Summer 1999

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1797, 1798

New York City / State Timeline

from Eagles Byte by David Minor

Year-by-year tracing the growth of the early days of the Republic


Sleighs, Salt and Schooners

As Christmas and the end of the year approached in 1797, the people of New York may have rested a few minutes and recalled the various events and innovations that the past year had brought. Daniel Faulkner might have been a little too eager to take advantage of any of the year's transportation improvements. During the past January he had made three trips from Albany to the Genesee Valley, by sleigh, over snowy winter landscapes, briging in the supplies he'd need to settle a new homestead, at a place that would be named Dansville. In September a stage line began operations between Utica and Geneva along the Genesee Road. The road would soon be called the Seneca Turnpike. Now it's Route 5. At Schenectady construction began on the first bridge across the Mohawk River, but high winds put an end to that plan. It wouldn't be revived successfully until 1802. This year our old friend Charles Williamson, along with Thomas Morris, Joseph Annin, John Harris, and Wilhelmus Mynderse, incorporated the Cayuga Bridge Company to contract for a span across the swampy northern end of Cayuga Lake. Swartwood & Deman of New York City handled the construction.

Williamson managed to keep busy; never a problem for him. His outpost at Williamsburgh continued growing as Charles Scholl built first a grist mill, and later a distillery, on a creek flowing down to the Genesee. The Seneca, his nearby neighbors at Big Tree, signed a treaty with the state, selling their lands for $100,000, and promising to remain within a reservation of less than 200,000 acres. Land around the area of the future Letchworth Park was ceded to Mary Jemison. At another Williamson site Lucius Carey began publising the Geneva Gazette and Genesee Advertiser, using the first printing press in Ontario County. Troy also began a newspaper, its first, the Farmers' Oracle.

Albany continued extending its political control westward, passing a law in June to regulate salt production and control saltwork leases in the central part of the state. William Stevens was appoionted the first Superintendent of Onondaga Salt Springs.

A new settlement was established at Indian Landing, at the then south end of Irondequoit Bay. Named Tryon Town, it occupied the now landocked site which is Rochester's Ellison Park. (The bay has receded since 1797). Across the state, carpenters and boatwrights found work. Construction would soon begin in Albany on a repository for state archives, to be known as the State Hall. On a smaller scale, a dwelling was built at Kinderhook, along the Hudson to the south. Martin Van Buren would purchase the Federal-style home in 1841. And, at the mouth of the Genesee River, Eli Granger launched the 300-ton vessel Jemima. It was the first schooner built in the U. S.


Not So Rapid Transit

If you amble out to Buffalo sometime, lake effect off Erie permitting, and drive along Transit Road to hit some of the plazas, you'll be traveling a path laid down in the year 1798. It was in March of that year that Joseph Ellicott and the 130 men of his surveying crew, employed by the Holland Land Company, set off to mark the company's territory. (Feminists might claim it's a perfect job for males). The crew's task was to run a north-south line extending from Lake Ontario all the way to the Pennsylvania border. There was no national standard for a foot yet, in the young United States, so Ellicott collected a number of different rulers, took their average length and made up new, standardized rulers, which he attached to the cover of each of the survey's field books. This transit line was going to be accurate! Such attention to detail would help prolong the project; it wasn't completed until the year 1800. Meanwhile, the company made its first sale around this time, to William Johnston, who bought two square miles of land at the mouth of Buffalo Creek. He would erect a sawmill and four other buildings at the site.

The frontier was a good place to be right now, in some ways. At the other end of the state, in New York City, Yellow Fever would strike down nearly 2900 people in 1798. In spite of the epidemic, or probably after its passing, the Park Theatre opened in lower Manhattan. And John Stephens continued his experiments on the Collect Pond. Rival steamboater Robert J. Livingston stuck his neck way out. He secured an exclusive contract from the state legislature to operate a steamboat on all waters of the state for twenty years. Just one catch. He had to build such a vessel, within a year. The legislature also authorized the storage of colonial records in Albany's new State Hall. Some records, damaged while sequestered on board a ship moored in the Hudson River during the Revolution, would have to be transcribed.

Small pockets of activity continued to spring up across the state. Cayuga County got its first printing press. Fort Schuyler became a village and changed its name to Utica. The Onondaga salt works continued to grow, as did the Pulteney properties under Charles Williamson-the first Baptist Church of Bath was organized, and over on the Genesee, Tobias Newcomb built a windmill at Williamsburgh. Total cost of construction-$20. A little farther south, in the hills above Dansville, a loud booming noise one day grabbed the attention of the pioneers in the valley below. When they traced the source of the sound they discovered an underground spring had suddenly surfaced. They named it Breakout Creek and went back to work. It would be another 53 years before entrepreneur Nathaniel Bingham would divert the creek's waters for a health spa. Trend-chasing hypochondriacs would then put the village on the map.

1999, David Minor
1703, . . . 1784, 1785, 1786, 1787, 1788, 1789, 1790, 1791, 1792, 1793, 1794, 1795, 1796, 1797, 1798, 1799, 1800, 1801, 1802, 1803, 1804, 1805, 1806, 1807, 1808, 1809, 1810, 1811, 1812, 1813, 1814, 1815, 1816, 1817, 1818, 1819, 1820, 1821, 1822, 1823, 1824, 1825, 1826 , 1827, 1828, Pt. 1
The Eagles Byte New York City / State Timeline is from David Minor's radio scripts for Simon Pontin's Salmagundy radio program on WXXI-FM (91.5). David can be heard every Saturday morning at 10:15 talking about various aspects of world history.
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