Posts Tagged ‘New York’

William Cunningham: Jailer of Revolution Martyrs

October 27, 2011

William Cunningham, Jailer of New York “Revolution Martyrs”

“FOLK of fashion do complain right grievously that the groanings and lamentable cries of the rebel prisoners (both here in New York and in the prison ship on the Breucklen shore) disturb their slumbers. And they pray that Master Cunningham, our provost marshal, will devise some means to keep the poor wretches quiet of nights.”

So runs an old letter written in New York during the darkest days of the American Revolution. The British had captured New York and Philadelphia. To both cities — but chiefly to New York — they brought thousands of patriot soldiers, captured in battle, and many non-combatants who had risked freedom and life to help the cause of liberty by money, gifts or by patriotic speeches.

These unlucky captives were not treated like prisoners of war. They were housed and fed — or, rather, starved — in a way the law nowadays would not permit for cattle or swine. And the man in charge of them was a blackguard whose own countrymen loathed him, William Cunningham.

Cunningham was the son of British dragoon and was born in the regimental barracks at Dublin. In 1774 he came to America and settled in New York, where he made a living for some time by “breaking” colts and by giving riding lessons. When the Revolution broke out, in 1775, he became involved in a political row with some local patriots and was forced to flee to Boston, there to seek the protection of the British army.

His noisy loyalty to King George III, got him into trouble there and attracted the notice of Thomas Gage, the English general. Gage appointed him provost marshal to the royal army. His chance for “revenge” had come.

Image from Frances Hunter’s American Heroes Blog

Cunningham was sent back to New York and was put in charge of the Revolutionary prisoners there and in Philadelphia. There were several impromptu prisons in New York where the patriot captives were lodged. One was the city hall, another the famous old “Sugar House,” another, King’s (now Columbia) college; another the “new gaol” (the old hall of records in City Hall park, torn down only a few years ago) and — worst of all — the “prison ship ‘Jersey,'” moored on the Brooklyn shore. Churches were also turned into jails.

In the prison ship the captives were herded by hundreds in dark, foul pens, destitute of pure air and sunlight. They were given such food as a dog might well scorn, and in such tiny quantities as would not suffice to keep a dog alive. The water they drank was filthy. No medical care or chance for cleanliness or exercise was granted them. Prison fever and other maladies scourged their ranks. They died like so many flies. To such fearful condition were they reduced that the lowest city outcasts were touched by pity and secretly sent them food.

The fate of the captives in the new gaol, or hall of records, was little better. Here is an extract from Pintard’s account of their sufferings:

“So closely were they packed together that when they lay down at night to rest, on the hard oak planks, and they wished to turn, it was all together, by word of command — ‘right’ — ‘left’ — being so wedged as to form almost a solid mass of human bodies.”

All war is cruel. But such torture as this was inexcusable. And (though the British government might perhaps have bettered matters had they chosen to) the lion’s share of the blame was Cunningham’s. Here is a portion of his sworn confession, made in 1791, just before his own execution:

“I shudder to think of the murders I have been accessory to, both with and without orders from government, especialy while in New York, during which time there were more than two thousand prisoners starved by stopping their rations (which I sold). There were also 275 American prisoners executed. A guard was despatched to forbid people to look out from their doors or windows on pain of death, after which the prisoners were conducted, gagged, at midnight, just behind the upper barracks, hung without trial and then buried.”

Cunningham went back to England after the war and took to riotous living. Being short of money to squander on dissipation, he forged a draft. For this crime he was tried, condemned, and, on August 10, 1791, was hanged.

He is said to have been responsible for the shameful death of nearly 2,500 American patriots. Nor could mere hatred for the colonists account for this wholesale slaughter, since he dishonestly sold for his own profit the provisions allotted to them.

The Newark Advocate (Newark, Ohio) Sep 19, 1912

Morris Street Fire – Children Burned to Death

October 18, 2011

1882 image of Broadway and Morris from The Tower Building website


Three Children Burned to Death — Several Persons Injured

We have again to record another painful calamity that occurred yesterday morning in the lower part of the city which was attended with loss of life, while a number of persons being terribly injured. About 8 o’clock the Hall bell struck an alarm of fire for the eighth district.

The fire originated on the first floor of the building No. 18 Morris-street, occupied as a grocery store, by Patrick Fitzsimmons, and owing to the flames spreading among the liquors they swept through the floor above with great fury and baffled all the exertions of the firemen for some time. The upper portion of the building was occupied by a large number of poor families, the children of whom were yet in their beds, and in consequence of the powerful streams of water that were played into the rooms, the occupants became bewildered, and some of them leaped from the windows to the icy side-walks, sustaining serious and probably fatal injuries. The fire was finally subdued and the contents and interior of the premises were found to be nearly destroyed.

Three little children perished in the flames, and their bodies were subsequently found in the mass ruins, all charred and burned to a crisp, so as to render it almost impossible to recognize them, — the parents of the dead however identified their unfortunate little ones, and they are as follows:

Elizabeth Arrey, aged 3 or 4 months.

Anne Arrey, aged 8 or 9 years.

A child of Sarah Crosby.

Mrs. Crosby was also badly bruised, and was taken to the Hospital.

The following are the names of those who were injured, and also those who are missing:


Carrick Crosby fell from the second story window, and had his back broke. He was taken to the City Hospital, by Officer McCabe of the first Patrol District, and is beyond all hopes of recovery.

Cornelius Towny fell from the second floor to the first, among the burning ruins, and was nearly burned to death. Conveyed to the Hospital.

Mrs. Towney, (wife of Cornelius,) had her arm crushed by a fall, while endeavoring to save her two children, who were finally rescued from the devouring element alive, but were considerably burned about their faces, breast and arms.

Mrs. Arrey, (wife of Thomas,) had her leg crushed by jumping from the upper story window; taken to the hospital by officer McCabe.

A man by the name of John Woods, a printer, boarded in the house and is yet missing; fears are entertained that he has also perished in the flames.

