The Story Of The Rome, Watertown, And Ogdensburg RailRoad - novelonlinefull.com
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_President_, ORVILLE HUNGERFORD, Watertown _Secretary_, CLARKE RICE, Watertown _Treasurer_, O. V. BRAINARD, Watertown _Superintendent_, R. B. DOXTATER, Watertown
S. N. Dexter, New York William C. Pierrepont, Brooklyn John H. Whipple, New York Norris M. Woodruff, Watertown Samuel Buckley, Watertown Jerre Carrier, Cape Vincent Clarke Rice, Watertown Robert B. Doxtater, New York Orville Hungerford, Watertown William Smith, Watertown Edmund Kirby, Brownville Theophilus Peugnet, Cape Vincent
The summer of 1847 was spent chiefly in perfecting the organization and financial plans of the new road, in eliminating a certain opposition to it within its own ranks and in strengthening its morale. At the initial meeting of the Board of Directors, William Smith had been allowed two dollars a day for soliciting subscriptions while Messrs. Hungerford, Pierrepont, Doxtater and Dexter were appointed a committee to go to New York and Boston for the same purpose. A campaign fund of $500 was allotted for this entire purpose.
The question of finances was always a delicate and a difficult one. In the minutes of the Board for May 10, 1848, I find that the question of where the road should bank its funds had been a vexed one, indeed. It was then settled by dividing the amount into twentieths, of which the Jefferson County Bank should have eight, the Black River, four, Hungerford's, three, the Bank of Watertown, three, and Wooster Sherman's two.
Gradually these funds acc.u.mulated. The subscriptions had been solicited upon a partial payment basis and these initial payments of five and ten percent were providing the money for the expenses of organization and careful survey. This last was accomplished in the summer of 1848, by Isaac W. Crane, who had been engaged as Chief Engineer of the property at $2500 a year. Mr. Crane made careful resurveys of the route--omitting Pulaski this time; to the very great distress of that village--and estimated the complete cost of the road at about $1,250,000. It is interesting to note that its actual cost, when completed, was $1,957,992.
In that same summer, Mr. Brainard retired as Treasurer of the company and was succeeded by Daniel Lee, of Watertown, whose annual compensation was fixed at $800. Later, Mr. Lee increased this, by taking upon his shoulders the similar post of the Potsdam & Watertown. The infant Watertown & Rome found need of offices for itself. It engaged quarters over Tubbs' Hat Store, which modestly it named The Railroad Rooms and there it was burned out in the great fire of Watertown, May 13, 1849.
All of these were indeed busy months of preparation. There were locomotives to be ordered. Four second-hand engines, as we shall see in a moment, were bought at once in New England, but the old engine _Cayuga_, which the Schenectady & Utica had offered the Rome road at a bargain-counter price of $2500 finally was refused. Negotiations were then begun with the Taunton Locomotive Works for the construction of engines which would be quite the equal of any turned out in the land up to that time; and which were to be delivered to the company, at its terminal at Rome--at a cost of $7150 apiece. Horace W. Woodruff, of Watertown, was given the contract for building the cars for the new line; he was to be paid for them, one-third in the stock of the company and two-thirds in cash. His car-works were upon the north bank of the Black River, upon the site now occupied by the Wise Machine Company and it was necessary to haul the cars by oxen to the rails of the new road, then in the vicinity of Watertown Junction. Yet despite the fact that his works in Watertown never had a railroad siding Woodruff later attained quite a fame as a builder of sleeping-cars. His cars at one time were used almost universally upon the railroads of the Southwest.
Construction began upon the new line at Rome, obviously chosen because of the facility with which materials could be brought to that point, either by rail or by ca.n.a.l--although no small part of the iron for the road was finally brought across the Atlantic and up the St. Lawrence to Cape Vincent. Nat Hazeltine is credited with having turned the first bit of sod for the line. The gentle nature of the country to be traversed by the new railroad--the greater part of it upon the easy slopes at the easterly end of Lake Ontario--presented no large obstacles, either to the engineers or the contractors, these last, Messrs. Phelps, Matoon and Barnes, of Springfield, Ma.s.sachusetts. The rails, as provided in the extension of the road's charter, were fifty-six pounds to the yard (to-day they are for the greater part in excess of 100) and came from the rolling-mills of Guest & Company, in Wales. The excellence of their material and their workmanship is evidenced by the fact that they continued in service for many years, without a single instance of breakage. When they finally were removed it was because they were worn out and quite unfit for further service.
