accurate history of what has meant so much to the ethnic pride and religious happenings in very Italian East Utica, starting, as best we know, as far back as 1905--Utica's Italian band. The task will not be easy since there are no surviving records of meeting minutes, and only an occasional scrapbook, and generally, very little to comprehensively provide the necessary clues to resurrect the early progress of the band. Still, the importance of such a history sufficiently warrants an attempt to pursue it. Thus, the research phase is already in process and, when compete, is expected to clarify some of the many unknowns regarding what currently is La Banda Rossa . Below are some things we now know:
As the Italian population grew in East Utica--that part of the city in which the overwhelming majority of immigrant Italians settled--so did the number of Italian celebrations, mostly religious. Some of the musical organizations in the city at the time were Bergner's Military Band, the Old Utica Band, Rath's Military Band, the Utica Separate Company Drum Corp., Schremp's Brass Band, White's Band, and the Germania Band. None was aligned with Italian interests, clearly defining a need for such a musical group. Thus, in 1905, several Italian musicians banded together to answer that need, creating what was known as the Italian Band. It used an address of 104 Broad Street, very close to Mohawk Street, which was the home of its conductor, Bernardino Benecasa, his surname sometimes shown as Benincasa. Finally, the growing Italian population had its first band, devoted to enhancing its parades, feasts, funerals, and other events, so important to indefatigable efforts of immigrant Italians to transplant in Utica some of the cultural and religious events experienced in Italy.
Although records are sketchy, it's believed Professor Benecasa continued with the band until about 1911 or 1912. After that, both the band and its conductor disappeared from local listings.
It wasn't until 1919 that a Professor Giuseppe Martino's name appeared as a music teacher in Utica. His home was at 740 Elizabeth Street, and according to at least one source, a mid 1930s clarinetist, Paul Cardarelli, Martino was indeed conductor of what was then known as the Red Band, La Banda Rossa , which one would reason was a continuation of the Italian Band. Cardarelli recalls: Professor Martino was the only conductor of the Red Band that I remember. In fact, he was my music teacher for the clarinet. His “studio” was a garage behind his house on Elizabeth St. He was a quiet type music person with the long hair. His wife taught solfeggio (reading music). As a student, she sat down with you and you would read the do re mi's for her and the beat, etc. As I recall, lessons were either 25 or 50 cents. Another ‘30s era band musician recalls that Martino's lessons were $5.00 per month for lessons four days per week.
La Banda Rossa , as was the Italian Band, at first was exclusive to men who played as much for their own pleasure as they did in celebration of events associated with their Italian heritage. But as the Italian population grew, so did the demands on the band, and other bands emerged--the Green Band and the White Band. Together, the three--Red, Green, and White Bands--covered the colors of the Italian flag, so one can assume that the names were not selected at random. It wasn't until the late 1960s that the Red Band admitted its first women, Donna DeRosa, who played baritone horn.
Following the conductorship of Professor Martino circa 1945, which by the way was the longest in the history of the Red Band, came Professor Roberto Lalli, a tailor and a music teacher, who held the position of conductor until 1960. His reputation was that of a very good conductor with a bit of a temper.
The next decade, the 1960s, saw a diversity of directors to include Frank Galime and Philip Scalise, along with an indication that a very accomplished composer of classical and operatic music, Michale Annunziata, also held that post. However, it's not believed that Annunziata, who was well into his 60s and who had achieved both national and international recognition of his classical and operatic compositions would have taken on the busy responsibilities of band leader, but, he may have assisted in some other musical capacity. And, although not herein mentioned by name, during all of the band's history, there were many who performed in the distinguished position of capobandi or leader of the parade.
In 1970, Anthony Spina began a 21-year reign as conductor of La Banda Rossa , sidelined in 1991 for medical reasons. Enter, Arlene Iagnacco--a student of the flute and piccolo--who even as a child aspired to becoming a Red Band member as she walked along with the band at some of its many parade appearances. It wasn't until the 1980s that her childhood dreams were fulfilled when she was asked to join the group as one of its musicians. And when Anthony Spina's health required he permanently step aside, Arlene was more than capable and willing to take on the difficult position of director with its many musical and administrative responsibilities. Now, more than a dozen years later, she remains awed by the heights to which she has risen in an organization once exclusive to males.
Today, as in the past, the Red Band performs at a variety of religious and ethnic affairs, mostly but not entirely with an Italian theme. And while the band continues to perform primarily in Utica and substantially for Italian events, it has had engagements elsewhere, in nearby Syracuse and in Boston, Toronto, and even at the New York State Fair, frequent1y for other than Italian festivities, adding all types of music to its' repertoire. In Utica, a Columbus Day observance without inclusion of La Banda Rossa , was and still is profoundly incomplete. And the same could be said for their appearances at such popular, longtime feasts as La Festa Santa Rosalia , always held on Mohawk Street north of Bleecker Street, and La Festa Santi Cosma e Damiano , further east on Bleecker Street, and so many others, all with the same audience enthusiasm expressed in the formative years.
Currently, still under the capable direction of Conductress Iagnocco, the band prospers with as many as 35 appearances per year to include an annual pavilion performance at Chancellor Park to commemorate Italian Day--part of the Heritage series of the Utica Monday Nite summertime events.
Indeed, La Banda Rossa is an important element in Utica's musical history. While the group's name, its conductors, the capobandi , and the musicians have many times changed over the years, the band has maintained and expanded its professional aura, always with an unmistakable attachment to its Italian purpose.
Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute - The family behind the Institution
Founded in 1919, Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute is a fine arts center serving diverse audiences through three program divisions - Museum of Art, Performing Arts, and School of Art.
Helen Elizabeth Munson Williams (1824-94), native Utican and one of the most important philanthropists of Central New York, was a prolific 19th-century collector of decorative and fine arts. Because she was a shrewd and attentive investor who increased her inheritance several fold, Helen was able to spend grandly on furnishings and to gather the core of what was to become the family's art collection.
Helen and James had three daughters: Grace (1847-1854), who died at age 7; Rachel (1850-1915); and Maria (1853-1935). In 1891 Maria married Thomas R. Proctor (1844-1920), a regional hotel owner and United States Navy veteran. Rachel married Frederick Proctor (1856-1929), Thomas's younger half-brother Frederick, was involved in various investment ventures and was active with community organizations and served on several Utica boards. The Williams home, which began to be called "Fountain Elms" in the 1870s, was the couple's residence for 21 years until Rachel's death in 1915. Neither of the Williams-Proctor couples had surviving children.
Rachel and Maria Williams inherited the fine and decorative arts collections established by their mother and married men whose collecting habits were similar to their own. With a corresponding flair, Frederick and Thomas Proctor amassed watches and other objects characterized as appropriate for male collectors.
The Cultural Program which offered musical lectures, a record library and a motion picture program evolved into the present-day Performing Arts Division, which presents world-famous soloists and ensembles, rising stars, recitals with commentary, cinema, children's programs, outdoor festival concerts and special events offered year-round at four locations.
In the post-war period, the Museum of Art actively built its collection and as the Museum's art collection expanded, so did the need for more exhibition space. With this in mind, acclaimed architect Philip Johnson was selected by MWPAI's trustees to design the new art museum. This achievement in design stands today in distinction and grandeur as the MWPAI Museum of Art and also as an historical landmark. The museum was opened in the fall of 1960. With the construction of the Johnson building came a decision to renovate and refurbish Fountain Elms as a Victorian house museum. In 1995 the Education Wing was constructed to unite the two buildings.
Moving the Mighty Mohawk
Utica’s first settlement and growth centered on a ford of the Mohawk and a boat landing. By the last quarter of the 19th century, the Mohawk River was regarded as a nuisance in downtown Utica. Its channel hemmed in the tracks of the New York Central Railroad and each spring its waters rose to flood the tracks and businesses near Bagg’s Square.
The idea of moving the river goes back to the early years of Utica history. The Utica Observer of June 22, 1900 reports that the first survey for a new channel was done by John Fish, city surveyor in 1836. Serious talk of straightening the river seems to have started during Utica Mayor Thomas E. Kinney’s term (1885 to 1888 and again from 1897 to 1899). The project was seen as a way to control the flooding of the plagued downtown, as a way of allowing the railroad to expand and as a way to open up the river flats for industrial development.
Bills were introduced into the state legislature starting around 1888 to form ‘a commission to oversee the project and to annex the portion of Deerfield between the new and the old river channels. The area on the north side of the river was known as the ‘red light’ district and commonly referred to as ‘Hoboken’. The city fathers were anxious to annex the area in order to clean it up. One wonders if the annexing of Deerfield was seen as a side benefit to straightening the river, or whether straightening the, river was seen as a convenient excuse to bring Hoboken’ under the control of the City of Utica.
On March 20, 1891 the Governor signed a bill creating the Mohawk River Straightening Commission, which was to be non-partisan and to oversee the work. It was to consist of six men, four appointed by the Mayor of Utica and two by the Deerfield town supervisor. The project was to be put out for bid and the cost was not to exceed $150,000. Enthusiasm appears to have waned sharply; the national economy took a downward turn about that time and the project remained dormant for nine years. In the summer of 1900 a series of events occurred that would breathe new life into it.
On June 1, 1900, the New York Central Railroad presented to the City of Utica its plan for the construction of bridges to eliminate the dangerous grade crossings at Bagg’s Square and Park Avenue along with a complete overhaul of their freight. facilities. On June 8, Thomas R. Proctor, through his attorney, asked that the Council reconsider the over crossing proposal. His primary argument was that the approach for the bridge would destroy the character of Bagg’s Square and that straightening of the river was inevitable in the next ten to fifteen years.
These events revived interest in straightening the river. The Mohawk River Commission hired an engineer, Stephen J. Babcock, a civil engineer from Little Falls, to do the preliminary survey and engineering work. His previous experience included the design and construction of the water works for Little Fails and Gloversville.The go ahead was given at the end of August and Babcock presented a report with plans and specifications on January 21, 1901. The committee approved the plans and put the project out to bid. T. H. Riddle Construction Co. of Palatine Bridge was awarded the contract in March. In the two months that followed, a deal with the railroad was reached but immediately fell through. The River Commission canceled its contract with T. H. Riddle, saying that the expenses would exceed the $150,000 provided by law.
On December 3, 1901, agreement was reached whereas the city would straighten the river and turn the land from the old channel over to the railroad. In return the railroad would eliminate the two grade crossings and help build the over crossing at Genesee Street along with putting in a new street connecting North Genesee Street with Miller Road (now Wurz Avenue).
The project immediately went out to bid again; the contract was awarded to Harrison & Letteney Co. of Boston. Work was to commence after the spring flooding and to be completed by January 1, 1903. As the deadline approached, the contractor requested an extension to May 1, 1904. The Commission granted an extension to January 1, 1904. Two more extensions would eventually be granted, with January 1, 1905 as the final date. By this time, there was growing concern about the slow progress of the work.
