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The Story Of The Rome, Watertown, And Ogdensburg RailRoad Part 9

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In 1857, the Black River & Utica Railroad was operating a single pa.s.senger train a day, between Utica and Boonville. It left Boonville at eight o'clock in the morning and arrived at Utica at 10:20 a. m. The return run left Utica at 4:00 p. m. and arrived at Boonville at 6:20 p. m.

Seventy-five cents was charged to ride from Utica to Trenton and $1.25 from Utica to Boonville. The little road then had four locomotives, the _T. S. Faxton_, the _J. b.u.t.terfield_, the _Boonville_ and the _D. C.

Jenney_. The _Faxton_ hauled the pa.s.senger train, and a young man from Boonville, who also owned a coal-yard there, was its conductor. His name was Richard Marcy and afterwards he was to come to prominent position, not only as exclusive holder of its coal-selling franchise for a number of years, but also as a politician of real parts.

In 1858, the little road doubled its pa.s.senger service. Now there were two pa.s.senger trains a day in each direction. And each was at least fairly well-filled, for the Black River & Utica held as its supreme attraction Trenton Falls. Indeed, if it had not been for the prominence of Trenton Falls as a resort in those years, it is quite probable that a good many folk in the State of New York would never have even heard of it.

[Ill.u.s.tration: THE BIRTH OF THE U. & B. R. The Boonville Pa.s.senger Train Standing in the Utica Station, Away Back in 1865.]



But Trenton Falls--Trenton Falls of the sixties, of the fifties--all the way back to the late twenties, if you please--here was a place to be reckoned! All the great travelers of the early half of the last century--European as well as American--made a point of visiting it. The most of them wrote of it in their memoirs. That indefatigable tourist, N.

P. Willis, could not miss this exquisitely beautiful place--alas, in these late days, the exquisitely beautiful place has fallen under the vandal hands of power engineers, and the exquisite beauty no longer is. Trenton Falls is but a memory. Yet the record of its one-time magnificence still remains.

"... The company of strangers at Trenton is made somewhat select by the expense and difficulty of access," wrote Willis, late in the fifties. The Black River & Utica had then barely been opened through to the Falls.

"Most who come stay two or three days, but there are usually boarders here who stay for a longer time.... Nothing could be more agreeable than the footing upon which these chance-met residents and their daily accessions of newcomers pa.s.s their evenings and take strolls up the ravine together; and for those who love country air and romantic rambles without 'dressing for dinner' or waltzing by a band, this is 'a place to stay.' These are not the most numerous frequenters of Trenton, however. It is a very popular place of resort from every village within thirty miles; and from ten in the morning until four in the afternoon there is gay work with the country girls and their beaux--swinging under trees, strolling about in the woods near the house, bowling, singing, and dancing--at all of which (owing, perhaps to a certain gypsy-ish promiscuosity of my nature that I never could aristocrify by the keeping of better company) I am delighted to be, at least, a looker-on. The average number of these visitors from the neighborhood is forty or fifty a day, so that breakfast and tea are the nearest approach to 'dress meals'--the dinner, though profuse and dainty in its fare, being eaten in what is commonly thought to be rather 'mixed society.' I am inclined to think that, from French intermixture, or some other cause, the inhabitants of this region are a little peculiar in their manners. There is an unconsciousness or carelessness of others'