A lad named Henry Hickey, was also missing, but has since been found.

The other tenants of the premises barely escaped with their lives, but afterwards were nearly frozen to death in the street, before they could be provided with shelter. The fire department worked with great energy, and the poor houseless sufferers were rendered every assistance by Captains Silvey, Van Zandt, officer McCabe, and other members of the First Ward Police.

After the remains of the mutilated bodies were extricated from the ruins they were conveyed to the First District Police Station, and inquests held upon them severally by Alderman Moore, who acted as Coroner, the verdicts of which in each case were in accordance with the facts and heart-rending circumstances as given above.

New York Daily Times (New York, New York) Jan 15, 1852

Elihu H. Grover: An Eccentric Old Fireman

June 10, 2011

Image of Main St., Rochester, New York – 1877 (see link below)

An Eccentric Old Fireman.

Elihu H. Grover, who celebrated lately the 81st anniversary of his birthday, is the oldest fireman in Rochester, New York. His father was killed in the war of 1812, and he went to Rochester in 1814, when the village had 250 inhabitants.

He was at the first fire which occured there. It was at the village grist mill, and young Grover assisted to quench the flames with buckets of water. His certificate of exemption is dated May 20, 1826.

He never saw New York City and Niagara Falls, never rode on a steamboat, and was never in a theater. He remembers the first Fourth of July celebration, at which evergreen bowers were set up and roast pig was publicly served. The veteran fireman never drank liquor or smoked tabacco.

Weekly Reno Gazette (Reno, Nevada) May 22, 1884

Image of “Main St.”, Rochester, New York in 1812

Both images from the Monroe County, NY Records on Rootsweb genealogy website – See their collection HERE.



I didn’t know what this was, so I did some searching and found the following on the Monmouth Co, NJ website:

Eighteenth century New Jersey residents were well aware of the devastating effects of fire, but the State had no involvement in fire fighting until 1826, when a law was passed to encourage the formation of fire companies. Under the December 14, 1826, “Act for the encouragement of fire companies,” fire companies were granted charters, provided that the fire company had one fire engine and between sixteen and thirty men. As an incentive to attract volunteers, firemen were exempted from military duty in time of peace. Twenty years later, through an “Act relative to juries and verdicts,” passed April 17, 1846, members of fire companies also were declared exempt from jury duty.

Even though this is for New Jersey, I would suspect New York had something similar.

May Day Moving

May 1, 2011

With May Day comes the annual moving proposition. It carries with it the usual annoyance of shifting your abode, for what would the first day of May come to if we didn’t continue the practice of moving? Beautiful May, all except the inconvenience of moving – a custom that won’t live down.

Portsmouth Daily Times (Portsmouth, Ohio) May 1, 1912

May Day Moving Sets New Chicago Record
(International News Service)

CHICAGO, May 24. — May Day moving here set a new record for the period of the housing shortage, according to the requests for changes to telephone and gas companies. More than 3,000 changes daily were asked of a gaslight and coke company before the yearly exodus to new homes. This is 50 per cent higher than 1921.

J.S. Waterfield, Chicago Real Estate board said the “own your own home” idea is responsible for hundreds of the movings.

New Castle News (New Castle, Pennsylvania) May 24, 1922

CHICAGO, May 1. — Thousands of families in Chicago went on a “rent strike” today and refused to vacate their apartments in accordance with May Day moving orders, H.S. Standish, president of the Chicago Tennants’ Protective League, asserted.

Mr. Standish predicted that 10,000 tenants would defy efforts of landlords to evict them.

Some of the disputes would be settled by arbitration, Mr. Standish said, but others would be carried into court for jury trials.

Battle Landlords
N.E.A. Staff Correspondent.

NEW YORK, May 1. Two men are largely responsible for starting in this state the anti-rent profiteering crusade which, unless the laws are finally thrown out by the courts, has limited landlords to 25 per cent increases.

One of them is not even a New Yorker. His name is James F. Gannon, Jr., and he is city commissioner of Jersey City.

The other no longer hold any official post. His name is Nathan Hirsch and he was formerly chairman of the Mayor’s Committee on Rent Profiteering.

Victims Aided

It was Hirsch’s committee — and largely Hirsch himself — who first came to the aid of the victims or rent profiteers. Before this persons who objected to extortionate rent increases were called “Bolsheviki.” Hirsch had little real authority, but he used what he had with good effect.

The result was that any number of cases were compromised last year by the landlords, and tenants were enable to stay on by paying only moderate increases in rent. A strong public sentiment was built up to oppose rent hogs.

Hirsch was serving without pay and when the appropriation he asked to continue the committee’s work was refused he resigned.

Hug[e] Rent Strike

Then came Gannon. Early this year he engineered the biggest rent strike ever conducted and won it. Thousands of tenants with the city’s backing, refused to pay unreasonable rent increases and won in the courts.

This woke New York up. If Jersey City can do it, why can’t we? was the comment. The result was a wave of popular sentiment that swept everything before it and resulted in the enactment by the Legislature of a dozen laws to protect the tenant, the most important of which is the measure limiting rent increases to 25 per cent.

Ogden Standard Examiner (Ogden, Utah) May 1, 1920


The month of May, when poets sing of roses and meadows decked with green, is, in the vicinity of New York, the flitting time for half the world — or has been. Fortunes are changing and even the May moving day, so long sacred to New Yorkers, is giving way before the iconoclastic spirit of the age. Enough, and more than enough of it, is left however. The removals of the great annual flitting time, often useless, often undertaken without clear reason than that restlessness so peculiar to American life, must cost the people of New York, Brooklyn and Jersey City, directly and indirectly, not less than $3,000,000 in actual money outlay, to say nothing of personal discomfort. Moving time entails an endless train f discomforts and disorders. It means a clear month’s comfort gone out of the year in preparing for the move and getting over it; is the direct cause of broken furniture not a little, of wrecked tempers by the thousands and of much actual suffering.