On September 10, the contractor walked off the job and work came to a standstill. The company claimed that it was bankrupt and could not continue. The Commission declared the contractor in default; the equipment left at the work site was sold at auction with the Citizen’s Trust Company being the only bidder. The contract was immediately let to Jacob Agne, president of the bank who hired Harry W. Roberts to finish the work, with the completion date set at September 2, 1905.
A contract extension was granted to Jacob Agne on September 11, but he refused this and served notice that he was abandoning the contract. Apparently, funds had run out. With the project three years behind schedule and work halted, political storm clouds were gathering.By October of 1905, the river project was a major political issue. In the mayoral race, the Republicans condemned Democratic Mayor Charles Talcott. The Democrats claimed that the mayor had no control over the problems and blamed the Commission, calling for their resignations. Both sides agreed on who was ultimately to blame - the engineer, Stephen Babcock. He was seen as having failed to compel the contractors to work more rapidly thereby adding to the delays and the cost of the project. The fact that he was still getting his full salary even though no work was being done did not help his image.
In the election, former Republican mayor Richard Sherman was returned to office; he urged haste in completing the work. It was agreed by all that $75,000 should be secured to finish the job. The battle to obtain this sum brought the controversy over Engineer Babcock to a head.
State Assemblyman Henry L. Gates of Utica went on record in January 1906 saying that he saw Babcock as a hindrance to the project and that since the Commission would not remove him, he – Gates - would take measures to legislate the Commission out of office in order to remove Babcock. State Senator Henry J. Coggeshall saw no reason to remove the Commission and refused to introduce the Gates bill in the Senate. On April 15 Supervising Engineer Babcock resigned. He stated that his resignation was voluntary and that he “refused to be a block on which the River Commission has stumbled any more”.
The following year, after the controversy had died down, a $50,000 appropriation bill passed the legislature and was approved by the Common Council. With the funding in place, the Commission awarded a contract to Henry W. Roberts on May 13, 1907. He immediately set to work and on June 24, 1907 the old channel was blocked off and the entire flow of the river diverted into the new channel. Not until 1909 did the State Commissioner of Public Works accept the new channel as a part of the Mohawk River. Twenty years after the idea was broached, the river project had become a reality.
With this completed, the way was cleared for a number of related projects - construction of the Genesee Street over crossing, filling the old river channel, expansion of the rail yard and construction of a new station. The face of Utica was changed forever.
Oneida Indian Nation
“In the beginning, this place was only darkness and water until the time when a woman fell from the sky world. Water creatures dwelling here, concerned for the woman's safety, created this land as a platform for the woman with turtle agreeing to hold the land upon his back, which became known as Mother Earth.”
Thus begins the ancient Oneida creation story, expressing the Oneidas' understanding of how they came into this world. The creation story continues explaining that the woman who had fallen was pregnant and gave birth to a daughter, who in turn would eventually bear twin sons and die in childbirth. The twins exhibited polarities of character — one was Dark Minded, the other of the Good Mind. From the daughter's body grew the corn, beans and squash, which are known as the sustainers of life.
The twins eventually battled and the Good Minded twin was victorious. The Dark Minded twin had favored the nomadic way of life, moving with the seasons — hunting and gathering wild foods. The introduction and cultivation of corn replaced the nomadic way of life.
Oneida County is filled with reminders of its namesake. Numerous streets, businesses and villages bear the proud name of "Oneida". But who are the Oneida or Onyotaa:ka — the People of the Standing Stone? Archeological studies suggest that native peoples have lived in Oneida County for approximately 10,000 years —first, as hunters and gatherers, later establishing permanent settlements in villages. Their homes were longhouses made from bark about 20 feet wide and 100 feet or more in length. They have have been good neighbors, friends and allies. Oneida soldiers served in all of the wars with the United States from then up to this day. From the formation of the United States to the present day, Oneidas have played a major role in the county's and country's development.
The Nation's ancestral land in New York State reached from the St. Lawrence River in the north to what is now the Pennsylvania border to the south. Together with the Mohawk, Cayuga, Onondaga, Seneca and Tuscarora, the Oneida Nation was a part of the Iroquois Confederacy — or more properly in the Oneida language, the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois is of French derivation and has a negative connotation to many Haudenosaunee people.)
The confederacy was formed centuries ago when the Peacemaker brought his message of unity to the disparate nations, creating the most famous Native American government on the continent. The confederacy had a profound affect upon colonial American history, greatly influencing the founding fathers of the United States. It is recorded that the principles of the confederacy attracted the colonial leaders because it posed as a model for a confederation which respected its members' independence while simultaneously promoting justice and equal rights for all.
The Peacemaker, who was accompanied by Hiawatha and his aid, urged the nations to be joined in cooperation, and also brought the message the Haudenosaunee refer to as the Great Law. Under the Great Law of Peace, the nations became of one blood — addressing one another as family members. Chiefs of the nations became members of the Confederacy's deliberative assembly.
Through the tenets of the Great Law, members of each Nation were divided into clans which are determined matrilineally. The Oneida Nation has three clans, Turtle, Wolf, and Bear. Leaders of each clan are nominated by the women of each clan, and then presented to and approved by all the Nation's clans.
In the 1600s, when the Europeans first began to penetrate Oneida lands, the Nation sought peaceful co-existence, as the Great Law requires. Europeans were originally hoping to find gold, silver, spices or sugar — items not indigenous to the region. Beaver pelts, however, were readily available, and highly sought after in Europe for hats. The Oneidas, and other Haudenosaunee, began trading the pelts and other furs for brass kettles, spun cloth and iron tools. Due to these interactions, a Covenant Chain was forged between the Haudenosaunee and the Dutch and later the British, which was an alliance based upon mutual respect, defense and trade.
But the peace was to prove short-lived, as the disgruntled colonists sought to extricate themselves from British rule. The Oneidas and Tuscaroras allied themselves with the colonists while the other members of the Confederacy sided with the British. The Oneidas were the first allies to the colonists' cause.
Oneidas fought bravely at major battles of the Revolutionary War. One of the bloodiest battles took place in present day Oneida County, the Battle of Oriskany. This battle was to prove decisive in the outcome of the war. On Aug. 6, 1777, under the command of General Herkimer, a large group of Oneidas and the colonial militia were able to stop the advance of a British expeditionary force marching from the Great Lakes under General St. Leger, who was attempting to move east and join General Burgoyne and his forces, who were marching south from Canada. If the two forces had united, they could have successfully divided the colonies in half.
However, this union was not to be. While more than 500 people died in the opening volley of the battle, and General Herkimer would meet his demise, the battle was considered a military victory for the colonists. The Oneidas and colonists prevented the British forces from joining, a pivotal event that contributed to Burgoyne's loss at the Battle of Saratoga.
Several Oneidas distinguished themselves on that August day, among them Han Yerry. This Oneida man fought valiantly, even after withstanding an injury. With the aid of his wife — who loaded his gun — Han Yerry continued to shoot at the enemy. His wife, one of his sons and his half-brother also fought with valor. Han Yerry died as a result of the battle, but his wife escaped and spread the word of the terrible slaughter. Although the colonists were defeated at Oriskany, with the help of the Oneidas they ultimately won the campaign. They, and their colonial allies, are honored at the Oriskany Battlefield Historic Site located on Rte. 69 near the Village of Oriskany just east of Rome. But, this was not an isolated instance of Oneida valor during the War of Independence.
In the treacherous winter of 1777-78, George Washington's troops were freezing and starving at their encampment at Valley Forge. Oneida Chief Skenandoah and several other Oneidas carried 600 bushels of corn to aid their colonial allies. They were accompanied by an Oneida woman, Polly Cooper, who taught Washington's starving soldiers how to properly prepare the corn. Because she would not accept payment, a shawl and a bonnet were given to her as tokens of appreciation for her kindness by Martha Washington. The shawl remains a major treasure of the Oneida Nation today and in recent years, has been on display at least once each year at the Nation's Shako:wi Cultural Center on Rte. 46 in Oneida.
Because of their allegiance to the colonists, the Oneidas suffered retribution from the other members of the Confederacy after the war. In 1779, the Oneida fortress, which was a principal village at what now is Oneida Castle, was destroyed. The Oneidas had to seek food and shelter elsewhere in the Mohawk Valley. They endured great suffering living as virtual refugees, until they ultimately returned to their homeland in 1784.
The Haudenosaunee lands were considered a major stepping stone to the way west with Oneida lands especially attractive to the growing United States. One integral land area was the "Oneida carry" — a critical portage linking the Mohawk River to Oneida Lake. Access to Oneida Lake would in turn allot passage to the Great Lakes and western expansion.
Today, with the Nation's new-found prosperity, it once again is involved in the area's victories, this time involved in an economic resurgence. The Oneida Nation is a major force behind economic growth in Oneida County and the Mohawk Valley. In an area decimated by business and military base closings, the Nation is offering Oneida County and its citizens an economic revival. The Nation remains a constant in the area — and is here to stay. A visit to the Nation's website will provide additional information www.oneidaindiannation.com
Oriskany Falls Flood - 1917
On June 11, 1917, things were perfectly normal in the rest of the world. An American diplomatic mission was negotiating in Moscow; the Germans were bombing England; a Greek king had abdicated. But in the upper Oriskany Valley it had rained for 48 hours. At Solsville and Cleaveland's Mills, residents eyed the rising waters apprehensively. Further downstream Warren Lyon went to bed, but the insistent patter of rain kept him awake. Finally he got up, lit a lantern and took another look at the dam. Water was seeping in around the sides. With three or four helpers he tried to bolster the banks with timbers. He kept at it all night.
By the first streak of dawn, things were happening up above. First, the Solsville dam gave way. Then the one at Cleaveland's Mills. Logs jammed into the one-span O&W bridge in the pond at Lyon's Mills, blocked off the water which was pouring through, and held firm while the deluge from above rose, poured over the tracks, and finally swept them away entirely and down on top of the doomed Lyon's Dam.
In a matter of minutes, $20,000 worth of dam had dissolved and one wing of the mill, undermined, dangled in the air. The rain had eased to a sprinkle. But too late. With a deafening roar the once pent-up waters of three mill ponds headed toward the sleeping village of Oriskany Falls.
Awakened by this roar was Mrs. William Huson, aged widow of an Oriskany Falls wagon-maker. She lived alone in a small house at the upper end of the village. Huge logs sheared away one side of the cottage, and she was seen to get out of bed, make her way toward the flapping front door, and cling to the sill as the terrific current sucked the house downstream and over the falls. Except for the kitchen stove and a patch of floor under it, nothing was ever seen of the building again. As the house slipped away, 14-year-old Francis Mason, next door, struggled vainly to break away from his mother. "I'm a Boy Scout and I've got to save her," he said.