Construction once begun, went ahead very slowly, but unceasingly. By the fall of 1850 track was laid for about twenty-four miles north of Rome and upon September 10th of that year, a pa.s.senger service was installed between Rome and Camden. Fares were fixed at three cents a mile--later a so-called second-cla.s.s, at one and one-half cents a mile was added--and a brisk business started at once.
It was not until May of the following year that the iron horse first poked his nose into the county of Jefferson. The (Watertown) _Reformer_ announced in its issue of May 1 that year that the six miles of track already laid that spring would come into use that very week, bringing the completed line into the now forgotten hamlet of Washingtonville in the north part of Oswego county. Two weeks later, it predicted it would be in Jefferson.
Its prediction was accurately fulfilled. On the twenty-eighth day of the month, at Pierrepont Manor, this important event formally came to pa.s.s and was attended by a good-sized conclave of prominent citizens, who afterwards repaired to the home of Mr. William C. Pierrepont, not far from the depot, where refreshments were served. The rest your historian leaves to your imagination.
At that day and hour it seemed as if Pierrepont Manor was destined to become an important town. The land office of its great squire was still doing a thriving business. For Pierrepont Manor then, and for ten years afterwards, was a railroad junction, with a famous eating-house as one of its appendages. It seems that Sackett's Harbor had decided that it was not going to permit itself to be outdone in this railroad business by Cape Vincent. If the Harbor could not realize its dream of a railroad to Saratoga it might at least build one to the new Watertown & Rome road there at Pierrepont Manor, and so gain for itself a direct route to both New York and Boston. And as a fairly immediate extension, a line on to Pulaski, which might eventually reach Syracuse, was suggested.
At any rate, on May 23, 1850, the Sackett's Harbor & Ellisburgh Railroad was incorporated. Funds were quickly raised for its construction, and it was builded almost coincidently with the Watertown & Rome. Thomas Stetson, of Boston, had the contract for building the line; being paid $150,000; two-thirds in cash and one-third in its capital stock. It was completed and opened for business by the first day of January, 1853. It was not destined, however, for a long existence. From the beginning it failed to bring adequate returns--the Watertown & Rome management quite naturally favoring its own water terminal at Cape Vincent. By 1860 it was in a fearful quagmire. In November of that year, W. T. Searle, of Belleville, its President and Superintendent, wrote to the State Engineer and Surveyor at Albany, saying that the road had reorganized itself as the Sackett's Harbor, Rome & New York, and that it was going to take a new try at life.
But it was a hard outlook.
"The engine used by the company," Mr. Searle wrote, "belongs to persons, who purchased it for the purpose of the operation of the road when it was known by the corporate name of the Sackett's Harbor & Ellisburgh, and has cost the corporation nothing up to the end of this year for its use. All the cars used on the road (there were only four) except the pa.s.senger-car, are in litigation, but in the possession of individuals, princ.i.p.ally stockholders in this road, who have allowed the corporation the use of them free of expense...."
Yet despite this gloom, the little road was keeping up at least the pretense of its service. It had two trains a day; leaving Pierrepont Manor at 9:40 a. m. and 5:00 p. m. and after intermediate stops at Belleville, Henderson and Smithville reaching Sackett's Harbor at 10:45 a. m. (a connection with the down boat for Kingston and for Ogdensburgh) and at 6:30 p. m. The trains returned from the Harbor at 11:00 a. m. and 7:00 p.
Reorganization, the grace of a new name, failed to save this line. The Civil War broke upon the country, with it times of surpa.s.sing hardness and in 1862 it was abandoned; the following year its rails torn up forever.
Yet to this day one who is even fairly acquainted with the topography of Jefferson County may trace its path quite clearly.
Here ended then, rather ignominiously to be sure, a fairly ambitious little railroad project. And while Sackett's Harbor was eventually to have rail transport service restored to it, Belleville was henceforth to be left nearly stranded--until the coming of the improved highway and the motor-propelled vehicle upon it. Yet it was Belleville that had furnished most of the inspiration and the capital for the Sackett's Harbor & Ellisburgh. And even though in its old records I find Mr. M. Loomis, of the Harbor, listed as its Treasurer, Secretary, General Freight Agent and General Ticket Agent--a regular Pooh Bah sort of a job--W. T. Searle, of Belleville, was its President and Superintendent; and A. d.i.c.kinson, of the same village, its Vice-President; George Clarke and A. J. Barney among the Directors. These men had dared much to bring the railroad to their village and failing eventually must finally have conceded much to the impotence of human endeavor.
In the summer of 1851 work upon the Watertown & Rome steadily went forward and at a swifter pace than ever before. All the way through to Cape Vincent the contractors were at work upon the new line. They were racing against time itself almost to complete the road. There were valuable mail contracts to be obtained and upon these hung much of the immediate financial success of the road.