But moving day is not what it used to be. People who move in spring are beginning to discount it by removing at any time during the latter part of April, so that the first of May no longer resembles the fag end of a furniture dealer’s nightmare so much as it did. The real estate agents, too, have conspired against moving day. Not that the agents want people to stay where they are and forswear change. By no means. The more removals the more commissions for the agents. It is to increase their own profits and those of the owners that such strenuous efforts have been made, and with much success, to substitute October for May as the moving time. Many landlords now let  houses from October to October, and more are anxious to do so. The reason is that a good many people of moderate means, whose only hope of getting wives and babies into the country for the summer is to stop paying rent, and have been in the habit of giving up their houses on May 1, storing the furniture, packing off the family and seeking board until October, when the city residence could be safely resumed in another quarter. This arrangement was fine for the tenants, but it was bad for the owners and agents, consequently it had to be stopped. And it is being stopped.

Morning Oregonian (Portland, Oregon) May 1, 1887


The following unjustifiable case of landlord oppression is one of the many cases which May day moving has developed in Jersey City: — A widow named Jane Meara, with her five children, occupied a small store in Prospect street, near Morgan. The property changed hands, and as a consequence the widow was doomed; but her lease had not expired and she held a receipt for the rent of the premises, paid in advance, for the month of May. Under these circumstances the poor woman felt secure, at least for the present; but on May day, during her absence, her furniture and goods were thrown out of doors, and when she returned to her house she found the premises so locked and fastened that ingress was impossible, while every article of her household goods was drenched with rain on the sidewalk. She at once proceeded to Justice McAnally, who very humanely allowed her the use of a house for herself and her children till she can procure other quarters, as this was the only relief he could afford in the case. The woman has commenced a suit against the new proprietor, laying damages at $10,000.

New York Herald (New York, New York) May 3, 1869

First of May — Moving Day.

There was not as much moving yesterday as is common upon the last of April — pretty good evidence that landlords generally were wise enough to fall somewhat from their old rates of rent, and so far accommodate tenants that they could afford to keep their old premises another year. Whoever is abroad to day, however, will be disposed to think there never was so much moving before. It will begin early — before some of us are up, no doubt, and it will continue late. The sidewalks will be worse obstructed in every street than Wall-street is where the Brokers are in full blast. Old beds and ricketty bedstands, handsome pianos and kitchen furniture, will be chaotically huddled together. Everything will be in a muddle. Everybody in a hurry, smashing mirrors in his haste, and carefully guarding boot boxes from harm. Sofas that go out sound will go in maimed, tables that enjoyed castors will scratch along and “tip” on one less than its complement. Bed-screws will be lost in the confusion, and many a good piece of furniture badly bruised in consequence. Family pictures will be sadly marred, and the china will be a broken set before night, in many a house. All houses will be dirty — never so dirty — into which people move, and the dirt of the old will seem enviable beside the cleanliness of the new. The old people will in their hearts murmur at these moving dispensations. the younger people, though aching in every bone, and “tired to death,” will relish the change, and think the new closets more roomy and more nice, and delight themselves fancying how this piece of furniture will look here and that piece in the other corner. The still “younger ones” will still more enjoy it. Into the cellar and upon the roof, into the rat-holes and on  the yard fence, into each room and prying into every cupboard, they will make reprisals of many things “worth saving,” and mark the day white in their calendar, as little less to be longed for in the return than Fourth of July itself.

Keep your tempers, good people. Don’t growl at the carmen nor haggle over the price charged. When the scratched furniture comes in don’t believe it is utterly ruined, — a few nails, a little glue, a piece of putty, and a pint of varnish will rejuvenate many articles that will grow very old ‘twixt morning and night, and undo much of the mischief that comes of moving, and which at first sight seems irreparable.

At night, after you have kindled a fire in the grate, — don’t, because you have cleaned house, make your house a tomb for dampness, nor let the children shiver through the evening, — after the tea things have been set aside, be sure to take one peep of the moon in her eclipse. Nor stay too long to look at her, for her exhibition begins rather late, and you should be up early next day to tack down the carpets, set the furniture to rights and make a home of your new house. Moreover, if it rains or is very cloudy, take our advice and don’t look at the eclipse — it’s no great affair after all.

New York Daily Times (New York, New York) May 1, 1855

In Lighter Vein

The May Queen

“You must wake and call me early,”
The prospective May Queen said.
But when called, the foxy girlie
Stayed in bed.

And her plan was far from silly
Though another served as Queen,
For the winds were raw and chilly
On the green.

To the first my hat I’m doffing,
She who dodged the breezes bleak,
For the other will be coughing
All the week.
Bolting The Ticket.

“The young men have chosen her to be Queen of May.”

“And how do the other girls like that?”

“Don’t seem to like it. They’re all insurgents.”
May 1 In History.

May 1, 1589 — Queen Elizabeth is Queen of May, catches cold, and has the snuffles all day.

May 1, 1755 — Moving day, Dr. Johnson evicted for non-payment of rent.

“Going Maying today?”


“Why not?”

“I went Maying once.”
Everything Upset.

A book of verses underneath the stove,

A lump of coal upon a silver tray;

Such are the things that make a terror of

The first of May.
Moving Day.

“The May migration is very ancient.”


“Yes; Shakespeare speaks of moving accidents by flood and field.”
Nothing Romantic.

“Got your wife out for a May day stroll I see. Going to hunt for arbutus?”

“Quit your kidding. We’re going to hunt for a flat.”
May Moving.

“You ought to read this book. It will move you deeply.”

“Do you know any concern that will move me cheaply? That is what I’m interested in just now.”

— Washington Herald.

Evening Post (Frederick, Maryland) May 1, 1912

True Realism.

Dramatic Author — I understand that you are looking for a new play.

Manager — Yes, but I am very hard to suit. I want a play which shall combine all the elements of tragedy, comedy, farce, pantomime and spectacle.

“That’s it. That’s what I’ve got. Chock full of tragedy and human suffering, tears and smiles, joy and woe, startling surprises, unheard of mishaps, wreck and ruin, lamentations and laughter.”

