Learning About New York Part XVII

Syracuse is situated at the southern extremity of Onandaga Lake, and on the Erie Canal and Central Railroad, about midway between Albany and Buffalo. It is 53 miles west of Utica, 133 from Albany, 99 from Rochester, and 35 from Oswego, on Lake Ontario. The great thoroughfare from Albany to Buffalo here divides into two branches, one leading directly to Rochester, and the other pursuing a more circuitous route through Auburn and Geneva. The canal here is joined by the Oswego Canal, and the railroad by lines to Oswego, to Binghampton, and other places. The central position of Syracuse gives it great facilities for trade, and has made it a commercial station of importance. The great and leading, business of this place and its vicinity is the manufacture of salt, of which there are about 5,000,000 bushels produced annually. Population is about 30,000.

Syracuse is the seat of the most extensive and valuable salt manufactories in the United States. The land containing the saline springs is owned by the state, and is leased, free of rent, to be used only for this manufacture. The wells are dug and the water pumped at the expense of the state, and the manufacturer pays a duty of one cent per bushel. Originally the duty was twelve and a half cents, then for many years prior to 1846 it was six cents per bushel. The salt water is conveyed in pipes from the springs or wells to the works. The coarse salt is produced by solar evaporation; fine salt by boiling, and other modes of applying artificial heat. The springs are pierced through the alluvial and terminate on gravel. The wells generally used are excavated about eighteen or twenty feet deep. "In one case a boring of 250 feet deep was made without finding fossil salt, but the strength of the brine increased (as generally) with the depth of the well. From the strongest spring, a cubic foot of water will afford fourteen pounds of salt." The amount of capital invested in the manufacture of salt here is nearly three millions of dollars.

The township of Salina, in which Syracuse was situated, was formed in 1809. In 1820, this place contained 3 stores, 2 taverns and 250 inhabitants. In 1825, it was incorporated as a village, and in 1847 as a city, including the contiguous village of Salina.

Oswego, a city, port of entry and semi-capital of Oswego county, is situated on the south shore of Lake Ontario, and on both sides of the Oswego River, and is 35 miles from Syracuse, 150 from Albany, 60 from Kingston, and 150, in a straight line, from Toronto, Canada. It is the most populous and flourishing town belonging to the United States on Lake Ontario. The water power afforded by the river and canal at this place is very great, and is used in a variety of manufactories, among which are 18 extensive flouring mills, which are capable of packing and grinding daily 10,000 barrels of flour--a greater amount than is manufactured at any other place in America. The peculiar commercial and manufacturing advantages of Oswego have made it the great flour and grain market of Central New York and Northern New England. The harbor formed by the mouth of the river is one of the best on Lake Ontario, and has been improved by the United States government with a substantial pier about 1,200 feet in length. The Canadian trade of Oswego is nearly one half of the entire commerce of the United States with Canada. The commerce of Oswego is very extensive, and is increasing with astonishing rapidity. Being nearer to New York than any other lake port, a large share of the produce of the West flows through it to the seaboard. The salt of Onondega is also mostly distributed through the Great West from this place. In 1856, the registered tonnage was 46,467. Daily lines of steamboats for the conveyance of passengers run between this port and the lake ports of the United States and Canada. It connects with the New York system of railroads and canals by lines diverging from Syracuse. Oswego is defended by Fort Oswego, a strong fortification on the east side of the river, near the Lake, on the site of the old fort of that name. Population about 20,000.

Fort Oswego was of great military importance during the colonial wars. A factory was established here in 1722 by the New York government, and a fort erected on the west side of the river in 1727, and enlarged in 1755, which, with Fort Ontario, built on an eminence on the east in the latter year, was on the 14th of Aug., 1756, reduced by the French under Montealm. The garrison then consisted of about 1,600 men under Col. Mercer. The fort was invested by a force of about 5,000 men, when after some resistance it honorably capitulated. The fortifications at that time consisted of three forts, one at the west side of the river, and two on the east side, in an unfinished state. In May, 1814, it was taken by the British under similar circumstances, but its commander, Col. Mitchell, made good his retreat. The enemy demolished the fort, burned the barracks, destroyed the stores and then left.

Ogdensburg, a port of entry in St. Lawrence county, on the right bank of St. Lawrence River, is 200 miles north-west from Albany, 120 west from Plattsburg, 63 north-east from Sackett's Harbor, and 130 from Montreal, Canada. The Northern Railroad has its terminus at this place, and steamers ply daily for the river and lake ports, making it a depot of great importance. This flourishing place contains large depots, and other warehouses, three banks, foundries, machine shops, etc. Great water power is found in the falls of the Oswegatchie, which enters the St. Lawrence at this place. Population is about 9,000.