In the spring of 1922, by a rare stroke of good fortune, the author of this book was enabled to obtain firsthand the story of the construction of the northern section of the line. At Kane, Pa., he found a venerable gentleman, Mr. Richard T. Starsmeare, who at the extremely advanced age of ninety-five years was able to tell with a marvelous clearness of the part that he, himself, had played in the construction of the line between Chaumont and Cape Vincent. With a single wave of his hand he rolled back seventy long years and told in simple fashion the story of his connection with the Watertown & Rome:
Young Starsmeare, a native of London, at the age of twenty had run away to sea. He crossed on a lumber-ship to Quebec and slowly made his way up the valley of the St. Lawrence. The year, 1850, had scarce been born, before he found himself in the stout, gray old city of Kingston in what was then called Upper Canada. It was an extremely hard winter and the St. Lawrence was solidly frozen. So that Starsmeare had no difficulty whatsoever in crossing on the ice to Cape Vincent. That was on the sixteenth day of January. Sleighing in the North Country was good. The English lad had little difficulty in picking up a ride here and a ride there until he was come to Henderson Harbor to the farm of a man named Leffingwell. Here he found employment.
But Starsmeare had not come to America to be a farmer. And so, a year later, when the spring was well advanced, he borrowed a half-dollar from his employer and rode in the stage to Sackett's Harbor. That ancient port was a gay place there at the beginning of the fifties. Its piers were so crowded that vessels lay in the offing, their white sails clearly outlined against the blue of the harbor and the sky, awaiting an opportunity to berth against them. But the vessels had no more than a pa.s.sing interest for the young Englishman who saw them in all the rush and bustle of the Sackett's Harbor of 1850. For men in the lakeside village were whispering of the coming of the railroad, of the magic presence of the locomotive that so soon was to be visited upon them.
At these rumors the pulse of young Richard Starsmeare quickened. He had seen the railroad already--back home. He had seen it in his home city of London, had seen it cutting in great slits through Camden Town and Somers Town, riding across Lambeth upon seemingly unending brick viaducts. His desire formed itself. He would go to work upon this railroad.... The master of a small coasting ship sailing out from Sackett's Harbor that very afternoon offered him a lift as far as Three Mile Bay. At Three Mile Bay they were to have the railroad. Yet when he arrived there were no signs whatsoever of the iron horse or his special pathway.
"At Chaumont you will find it," they told him there. Off toward Chaumont he trudged. And presently was awarded by the sight of bright yellow stakes set in the fields. He followed these for a little way and found teams and wagons at work. Here was the railroad. The railroad needed men.
Specifically it needed young Starsmeare. He found the boss contractor; and went to work for him. He helped get stone out of a nearby quarry for Chaumont bridge. That winter he a.s.sisted in the building of Chaumont bridge; a rather pretentious enterprise for those days.
Steadily the Watertown & Rome went ahead. On the Fourth of July, 1851, it was completed to Adams, which was made the occasion of a mighty Independence Day celebration in that brisk village. Upon the arrival of the first train at its depot, a huge parade was formed which marched up into the center of the town, where Levi H. Brown, of Watertown, read the Declaration of Independence, and William Dewey, who had made the building of the Watertown & Rome his life work, delivered a smashing address.
Afterwards the procession reformed and returned to the depot where a big dinner was served and the drinking of toasts was in order. There were fireworks in the evening and the Adams Guards honored the occasion with a torchlight parade.
For some weeks the line halted there at Adams. A citizen of Watertown wrote in his diary in August of that year that he had had a fearful time getting home from New York "... The cars only ran to Adams, and I had to have my horse sent down there from Watertown. I had a hard time for a young man...." he complains navely.
The railroad was, however, opened to Watertown, its headquarters, its chief town, and the inspiration that had brought it into being, on the evening of September 5, 1851. At eleven o'clock that evening, up to the front of the pa.s.senger station, then located near the foot of Stone Street, the first locomotive came into Watertown. I am not at all sure which one of the road's small fleet it was. It had started building operations with four tiny second-hand locomotives which it had garnered chiefly from New England--the _Lion_, the _Roxbury_, the _Commodore_ and the _Chicopee_. Of these the _Lion_ was probably the oldest, certainly the smallest. It had been builded by none other than the redoubtable George Stephenson, himself, in England, some ten or fifteen years before it first came into Northern New York. It was an eight-wheeled engine, of but fourteen tons in weight. So very small was it in fact that it was of very little practical use, that Louis L. Grant, of Rome, who was one of the road's first repair-shop foreman, finally took off the light side-rods between the drivers--the _Lion_ was inside connected, after the inevitable British fashion, and had a V-hook gear and a variable cut-off--and gained an appreciable tractive power for the little engine.