“What’s the title?”

“‘A May Day Moving.'”

“What’s the plot?”

“Hasn’t any plot. Just and ordinary May day moving.”

— New York Weekly.

The Marion Star (Marion, Ohio) Nov 9, 1895

The Bradford Era (Bradford, Pennsylvania) Apr 12, 1946

I thought the May Day moving had petered out in the 1920s, but evidently it was still going strong in Pennsylvania as late as the 1940s!

Images from the Newman Library – Baruch College

Joseph Brady vs. the Cornplanter

January 31, 2011

Chief Cornplanter image is from the Salibury, PA webite.

[From the Attica Telegraph.]

A Reminiscence of Border Life.

In the dark days of our Revolutionary struggles, there lived many brave, noble and generous men, who did much toward achieving the independence of this now prosperous and happy nation, by acting singly, or with a chosen few upon whom they could place the utmost reliance. This mode of warfare, though carried on in a comparatively small way, was far more efficacious, in proportion to the numbers engaged in it, than the operations of the largest bodies of soldiers who fought in the fort and open field. It did not generally accomplish much n a single occasion, but was constantly at work either acting on the offensive, or furnishing information to the head-quarters of the American army. This, in fact, was the only way by which the hostile tribes of Indians could be effectively punished for their wanton and malicious depredations. Every reader is aware that they were instigated by the British to perpetrate deeds the most shocking and revolting to humanity. Tradition has handed down the names of numerous individuals, unrecorded in the history of our country, who were celebrated for many valorous deeds, the remembrance of which seems fast disappearing “through the dark vista of bygone years.” An incident in the eventful life of one of this class is the subject of our narrative. We will endeavor to give the substance of it, as it fell from the lips of one of the “[oldest inhabitants]” in our hearing.

Of Joseph Brady’s birth, parentage, &c., our “informant” does not enlighten us. Suffice it to say, he was a brave and magnanimous warrior, and the commande of a small band of men, of his own school who were employed against the indians in Western New York and Pennsylvania. Although destitute of an education, having grown up in the “backwoods,” our hero had learned much from the school experience, and was skilled in that knowledge which was most essential to him in the station he was called to occupy. It is said that he could converse fluently in at least twenty of the different languages or tongues spoken by the tribes of the Atlantic states. This, to him, was an invaluable acquisition, and the sequel will show the advantages which it gave him over the Indians.

Six Nations’ map is from the Access Genealogy website.

Cornplanter, whose name is celebrated as an Indian warrior, and the praise of whose greatness has been the theme of many a writer, was then the Chief of a small tribe whose village was situated on the western bank of the Allegany River, six miles below the boundary line between New York and Pennsylvania. The remnant of his tribe still remain there, possessing a fertile tract of alluvial land several miles in length, and extending from the river back to the Allegany Mountains, a distance varying from one to three miles. On the opposite side of the river, a high mountain rises abruptly from the water’s edge, and is covered with a thick growth of forest trees. The scenery about this place is wild, romantic and beautiful; although the “rapid march of civilization” is robbing nature of her former grandeur and beauty. What a contrast between that olden time and the present! The? those deep waters bore upon their broad bo?om naught but the light Indian canoe, and the white man dared not be seen, unguarded, anywhere in their vicinity.

Cornplanter and his “braves” had made an incursion into one of the nearest settlements of the whites, in which they had met with great success. Several of the unfortunate inhabitants fell beneath the murderous tomahawk, their buildings were consumed by fire, and a number carried into captivity. When the Indians arrived at their village with the prisoners it was determined that they should be burned at the stake. Accordingly, the time was appointed for this dreadful work, and the whole tribe were to be assembled to participate in it. The Indians were patiently waiting for the time when they were to glut their vengeance upon their “pale faced” prisoners, as they apprehended no fears that the whites were strong enough to attempt an immediate retaliation.

Brady heard of he sally made by Cornplanter upon the settlers, and determined to punish him severely for his cruelty. Accordingly, he and his men set out upon the expedition, and were soon in the vicinity of the Indian village, where they succeeded in capturing one of its inhabitants from whom they obtained all the information they wished, concerning the prisoners, and the time when it was intended to burn them.

Early in the evening on which was to terminate by the most dreadful death, the lives of a number of pioneers of his western region, Brady was occupying a secure position on the mountain, from whence he could perceive all that was taking place in the village below. Fires were kindled before all their dwellings until it was nearly as light as noonday. The woods to a great distance around resounded with the shouts of the savages, whose feelings were wrought up to the highest pitch of excitement. Brady waited until the captives were brought forth, and the Indians had commenced to bind them to the stakes. His heart beat high with the fear that he might be unsuccessful in his attempt to rescue them. But the long-wished for moment had arrived, and putting on the dress of the Indian he had captured, he boldly stepped forth into an open place where he could be distinctly seen from the other bank, and gave the shrill war-whoop peculiar to this tribe. He was immediately answered by the Indians, who supposed him to be one of their friends, just returning from an expedition similar to the one they were then rejoicing over. They inquired as to what success had attended him, to which he replied that he had taken a few prisoners but was unable to come over and join them that night on account of the wounds one of his men had received. He proposed that they should wait till the next day and then burn all the prisoners at one time. After some hesitation they complied with his request. The prisoners were taken back to their place of confinement, the fires extinguished, and soon a deathlike stillness succeeded the noise and confusion which had reigned during the former part of the evening.

Brady kept his position until after the “noon of night,” when he descended the mountain, and crossing the river, was soon in the heart of the village. The Indians had retired without leaving a guard, and the first intimation they had of the presence of a foe, was the bursting out of the flames from their houses, which were soon on fire in every direction. They rushed to their doors to be shot or cut down by the whites. A large number were killed or burned with the habitations, while the remainder escaped under cover of the night. Cornplanter fled and his village was entirely destroyed.