Just above the station, two railroad men, John Conklin and youthful, 25-year-old Albert Talaczski, were struggling to get a gasoline hand-car out of the rising waters. Suddenly they looked up and saw a wall of water coming down upon them. Both struck out for high land. Insurance Man Ray Murdock snatched Conklin to safety as the water carried him through the railroad cut behind what is now Tyler's Hotel. Talaczski, too far out in the main stream, went over the falls. That afternoon the two bodies were found, both lodged in debris on Waterville Street, not far from a sagging undermined corner of what was then the Catholic Church.
Near Mrs. Huson lived Mrs. Will Smith, her aged mother, and four children. Finishing an early morning breakfast, Mrs. Smith went to the back door to empty out the coffee pot. She saw the advancing wall of water and hustled the family upsairs. Not a moment too soon. As she followed them, water surged above her waist, and the house trembling on its foundations, slipped away. One wing broke off, leaving a gaping hole. A couple of fruit trees held the main part of the house firm. By afternoon-the waters subsided and Mrs. Smith was busy cleaning mud out of her dining room with a hoe.
First tidings of the peril reached the sleeping village when E. B. Miner, Lyon's Mills, aroused Earl and Lynn Hatheway, shouting: "The dams can't last much longer." The Hatheways rang the fire bell and rounded up three or four carloads of villagers in the hope of bolstering the Lyon's Mill dam. They had just left the village when rising water on the Solsville road forced them to turn back.
Then it was that the muddied, debris-strewn deluge hit-twisting railroad tracks, tossing around freight cars, snatching up barns, tearing off parts of houses, uprooting bridges, floating away the village lumberyard, breaking through dams, flooding factories and undermining houses. Damage was estimated at $250,000. "It was as though you suddenly sent the West Canada Creek down Bank Place in Utica," one reporter wrote.
That Sunday came a second flood-30,000 auto-borne spectators. They crammed into the tiny community. They overwhelmed the village's lone traffic officer until for an hour things were in such a mess that not a wheel turned. They flocked into the ice cream parlors ("No ill wind, but . . :'). They cornered Oriskany Falls residents on their porches until one woman desperately joined the crowd herself so she wouldn't have to answer so many questions.
Political Marching Clubs
During the nineteenth century, political parties promoted their respective candidates for President by organizing marching clubs to parade about the city.
In the campaign of 1880, when James Garfield and Chester Arthur were the Republican candidates, the club was known as the “Reynolds Guards” in honor of Major Reynolds, the shoe manufacturer who funded the purchase of the uniforms. Another marching group, known as the “Lewis Lawrence Cadets” was sponsored by Lewis Lawrence of Utica, a close friend of Roscoe Conkling, and it marched during the campaign of 1880. Incidentally, Mr. Lawrence lived in the Lawrence mansion on the northeast corner of Rutger and Steuben Park. In later years, this mansion was the home of the Republican Club.
At a meeting of the Reynolds Cadets in the City Hall, those present were divided as to the selection of a uniform. Many were dissatisfied with the one then worn and wanted a more showy one. The result was that a number of the members withdrew and formed what was known as the “Republican Continentals.” They purchased elaborate old-fashioned continental uniforms and attracted much attention.
In the campaign of 1884, Blame was the Republican nominee and Grover Cleveland the Democratic. The Continentals continued their club and secured beautiful uniforms. Another group, “The Plumed Knights”, were commanded by Isaac Bielby. They wore flashing white uniforms with German cavalry caps. The name was taken from the title of the famous speech of Robert Ingersoll nominating Blame. During 1884, the Lawrence Cadets did not march as a body, but some of the members paraded as the “Fourth Ward Pioneers.”
The Utica Jacksonians was the principal Democratic marching club, first organized in 1880. They marched in the fall of that year and also in the elections of 1884, 1888 and 1892.
In 1888 the Lewis Lawrence Cadets formed the nucleus of a new organization which was called the “Conkling Unconditionals”. Their first parade under Major Charles Horsburgh was held on October 14, 1888, the group wearing black uniforms and helmets. The organization paraded in every presidential campaign from 1888 to 1924, inclusive, and attained a national reputation. In 1892, the uniform was changed to white, with black and gold trimmings and a headgear called a “shako”. In 1896, the club wore a stylish white cutaway coat, with gold trimmings and a white shako. In 1900 the outfit was of khaki, after the style of the Spanish-American war uniform.
The “Utica Saturday Globe” of October 13, 1904, described the uniform of the Jacksonians: “The uniforms are stylish. The coat is of the straight frock pattern, single breasted, similar to the National Guard full dress coat. It is made of white duck, with black oilcloth trimmings, and has a black belt and a brass buckle. The trousers are of white duck, with a wide black stripe down the sides. The leggings are of black enamel, with white trimmings. The headgear consists of a black fur shako with gold tassel and white braided ornamentation. The fatigue cap is of white duck, with gold strap. The officers and staff uniforms are of the same material as those of the privates, but are trimmed with gold oilcloth, shoulder straps and aigulets, while the headgear is a chapeau of white with black feathers. The rank and file carry lanterns on staffs, in red, white, blue and green. The staff and officers carry hand lanterns in colors. White gloves complete the outfit.”
In the October 22, 1904 issue, the “Saturday Globe” described the uniforms of the Unconditionals, of 130 men: “The uniform consists of white duck coats and trousers, trimmed with black bars, braid and collars, black leggings with white trimmings and a white cap of the new United States army pattern, trimmed with black. The line carry lanterns on long sticks and the variegated colors give a pleasing effect. The staff carry hand lanterns which lend themselves to pretty effects, particularly in the “open order” formation, with hands joined and lanterns raised. The officers’ uniforms differ from those of the line and staff in that they are trimmed with gold.”
After 1924, changing conditions and the advent of automobiles made political marching clubs only a memory of the days when “There’ll Be a Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight” thrilled the hearts of political partisans.
In addition to Rome Air Depot, which became Griffiss Air Force Base, the other major military presence in Oneida County during World War II was Rhoads General Hospital on Burrstone Road in Utica.
In early November, 1942, site work and construction of the first of 180 buildings began by the John A. Johnson Construction Company of Brooklyn, New York. By July 1943 the hospital was ready to open and originally had 1750 beds. Two hundred wounded soldiers arrived on August 25. 1943 from Halloran General Hospital on Staten Island, New York. Some of those men had fought at the Salerno Beachhead in the invasion of Italy.
The hospital was designated for patients who needed convalescent care and rehabilitation. The hospital was an active Army post with all the usual operations in addition to its hospital mission. Patients arrived on special medical trains on the New York, Ontario and Western tracks which came into a siding in back of the hospital.
The medical facilities and equipment were considered the finest available at the time for the wounded, sick and injured patients. The aim of the treatment was to return soldiers to active duty.
The chaplains provided counseling and religious services for Catholic, Protestant and Jewish patients. The chapel, which served all faiths, was a white-spired building with a cathedral type ceiling. It was the scene of many weddings. The chaplains also assisted with morale problems and helped with personal difficulties.
The Red Cross was a major player in the operation of the hospital. It had its own building, the only two story one on the grounds. A large contingent of Red Cross Gray Ladies were trained and then gave patients many auxiliary services such as visits, writing letters home, helping in the library and being present at social activities.
Sun rooms, adjacent to the wards, were furnished by local clubs and organizations; these gave patients a place to play games, read magazines and papers, listen to the radio and entertain family and friends. in this regard it was often noted how the people of Utica and the surrounding area gave such tremendous support and possessed such a generous attitude toward the patients and staff.
A large auditorium in the Red Cross building had a stage and projection booth. There was also a library and a reading room. There were movies twice a week for enlisted men and ambulatory patients. Local talent put on weekly shows and USO shows were performed twice a month. Thursday evening dances were held and Fridays often saw boxing and wrestling exhibitions.
Rhoads had its own publications: Cross Rhoads and The Mohawk Rhoadsman, the latter a monthly which published twenty two times. It had many pictures and articles on the staff and patients. A post radio station was also in operation.
Some celebrities visited or performed at Rhoads including Ida Lupino, Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy, Alan Ladd, Anne Baxter and Eddie Cantor. (politicians such as Vice President Wallace, Senator Meade, and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt also toured the post to spread cheer).
The Army post had six heating units and nine miles of pipe to heat 180 buildings. All the buildings had sprinklers and fire hydrants were abundant on the grounds. A sixty man fire department protected the post from its own station with two pieces of equipment.
Normal departments included a post office, a telephone center to allow patients to call home, enlisted man and officer quarters. post theater, chapel, motor pool, civilian personnel office, laundry, bake shop, sewing shop, carpenter shop, cadet nurse quarters, quartermaster warehouse, nurses quarters, barracks, wards, Red Cross building, the post exchange with a barber shop and tailor shop, financial office and the post engineer. The post had civilian employees, WACs (Women’s Army Corps), medics, a cadet nurse corps, enlisted men, officers both medical and administrative, and Army nurses.
The only commanding officer Rhoads Hospital ever had from construction in 1942 to closing in July, 1946, was an Army career surgeon, Dr. Austin J. Canning. Born in Bethlehem, PA, He attended Muhlenberg College in Allentown and received his medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1911. In November, 1942, he took command of Rhoads General Hospital, and, after it closed in July 1946, he went to the New York State Reconstruction Hospital in Haverstraw, New York.
Rhoads Hospital was named for Col.. Thomas Leidy Rhoads, a career Army surgeon. He too was a Pennsylvanian, being born in Boyertown in 1870. He received his medical degree from Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia in 1893. After the war he was posted to Fort Dix, New Jersey, and received the rank of full colonel in 1926. He retired in 1933 and died in 1940.
While described in the MOHAWK RHOADSMAN in December, 1945, as “one of the great orthopedic hospitals of the US Army” the end of World War II drastically altered the needs of the Army and the complex closed for good. The land and all the buildings were declared “war surplus” and eventually sold by the government. The former chapel was moved across Burrstone Road and was designated The Church of Our Lady of the Rosary. Several years later it was enlarged and given a brick exterior.
From 1942 to 1946 Rhoads Hospital made significant impact on patients, staff and the whole area. The economic impact was notable as the finance office disbursed $25,000,000 for salaries, products, food and supplies. The construction of the hospital cost $44,000,000 and the monthly payroll was $175,000.
Serving over 25,000 soldier patients, Rhoads Hospital was important to their recovery and to the war time economy of the area in World War II. Additionally, many Uticans were employed there and others served as volunteers. Finally, while most of the buildings are history, the land has been developed extensively some sixty years later.
Thomas F. Baker was born in Hartford, Connecticut on April 5, 1847, and when he was three years old was brought to Utica by his parents. Here he attended the Assumption Academy and when he was sixteen years old, entered the “Utica Observer” printing plant as an apprentice. When he had finished his apprenticeship he remained with the “Observer” until 1870, when he established the “Utica Daily Bee”, which was short lived. In 1877, with Dennis T. Kelly he established the “Utica Sunday Tribune”. He long had a dream of establishing a weekly paper in which, in addition to the news, the readers would see illustrations and pictures of the people and of the events of interest. The result was a journalistic wonder of the time.
