Buffalo, Thirty-Six Years Ago - Part 2

A series of articles from the 1855 newspaper, The Democracy, taken from the files of the Niagara Journal, a newspaper, which started publication in 1819 in Buffalo, then part of Niagara County.
The first 3 articles from this 5-part series can be found at Buffalo, Thirty-Six Years Ago, Part 1.


Saturday, April 21, 1855

We trust our readers feel as deep an interest in the old file to which we have introduced them as we do, for we intend giving them a few more excerpts from its ancient columns.

On the 25th of May occurs the advertisement of Doctor CHAPIN addressed "To Mechanics," and soliciting for proposals to erect an Episcopal Church 60 feet by 44. The result of this was the building of the little wooden edifice which was removed to make way for the present St. Paul's; the old building was taken into some remote district of the 4th Ward, where it is occupied by a society of another denomination. The steam-boat Walk-in-the-Water is advertised to leave Black Rock for the island of Michillimackinanc on the eleventh day of June. We are informed that the boat is "near four hundred ton burden, has a powerful engine, is schooner rigged and in every respect a safe and commodious vessel. She will perform the voyage up and back, in two weeks, remaining two days and, a proportionate time at Detroit and other American ports."

COL. STONE the well known editor and biographer had been caned by the son of a Mr. BURROWS, a Democratic Republican whom, STONE being a Federalist, had ridiculed in print. The Colonel was badly beaten, but the next day two men attacked BURROWS, and caned him. -
The "Niagara County Agricultural Society" had now been fully organized, with the following named gentlemen as its officers: CYRENIUS CHAPIN, President; E. WALDEN, BENJ. BARTON, EBENEZER GOODRICH, ASHER SAXTON, ALANSON EGGLESTON, Vice-Presidents; JOSEPH W. MOULTON, Secretary; (our old friend of cabbage poling memory;) JONAS HARRISON, Treasurer; HEMAN B. POTTER, Auditor. Of these, Judge WALDEN is the only one now remaining among us. The others, so far as we know them are dead. We have an account of an 'Indian Outrage" in Michigan, in pretty nearly the same terms as those now current, with Kansas and Utah as their localities; thirty-six years hence those territories may be as quiet as Michigan now.

The following paragraph is curious, as showing how little was known of a part of the globe now familiar to all -

California, a narrow peninsula of land on the western side of our continent extending from latitude 22N to 33, hitherto a kind of appendage of Mexico, is said to have been ceded by Spain to Russia. This information is derived from the captain of a Russian ship, who was spoken [to] by an American at the Sandwich Islands.

Here is another which indicates that filibustieros were not looked upon as favorably in 1819 as they are in 1855.

Sixteen of the crew of a piratical vessel which came into the Chesapeake, have been arrested at Norfolk.

Under the head of "Rapid Travelling" we have the account of a party of gentlemen who went from New York to Philadelphia and back in one day. "This," says the paragraph, "has never been equalled."

BONAPARTE had been heard from; Captain CLUNE of the brig Saunders from Manilla, had been boarded off St. Helena, and enquiring of the boarding officers "How is Bony?" received for reply that he was "in good health, but growling like a bear with a sore head." Even at this late date, we meet occasionally with a paragraph, giving Englishmen the credit of having been the first to cross the Atlantic by steam. This paragraph is sufficient to correct that error.

The steam-ship Savannah on her passage to Russia, was seen on Saturday last in lat. 38° 30 min. and long. 68 by Captain BROWN of the schooner Union, from Madiera. At first view it was supposed she was a ship on fire. She moved rapidly having her sails set and her machinery in operation.

On the 24th of June the corner-stone of the Episcopal Church was laid, with religious and masonic ceremonies, the Rev. WM. CLARKE delivering an address. The Walk-in-the-Water is advertised to make a trip to Detroit and back, every nine days, and it is added that the public may rely upon a punctual compliance with this arrangement. That was prompt and speedy travelling indeed. Mr. JULIUS GUITEAU, then Postmaster, announces that thereafter no credit will be allowed on postages, and gives the time of closing the mails; at this time, there was a tri-weekly easter mail from Buffalo.