The prisoners were overjoyed to find that they were once more with friends who could protect, and without waiting even for the morning, started on their journey back to the homes of those who had rescued them. Brady lost not a single man while out on this expedition, neither were any wounded, and although he fought after the Indian custom, falling upon his enemies in an unguarded moment he achieved a great victory.

Cornplanter’s name has found a place in the history of those times, while Joseph Brady’s only reward was the consciousness of having performed a duty incumbent upon every American citizen in those days, that of defending his country, and the joy he experienced in being able to restore those whose fate was supposed to be sealed, to their homes.

Watertown Chronicle (Watertown, Wisconsin) Jul 28, 1847

NOTE: I couldn’t find anything more about Joseph Brady, but Wikipedia has an article about Samuel Brady, of “Brady’s Leap” fame, who had an Uncle Joseph Brady, who might have been him. Either way, I would imagine the two are at least related, as they were from the same area and were Indian fighters etc.

Greenville Treaty image from the Touring Ohio website.

Pennsylvanians, Past and Present

Cornplanter, Great Seneca War Chief and Friend of United States, Died February 18, 1836.

(Copyright, 1925, by the Author)

Cornplanter, the greatest warrior of the Seneca tribe, and a principal chief of the Six Nations from the period of the Revolutionary War to the time of his death, was born at Ganawagas, on the Genesee River, in New York, in 1722; he died at Cornplanter Town. just within the limits of Pennsylvania, Fedbruary 18, 1836.

Cornplanter was a half-breed, the son of a white man named John O’Bail, a trader from the Mohawk Valley. His mother was a full-blooded Seneca.

O’Bail is said by some to have been an Englishman, although Harris, Ruttenber, and others say he was a Dutchman Named Abeel.

All that is known of the early life of Cornplanter is contained in a letter to the governor of Pennsylvania, in which he says, “When I was a child I played with the butterfly; and as I grew up I began to pay some attention and play with the Indian boys in the neighborhood, and they took notice of my skin being a different color from theirs, and spoke about it. I inquired of my mother the cause, and she told me my father was a resident of Albany. I still ate my victuals out of a bark dish. I grew up to be a young man and married a wife, and I had no kettle or gun. I then knew where my father lived and went to see him, and found he was a white man and spoke the English language. He gave me vituals while I was at his house, but when I started to return home he gave me no provisions to eat on the way. He gave me neither kettle nor gun.

Historian Drake says Cornplanter was a warrior at Braddock’s defeat, July 9, 1755, and fought bravely as a French Ally.

During the Revolution he was a war chief of high rank in the full vigor of manhood, active, brave, sagacious and participated in many of the engagements in which the British  employed their Indian allies.

Cherry Valley Massacre image from the Son of the South website.

He is supposed to have been present at the massacres of Wyoming and Cherry Valley, in which the Seneca took such prominent part. He was certainly on the warpath with Chief Joseph Brant during General John Sullivan’s expedition against the Six Nations in the autumn of 1779, and in the following year, under Brant and Sir John Johnson, he led the Seneca to their incursion through the Schoharie and Mohawk Valleys in New York.

On this occasion he took his father a prisoner, but with such caution as to avoid immediate recognition. After marching the old man some ten or twelve miles, he stepped before him, faced about and addressed himself to his father. He gave him his choice of following his yellow son, in which he promised him food and raiment or return to his fields and his white children. O’Bail chose the latter and Cornplanter gave him safe conduct back to the trading post.

Cornplanter was one of the parties to the treaty made at Fort Stanwix, October 23, 1784, when the whole of the present Northwestern Pennsylvania was ceded by the Indians to the Commonwealth. He also took part in the Treaty at Fort Harmar in 1789.

His sagacious intellect comprehended the growing power of the United States, and that Great Britain had forsaken the Seneca. He threw his influence in favor of peace.

During all the Indian Wars from 1791 to 1794, which terminated with General Wayne’s treaty, Cornplanter pledged that the Seneca should remain friendly to the United States.

He was a signer of the treaties of September 15, 1797, and July 30, 1802. These acts rendered him so unpopular with his tribe that for a time his life was in danger.
On March 16, 1796, Pennsylvania granted Cornplanter a tract of 640 acres in the present Warren County, to which place the old warrior retired and devoted his energies to his own people.

It is said that in his old age he declared that the “Great Spirit” told him not to have anything more to do with the whites, nor even to preserve any mementos they had given him. Impressed with this idea, he burned the belt and broke and elegant sword that had been given to him.

A favorite son, who had been carefully educated, became a drunkard, thus adding to the troubles of Cornplanter’s last years.

He received for a time, a pension from the United States of $250 a year.

At the time of his death he was 105 years of age. A monument erected to his memory on his reservation by the State of Pennsylvania in 1866 bears the inscription “aged about 100 years.”

New Castle News (New Castle, Pennsylvania) Feb 18, 1925


This bank advertisement ran in the newspaper for several days:

Indiana Evening Gazeete (Indiana, Pennsylvania) Oct 17, 1921

Boiler Explosion of the Locomotive, Achilles Proves Fatal

December 7, 2010

Above image of the DL&W camelback 4-4-0 #952 (not the train mentioned in the article) is from the Kodtrak Kountry website, where you can find more New York train history.

Terrible Railroad Accident.

SYRACUSE, Nov. 21.

The freight train of the Syracuse and Utica railroad, this morning about 4 o’clock, drawn by two engines, when about three quarters of a mile from the depot, the boiler of the foremost locomotive, Achilles, exploded with disastrous consequences. It exploded in the fire box — The machinery and wood work were demolished, and the locomotive is left and almost worthless wreck. The power of the agent of this mischief may be imagined from the fact, that the entire locomotive was lifted from the tract and carried around so as to lie directly across the second parallel track, and the tender was thrown entirely off the track in an opposite direction.

Israel Morgan, engineer, was blown into the air, and fell in the road about 150 feet distant. He received the full effect of the steam and hot water upon his person as it was forced through the door of the furnace. Most of his clothes were torn from his person, and his body was terribly scalded and burned.

