The Crooked Lake Review

Winter 2001

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Remembering the

Genesee Valley Canal


Richard Palmer

Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV Part V, Part VI

Part VI — Conclusion

Surveying on the Genesee Valley Canal

In 1836, William N. Cobb, a young surveyor from the vicinity of Ithaca, N. Y., found himself on one of the Genesee Valley Canal survey teams. This is the second part of his journal.

Monday, October 3rd, 1836 - Went down to the new dam which is being built across the Genesee River, and starting from the ridge of the dam we ran a line up to Mount Morris in the course of the day. This dam is being built upon the site of the old one which was swept away last fall by the freshet. There was this evening a school meeting at our boarding house, during a part of which I was present. The first thing they did was to fill the vacancies in the office of trustee, the three of which had been appointed to that office positively refusing to serve; so also did 6 or 8 others nominated this evening.

Tuesday, Oct. 4th, 1836 - It has rained almost incessantly during the whole of this day so that we did not go into the field, but spent the day in the office. The surveyors were engaged in taking maps of their courses from their field books and some others in drafting and lettering.

For my own part I spent the day in reading, writing and looking at the work of the rest. There was this afternoon a sale of real estate in this village at auction. Village lots went at from 25 to 34 dollars a foot. It is generally thought that the sales were very low considering the prospect of the canal's coming through or near the village. Bought a pair of boots price $3.

Wednesday, Oct. 5th, 1836 - It has snowed almost incessantly during the whole of this day so that we stayed in the office. I went this evening to hear a lecture delivered, on the growth and prosperity of our nation and her moral and physical superiority, compared with other nations.

The speaker dwelt with much enthusiasm on the fitness of our country taking into consideration her situation, soil and extent, to become at some future day the most moral, intelligent, powerful and prosperous nation on the globe, as well as the adaptation of our government to such a course of things.

Thursday, Oct. 6th, 1836 - It has been wet and squally for the most part of the day so that we have not got out. Spent the time at the office helping Mr. Mills look over the minutes, &c. It is said that the snow is from 8 to 10 inches up in the adjacent country.

Friday, Oct. 7th, 1836 - Went out after breakfast and continued our line from the dam, which we commenced on Monday last, and run about 2 miles in the course of the day, returning to Mt. Morris at night. On calling at the stage house late in the evening I found my trunk had just come in from Rochester.

Saturday, Oct. 8th, 1836 - Started out after breakfast and went about a mile and a half from Mt. Morris village to our work - run about one and a half miles in the course of the day - took a bowl o f bread & milk for dinner - paying 12 cents for it. Returned to Mt. Morris at night and spent the evening inking the figures in our books which had been kept with pencil.

Sunday, Oct. 9th, 1836 - Attended service this afternoon and also this evening at the Presbyterian Church. Had no minister but had a very good sermon read each time. Received a letter from my father with my key enclosed & answered it this forenoon.

Monday, Oct. 10th, 1836 - Started out after breakfast & went about three miles to our work - run about 1 miles and returned to Mt. Morris in the afternoon. Received of Mr. H. P. Hills this evening five dollars & settled with Mr. Beab all accounts up to this evening after supper.

Tuesday, Oct. 11th, 1836 - Started out after breakfast with a view to adjust the level and go to work; but found it a very difficult task to adjust the level and finally did not get it fixed before night so we adjourned until tomorrow. There was a person charged with the crime of forgery examined before the justice in the evening & committed to jail to await his trial.

Wednesday, Oct. 12th, 1836 - Finished adjusting the level this morning & went after dinner to work to run about of a mile and returned to Mt. Morris at night.

Thursday, Oct. 13th, 1836 - Went out this morning after breakfast about 1 mile to work and run about 1 miles in the course of the day and returned to Mt. Morris at night. Went to hear a lecture on education this evening. I have heard (to speak familiarly) smarter men - but taken all in all it was a very good lecture & contained much good sense - the speaker concluded with soliciting subscribers for the Common School Assistant - and immediately obtained subscribers for 21 copies of the same.

Friday, Oct. 14th, 1836 - It has been rainy today for the greater part of the time so that we have worked in the office all day. Mr. Dexter & his party came down from Dansville last night & are going to Scottsville which is down the river within 12 miles of Rochester to commence work on Monday morning next.