He and his brother, William T. Baker, rented two small rooms on the third floor of the Thomas Building, later known as the Lux Building, on Bleecker Street. There they issued the first number of the “Utica Saturday Globe” on May 21, 1881. The publishers had fondly hoped that the first issue would contain an illustration of former Governor Horatio Seymour, but the engraver in New York failed to complete the cut in time. The infant weekly was an eight page affair, of seven columns to the page, and of these, four pages were of the ready print variety, purchased already printed outside the city and containing stories and selected miscellaneous articles of general interest. The other four pages were made up of telegraph news, local news and editorials. Two thousand copies of the first issue were printed, but only 700 sold.
The existence of the “Globe” was precarious from the beginning. Its entire capital had been expended in the initial issue. They were able to get out the second issue, and the Seymour illustration, three columns wide, appeared on the first page. People began to take an interest in the weekly and a third issue was produced. This featured a cut of Senator Francis Kernan, followed with one of Theodore Faxton in the fourth number. These were, of course, rather crude likenesses, but they were hailed as an innovation in journalism.
On the second day of July 1881, when the telegraph flashed the news that President Garfield had been assassinated in Washington by Charles Jules Guiteau, the “Saturday Globe” was the only publication from which the excited citizens could get the facts. The “Utica Morning Herald” did not get out an extra and the press at the “Observer” had broken down. The papers were sold as fast as they could be printed in the job printing office of Curtiss. & Childs — for the “Globe” did not have its own printing press. This was the event that turned the tide for the “Globe” and it became a recognized newspaper not only in Utica but throughout the State and country.
In 1885, the Bakers purchased property on Whitesboro street and commissioned Architect George Edward Cooper to design a suitable building. This building, was a three story brick affair. The paper's circulation was then about 40,000 per week. Within a year, the plant was inadequate and in 1887, the building was doubled in size.
In 1892, it became necessary to further enlarge the “Globe” plant. Another story was added and the frontage of the building increased. The western half of the ground floor contained the press room. There were eight large Campbell & Cottrell presses, with each capable of 1,200 impressions per hour. They were not fast presses, but ran slowly so that the illustrations which formed the conspicious feature of the “Globe” might be developed clearly and distinctly.
The average circulation of the “Globe” reached 180,000 copies per week, and also reached 269,000 on some occasions, when the events of the week held a special interest. For more than 40 years, the “Globe” covered and illustrated cyclones, floods, conflagrations, executions, inaugurations, assassinations and all the great happenings of the day.
On January 24, 1920, the “Saturday Globe” presented “A Glance Back to the Babyhood of The Globe” and wrote, in part: “Along the highway leading from then to the present there are many milestones, and among these are many monuments to which we who have long been with the ‘Globe' look back with quickened pulses. We flush with pardonable pride when we recall that the ‘Globe' was the first five-cent paper in the world to print a half-tone cut; that we were the first to print on a cylinder press a paper illustrated with half-tones; that it was in our office that the first half-tone was cast into a form instead of being ‘matrixed'; that ours was the first newspaper to print cartoons and half-tones in colors; that ours was the only paper in Central New York to send a man to Johnstown and keep him there during those awful weeks succeeding the great disaster; that ours was the only paper in the State outside the metropolis to send a writer and photographers to Galveston when that beautiful city was destroyed by wind and wave; that in order to get the exact facts and legitimate pictures we have sent our representatives direct from the home office into more than three-quarters of the States making up the Union; that our subscribers have come from the wilds of Alaska and the teeming cities of China; that we have received personal letters of approval from Supreme Court judges, Presidents of the United States and even from Queen Victoria herself.”
The founder of the “Saturday Globe”, Thomas F. Baker died on May 15, 1916 and in 1920, his brother retired and the weekly was sold to the “Globe-Telegram Company”, formed to publish a new daily paper in Utica. This venture was not successful and lasted but a few years. On February 26, 1924, the “Utica Saturday Globe” published its last copies of the weekly.From its auspicious infancy in Utica, New York, the Saturday Globe grew into a major newspaper with nationwide circulation. Through its pioneering use of regional editions, it became the first truly national newspaper in United States history.
Arthur W. Savage was born in Kingston, Jamaica, British West Indies on May 13, 1857, the son of John and Jane Henderson Savage. He went to England for his education at Leeds and was a student at South Kensington Art Academy in London (1871-74). He sailed for Australia where he engaged in the cattle business for about eleven years and there married Anne Bryant. He then returned to Jamaica and operated a coffee plantation for two years. In 1888 he came to New York where he was employed by Munn & Company, publishers of scientific papers and magazines.
Shortly after that, Mr. Savage came to Utica where he became an employee of the Belt Line Railroad and did much to improve the service. The Thompson-Hueston Company, interested at the time in the Belt Line, sent Savage to Saratoga Springs to take charge of the street railroad there (1891-92), during which time he electrified the lines and placed them on a substantial basis.
Arthur Savage began to exercise a talent for invention while he was a cowboy in Australia. When he returned to Jamaica, he learned that the British government wanted an improved firearm and he set about to produce it. He devised a gun, the rights for the manufacture of which he sold to the Hartley & Graham Company. When he returned to Utica, he entered his new Savage 1892 military rifle in the military trials of that year on Governor’s Island. It was placed No. 35 and no United States contract was obtained. On February 7, 1893, he secured a patent on his rifle and organized the Savage Repeating Arms Company (1893-97). Since he had no factory, he arranged with John Marlin of the Marlin Firearms Company of New Haven, Connecticut, to make the first group of rifles. In 1895, Savage developed the .303 caliber lever-action rifle, and began their manufacture in a small plant in Hubbell Street, Utica. In 1897, the Savage Arms Company (1897-1917) was incorporated and a site on Tilden Avenue was purchased and buildings erected.
Arthur Savage developed the Savage Halpine torpedo, became the Superintendent of the Utica Belt Line Railroad, and invented the first "hammerless" lever action rifle with the entire mechanism enclosed in a steel receiver. This remarkable rifle featured a rotary magazine with a unique counter that visually displayed the number of bullets remaining in the receiver. The Model 99, as it became known, advanced firearm technology, offered the average person an affordable rifle, and started a business that has stood the test of time. In 1919, Chief Lame Bear approached Arthur to purchase lever-action rifles for the Indian reservation and the two men struck a deal. The tribe would get discounted rifles and Savage would get their support and endorsement. It was at this time in the company's history, that Arthur Savage added the Indian head logo--a direct gift from the Chief--to the company name. By 1919, Savage Arms was manufacturing high power rifles, 22 caliber rifles, pistols and ammunition.
His inventive genius included, in addition to magazine rifle improvements, a knowledge of munitions, and he designed the dirigible torpedo. During World War I he resigned as an officer of the Savage Tire Company, a five million dollar corporation he founded to engage in war work with the government, and was assigned to work with the British Minister of Munitions. He died at the age of 83 in San Diego, California on September 22, 1938.
The Savage Arms Corporation was a major supplier of arms during both World War I and World War II and during the first war furnished over seventy thousand machine guns of the Lewis type to Britain to contain the German advance.
Textile industry's rise and fall shaped the fabric of Oneida County. In 1845, Oneida County's textile industry was a shambles. It could not compete with New England's steam-powered looms that wove faster and produced superior goods than the looms run by hand and water power.
But the county was not growing as fast as other areas on the Erie Canal or the railroads. Utica, in particular, was limited in its ability to manufacture goods because the Mohawk River did not flow fast enough to turn the machines and wheels of industry. For the first time since Oneida County was formed on March 15, 1798, some communities were losing population. Between 1840 and 1845, for example, Utica's population dropped from 12,000 to 10,000.
Something had to be done, so on an April morning in 1845, three men ... selected at a mass meeting of county residents ... headed for New England for a close look at looms and other machines powered by steam. Attorney Edward Graham, merchant Spencer Kellogg and industrialist Andrew Pond returned with a plan to get Oneida County's stagnant economy moving again.
Coal could be used to produce steam, they said, and the county had a large supply readily available via the recently completed Chenango Canal that connected the county with the coal fields of Pennsylvania. Money was needed, too ... capital to be raised locally to start companies and build mills designed to use steam power.
Within a year, a fund-raising drive ... headed by wealthy local entrepreneurs like Alfred Munson and Theodore Faxton ... raised enough money to build companies such as the Globe Woolen Mills, the Utica Steam Cotton Mills and the Utica Steam Woolen Mills.
True, the region had textile mills for years. The first cotton mill in the state was erected in 1809 in Yorkville led by industrialists like Seth Capron. A mill in New York Mills was started by Benjamin Walcott in 1812, and there were mills in Clinton, Clayville and Sauquoit at the same time. But not until the late 1840s when the steam-powered looms came to town did the textile era begin in Oneida County.
For the remainder of the 19th century, dozens of mills were built and prospered in places like Oriskany Falls, Camden, Kirkland, Sangerfield, New Hartford, New York Mills and Whitesboro.The textile industry reached its peak in 1918 during World War I when nearly 22,000 in the region worked at producing knit goods for companies like Oneita Knitting and Avalon Knitwear.
The giant of the industry, though, was the Utica Knitting Co. It was founded in 1872 by Quentin McAdam and in 20 years made Utica the knit goods capital of the world. Besides its several mills in Utica, it had plants throughout the region in places like Oriskany Falls, Clayville and Sherburne.
After World War I, though, the textile industry was poised on the brink of a sharp decline. Owners were tempted to head south where labor was cheaper and cotton fields closer. The popular view of the economic decline of the Utica-Rome area is that it was caused by the flight of textiles to the South and that it happened all of a sudden after World War II. This is a vastly oversimplified view. The peak of the 19th-century industrial expansion was reached about 1910. After that, there began a long decline that was postponed by World War I orders, hidden from view by the national prosperity in the l920s, by the depression of the 1930s and postponed again by World War II demands.
Thus, to the general population, the collapse after World War II seemed sudden. But industry leaders knew all along that local industry was sick. The reasons for the decline were many: customers turning from cotton and wool goods to silk and nylon; factories and machinery growing old and inefficient and poor management. The textile industry dominated the county's economy for decades and when its mills left town, there were not many major, non-textile industries to absorb jobs lost.
By the mid-1950s, most of the textile mills in Oneida County were gone. Other industries ... like Savage Arms and Griffiss Air Force Base ... began layoffs within weeks of the end of the war. The “loom-to-gloom” era had begun. But it did not last long.
Diversity was the key to the region's future economic success. Leaders throughout the county had begun laying the groundwork for an industrial recovery by forming industrial development corporations. They were prepared to provide land and underwrite other costs for new businesses interested in building in the county. And those companies came: Chicago Pneumatic Tool in 1948, Bendix in 1951, General Electric in 1953 (although it had had a small operation in Utica during the war) and Sperry-Rand's UNIVAC in 1957. Businesses already in the county began to grow: Mohawk Airlines, Utica Drop Forge and Tool, Special Metals, etc. Griffiss Air Force Base became a major employer with nearly 10,000 military and civilian workers. The ‘50s era was appropriately labeled “loom-to-boom.”