William Canton, the fireman, was in a more fortunate location, and tho’ blown some feet to the side of the road, where he was found in an insensible condition, escaped with some scalding and bruises, which are not considered mortal.

The second locomotive, Thesis, had nearly the entire machinery of one side carried away.

Messrs. Howard and Palmer, the engineer and fireman, narrowly escaped injury.

The probable cause of the explosion, was high steam and low water, preparatory to accomplishing the difficult grade of road as it leaves the city.

Watertown Chronicle (Watertown, Wisconsin) Dec 1, 1852

The above article is almost identical to the one below; one a few words appear to be changed.


Syracuse, Sunday, Nov. 21. — 7 1/2 P.M.

The morning freight train on the Syracuse and Utica Railroad, this morning started from the East at 4 o’clock drawn by two locomotives. When about three-quarters of a mile from this depot, the foremost locomotive — the Achilles — exploded with terrible and disastrous consequences. The boiler exploded in the fire box. The machinery and wood work were rent asunder or demolished, and the locomotive left an almost worthless wreck.

The power of the agent of this mischief may be imagined, from the fact, that the entire locomotive was lifted from the track, and carried around so as to lie directly across the second and parallel track, and the tender was thrown entirely clear of the track, in the opposite direction.

ISRAEL MORGAN, the engineer, was blown into the air, and fell in the road, about one hundred and fifty feet distant. He received the full effects of the steam and heated water upon his person, as it was forced through the door of the furnace, and was undoubtedly instantly killed. Most of the clothes were torn from his body, and he was terribly scalded and burned.

The fireman was in a more fortunate location, and although blown some feet to the side of the road, where he was found in an insensible condition, he escaped with a severe scalding and bruising, which are not considered mortal.

The second locomotive — the Thesis — had nearly the entire machinery of one side carried away. MESSRS. HOWARD and PALMER, the engineer and fireman of this engine, narrowly escaped injury.

The probable cause of the explosion was high steam and low water, preparatory to accomplishing the difficult grade of the road as it leaves the city.

MR. MORGAN had been an engineer some seven or eight years, and was considered very careful and competent. He leaves a wife and three children.

The report of the explosion was tremendous, and was heard at a great distance. Fragments of the locomotive were thrown hundreds of feet, and several houses on either side of the street were slightly damaged by the clapboards breaking through, windows smashed, &c. MR. MORGAN’S watch was found in a vacant lot fully two hundred feet from the scene of the disaster. It was still running, and in no way damaged, except that the crystal was cracked.

The loss to the Syracuse and Utica Railroad Company by the accident, is estimated at from twelve to fifteen thousand dollars.

The New York Times – Nov 22, 1852

The New York Times article can be found on the GenDisasters website.

Champion Kicker of the Adirondacks

June 25, 2010


How Honest Jack Ormiston Booted the Bear.


It’s a Cold Day When You Corner the Old Woodsman — On One Cold Day He Warmed His Feet by Burning Kerosene In His Boots.

Jack Ormiston of the Adirondacks has had some queer experiences in the woods. He has been eaten up by a bear, he has floated around on Cranberry lake astride a log for hours with the cakes of ice making hash of his legs. He has been lost, frozen, shot, and has fallen down embankments times without number and he lives to tell the tale.

Some time since Jack got to yarning it in camp to some impressionable young tenderfeet, and this is his story as they repeat it:

“You’ve heered some of the fellers say, hain’t you, how I kotched that old bear last fall?” asked Jack.

We assured him that we never had, and it was not strictly true, because he had told us a dozen or more times before.

“Waal, you must know where Tully pond is,” continued Jack. “Blessed if I don’t kotch a bear mighty queer there last fall. Jim Hodge give me a lift on the job, I must say, but that ain’t the point. Fact is, the great pint wuz the toe end of these boots. I was comin down this way along the trail when I heered a rustling overhead in a tall pine. Golly, when I looked up kinder quick sideways, for I feered somethin wuz goin to drop, I see a mighty big bear comin along on one of the limbs toward the trunk.

“He started to come down the trunk back end first, winking at me. My gun wuz over at camp. I didn’t have a thing with me, and Jim wuz half a mile back on the trail. That bear I could see had a mighty fine hide that would bring me somethin like $30 with the bounty. I didn’t care to have him run away, nor did I want to shake hands with him and pass the time of day with him till Jim come along and put him to sleep with a bullet. I didn’t make up my mind none too soon. The bear warn’t half way down the tree when I rushed at him, not knowin what I would do to own that hide and capture the bounty. I looked around fer a club, but none come in sight, so when I got to the foot of the tree there warn’t nothin but one thing to do. I just hauled off and kicked that bear.

“It wuz the first experimentin of the kind I ever heared of, and by gosh it beat arything I ever see. The bear clawed hard inter the bark and snapped at me. He was easin up a bit with his nails when I swun him another and another. I yelled for Jim and swung again. I yelled six times, kickin between every yell. Then Jim answered, and I kept up yellin and kickin first with one boot and then the other. The bear didn’t drop an inch. Just as he eased up a little bit I swung again. Gosh, it seemed as if Jim was takin his time comin along that trail. Just as I swung the forty-ninth kick Jim come in sight. I dropped flat on my back. Jim popped one inter the bear, and it flopped over onter me. Jim wuz the most surprised man you ever see. It wuz two hours before I could prove to him that I wuz tellin the truth about the bear.”

Then Jack piled another log on the fire and started in on a new tale.

“This spring I come near bein done fer,” he said. “Kerosene kept me in pickle long enough to get near a fire, and then I wuz all right again.”

We wanted to know if kerosene oil wasn’t a new beverage for him.

“No, I didn’t drink none.” he continued. “I started to cross Brandy brook on a log. I wanted to cut off a three mile walk around by the trail. The water wuz high, and there wuz a strong current runnin out inter the lake. This log was about a foot and a half through. I rolled it off into the stream. I tucked my breeches in my boots and straddled the log. I hadn’t kicked a dozen strokes before I got out inter the swift water, and then I could see I wuz in fer it. I kicked to back up again to the shore, but it wuz no use, so I let it go. It came on dark, and my feet began to freeze. My old boots had been well greased, but the water dripped in at the tops and soaked my stockin’s.