Saturday, Oct. 15th, 1836 - Went out after breakfast this morning with a view to test the expedience of taking the canal out of the village by a different route from any yet surveyed. After running a short distance the route was deemed impracticable. Accordingly we left it and returned to the office and did not go into the field again during the day but assisted Mr. Marsh to adjust his level in the afternoon.

Sunday, Oct. 16th, 1836 - Attended meeting at the Methodist house this afternoon - had an exhortation from a member of the church but no preaching. Mr. F. C. Mills arrived in town this afternoon.

Portage, Allegany County, Monday, Oct. 17th, 1836 - Started for Portage this morning after breakfast and paid a man 25 cents to carry me within two or three miles of Portage. Arrived at Portage in the afternoon and took supper and dinner in the same meal. Soon after our arrival it started to snow and snowed very fast for two or three hours leaving the snow 1 or 2 inches deep on account of which we did not go out this afternoon.

Portage, Tuesday, Oct. 18th, 1836 - Started out after breakfast and ran our line through the woods and snow in the course of the day. Stayed at a private house over night.

Mount Morris, Wednesday, Oct. 19th, 1836 - Got breakfast and started very early - ran our line about 1 or 2 miles by noon. Then started for Mount Morris on foot. We arrived at Mt. Morris at about half past four - having travelled 12 or 14 miles the greater part of the way in the rain.

Thursday, Oct. 20th, 1836 - Worked in the office all day making profiles of the canal.

Friday, Oct. 21st, 1836 - Worked in the office making profiles and preparing profiles, maps &c. for the inspection of the commissioners who are daily expected to arrive.

Saturday, Oct. 22nd, 1836 - Spent the day principally at the office in making estimates of the excavation at some o f the deep cuts on the west side of the river in the vicinity of Portage. the commissioners arrived in town this afternoon accompanied by Mr. F. C. Mills, Chief Engineer. They came to the office and examined the maps and profiles of the different routes which we have surveyed preparatory to decision in relation to the location of the canal which will probably be made after return and hold a session at Rochester.

Sunday, Oct. 23, 1836 - I attended service this forenoon at the Episcopal Church. The manner in which the service was performed was quite novel to me having never before attended public worship in an Episcopal Church. Went this afternoon to the Methodist meeting. Had a sermon from the new preacher just from Conference, whose name I have not yet learned.

Monday, Oct. 24th, 1836 - Adjusted the level this forenoon and after dinner went down to the river and ran a line up as far as Mount Morris in the course of the afternoon.

Tuesday, Oct. 25th, 1836 - The weather was quite cold this morning & did not finally moderate much in the course of the day. We started out after breakfast and continued our line until noon.

Our compassman broke his staff this forenoon on account of which we did not go out this afternoon. I embraced the opportunity to trade a little with some of our merchants and purchased the following articles to wit:

1 piece of lead 0 00

2 blank books 17

1 money purse 37

1 tooth brush 25

Total 79

Wednesday, Oct. 26th, 1836 - It has been considering the season of the year a very cold day. We have been out in the field all day. Received a letter from home.

Thursday, Oct. 27th, 1836 - Worked in the field all day 2 or 3 miles out of town, returning to Mount Morris at night.

Friday, Oct. 28th, 1836 - Worked in the office all day in a profile of the route surveyed yesterday. Purchased this day a pair of suspenders - price 62 cents. I attended a singing school in our village this evening which was conducted by a gentleman from Boston.

Saturday, Oct 29th, 1836 - Finished the profile which I commenced yesterday this forenoon and wrote a letter home this afternoon.

Sunday, Oct. 30th, 1836 - Attended service this forenoon at the Methodist Church and this afternoon and evening at the Presbyterian Church had a very good sermon at each of the churches.

Monday, Oct. 31st, 1836 - Spent the forenoon in the office. Went out in the forenoon to adjust the instrument, but did not succeed.

Tuesday, Nov. 1st, 1836 - Worked in the field most all day. Returning toward night we called in at the stoneware manufactory and I was much pleased with the operation. It was truly amusing to with what ease the potter would make a jug grow up as it were, in his hands from a solid mass of clay.

This is the end of the journal.
Part 1, Part II, Part III, Part IV Part V, Part VI
2000, Richard Palmer
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