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NSG Meeting March 11, 2006



Bill Treichler

March 11 was a beautiful sunny, warm day when 26 members of the New Society of the Genesee gathered at the Yard of Ale restaurant in the old Canal House that had been a stop along the Genesee Valley Canal. After a luncheon at 12:30, everyone discussed the meeting place choices that Don Shilling, Alan Oberst, Emerson Klees, Richard Reisem, Gerry Muhl, David Minor and Gary Bogue had selected for consideration at a planning meeting earlier. We tried to select dates that would be convenient for most members. The schedule of dates and places to visit for this season follows:

April 22, 2006
Oliver House and L. Caroline Underwood Museums and Seneca Mills in Penn Yan
Meet at Oliver House, corner of Main and Chapel at 10:30
May 27, 2006
Morgan-Manning House at Brockport
June 24, 2006
Creamery Museum at Skaneateles, 10:30 - 11:30
Lunch on lakeboat ride, 12:00 - 2:00, $25 reservation.
July 22?
Buffalo Waterfront and Boat Tour
September 9, 2006
Glenn Curtiss Museum, 10:30; Pleasant Valley Winery, 2:30
October 7, 2006
Rochester Historical Society (Gun and War Exhibit), 10:30; Lunch at the Brighton;
Walking tour of East Avenue with Don Shilling and Richard Reisem.

Lily Dale community close to Canastota had been proposed for August, but it is quite far away and not many people expressed much interest, so it was dropped. Another site may be chosen later for August.

George Shaw suggested that members reply to meeting notices with their intentions of attendance so that arrangements can be made at eating places for enough space. In future email announcements, there will be a reminder to reply if you plan to attend, and a telephone number to call will be placed on the postal card notices.


Richard Reisem told us his new book, Historic New York — Architectural Journeys in the Empire State will be published in June. It has eleven chapters covering outstanding architectural examples located in eleven regions of the state: Long Island, New York City, Hudson Valley, Capital District, Adirondacks, Mohawk Valley, Thousand Islands, Finger Lakes, Western Erie Canal, Southern Tier, and the Niagara Frontier. There are more than 300 photographs, all in full color, with many double-page spreads and full-page illustrations. Andy Olenick was the photographer for this book as well as Richard's other books: Erie Canal Legacy, Classic Buffalo, and 200 Years of Rochester Architecture and Gardens. The book is 9 ¼" by 12 ¼" with 208 pages, plus hard covers and a colored dust jacket. The price will be $49.95. There is a pre-publication offer of $35 for a single book or $30 each for four or more books on orders and payments made between now and June 15, 2006. Delivery will be late June or early July. Go to to order online. Or phone orders to Landmark Society, 585-546-7029, extension 10, and charge to a credit card or mail in a check.

Donovan Shilling passed out descriptive pages introducing a new book he is preparing which is a fictionalized account of the long-ago adventures of a relative who lived on a canal boat and was responsible for leading the horses and mules that towed the barge. Don then read us a chapter from his A Towpath Trail— Adventures on the old Erie Canal. We all enjoyed the story and are looking forward to reading it as soon as it is available. Here is the scene and the principal characters in Donovan Shilling's new book, A Towpath Trail:


The Erie Canal season of 1884 with many canal-side hamlets, villages and cities from Black Rock on Lake Erie to Albany's Canal Basin and to Pier Nine on the East River.


The Rough & Ready, a two mule-powered freight boat.


Captain Ely Perkins, skipper and owner of the Rough & Ready. Aging, approximately 50, taciturn, frequently smokes a pipe, wears side burns and a beard and exhibits a stern outward appearance, but is quite paternalistic toward his crew while aboard his vessel.

Rufus Spencer (Rufe), steersman, tall and muscular, also taciturn, enjoys some "medication," occasionally imbibing assorted spirits, slow to anger but is the freight boat's champion holding his own in a canal or dock-side donnybrook.

Cletus Starbuck (Clete), second steersman, most educated of his crewmates, having attended what amounts almost to high school, can read, write and do figures. Cletus is very loquacious, spins long yarns and often brags about all he's discovered while working on the Erie Canal. He is always seeking an audience to share what he's learned about the canal's construction, its colorful characters, lore and history.

James McClain (Jamie), the vessel's cook, portly Irish, loves to eat and fish. Can often be heard singing or whistling an Irish chantey. He's a large part of the reason for the Rough & Ready's high morale.

Jacob O'Rourke (Jake), one of the vessel's two hoggees, age 15, comes from a lower New York City tenement, enjoys singing, playing his tin whistle and is often seen whittling on any piece of wood that's handy. Speaks with a broad Irish brogue and is a great pal to his fellow hoggee.

Joshua Ford (Josh), the second hoggee, main character in the story, age 13, has run away from a farm outside of Homer, New York, intending to join the circus, but found a new home on the Rough & Ready. His adventures during the summer and fall of 1884 create the tale.

Wellington, Jamie McClain's cat.

Buck and Bright; Bad News and Ole Sunshine, mule teams.

Story length: 186 pages, 28 chapters, numerous illustrations.

Following our meal, members were reluctant to leave and stood around visiting for some time, exchanging stories and observations. We all appreciate that the Yard of Ale willingly provides us with separate checks so we can avoid the calculation of the amount each diner owes toward a single payment.

© 2006, Bill Treichler
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