“I tried kickin harder to keep my blood stirred up. I drifted over toward Bear mountain and knew that if the wind kept up I would land somewhere before midnight. Just as I wuz gettin almighty froze I thought of a bottle of kerosene I had to oil my gun. You can bet I wuz wishin it wuz somethin more cheerin than kerosene oil. A little alkehal and sugar at that time would ‘a’ slipped down inter them boots from the inside and melted them frozen toes, but there warn’t nuthin but kerosene. I poured it half and half inter each boot, and I know it helped to make me easy fer a time. But by and by it seemed to me the oil must be freezin too. It wuz lucky I had my old matchbox along in my vest pocket, high and dry, fer then the idea struck me that if I lit a match and sent it down inter the oil it would warm things up some. There warn’t much else to do or think erbout. I wuz makin fer Bear Mountain island slow, but steady. If I didn’t get there till midnight, my feet would both be froze off, so I made up my mind to try the matches. Lucky fer me, my boots had wide tops, so I could sent the lit match down to the bottom, where it ‘ud do the most good. Well, sir, the first match in the right boot did the trick fine. It took fire and thawed things out quicker’n I thought. Blisters raised all over, and when it got scalded all comfortably I wriggled around and put out the fire. Then I tried it on the left foot, and it worked just as well. There wuz enough matches left to start a fire on the island when I drifted in there toward 12 o’clock.”

The Steubenville Herald (Steubenville, Ohio) Nov 21, 1896

Deadly Pickles

June 22, 2010


A most melancholy circumstance occurred in New York a day or two since. On the last day of December, a member of the family of Eber Wheaton, Esq. placed some mango pickles in a yellow earthen jar, which was glazed on the inside with a preparation of lead; the acid of the vinegar acted on the lead in the glazing, dissolved some of it, and thus produced a powerful poison, (acetate of lead, commonly called sugar of lead,) which was dissolved in the vinegar.

Nearly all the family of Mr. W. partook of the pickles, and especially his eldest daughter, (nineteen years of age,) a niece of his, and his three youngest children. On the 9th January, his youngest child, (a daughter,) was attacked with inflamation of the bowels, and died on the 14th in great agony, but without any one suspecting the cause of her death.

During this interval of five days, his next eldest child, (a boy, seven years of age,) was attacked with similar symptoms, as was also the next eldest daughter; the boy, after suffering dreadfully, died five days after he was first attacked, but the daughter is still living. The direful effects of the deleterious substance of which they had partaken, did not stop here; for on the night that the youngest child died, the eldest daughter was also attacked, together with a young lady, her cousin.

Still the cause of the sickness was not suspected. On the 19th, Judge Wheaton himself ate some of the pickles, and on the following day was attacked the same as the rest of his family had been.

On the 21st, the physician who attended them, stated as his belief that they must have been poisoned by metallic salts; the pickles were tested, and the result confirmed his suspicions. The proper remedies were then resorted to, and the remaining sufferers are now, we are happy to say, considered convalescent.

The Peoples Press (Gettysburg, Pennsylvania) Feb 6, 1835

Joseph Damon – A Murderer Swung Twice

June 21, 2010


A man named JOSEPH DAMON, was executed at Mayville, Chautauque county, New York, on the fifteenth ult. for the murder of his wife.

He walked from the jail to the gallows, ascended the scaffold unassisted and with a firm step, and remained calmly seated there, while a sermon was delivered by a clergyman. He then rose and addressed the assembly in a speech of about thirty minutes, being for the most part a repetition of previous statements, that witnesses had sworn falsely, and that if his wife came to her death by his hands he must have been insane, as he had no recollection of committing any act of violence toward her.

Having shaken hands with the officers and gentlemen on the scaffold, the halter being adjusted and the cap drawn over his face, he was swung off, but the rope slipping from its fastness on the beam above, he dropped upon the ground with but little or no injury to himself. —

He merely observed that he wished they would loosen the rope around his neck as he “wanted to breathe once more.”

The sheriff complied with his wish, and Damon re-ascended the scaffold, and, during the adjustment of the rope the second time, he intreated, “that is be done quick.”

He was then swung off the second time, and thus, with a few struggles, closed the career of Joseph Damon. It is stated that about fifteen thousand persons witnessed the execution!

The Peoples Press (Gettysburg, Pennsylvania) Jun 5, 1835

Fredonia, NY (Image from


Executions In Those Days Caused Much Interest — Witnessed By Large Crowds.

The executions of the present are very different from those of 75 or 80 years ago. In those days the affair was public and always attracted large crowds. In the Jamestown Journal of last week, was a description of the hanging of Joseph Damon at Mayville on May 15, 1835, as told by the late Henry S. Aiden, shortly before his last illness, he being an eye-witness to the affair:

Mr. Aiden was then a boy about 14 years old and like hundreds of others was early on the ground to see and hear all that took place. It became a holiday for the people of Chautauque county. From every point of hte compass came wagon loads of men, women and children, all hurrying to reach Mayville. Not one in that crowd by look or tune showed any sign of the solemnity of the occasion.

A wagon, containing a coffin was backed up to the jail door. At the appointed time with a slow step Mr. Damon, attended by officers, came out and was helped to a seat in the wagon. The state guards had been called out for the occasion and were drawn up in two lines, one on either side of he wagon with a band, consisting of fife and muffled drums.

When all was in readiness the musicians played what has since been known as Damon’s March and led the way to the scaffold, erected on the hillside near the present site of the high school building. The guard formed a circle about the scaffold and stood with fixed bayonets. Rev. Sawyer preached the funeral sermon from Prov. 11:19. Mr. Damon listened with marked attention and at its close made some remarks, warning the young to abstain from intoxicating drink.