Good labor-management relations always played an important role in past economic recoveries in Oneida County. When textile mills moved out and manufacturing and electronic firms moved in — the new companies usually cited the region's history of excellent relations between local unions and companies as one of the main reasons they had decided to relocate in the Oneida County area.
When vocalist Jenny Lind made her triumphant tour of America in 1851, she arranged her schedule so that she could visit Trenton Falls, which rivaled Niagara Falls as a scenic wonder. Thousands of Americans and scores of Europeans had already discovered that fourteen miles north of Utica lay one of nature’s jewels.
Among the notables who found their way to Trenton Falls were: Joseph Bonaparte, DeWitt Clinton, Henry Clay, Martin Van Buren, and Ulysses S. Grant. Poets: William Cullen Bryant, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and James Russell Lowell. Authors and journalists: Washington Irving, Horace Greeley, Nathaniel Parker Willis from America, Harriet Martineau and Anthony Trollope from England. Artists: Thomas Hicks, Ferdinand Richardt from Denmark, Samuel F. B. Morse, and William Henry Bartlett.
In 1806, John Sherman, the grandson of Roger Sherman of Connecticut who had signed the Declaration of Independence, journeyed westward to the Trenton area where his sister’s family had joined hundreds of fellow Yankees on the Oneida frontier. Soon he delighted to guide visitors through the area. In 1822, Sherman purchased 60 acres of land along the stream and the next year erected the Rural Resort, a small tower overlooking the High Falls. Here Sherman sold liquid refreshment to visitors exhausted by their climb up and along the rushing torrent below.
In 1824, Sherman enlarged his house, to provide overnight accommodations, with tables for forty diners. To attract custom, Sherman wrote a pamphlet extolling the beauties of the waterfalls and noting the comfortable accommodations available.
Michael Moore of New York visited the falls in 1828 only to sprain his ankle. Maria Sherman, one of Sherman’s three daughters, nursed him back to health. They fell in love and were married in 1831, three years after John Sherman’s death. Moore took over the management and presided over the long dining table. Moore kept adding to his establishment until it had 150 rooms with plenty of rocking chairs on the veranda and two bars for the thirsty.
Increasing patronage led Moore in 1851 to construct the Trenton Falls Hotel or Moore’s Hotel. This structure had a front of 136 feet and a dining room 60x30 feet. Three years later, the first steam engine of the Mohawk and Malone company pulled into the Trenton station. There omnibuses met passengers and ferried them to Moore’s Hotel. For the rest of the century a stagecoach or “tally-ho” carried passengers on each trip to the hotel.
Thousands of central New Yorkers visited the Falls for a day’s outing. Lewis Joy, the owner of a staging line, built another hotel south of the Moore property. His Kuyahoora, later acquired by Moore, offered thirty rooms. Thanks to its furnace it remained open all year round whereas Moore’s Hotel closed in the fall. Enterprising citizens erected a dance pavilion and set aside groves for picnics.
The most notable and perhaps the most puzzling gathering at Trenton Falls took place on August 18, 1863 when the ambassadors and ministers of seven nations met at Moore’s. Secretary of State William H. Seward had invited several members of the diplomatic corps to accompany him in a special railroad car through the northern states. Perhaps he hoped that a display of manufacturing and agricultural resources would convince these diplomats to report back home that a Union victory was inevitable. Also, Ulysses S. Grant visited Trenton Falls in 1872 as the guest of United States Senator Roscoe Conkling of Utica.
Michael Moore died in 1888 before Trenton Falls had lost most of its popular favor. The depression of 1893 plunged thousands of businessmen into bankruptcy; the lucky survivors gave up spending for such luxuries as gourmet meals in the North -Woods. Charles Moore fought hard to attract visitors by creating a picnic ground, building additional paths, and by advertising, but to no avail.
Moore’s Hotel reopened to the public in 1902 after extensive renovations. The successive proprietors had indifferent success in recapturing its former dominance. World War II hastened the decline of Trenton Falls. Not only did a heavy snowfall cave in the roof of the old hotel, but gas rationing limited patronage. Today, after a heavy snow melt an intrepid climber might make his way, to Irving Point and catch a glimpse of the roaring cascade which the Indians called Leaping Water.
Oneida County's history includes some features of the Underground Railroad that many believe to be typical, such as secret hiding places, slave-catchers, violent resistance, and station-masters. Here there are also other less-understood features of the Underground Railroad: community-centered defiance, the settlement of fugitives among white residents in relative safety, clusters of freedom-seekers living openly near each other, and the abolitionist activities of the Welsh. Long before the Civil War ended the debate on slavery, the people of Oneida County had made it clear that no law protecting slavery would be enforced here. The county's Underground Railroad "stations" linked this region to the nation's network of resistance.
There was relative security in reaching a free state such as New York, but fugitives could not be totally safe until they reached Canada. Many lived and worked openly along the Canadian border in places such as Oswego, New York, ready to flee if slave-hunters threatened.
Oneida County not only participated in, but indeed became a leader of the nation's anti-slavery crusade. Several abolitionist newspapers were published in the county. Men and women, black and white alike, organized abolitionist societies across the county, including the New York State's first Anti-Slavery Society itself. People participated in political campaigns in support of abolitionism. Thousands of people signed at least 1,200 pages of petitions protesting slavery, which they sent to the United States Congress. Social-religious experiments emerged across upstate New York, such as the Oneida Community and the Mormons.
Oneida County's abolition movement and Underground Railroad activity can be said to begin when Beriah Green assumed leadership of the Oneida Institute in 1833. The Oneida Institute thereafter became a beacon of progressive education and led the struggle in the county for immediate emancipation. The Institute enrolled black and white male students on an equal basis, the first college in America to do so. Some of them became prominent in the abolition movement, such as Jemaine Loguen, Alexander Crummel, and Henry Highland Garnet. Here debates were held and an abolitionist newspaper, The Friend of Man, was published. Speakers from Oneida Institute fanned out across the county carrying the abolitionist message. The Oneida Institute quickly became a station on the Underground Railroad and Green welcomed fugitive slaves to his home and to the campus, where students hid them in their dormitory rooms. Fugitives from 'the peculiar institution' (as slavery was often called) enjoyed the safety of the 'Old Hive,' Green's home in Whitesboro.
One year after the first meeting of the New York State Anti-Slavery Society in Utica, struck a powerful blow on behalf of the movement, and thus made visible the region's emerging Underground Railroad. The "Utica Rescue of 1836" involved two captives, Harry Bird and George, who had been living in Utica for four months. Federal law required that all black people who could not immediately prove that they were legally free were at risk of arrest and enslavement solely on the word of a slave-hunter. On Thursday morning, December 29, 1836, these two men were taken into custody on December 29, 1836, and brought before Judge Chester Hayden whose office was on 96-98 Genesee Street (the building still survives). During the proceedings an armed struggle erupted and some local citizens rescued the slaves.
Such rescues also occurred in other places, one of the most notable being the Jerry Rescue fifteen years later in Syracuse. They put slave-hunters on notice that it would be very difficult indeed to claim a fugitive, even with the authority of the law on their side. Freedom-seekers sometimes felt encouraged to remain in a "safe" area as Oneida County, even keeping their names and admitting to Census takers their slave-state birthplaces. Others moved as close to the Canadian border as they could, notably Oswego, where they lived openly but could easily reach Canada on short notice. One route led from Utica north toward Boonville, through the Welsh communities in Remsen and Steuben.
The people of Oneida County were part of a dramatic chapter in the nation's history. Black and white men and women not only voiced opposition to slavery, but stood behind their words, sometimes at their peril. In both the rural and urban areas of the county, individuals and communities sheltered fugitives, and apparently encouraged some of them to settle amongst them. By challenging slavery in every way they could, they made an important contribution to the struggle by helping to move the country towards its fateful Civil War. Southerners realized that northern abolitionists would never accept slavery. While relatively few slaves escaped to freedom, their daring success and the abolitionists' open defiance proved that increasingly people in places like Oneida County, New York, would not only flaunt the laws protecting slavery, but would not rest until slavery had been eliminated.
Utica Country Day School
The charter for the creation of the Utica Female Academy, was granted in 1837. When the school first opened, it did not have a building of its own but occupied part of the building on the corner of Genesee and Pearl Streets, where the old City Hall later stood. But soon, as the result of generous donations, an imposing building was erected on Washington Street. This was completed in 1839.
The school was very popular, and in December there were 168 pupils enrolled, including day pupils and some out-of-town boarders. On March 27, 1865 the Utica Female Academy burned to the ground. A new building, the one which later housed the Y. M. C. A. for 50 years, was erected on the same ground about 1869-70. At that time it was one of the finest structures in the state and a source of great pride to the citizens of Utica.
In 1875, Mrs. Julia G. Piatt, a New Englander who had made teaching her life work and had conducted a school in Norwich, Conn., became head-mistress and changed the name to Mrs. Piatt's Female Seminary. Mrs. Piatt's school was run successfully for twenty-five years. In the autumn of 1900 Mrs. Piatt's school was taken over by Miss Edith Hall and Mrs. Saunders who renamed it the "Balliol School." After five years Mrs. Saunders left, and soon Miss Hall closed the boarding-school, which was opened later purely as a day school. Miss Hall was succeeded by Misses Howland and Brownell. After three successful years it became "Miss Knox's School." The school continued until 1920, when Miss Knox retired.
In 1921 the original board of trustees of the Knox School with a few new members asked the legislature at Albany if they might take over and continue the original corporation ownership of the Utica Female Academy and change its name to the Utica Country Day School. Their request was granted and included in chapter five of the laws of 1921, which became effective February 15, 1921. Thus the Utica Country Day School became a direct continuation of the Utica Female Academy.
On Tuesday, March 7, 1922, the doors of the Utica Country Day School, situated on the grounds bought from the Yahnundaeis Golf Club in New Hartford, were opened for the formal inauguration of the new buildings. For its time, it was considered to be the finest most modern school in the United states. The new buildings were constructed by R. Richards and Son of Utica, by plans by Pember and Company of Albany. Initially, 185 pupils were enrolled in the 10 grades. The structure, however, was designed to comfortably house 250 with a possibility of adding onto the wings without destroying the lines of the building.
The school housed a large auditorium, with a seating capacity, including the gallery, of 600. The stage, a copy of that of the Garrick Theater of New York, the home of the Theater Guild, was completely equipped to produce all required effects of lighting and scene arrangements. This auditorium served the city for amateur theatricals, dances and similar entertainments.
The west wing contained the lower school classrooms, while the corresponding wing on the east had the classrooms for the six upper grades. The northeast extension of the corridor had a cafeteria, where lunches are prepared for the children and teachers. Adjoining this was the department of home economics, laid out in a series of unit kitchens for the teaching of cooking. Connected with this department was the domestic arts room for the study and practice of sewing, dressmaking and millinery.