The importance of this spot seems to have been discovered at an early day, the French having built a fort here at a remote period. It was called Fort Presentation, afterward named Oswegatchie. The British later had a garrison here. It, appears to have been first settled in 1796, by Judge Ford, from New Jersey. This place was taken by the British on the 21st of Feb., 1813, after a contest of about an hour, in which the American riflemen and militia were obliged to retire before superior numbers, with a loss of twenty men in killed and wounded. The British loss is supposed to have been more than double that number.

The town of Prescott, Canada, lies on the opposite side of the St. Lawrence.

Windmill Point, at that place, is memorable as the spot where Van Schoultz, a native of Poland, with a small body of men gallantly defended themselves against an overpowering force of British and Canadians during the revolutionary movements on the frontiers in 1837--8. Early in November, 1838, the Patriots (so called) secretly rallied in various places near the American line. About 200 of them crossed over to Prescott and took possession of the Windmill and other large stone buildings. On the 15th of November, after some severe fighting, about 2,000 British troops advanced against the Patriots and compelled them to surrender. Van Schoultz, Col. Abbey, of Watertown, Col. Woodruff, and some others, were put on trial, condemned and executed.

Sackett's Harbor, a port of entry in Jefferson county, is situated on the south shore of Black River Bay, some 8 miles from Lake Ontario and about 170 W. N. W. from Albany, and has one of the best and most secure harbors on the lake. It is connected by railroad with Watertown and Rome. This place, now a small village, was an important naval and military station in the war of 1812 with Great Britain. On the 28th of May, 1813, a sharp contest took place here between the British and American forces, which resulted in the defeat of the British, and afterward another on May 30, 1814, with the same success. The expedition against Little York, U. C., in which Gen. Pike was killed, embarked from here. In 1814, the United States government here commenced the erection of the Madison Barracks, which consist of three extensive stone barracks, hospital, etc., affording accommodations for 2,000 troops, occupying a lot of about 40 acres, fronting the bay.

Watertown, borough, and capital of Jefferson county, is situated on Black River, at the junction of the Watertown and Rome and the Potsdam and Watertown Railroads, 145 miles W. N. W. from Albany, and 81 N. N. W. from Utica. The Black River, in passing this place, descends 88 feet in one mile, creating an immense water power, only a portion of which is used. The factories erected are chiefly engaged in making cotton and woolen goods and paper. There are extensive flouring, grist and saw mills, etc. This town was first settled in March, 1800, by Henry Coffin, who originally came from New Hampshire. Population about 8,000.

Auburn, a beautiful city, and capital of Cayuga county, is at the outlet of Owasco Lake and on the Rochester and Syracuse Railroad, 174 miles from Albany, 318 from New York, and 147 east from Buffalo. The city is handsomely built, and is adorned with beautiful gardens. Genesee, the principal business street, has many lofty buildings of brick and limestone. It contains a theological seminary, several flourishing academies, and about 11,000 inhabitants. Numerous manufactures are carried on in this place.

The Auburn State Prison has acquired much celebrity for its peculiar system of prison discipline. The building is a large, costly stone structure, inclosed by a wall which measures 500 feet on each side and about 30 feet high The number of convicts has sometimes amounted to more than 600. They are employed in manufacturing a variety of articles, the proceeds of which are said to be generally sufficient to defray the expenses of the establishment. The erection of the prison commenced in 1816. A small river or creek runs at the south side of the prison, from which sufficient power is obtained to work machinery within the walls. Religious instruction is given by the chaplain, and Sunday schools are instituted in the prison. The younger portion of the convicts, if illiterate, are taught to read, write and cast accounts.

Auburn was first settled in 1793, by Col. John L. Hardenberg, and for many years was called "Hardenberg's Corners." It became a post village in 1800, and in 1805 the county town, and received its present name from Dr.Crosset. At this time the village consisted of but a few log dwellings, a store or two, and a grist mill. In 1807, the building of the court house was commenced, and the county courts removed to this place from Aurora. In 1815, Auburn was incorporated a village, at which time it contained 1,000 inhabitants. From that period its improvement became more rapid and uniform.

The Auburn Theological Seminary was established by the Synod of Geneva in 1819, and by the act of incorporation in 1820 was placed under commissioners chosen by the synods of Genesee, Geneva and Oneida.

Website: The History Box.com
Article Name: Learning About New York State Part XVII
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


BIBLIOGRAPHY: Our whole country; or, The past and present of the United States, historical and descriptive. In two volumes By John Warner Barber ... and Henry Howe ...Cincinnati, H. Howe, 1861.
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