observation and presence that I have hitherto seen only abroad. We have songs, duets and choruses, sung here by village girls, within the last few days, in a style that drew all in the house to listen very admiringly; and even the ladies all agree that there have been very pretty girls day after day among them. I find they are Fourierites to the extent of common hair-brush and other personal furniture--walking into anybody's room for the temporary repairs which belles require on their travels, and availing themselves of whatever was therein, with a simplicity, perhaps, a little transcendental. I had obtained the extra privilege for myself of a small dressing room apart, for which I presumed the various trousers and other merely masculine belongings would be protective scarecrows sufficient to keep out these daily female invaders, but, walking in yesterday, I found my combs and brushes in active employ, and two very tidy looking girls making themselves at home without shutting the door and no more disturbed by my _entree_ than if I had been a large male fly. As friends were waiting I apologized for intruding long enough to take a pair of boots from under their protection, but my presence was evidently no interruption. One of the girls (a tall figure, like a woman in two syllables connected by a hyphen at the waist) continued to look at the back of her dress in the gla.s.s, and the other went on threading her most prodigal chevelure with my doubtless very embarra.s.sed though unresisting hair-brush, and so I abandoned the field, as of course I was expected to do ... I do not know that they would go to the length of 'fraternizing'

one's tooth-brush, but with the exception of locking up that rather confidential article, I give in to the customs of the country, and have ever since left open door to the ladies...."

We have drifted away for the moment from the railroad. I wanted to show, through Mr. Willis's observant eyes, the Northern New York of the day that the Black River & Utica was first being builded. One other excerpt has observed the various sentiments, sacred and profane, penciled about the place and its excellent hotel and concludes:

"... Farther off ... a man records the arrival of himself 'and servant,'

below which is the following inscription:

"'G. Squires, wife and two babies. No servant, owing to the hardness of the times.'

"And under this again;

"'G. W. Douglas, and servant. No wife and babies, owing to the hardness of the times.'"

The tremendous popularity of Trenton Falls in those early days was a vast aid to the slender pa.s.senger possibilities of the early Black River & Utica. There was not much else for it south of Boonville. True it was that at that thriving village it tapped the fairly busy Black River Ca.n.a.l which led down to the navigable upper waters of that river. Yet this was hardly satisfactory to the progressive folk of the Black River valley.

They kept the project alive. And once when the old company's continued existence became quite hopeless they helped effect a complete reorganization of it, under the t.i.tle of the Utica & Black River. This was formally accomplished, March 31, 1860. As the Utica & Black River, the new railroad came, upon its completion into the North Country, into a season of continued prosperity. It did not share the vast reversals of fortune of its larger compet.i.tor, the Rome, Watertown & Ogdensburgh. Through all the years of its complete operation as a separate railroad it never missed its six per cent dividends. It was a delight, both to its owners and to the communities it served.

The Black River road thrust itself into Lowville in the fall of 1868. Four years later it had reached Carthage. The next year it was at the bank of the St. Lawrence, at Clayton. And before the end of the following year it again touched with its rails the sh.o.r.e of that great river; at both Morristown and Ogdensburgh. As railroads went, in those days, it was at last a through-route; with important connections at both of its terminals. At Utica it had fine shop and yard facilities adjoining the tracks of the New York Central & Hudson River Railroad, whose venerable pa.s.senger station it shared. And, when at one time, it sought a close personal connection for itself with the Ontario & Western there, it builded an expensive bridge connection over the New York Central tracks.

This bridge is now gone, but the piers remain.

At both Clayton and Ogdensburgh the Black River road possessed fine waterside terminals. Its station in the latter city still stands; for many years it has been the local storage warehouse of Armour & Co., of Chicago.

In the busy months that the Utica & Black River was building its line up through Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties, a railroad was being builded from it at Carthage down the lower valley of the Black River to Watertown and to Sackett's Harbor. This was distinctly a local enterprise; the Carthage, Watertown & Sackett's Harbor, financed and built almost entirely by Watertownians and retaining its separate corporate existence until but a few years ago. It was inspired not only by the great success of the Rome, Watertown & Ogdensburgh at that time, but by the quite natural desire of the one really industrial city of the North Country to have compet.i.tive railroad service. There have been few times when there were not in Watertown a generous plenty of men who stood ready to put their hands deep into their pockets in order to promote an enterprise whose value seemed so obvious and so genuinely important to the town.