The laboratories, one for chemistry, the other for physics, general science and biology, with storage closets and photographic dark room, were located immediately over the offices and teachers' rooms, on the second floor.
The gymnasium was on the playground level, and could accommodate basketball and indoor baseball. There were rooms for the storage of athletic material for both boys and girls. On this level was the school shop for carpentry and industrial arts.
Supervised study and play were features of the Country Day School, which was operated as an all day school. The pupils, boys and girls, attended sessions, from 9am until 5 pm, during which time play periods were given as well as study.
For a number of years the school flourished greatly but, because of the financial severity of the depression and the improvement in the public schools of Utica and New Hartford, the attendance fell off. In 1943, the school closed its doors and, on April 7, 1944, the corporation was dissolved. The century-old institution of learning became a thing of the past.
Utica City Dispensary
The following article was taken from the 1913-1914 annual report of the Utica Dispensary. The report gives a breif history and also provides interesting insight as to the state of the dispensary and how it functioned during those years.
The Utica City Dispensary was incorporated October 6th, 1870, and was the outcome of a movement instituted by a number of men prominent at that time in the charitable work of this community. Among those interested in organizing and advancing the work of the dispensary we notice in the records of incorporation the names of James Watson Williams, John F. Seymour, William Kernan, Ellis H. Roberts, James F. Mann, Charles W. Hutchinson, Parker W. Teift and John M. Crouse; men who have served the city, state and nation in high office, who have left enviable records of honorable service in the offices conferred on them by the electors or by state or national administrations.
The physicians first to offer their services in support of the Dispensary were William L. Baldwin, Edwin Hutchinson, Joseph E. West, Charles B. Teift, Hugh Sloan and Ira D. Hopkins. The records of the Dispensary show that their services were cheerfully given and faithfully rendered for many years. The purpose of the Dispensary as given in the applications for incorporation, is “to minister to the poor and needy sick such medical advice and prescriptions as their necessities may require and which they are unable otherwise to command, also to provide immediate help in the way of surgical and medical aid.”
The little wooden building on Elizabeth Street, between the Central Hotel and the Advanced School, was secured by the trustees and occupied by the medical staff in the performance of the Dispensary’s work for several years. Improvement in the surrounding property necessitated removal to the premises 1028 Elizabeth Street, which was purchased and deeded to the trustees by Mrs. James Watson Williams in 1874. This building was occupied until 1903, when the construction of the new Court House compelled removal to the present site on Mary Street. The records of the Dispensary show, like those of many other charitable institutions, that it was no easy task assumed by the trustees in the maintenance and support of the work. Periods of depression in financial resources were experienced, but have always been met by willing workers among the trustees and those interested in giving Utica’s sick poor a dispensary service.
To Edwin Curran and Doctor Ira D. Hopkins the present institution is more indebted for its existence than to any others connected with its work since its foundation, although its trustees and supporters have numbered many noble workers among the needy poor. The long service of those two men carried the dispensary through many vicissitudes. At present we feel the work of the Dispensary is being carried with greater fervor than at any time in its history. The great advantage of organized charitable effort has been conferred on its work by a corps of competent physicians and surgeons and a board of lady managers, whose zeal in the great cause of humanity, the lessening of poverty and distress by prevention of illness, has made the Dispensary service the greatest possible aid to the sick poor of our city.
Report for the Year 1913-14 - Early in the fall of 1913 the Trustees of the Utica Dispensary were confronted by the necessity of providing larger accommodations and a better equipment for the rapidly growing work of this institution. Partly on account of the large influx of foreigners into Utica, the two rooms that for years had served every purpose as waiting room and office were quite inadequate for the needs of the patients, who had become so numerous that a general clinic could not properly relieve them. This expansion of the work meant that the annual income must be very largely increased. To aid in the development of this extremely important charity, a Board of Lady Managers was appointed by the Trustees, and the staff was increased from six to fourteen regularly attending physicians.
Briefly, the work accomplished during the year has been as follows: $1,664.25 has been raised through the generous donations of private individuals; $1,000 at the earnest request of the Trustees has been granted by the City for Dispensary work.
Five rooms and the halls at 224 Mary Street have been made over and equipped for clinic work. The walls have been painted and finished in hard white enamel; hot and cold running water have been put in every room except the waiting room; new plumbing has been installed, and the floors painted or covered with linoleum.
Patients have been classified according to their needs, and eight separate clinics are now maintained for their treatment, each clinic having an equipment sufficient for all ordinary cases. A stenographer has been engaged to act as clerk and also to keep the records, which compare favorably with other Clinics in the State. She is also qualified in certain cases to act as interpreter. A graduate registered nurse, who had her training in the General Hospital, was engaged early in December. She is at the Dispensary daily from 8: 30 until 5, except when visiting patients in their homes. The Dispensary is also fortunate in having the services for a few hours daily of an undergraduate nurse from the General Hospital. The tuberculosis work is done by the City Tuberculosis Nurse.
As the Dispensary stands today, it excites very favorable comment from State inspectors, but it is again outgrowing its accommodations. This year we hope to enlarge the waiting room for the patients and to open one or two more clinics. Helping the sick poor is a charity always gladly supported by the public, and the Trustees and Managers feel sure that the needs of the coming year will be provided for with the same generous spirit as in the past.
Hospitals and Homes for the Aged
Early in the 1850s, a building on Bridge Street (Park Avenue) formerly occupied as a fur shop was taken over by the Mayor as a City Hospital. It was fitted up to contain 35 to 40 beds. A newspaper of the time said, "The hospital is far from what we want in Utica, but it is a large advance on nothing at all and we hail it as a forerunner of its betters."
The City Hospital (later known as the General Hospital) on South street at Mohawk was erected in 1856 by the city and was originally intended as a work house. Two years later it became a hospital under the Poor Master and when the Board of Charities superseded the Poor Master, the building came under their jurisdiction. The three-story building was built of brick and cost $12,000. At the Battle of Cold Harbor in June 1864, many of the wounded soldiers were from Utica and Oneida County, and the City Hospital took care of them for the following year.
On November 19, 1866, a charter was granted under the name of the "Home for the Homeless in the City of Utica" to take care of the aged, indigent and infirm women who were unable to support themselves. The home was opened in a building on Whitesboro street, opposite the State Hospital, in May 1867. Theodore S. Faxton, contributed $20,000 and two acres of land on Faxton street toward the erection of a new home there. Citizens contributed an additional sum of $26,000 and B. F. Jewett and his sisters donated four lots adjoining those of Faxton and a new building was opened on December 26, 1870 at a cost of $30,000 and in 1879 an additional building was added at a cost of $6,000.
St. Elizabeth Hospital and Home was organized December 12, 1866 by Mother Bernardina, a member of the Franciscan Order. She received the first patient in a small wooden building on Columbia street which was donated by the Franciscan Fathers at St. Joseph's Church for that purpose. Through the generosity of Thomas B. Devereux, another building was added and soon afterward a third. In 1868, the old wooden buildings had to be removed to make room for the new St. Joseph's Church and a house was purchased a few doors west of the former location. This was opened for patients on October 15, 1869. This second hospital was a wooden one of two stories but it soon proved to be inadequate. In 1887 a new hospital was built and served as such until the new modern hospital was erected on Genesee street in 1915-17.
Early in its history, St. Elizabeth's established a dispensary which was visited by the sick residents of Utica in large numbers. It was used to advantage in December of 1871 when a smallpox epidemic broke out.
There was also the Utica City Dispensary. We read in the "Utica Morning Herald" of March 5, 1872: "On Elizabeth street, just in the rear of the old Central Hotel property, stands a neat little white building on which is the sign 'Utica Dispensary'. Here the needy sick of our city may find the purest of medicine and the best medical advice, free of charge. The front room on the first floor is to be used as a reception room. Opening from this is the room containing the medical stores, and on the same floor are a consulting room and the sleeping apartment of the janitor."
In 1872, Mrs. James Watson Williams donated a house at 26 Elizabeth street. On January 13, 1903, the dispensary property was condemned for the site for the new Court House and the proceeds were used to purchase a house at 124 Mary street.
On December 23, 1869, St. Luke's Home was incorporated for the purpose of "establishing and maintaining in the city of Utica a refuge for the poor and friendless members of Grace Church parish in Utica and such others as the Board of Managers may think entitled to its benefits." On September 1, 1870, a double two-story brick dwelling adjoining the Home was purchased on Columbia street and a hospital, St. Luke's, was opened July 9, 1872. By 1886, the old building with over 200 patients was overcrowded and a larger structure of brick, costing over $15,000 was built. In 1892, an addition was added. On October 17, 1905, Mr. and Mrs. Frederick T. Proctor built and furnished a new St. Luke's Hospital on Whitesboro street.
The next hospital built was Faxton Hospital, a gift from Theodore S. Faxton, which opened in 1875. The growth of Faxton Hospital for the first ten years was slow. In 1892, a training school for nurses was established and in 1895, Dr. Fred J. Douglas was appointed the first resident physician of Faxton. In 1897, a home for the nurses was opened and in 1926 a new addition was added to the hospital.
In 1878, the upper two floors at Faxton Hospital were converted into a home for aged men. In February 1882, the Home for Aged Men was incorporated and this was amended to include their wives. In 1890, a lot opposite the hospital was secured and the new home opened on July 15, 1891.
In 1895, the homeopathic staff at Faxton withdrew and opened a hospital on Genesee street known as the Utica Homeopathic Hospital. A new building was built on the site and in 1926 the name was changed to "Memorial Hospital".
Utica Orphan Asylum
In a small house on Catharine Street, the Utica Orphan Asylum had its birth. An English father and mother, named Arthur, had died, leaving three little children, John, Jane and James, orphans. There existed then a sewing circle known as "The Female Society of Industry which was established in Utica in October 1826. It had 70 members who paid $5 annually, either in cash or needle work.
On January 7, 1830, a public meeting was held, in old Washington Hall, for the purpose of forming an orphan asylum society. On April 18th, the Orphan Asylum in the Village of Utica was incorporated. Housekeeping began in November in a building on the northeast corner of John and Catharine streets. In May 1833, the children were moved to a location near the southeast corner of Chancellor Square. In 1836, the name was changed to the Utica Orphan Asylum.
For several years the children maintained by the Asylum were few in number and a small rented house was sufficient for the accommodation of the orphan family. It was supported during this period by the ladies of the "Female Society of Industry," and such aid as could be obtained by donations and yearly subscriptions from the citizens of Utica. As the means of the society increased and the family enlarged, it was decided to arrange for more comfortable accommodations. The Trustees accordingly purchased a lot on 312 Genesee Street and erected a building in 1848, at a cost to the Society of $5,550. The funds for this building were provided by the sewing society and a legacy from Moses Bagg, which amounted to $1,215, which he left for this purpose. On this site was later built the Thomas R. Proctor residence.