But, at the best, she was hardly a practical locomotive, even for 1851.
And soon after the completion of the road to Cape Vincent she was relegated to the round-house there and stored against an emergency. That emergency came three or four years after the opening of the line. A horseman had ridden in great haste to the Cape from Rosiere--then known as LaBranche's Crossing--with news of possible disaster.
"The wood-pile's all afire at the Crossing," he shouted. "Ef the road is a goin' to have any fuel this winter you'd better be hustling down there."
Richard Starsmeare was on duty at the round-house. He hurriedly summoned the renowned Casey Eldredge, then and for many years afterwards a famed engineer of the Rome road and Peter Runk, the extra fireman there.
Together they got out the little _Lion_ and made her fast to a flat-car upon which had been put four or five barrels filled with water to extinguish the conflagration. It would have been a serious matter indeed to the road to have had that wood-pile destroyed. It was one of the chief sources of fuel supply of the new railroad. The _Lion_, with its tiny fire-fighting crew, went post-haste to LaBranche's. But when it had arrived the farmers roundabout already had managed to extinguish the flames.... Casey Eldredge reached for his watch.
"Gee," said he, "we shall have to be getting out of this. The Steamboat Express will be upon our heels. Peter, get the fire up again."
Peter got the fire up. He opened the old fire-box door and thrust an armful of pine into it. The blaze started up with a roar. And then the men who were on the engine found themselves lying on their backs on the gra.s.s beside the railroad....
They plowed the _Lion_ out of the fields around LaBranche's for the next two years. Her safety-valve was turned out of the ground by a farmer's boy a good two miles from the railroad. Starsmeare got it and carried it in his tool-box for years thereafter--he quickly rose to the post of engineer and in the days of the Civil War ran a locomotive upon the United States Military Railroad from Washington south through Alexandria to Orange Court House.
So perished the _Lion_. The little _Roxbury's_ fate was more prosaic. With the f.l.a.n.g.es upon her driving-wheels ground down and her frame set upon brick piers she became the first powerhouse of the Rome shops. The _Commodore_ and the _Chicopee_ were larger engines. With their names changed they entered the road's permanent engine fleet.
In the meantime the Watertown & Rome was having its own new locomotives builded for it in a shop in the United States. Four of the new engines were completed and ready for service about the time that the road was opened into Watertown. The fifth engine, the _Orville Hungerford_, built like its four immediate predecessors, by William Fairbanks, at Taunton, Ma.s.s., was not delivered until the 19th day of that same September, 1851.
The _Hungerford_ was quite the best bit of the road's motive-power, then and for a number of years thereafter. She was inside connected--her cylinders and driving-rods being placed inside of the wheels; always the fashion of British locomotives--and it was not until a long time afterwards that she was rebuilt in the Rome shops and the cylinders and rods placed outside, after the present-day American fashion. She was but twenty-one and a half tons in weight all-told, while her four predecessors, the _Watertown_, the _Rome_, the _Adams_ and the _Kingston_, each twenty-two tons and a half.
I have digressed. It still is the evening of the fifth of September, 1851.
A great crowd had congregated that evening in the neighborhood of that first, small temporary station at Watertown. The iron horse was greeted with many salvos of applause, the waving of a thousand torches and, it is to be presumed, with the presence of a band. Yet the real celebration over the arrival of the railroad was delayed for nineteen days, when there was a genuine _fete_. It was first announced by the _Reformer_ on the 4th of September, saying:
"... We are informed by R. B. Doxtater, Esq., the gentlemanly and efficient Superintendent of the Watertown & Rome Railroad, that the public celebration in connection with the opening of this road will take place on Wednesday, the 24th September. This will be a proud day for Jefferson County and we trust that she may wear the honor conferred upon her in a becoming manner. The known liberality of our citizens induces the belief that nothing will be left undone on their part to contribute to the general festivities and interest of the occasion...."
Nothing was left undone. The morning of the 24th of September was ushered in by a salute of guns; thirteen in all, one for each member of the Board of Directors. At 10 o'clock a parade formed in the Public Square, under the direction of General Abner Baker, Grand Marshal of the day, and in the following formation:
Music Watertown Citizens' Corps Order of The Sons of Temperance Fire Companies of Watertown and Rome Order of Odd Fellows Committee of Arrangements Corporate Authorities of Watertown, Kingston, Rome and Utica Clergy and the Press Officers, Directors, Engineers and Contractors of the Watertown & Rome Railroad Specially Invited Guests Strangers from Abroad and the Stockholders Citizens