So it was then that the Carthage, Watertown & Sackett's Harbor first came into its existence, there at the extreme end of the sixties; in the very year that Watertown itself was first becoming a city. Its officers and directors as it was first organized were as follows:

_President_, GEORGE B. PHELPS, Watertown _Secretary and Treasurer_, LOTUS INGALLS, Watertown _Engineer_, F. A. HINDS, Watertown

_Directors_

George P. Phelps, Watertown Lotus Ingalls, Watertown Norris Winslow, Watertown Pearson Mundy, Watertown L. D. Doolittle, Watertown George H. Sherman, Watertown George A. Bagley, Watertown Hiram Converse, Watertown Theodore Canfield, Sackett's Harbor Walter B. Camp, Sackett's Harbor David Dexter, Black River William N. Coburn, Carthage Alexander Brown, Carthage

A little later Mr. Hinds was succeeded as the road's Engineer, by L. B.

Cook also of Watertown. And eventually Mr. Bagley succeeded Mr. Phelps, as its President, George W. Knowlton, becoming its Vice-President.

To encourage the new line, which it prepared itself to operate, the Utica & Black River made quite a remarkable contract. Shorn of its verbiage it agreed to give the C. W. & S. H. forty per cent of the gross revenue that should arise upon the line. This contract in a very few years arose to bedevil the railroad situation in the North Country. As the paper industry began to expand there, and huge mills to multiply along the lower reaches of the Black River, this contract grew irksome indeed to the U. & B. R. R.

Finally it sought to modify its terms, very greatly. The Carthage, Watertown & Sackett's Harbor, quite naturally refused. "After all," it said, through its President, the late George A. Bagley, "what is a contract but--a contract?"

The Utica road pressed its point. It finally went down to New York and gained a promise from Roswell P. Flower that the agreement would be greatly mollified, if not abrogated. It did seem absurd that a carload of paper moving eighteen miles from Watertown to Carthage and seventy-five from Carthage to Utica should pay forty per cent of its charges to the road upon which it had moved but eighteen miles. Yet, a contract is a contract.

Governor Flower went up to Watertown and put the matter before the officers and directors of the C. W. & S. H. But, led by the stout-hearted Bagley, they refused to move, a single inch.

"I've given my promise," stormed Roswell P. Flower, "that you would do the right thing in this matter. And in New York I am known as a man who always keeps his word."

Bagley said nothing. The meeting ended abruptly--in all the bitterness of disagreement. The Utica & Black River decided upon a master stroke; it would terminate paying its rental, based chiefly on this forty per cent division to its leased road. That would cause trouble. The Carthage, Watertown & Sackett's Harbor was, itself, liable to its bondholders, for the mortgage that they held against it. It would have to pay their interest. Without receiving its rental money from the Black River road it would be hard pressed indeed to meet these coupons. It looked as if it might have to go into receivership, even though at that moment its stock had reached well above par.

The situation was saved for it by a New York banking house, Vermilye & Company, who sent a lawyer up to Watertown who examined the famous contract and p.r.o.nounced it perfectly valid. The Vermilye's then announced their willingness to advance the C. W. & S. H. the money to meet its interest charges--for an indefinite period. After which the Black River people came down a peg or two and bought the stock and bonds of their leased road, at par. While the city of Watertown and some of its adjoining communities possessed of a sudden and unexpected wealth refunded a portion of their taxes for a year or two.

Mr. Bagley had won his point. He had the reward of a good deed well performed. He had another reward. His salary as President of the Carthage, Watertown & Sackett's Harbor had remained unpaid; for a number of years.

He collected back pay from the Black River settlement; for several years at the rate of $15,000 a year.