Dr. Anson J. Upson, in his eloquent address delivered at the laying of the cornerstone of the asylum, stated "The thimble and the needle gave rise to this charity and again renewed it. A thimble and a needle should be its coat of arms…”
In 1854, Mr. Alfred Munson left by his will $34,000 to this Institution, on condition that the citizens of Utica should raise and apply the sum of $10,000 towards the purchase of ground within the city limits, and towards the erection of a new and still larger building for its use. Benjamin F. Jewett gave the society three acres of land on the northwest corner of Genesee and Pleasant street. The cornerstone was laid on May 30, 1860 and the building was completed in the summer of 1861, at a cost of $25,600. From the Secretary's Report, one hundred and four children had been received during that year.
By September 30, 1875, twelve hundred and seventy-five children, who at various times sought refuge and received the protecting care of the Asylum, were enrolled on its records. The Managers of this Institution, during these many years, often felt discouragement from a depleted Treasury, but they record that they have been enabled to meet their obligations and gradually extend their benefactors to a wider circle.
In the spring of 1879 the managers decided to complete their building as originally planned by the erection of the north wing. A committee was appointed to make the necessary contracts, and the work was commenced in June of the same year, and completed in September, 1880. The managers then felt that they had ample room and were sure that this institution would compare favorably with any similar one in the State.
During these many years, through gifts and legacies, they were able to provide for one hundred and fifty children, giving them much to develop mentally, morally and physically. Their healthy condition was proved by the fact that from 1880 to 1891, not a single death occurred among them. These boys and girls grew into manhood and womanhood, and took their part in society. The children entered into nearly all the professions and trades, and many of them have happy homes and children of their own.In 1924, the directors of the orphanage decided to devote all their resources to the care of crippled children. The orphans were transferred to other orphanages and the Utica Orphan Asylum was reorganized as Children's Hospital. Eventually the old orphanage was razed and its grounds developed for residences. A street, Derbyshire Place, was built through the grounds and named for Charlotte Derbyshire, who was one of the leaders of the Female Society of Industry that had founded the orphanage.
The Oneidas in the War of 1812 - by Anthony Wonderley
The British-American struggle called the War of 1812 was marked by savage but inconclusive combat along the New York-Canada border for the greater part of three years. This article outlines a little known chapter of that conflict: the battlefield contributions of the Oneida tribe of the Iroquois (or Hauclenosaunee or Six-Nations) Confederacy. Out of a population of perhaps 700 people in Oneida and Madison Counties, no fewer than 160 Oneidas fought on the American side in two theaters of war. On the east, Oneidas contributed to the successful defense of Sackets Harbor, the major U.S. naval base on Lake Ontario. Oneidas were equally active west of Buffalo on the Niagara Frontier, a region of Ontario then known as Upper Canada. On both fronts, Oneida soldiers fought in battles that included virtually the only American victories.
Oneida sentiments were expressed in the Six Nations declaration of war (July, 1813): "We do hereby command and advise all the War Chiefs to call forth immediately their warriors under them to put them in motion to protect their rights and liberties which our brethren the Americans are now defending." Several days earlier, an Iroquois speaker had told his people "that the country was invaded, that they had one common interest with the people of the United States, that they had every thing dear at stake, that the time had arrived for them to show their friendship for their brethren of the United States not only in words but in deeds."
1812-1813 - Our only reference to Oneida military service in 1812 derives from an individual's petition to the state (1857) to recover costs of transportation and equipment incurred that year. Having served at Sackets Harbor, Oneida Jake Antoine asked to be reimbursed for use of his own equipment (including a rifle) as well as $60 in back pay. His claim was judged correct, and, in 1859, New York awarded him $58.00 to compensate expenses though not, as far as we know, his pay.
During the summer and fall of 1813, United States forces were bottled up at Fort George on the Canadian side of the river opposite Fort Niagara. American Iroquois warriors were badly needed as rangers and light infantry to scour the countryside around the besieged American troops. In addition to pay, the Iroquois were promised that they could keep any publicly owned livestock they might capture.
Responding to American pleas, Oneidas crossed the Niagara River into Canada in early August and participated in a series of skirmishes with the enemy in August and September. Two Oneidas — Jake Whee-lock and a man listed only as "John"- perished in one of those fights at a place called Ball's Farm. Such activities did much to relieve British pressure on Fort George as the commander of American forces acknowledged: Yesterday I had the honor to address you a letter detailing the conduct of the Indians in a late skirmish. Their bravery and humanity were equally conspicuous. Already the quietness in which our pickets are suffered to remain evinces the benefit arising from their assistance.Two contingents of Oneidas joined U.S. forces on the Niagara Frontier in 1813. The first, commanded by Oneida leader Captain PeterElm (Tsot-te-gol-la-his or Two Trees of Equal Height), arrived in June. Names of people in this group derive from the same 1857 series of Oneida affidavits mentioned above in connection with Jake Antoine. That individual was present again (this time, with his father) as were Peter Skanandoah, Henry George, Peter Harnyos, Jake Skanandoah, Adam Jordan, William Cornelius, and Henry Cornelius. The men were accompanied by at least one woman (Dolly Skanandoah) serving as cook. The presence of women on a war expedition far from home suggests the Oneidas may have been skeptical about receiving military rations from their allies.
A contemporaneous newspaper notice stated that a number of Oneida warriors had passed through Canandaigua between September 14 and 21 on their way to link up with the American army. This second Oneida company, commanded by Capt. Cornelius Doxtader, numbered about fifty individuals including at least four women.
Histories of this campaign disparage the contributions of native allies. The Iroquois, for their part, believed their American allies offered too little battlefield support and too many worthless pledges. That fall, several Oneidas (listed as Adam Scanado, Cornelius Dockstader, Jacob Dockstader, Johnson, William, and nine others) were ordered to surrender horses they had taken in raids near Fort George. As the Seneca Red Jacket complained on behalf of the Six Nations warriors, "We have not received pay according to promise... We were promised that all horses and cattle should be free plunder. We took horses. We had to give them up. We have been deceived." At Fort George, as the Oneidas later explained, they received only one month's pay for two month's duty and their officers (Capt. C. Doxtader, Lt. Jacob Doxtader, and Ensign Abraham Brant) "received no more than common soldiers."
1814 - English naval forces dominated Lake Ontario as the year opened. The Americans had larger ships newly built at Sackets Harbor but those craft needed guns and cables that were sitting in an Oswego warehouse. Hoping to rush the supplies past a vigilant English blockade, American Capt. Melancthon Woolsey loaded them onto nineteen barges and, accompanied by a detachment of riflemen, set sail from Oswego hugging the shoreline and proceeding east then north."
At the Salmon River (Oswego County), Woolsey rendezvoused with about 130 Oneida soldiers (led by Capt. Peter Elm) who were to "traverse the shore, for the purpose of protecting the boats if chased on shore or into any of the creeks." The combined force reached Sandy Creek (South Sandy Creek, also called the Big Sandy) about noon on May 29, 1814. At that point, the barges proceeded upstream to unload the stores which would then be carried overland to Sackets Harbor about sixteen miles further north.
The American flotilla, however, had been detected by the British. The next day, an English force numbering some 200 marines and sailors, accompanied by two gun-boats and several barges, advanced up both banks of the creek into a skillfully prepared trap." American eye-witnesses stated: Our commander, apprehending an attack, placed the riflemen and Indians in the woods on each side of the creek, and sent a few raw militia with a show of opposing the enemy's landing. The plan succeeded. The militia retreated on the first fire, pursued by the enemy, but as soon as they passed the Indians and riflemen who were in ambush, these last attacked them in the rear, while a battery of four field pieces opened on them in the front.Our Indians poured in a murderous fire, and rushing from behind the brush set up their war whoops.. . The British, routed and confounded, threw down their arms and begged for quarter.
The infantry and Indians "opened a most destructive fire upon the enemy, which obliged them to surrender in about ten minutes," reported the American commander. Not a single individual of the British expedition escaped being captured or killed. Their defeat proved to be costly in a larger sense for it allowed the Americans to equip their new warships and take command of Lake Ontario." The Oneidas suffered a single casualty: Jim Chrisjohn, wounded in the leg. Local tradition has it that:the Indians were released from duty immediately after the battle and were urged to return to their homes. They had not been paid for their services, and the Army had not even fed them. They faced a long walk home (about 50 miles).. .It is reported that one group approached a farmhouse and very politely asked for some food. The farmer's wife knew that they had been in battle, and she fed them a hearty meal. As a token of gratitude, they gave her a beautiful wooden bowl. The bowl was saved in her family for several generations and is believed to still exist in the Sixtown area.
Oneidas remembered, sixty-five years later, that Jacob and Cornelius Doxtator fought in this battle and Henry Cornelius (Suggeyonetau) probably did also. As was true of other elderly Oneidas, this was the second war in which the latter had risked his life on behalf of the United States.
Immediately after Sandy Creek, Oneidas joined U.S. Army forces assembling to re-enforce the more distant Niagara Frontier. An official muster of Oneidas lists seventeen soldiers serving under their leader. Lt. Hendrick Schuyler, from June 13 to July 26. Another eight Oneidas served until September 25. On June 15, 33 Oneidas under Cornelius Doxtator were reported at Onondaga awaiting the arrival of two more groups under Jacob Doxtator and Martinus White.
They joined the American army in time for the battle at Chippawa (Ontario) on July 5, an engagement in which they served under General Peter Porter. A Pennsylvania militiaman with the Oneidas and other Six Nations Indians at Chippawa wrote: We marched down to near Chapaway [Chippawa], and General Porter called on our regiment for some volunteers to go out on a scout and about 200 of our regiment with 450 Indians advanced within a mile of Chipawa [sic], when we met some of the enemy we drove them till their main body let loose their artillery on us when we were obliged to retreat a short distance till General Scott came to our assistance with the regulars which soon compelled the enemy to retreat to their fort.
General Porter said his command performed beyond the call of duty and had done double the work of any other American troops that day. They suffered some 35 casualties, 23 of them native people. Among those who fell was Oneida Cornelius Doxtator. In later years, an interpreter named Ephraim Webster remembered that he saw:Doxtater, an Oneida chief, pursued by five or six mounted Wy-andots. They passed near him [Webster], and knowing well the Indian rules of warfare, he stood erect and firm, looking them full in the face; they passed him unharmed. Doxtater was shot just as he leaped a fence nearby, upon which the Wyandots wheeled and rode off.
Chief Doxtator's grandson indicated what happened next: Cornelius Doxtator Sr. was with Oneidas in battle of Chippewa [sic] in 1814. Was shot, when a Chippewa ran up, tomahawked & scalped him; & with others, captured Doxtator's two boys, Daniel and George, respectively 17 & 15, who were near their father. But some Oneidas shot the Chippewa as he was clambering a fence.. .and recovered the prisoner boys. Nevertheless, Major-General Jacob Brown, overall commander of U.S. forces that day, severely criticized the Iroquois performance at Chippawa. "Perhaps the American general, who could not see the Iroquois action because of the forest, wanted his regulars to absorb as much of the credit for his singular victory as possible...Rather than praising the American-allied Iroquois discovery of the British flanking movement, Brown's report to Washington emphasized how their retreat left his flank exposed and how he had to send his dragoons to stop 'the fugitives' from running from the battlefield altogether."
