New York City / State Timeline
from Eagles Byte by David Minor
Year-by-year tracing the growth of the early days of the Republic
In June, 1818, Robert Fulton's steamship Fulton I was temporarily taken out of moth-balls and its brasswork was buffed up. The occasion was a New York City visit by President Madison with ceremonies including a harbor excursion to Staten Island. New York State waterways were as busy as ever this year. At the other end of the state, surveyor William Peacock began a survey of Buffalo's harbor, while construction got under way on the city's South Pier. On August 23rd, the first steamboat on the Great Lakes, Walk-in-the-Water, left the city on its maiden voyage, stopping at Dunkirk, and continuing on west to Cleveland and Detroit. Peacock's conclusions would soon put an end to the rivalry between Black Rock and Buffalo for location of the port. His boss, Joseph Ellicott, was able to report to his superiors at the Holland Land Company that all of their best land had now been sold. The city spawned its first suburb, as Amherst became a Town in its own right.
The settlement at the Falls of the Genesee gained a new permanent resident, as Nathaniel Rochester moved up from West Bloomfield and settled at the corner of today's Exchange and Spring streets. This growing community annexed the village of Frankfort, becoming a village in its own right and adopting Nathaniel's last name to become Rochesterville, with a population of one thousand. On April 18th, the Great Lakes shipping season on the Genesee opened. In the next four months 1158 bushels of pearl ash, 26,000 barrels of flour and 120,000 barrel staves, with a total value for the season of $300,000, passed through. Business was growing so rapidly that when the Harford Mill burned to the ground this year, owners Matthew and Francis Brown immediately rebuilt, appropriately naming the new structure the Phoenix Mill. Maritime trade by way of the Genesee was indeed healthy. Trade would become more so in a few years, as components of Clinton's Ditch began taking shape off to the east. Construction began this year on a new aqueduct to carry the canal's water across the Irondequoit Valley. Further east, on June 14th, the first loaded boat passed through the newly-completed locks of the Seneca and Cayuga Canal at Seneca Falls. Tolls were 50 cents. The Seneca fell no longer.
Rochesterville was getting religion, much needed in some people's opinion, considering that once this year the village band had become too drunk to rehearse. Baptists began meeting informally. The Reverend Comfort Williams of Ogdensburg was installed as the city's first pastor, for the Presbyterian Society, and Saint Luke's Episcopal Church was formed. Clerical disapproval didn't stop one entrepreneur; Azel Ensworth built a tavern over at the Four Corners this year. Another business man, freed Black, Austin Steward, opened a general store.
Other communities also saw growth in 1818. West of Rochester in Le Roy, five businesses opened between South Street and the Public Square. Down toward New York City another village, Cold Spring, was born, mainly to service a new foundry built to supply the West Point military academy across the Hudson. A 30-man operation this year, by the opening of the Civil War the complex would sprawl over a 100-acre site, and employ 1,400 workers.
New York always has been a fecund feeding ground for movers and shakers. Not to mention other interesting types. The year 1818 was certainly no different. Three movers of the future were born in tiny, out-of-the-way villages. William G. Fargo, born in Pompey on May 20th, would leave American Express in 1852 to team up with Henry Wells, becoming a true mover. Suffragist Amelia Jenks Bloomer, born in Homer one week later, would help the state's female activists pioneer the women's rights movement in a few decades. And on November 21st Aurora gave us Ta-ya-da-wah kugh, better known as Lewis Henry Morgan, who would grow fascinated with Native American remains and culture, become an honorary Seneca, and lead the way in the science of Indian ethnography. Amos Eaton, the mover and shaker who would make a study of, well-moving and shaking, honored the request of Governor De Witt Clinton to deliver lectures to the state legislature. He wrote as well as he talked, publishing an index to the geology of the northern states and profiling that of the region between Boston and south-central New York.
The current crop of Ms and Ss, from elite to immigrant, was busy, especially in the southeast part of the state. Cadwallader David Colden, grandson of the former colony's governor, entered the state senate, but didn't stay for long. By the end of the year he was appointed mayor by Governor Clinton, and would serve for three terms. They were one-year terms, but still. The office wouldn't become elective until 1834. Terms were expanded to two years in 1849. He traveled down the Hudson to assume office, leaving behind a city that had just acquired a State Library, located in the upper stories of the Capitol building. On his way down river, he would have passed the Dutchess County town of Clinton, where a future councilman had just acquired a tract of land. Three years from now a new town would be spun off from Clinton and named Hyde Park. The young mans name? James Roosevelt.
A young Irish immigrant named Alexander Turney Stewart arrived in New York, and began teaching school. He opened a small dry goods store in 1823 and never looked back. Constantly expanding and moving uptown, he was well positioned during the panic of 1837 and began buying up remnants from bankrupt rivals and selling vast quantities at low prices. He became a millionaire, set his eye on Long Island and bought up lots of lots. Today it's called Garden City. Manhattan continued growing rapidly in 1818. Its first savings bank began operations on March 26th. Its first art gallery, the Rotunda, also opened this year. Like a future rival, the Metropolitan, it was built in a park, the one surrounding City Hall. Readers of Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence, or those who saw the film version, may remember the wealthy Mrs. Manson Mingott. Wharton based the character on an aunt, Mary Mason Jones, who built a house on Chambers Street, between Church Street and West Broadway. It was the first in the city to have gas lighting. And a bathtub.
We opened with births, so we'll balance things out with a death. He was Culluloo Telewana, the last of Long Island's Rockaway Indians. He'd probably be forgotten today if it weren't for Abraham Hewlett who as a boy had known him, and who erected an 8-foot granite stone in 1888, in his memory.
© 2002, David Minor
The Eagles Byte New York City / State Timeline is from David Minor's radio scripts for Simon Pontin's Salmagundy radio program on WXXI-FM (91.5). David can be heard every Saturday morning at 10:15 talking about various aspects of world history.