Assisted by Sheriff Saxton and other officers the prisoner was led up four or five steps and placed on the trap, the rope adjusted and the trap sprung. The falling of the body followed by the cry: “You have hung me once, now let me go,” unnerved the boy of 14 years and when the rope was again adjusted he could bear the sight no longer and turned his face away.

While he was being jostled about in the crowd which he said was the largest he had ever seen, he heard two men discussing the scene. One remarked that he thought it a pretty poor place for women and children. The remark was overheard by a woman who snarled in a not very pleasing tone:

“I have just as good a right here as you have.”

The crowd dispersed, the first execution in the county completed, and the last public execution in the state.

The body was turned over to three men who represented the family and who started in a two-horse wagon for some point in the northern part of the county.

Eight miles from Mayville the three men became thirsty and stopping at the John West tavern refreshed themselves with a liberal supply of whiskey.

LeRoy Gazette (LeRoy, New York) Jun 22, 1908

The first murder trial to be held in the county did not come until 1834, more than thirty years after the first settlement, and was one of the last trials to be held in the old court house. On the 24th day of April, 1834, Doctors Walworth and Crosby, of Fredonia, were called to the residence of Joseph Damon, about three miles from the village. There a terrible tragedy had been enacted. The wife of Joseph Damon was found on a bed with face, hair and pillow on which she lay stiff with her clotted blood. The blood smeared fire poker, which then stood near the fireplace, was unmistakable evidence of the instrument used to commit the horrible deed.

Damon’s trial occured on September 22, 1834. Judge Addison presided, with Hon. Philo Orton, Thomas B. Campbell, Benjamin Walworth and Artemus Herrick, judges of the county court, as associates. Samuel A. Brown, district attorney, and Sheldon Smith, of Buffalo, appeared as counsel for the People, while the prisoner was defended by James Mullett and Jacob Houghton, of Fredonia. Damon was convicted, and sentence of death was pronounced at the oyer and terminer held in March, 1935.

On the 15th of May following, a gallows had been erected in the open field at Mayville, on the west declivity of the hill, not far from the present Union school building. The sheriff, William Saxton, called out the Two Hundred Seventh regiment of the militia, with William D. Bond in command, to serve as a guard on this occasion. A public execution took place; men, women and children from all part of the county came to witness the scene on foot, horseback, and in wagons, the day having been made a general holiday; the number of spectators was estimated at from eight to fifteen thousand. When the drop fell, the fastenings of the rope broke away, and Damon fell to the ground.

He then appealed to the sheriff to postpone the execution, but public sentiment had not reached the deep aversion to legal public executions, and the rope was readjusted and the hanging was completed. This was the last public execution to take place in Chautauqua county.

Title: Legal and Judicial History of New York, Volume 3
Authors: Lyman Horace Weeks, John Hampden Dougherty
Editor: Alden Chester
Publisher: National Americana society, 1911
Pages 305-306 (Google book LINK)

“Don’t Come Here!” – Unemployment East and West

June 5, 2010

No Jobs In California.

Those in search of jobs should not seek employment in California, for they are likely to be disappointed, according to the warning just sent out. Lewis O. Whip, formerly of this county, who is now at San Diego, Cal., sent to The News a newspaper clipping which sets forth this warning. He states that, “the Eastern people are called tenderfeet out here in California.” The California Commission of immigration and Housing has just concluded an exhaustive investigation of conditions of unemployed in that state. It found there are now in the state thousands of more men than jobs, hence this warning to outsiders seeking jobs to stay away.

The News (Frederick, Maryland) Dec 29,  1914


NEW YORK, Oct. 17. — Shun New York! That is the warning flashed broadcast by Walter Lincoln Sears, newly appointed superintendent of the Municipal Employment Bureau, which opened its doors for business the first time a couple of days ago.

“New York is the worst place in the world for the man seeking employment now,” said Sears today. “I don’t like to be pessimistic, nor do I like to overstate things, but by all the signs, I fear this is going to be ‘some’ winter. If there is anything that can be done to keep the unemployed away from here it should be done. Already the number of men out of work exceeds the supply of jobs by thousands and the result is only too plain. There is going to be lots of suffering. Keep out of New York. That’s my advice to job hunters.”

Sears is hard at work rounding his department into shape so that some real good can be done this winter. The municipal free employment bureau was authorized in an ordinance which was signed May 4 by Mayor Mitchell.

A twice-a-month labor letter, in which local conditions are fully reported, is one  of the innovations planned by Sears. Sears came here from Boston in September. He was in charge of the state employment bureau there for eight years.


The municipal bureau here consists of fourteen clerks. Its offices are located at Lafayette and Leonard streets, where the floor space of 3000 square feet is occupied.

The bureau which will be maintained out of general taxes collected by the city, aims to reduce unemployment by giving free service to both employes and workers and by studying the labor market in such a manner that the worker can be sent on his way to employment as soon as a vacancy occurs.

“After all, the labor supply is an interstate proposition,” said Sears. “The federal government should take a hand and organize a national employment bureau. There are several bills before Congress, but they are unnecessary. Legislation is not needed. The department of Labor can start the venture if the funds are appropriated.”

Superintendent Sears said no municipality can do more than relieve the unemployed problem, since the industrial difficulties are nationwide. However, it is possible to do away with much waste of time and money by having the city bureau, he declared.

It has been charged that private employment offices in the city waged a desperate opposition to the new municipal bureau. The reason for this was obvious. The municipal bureau nearly put the private offices out of business. It really did that in a great many cases.

A majority of the private offices, it has been known, were simply “grafting” places. Laborers were bled for their savings by fake employment agents. Even in the best of the private bureaus, such high rates are charged that the laborers realize but little from their jobs.

Sears declared the opposition of the private bureaus had no effect for the reason that the municipal bureau fills a long felt want. It is a popular institution and the people won’t stand for seeing private interests block it, he said.

Oakland Tribune (Oakland, California) Oct 18, 1914

**Someone should have informed Mr. Sears that “taxpayer funded” is NOT free;  the taxpayers pay for it.