I have antic.i.p.ated. We are building the Carthage, Watertown & Sackett's Harbor, not, as yet, operating it. The construction of the line began late in the year of 1870, westward from Carthage, its base of supplies. The road from Watertown to the Harbor--eleven miles--was constructed in the following summer. After a disagreeable fight with the R. W. & O., its main line finally was crossed at grade at Mill Street, closely adjacent to the pa.s.senger stations of the two rival roads and, after following the embankment for a mile, once again at Watertown Junction. Its entrance into the Harbor was accomplished over the right-of-way of the former Sackett's Harbor & Ellisburgh, which had been abandoned a decade before.

It utilized the old depot there.

George W. Flower, the first Mayor of Watertown, who we have already seen in these pages, had the contract for the building of this section of the line. He rented a locomotive from his compet.i.tor and obtained the loan of engineer, Frank W. Smith. For himself, he kept oversight over the progress from the saddle seat of a fine horse that he possessed.

This section of the road was completed and ready for operation early in '74. But because of certain legal complications the Utica & Black River refused to accept it at once. A large celebration had been planned at the Harbor for the Fourth of July that year and rather than disappoint the folk who wanted to go down to it, Mr. Flower took his leased locomotive and hitched behind it a long line of flat contractor's cars, equipped with temporary wooden benches. His improvised excursion train did a good business and he realized a comfortable sum from the haulage of both pa.s.sengers and freight before the line was turned over to the Utica & Black River for operation.

The first pa.s.senger station of that line in Watertown was in a former brick residence in Factory Street, just beyond the junction with Mill. It was small, not overclean and most inconvenient. But a few years later, the U. & B. R. built the handsome pa.s.senger station at the Northeast corner of Public Square which for many years now has been the office and headquarters of the Marcy, Buck & Riley Company. Its original brick freight-house nearby--afterwards relieved by the construction of a most substantial stone freight-house at the foot of Court Street--still stands.

Back of it a block or so was the round-house. I remember that round-house well. It was a favorite resort of mine through some extremely tender years of youth.

I have not set down the earliest lists of officers of the Utica road. They are not particularly germane to this record. It is, perhaps, enough for it to know that, with the exception of the Carthage, Watertown & Sackett's Harbor--which, as we have just seen, was financed chiefly by the Flowers, the Knowltons, George A. Bagley and George B. Phelps, of Watertown--the U.

& B. R. as reorganized, was constructed and managed almost exclusively by Uticans--John Thorn, Isaac Maynard, Theodore Faxon and John b.u.t.terfield--and New Yorkers--Robert Lenox Kennedy, John J. Kennedy (who afterwards had a prominent role in the early financing of the Canadian Pacific) and others.

Charles Millar was the first Superintendent of the road. He was succeeded, along about 1865, by Hugh Crocker, who a couple of years later was killed while in the cab of a locomotive running between Lyons Falls and Glendale.

It was in the season of high water and the Black River was following its usual springtime custom of overflowing the flats of the upper valley. The railroad was fresh and green and young. The water undermined its embankments and sent Crocker's locomotive tumbling over upon its side; and Crocker to his death. J. D. Schultz, who still is residing in Glendale and who is one of the best-known of the pioneers of the old R. W. & O. in his own arms carried young Crocker's body out of the wreck. It was a most pathetic incident. Yet it is a remarkable fact, and one well worth recording here, that in its entire thirty-one years of operation not one pa.s.senger was killed while riding upon the Utica & Black River.

The unfortunate Crocker was succeeded by Addison Day, who we already have seen upon the R. W. & O. as an early and distinguished Superintendent. A little later Thomas W. Spencer, who had been the Construction Engineer of the road, replaced Day, and in 1872, J. Fred Maynard, son of Isaac Maynard of Utica, a.s.sumed the operating management of the road, first with the t.i.tle of Superintendent and eventually as its Vice-President and General Manager. He remained in that post through the remainder of the operating existence of the road.

Steadily the Black River sought to improve its service. As it succeeded in so doing it became more and more of a thorn in the side of the R. W. & O.

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The Story Of The Rome, Watertown, And Ogdensburg RailRoad Part 9 summary

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