Aftermath - Oneidas who enlisted in 1814 had been promised pay of $40 (captains), $30 (lieutenants), and $8 (warriors) but they received little or nothing of this during hostilities. "Sadly, the American government did not act in good time, despite continued protests by the Iroquois... They had fought for the United States, they had suffered losses, but they found their needs ignored by those who had demanded their help." In 1816, Oneidas politely reminded federal Indian agent Jasper Parrish of unfulfilled obligations: We the undersigned Oneida Indians respectfully inform you Sir that we have understood from the Secretary of War from the seat of Government and also from the General Edmunds Paymaster General that a regular return list of our warriors who served in the last war of all their claims has been presented by you Sir to the War Department and accepted and also that the money requisite to pay us for the whole of our pay has been paid to you about three months past for the purpose of paying us and we therefore humbly hope that you will have the goodness to fulfill the expectations of Government that we have been already paid the whole of our dues from them by you our Agent for that purpose and we humbly pray that you will satisfy our Claims as soon as you can as we want it settled soon by complying with this our Request you will greatly oblige us.
The Oneidas fought well in the War of 1812 and contributed substantially to the few triumphs Americans could ever claim around Lake Ontario. According to Benn, the Iroquois "provided the United States with a competent light infantry force in an army that fought without an adequate supply of such troops. Unfortunately for the Americans, they did not utilize their aboriginal allies effectively and, except for Sandy Creek and Chippawa, reaped few strategic benefits from having native combatants in their ranks."
The Oneidas themselves gained nothing for their efforts. They bore the burden of hosting their younger brothers, the Tuscaroras, who had been burned off their lands near Niagara in late 1813. Hardships were endured without help from the federal government which, during the years 1813-1817, suspended all annuity payments to the Iroquois. In the end, Oneidas experienced the same ingratitude New York State had shown them after the Revolution. Following a brief pause in the state's land-cession treaties during the war years (1811-1815), New York's remorseless efforts to acquire Oneida land started back up again.
This article is comprised of excerpts from the book "Remembering Woolworth's" by Karen Plunkett-Powell
In 1868, sixteen-year-old Frank W. Woolworth, son of a humble potato farmer, set forth to make his fortune in the world of business. For several years, though, Frank was forced back behind the plow. With every heft of the hoe, Frank's determination to escape intensified.
Eventually, Frank worked for William Moore of Moore & Smith's Drygoods in Watertown N.Y. where he learned much about the retail business. When Frank had an idea to open a nickel store, it was Moore who came through for Woolworth. Moore told Frank that if he could find a good location, he would give him a note to finance his own store.
As New Year's Day 1879, approached, great fortunes were being made across America. P. T Barnum had his circus, Rockefeller had Standard Oil, Hartford had A&P, and Frank Woolworth would have his five cent store. In February, Frank bid his loved ones good-bye, then trudged through the snow to the train depot. A few five-cent stores had already sprouted up in large cities such as Syracuse, and he planned to check them out, first-hand, to assess the lay of the retail land. Then, he vowed, he would find the perfect site for "Woolworth's Great Five-Cent Store."
The next few weeks Frank scouted out several different cities between Watertown and Rome, New York, looking for the ideal site for his first store. The results there were disappointing, so, on a hunch, he took the train into Utica.
Fortunately, Utica was hopping when he arrived, which energized his spirits. He watched the flow of traffic, both pedestrian and carriage, his mind reeling with possibilities. Utica was full of hard-working factory workers, all potential customers. The five-cent craze had somehow missed Utica, so he would be operating on virgin sales ground. A storefront on the corner of Bleeker and Genesee, though not a large space, would be ample for his needs.
The landlords were bankers who drove a hard bargain. They wanted thirty dollars per month for rent, a year's lease, and the first month paid in advance-with cash. Combining his charm and tenacity, Frank talked the landlords into deleting the "year lease" clause, and into waiting until the end of the month for the first rent installment. When asked to explain the nature of his business, Frank hedged. "Oh, notions and general merchandise," he replied lightly. He feared that, being bankers, they might smell a cheap-goods fad with no hope of making a long-term profit.
Twenty-seven-year-old Frank Woolworth had achieved his preliminary goals. He had the place. He had the means. He had the energy. All he had to do was wire William Moore back in Watertown and tell him which stock to set aside for transfer to Utica. Still he hesitated, realizing the ramifications of such an action. Years later, Frank recalled this moment of truth in one of his general letters to his staff. He wrote: "That telegram seemed to mean a definite casting of the die. I kept it in my pocket and walked past the telegraph office many times before summoning courage to send it.
Faith in himself finally superseded his doubts, and he did send that wire. Consequently, the first merchandise bill from William Moore turned out to be much more than Frank had expected: $315.41. That left only $34.59 to purchase wood for counters, a cash box for the money, board in a rooming house, and money for cleaning supplies. The leased space was rather dilapidated, full of dust and grime, and needed to be thoroughly revamped.
Frank shrewdly arranged for two thousand flyers to be distributed by a young boy. The handbills read, in part: "Grand Opening-Eight O'Clock on the evening of Saturday, February 22, 1879." All was going well, but Frank had underestimated the amount of work required to get his business organized. Years later, he reported to say: "On Friday evening I had the goods all in the store, but everything was in a great litter, with loose paper scattered about on the floor and the goods in a general mix up on the counters and shelves. While I was working in this muss, about nine o'clock, somebody knocked at the door. . . " An older woman, who'd seen his flyer, wanted to purchase a five-cent fire shovel. Hence, Frank made his first official sale on Friday night, and then locked the door behind her. The store opened, as scheduled, the next evening at eight o'clock. He did not have a rush of customers, but business was steady. At midnight, when he counted his receipts, he'd found he had made an even nine dollars.
During Frank Woolworth's opening day in Utica he sold toy dustpans, biscuit cutters, apple corers, ribbons, and cheap necklaces. Monday's sales totaled $50.20. By week's end he'd made $244.44. Within three weeks he was able to pay back William Moore, satisfy his landlord, and pay his staff. By April 1879, his business was booming. Then, unexpectedly, the bottom dropped out of the market.
There were only so many items Frank could sell for a nickel, and after the patrons had seen them all, the store's novelty waned. He tried to boost business by distributing more handbills, but by mid-May Woolworth knew he had to close down voluntarily, or his debtors would do it for him.
Woolworth closed his doors in Utica in May 1879, but it was not the last the Mohawk Valley would see of him. The successor to the Genesee Street store would open in 1888 ( under the banner "Woolworth & Peck" ). With only thirty dollars in his pocket, Frank Woolworth left Utica for Lancaster Pennsylvania where the first permanent five-and-ten-cent store was about to be born.
The Utica YMCA was established February 10, 1855, in a lecture room of Westminster Church. Officers for the first year were Edward Curran, president; Edward R. Bates, vice-president; Robert S. Williams, corresponding secretary; Edwin L. Swartwout, treasurer; and Clarence Churchill, recording secretary.
For a time the YMCA held gatherings, mostly prayer meetings, in these rooms, but in May, that year, a reading room, sitting room, and hall were obtained in the Tibbitts building. There were then about 200 members. Equipment in the new headquarters consisted of a piano, blackboard, a few chairs, tables, maps, books and magazines.
During the Civil War there wasn't much interest locally in the YMCA movement. It was about 1883 that, with Glen K. Shurtleff as general secretary, the movement suddenly sprang into life and rooms were obtained in the Arcade building.
There was a campaign, led by leading men of various churches, to acquaint the public with the needs of its young men - the need of a commodious place where they could "spread out," come and go as they liked, go in for gymnasium work under trained teachers, participate in sports, form groups and clubs for various hobbies and play games.
The drive was tremendously successful and on November 1, 1889, the YMCA proudly moved into its own building at Bleecker and Charlotte, built at a cost of $105,000, where the Bleecker Street Baptist Church long had stood. History records that the church building, which was torn down to clear a site for the Young Men's Christian Association building was "the most famous in our city." For almost two decades after it was built in 1825 on the outskirts of the village, it was used by the Second Presbyterian Church. In 1844 Westminster Presbyterian society occupied the building. In 1845 the Bleecker Street Baptist Church rented it, bought it in 1847 and occupied it for 43 years, until the spring of 1888.
At the opening on Bleecker Street, Russell H. Wicks spoke for the local YMCA and State Secretary George Hall spoke on behalf of the 151 similar associations in New York State. The four and one-half story structure, crowned by a turret-like tower, became the hub of young men's activities in the heart of the Busy Corner business section. Less than 18 years later, on the night of March 1, 1907, the handsome structure was destroyed by fire, one of Utica's costliest. The disastrous fire, which completely leveled the YMCA, was one in which it seemed the entire city would go up in flames.
One who remembers that night very well is Charles A. Miller, local businessman and a past president of the Rotary Club. At the time, Miller was a fledgling reporter for the Utica Daily Press and had just sent the final bit of copy to the composing room on a three-alarm fire which had engulfed several buildings along Bleecker Street opposite the Hotel Martin ( the Mosher block fire ). When the fire alarm in the city room sounded a second time he decided that the Mosher fire had started anew and so left the office to see what was doing.
Miller recalls that as he crossed the John Street Bridge over the Erie Canal he saw flames shooting through the roof of the Y. The fire had gained such headway that by the time he reached the scene, the roof had caved in. "A little later, as I stood in the doorway of Casey's Saloon, opposite the "Y" building, the front wall fell outward partially burying a fire truck and a brick flew across the street directly over my head and through one of Casey's windows," says Miller.
After the fire destroyed the Utica YMCA building officials purchased a building at 726 Washington Street, former home of an outstanding private girls school, to use as a temporary headquarters. It remained a "temporary" headquarters for nearly 50 years. It was built in 1871 to house the Utica Female Academy and, later, the Balliol School, a seminary for young ladies.
At a time when girls' finishing schools were in vogue, the Balliol School under the direction of a Miss Piatt was considered one of the finest in the state. Girls came from Oneonta, Oswego, Syracuse and some from even greater distances to gain polish under the watchful eye of the French director.
Few were the boys who ever saw the inside of Balliol building until it was changed from girls' school to Young Men's Christian Association. And yet the structure was better than any other building at the time for the transition since it included a gymnasium, small swimming pool, dormitory 'rooms and class rooms which were in turn made into club rooms.
In the early 1940s, a fundraising drive began to build a new YMCA to replace the crumbling and over-crowed Washington Street building. Facilities for a physical education department were completed in 1951 and, in 1956, demolition of the "temporary" building began.
In 1958 - on the Utica YMCA's 100th birthday - the final $900,000 section of the $2 million project ( facing Genesee Street ) was dedicated. For the next 43 years, this building provided facilities to thousands of young men and boys in the area. In 2001, the Utica WMCA closed it's doors for the last time.
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