In July there occurred a heavy gale, which considerably damaged the shipping at Black Rock. During its continuance, a herring fell through the air, and dropped upon the sidewalk in front of the Phoenix "Coffee-House." It was alive, weighed nine ounces and measured thirteen inches in length. A comet was also seen, and a "non descript animal was caught at Black Rock," which from the description, we should think was one of those lizard-like creatures, now found at that place and called, nobody knows why, the proteus. At the Oyer and Terminer for July, John Godfrey was tried for and convicted of the murder of Thomas Branaghan, both solders at Fort Niagara. Godfrey was subsequently hung, his being the first execution ever had in the village. People came from all parts of Niagara County to attend the hanging, and we have often heard it said, by the old citizens, that many camped out, over night, on the ground. The gallows were erected, on Niagara Square. That our village forefathers were patriotic may be inferred from the following troasts [sic] drunk on the occasion of the Fourth of July celebration in that year.

The Americad [sic] Eagle - May it never stoop from its lofty flights to heed the growls of the British lion! (Gun and 3 cheers)

The Field of Bridgwater, where American freedom spoke louder than the cataract. (Gun and 6 cheers)

The editor of the Albany Plough Boy, in announcing the establishment at Boon's Lick, Missouri, of a weekly paper says: "We are no prophet or the second generation from the present will march straight-forward, on a smooth road, and through flourishing settlements, from Albany to the Columbia River." Who this sanguine prophet was, we do not know, but if he be now living he must feel considerably more sanguine than he did when he uttered his vaticanation, of its fulfillment within the alloted time. The celebrated duels at Gibraltar, between American naval and British army officers, are detailed in full. One of these affairs was between Mr. STOCKTON of the Erie and a Captain JOHNSON of the Sixty-fourth Regiment. We presume this to be Commodore STOCKTON, late of the Navy and subsequently Senator from New Jersey. On the 3rd of August, a public dinner was given, at E. NORTON's hotel, to Governor CLINTON, who was visiting this part of the state. The enthusiastic devotion to this excellent man, at this time, can hardly be appreciated in these days of corruption among politicians. "Our affairs with Spain" were in a complicated condition at that time. Indeed this condition of these affairs appears to be chronic, and persistent; treatment by phlebotomy was then, as now, recommended by counsil of the "heroic" school of politico-medicine. It is curious, too, to note the language of the National Intelligencer in reference to this subject. Almost precsely the sentiments now daily found in that paper were expressed by it in 1819, when trouble with Spain, on account of Florida seemed imminent. But we have consumed all the space at our disposal for to-day; we shall return to the old file in an early issue.


Monday, April 23, 1855

The old file still continues to yield us, as we hope it will our readers, a vast amount of pleasure. We shall venture, on the assumption that our friends are not tired of them, to make another column of selections from its matter.

In August 1819, was consecrated the first Presbyterian church ever erected in New Orleans. The Journal says that "the papers mention it as an occurrence as strange as would be the licensing of a gambling house in a Northern city." Chicago, known at the time as a post, with an "United States factor," was spelled Chicaugo. JACOB B. VARNUM was then the "factor" at that point. Many paragraphs in the old paper, if read aloud now, might very well pass for fresh items of intelligence. For example - "We understand that orders have been issued by the Navy Department to double the number of workmen engaged at the different yards in constructing ships of war." We have read dozens of similar paragraphs within the month. Another coincidence: Commodore PERRY had gone with a fleet to one of the South American States to demand reparation for some insult. Are those States constantly insulting us, and as constantly apologizing? The facts seem to establish this as true, for at this moment Venezuela is in contempt as Chili was not long since and Peru before that.

A long correspondence is published, which passed between the Hon. D.D. TOMPKINS, late Governor of New York and the Vice-President, and ARCHIBALD MCINTYRE,the comptroller of the State and since known as "the great Lottery man." The correspondence related to some money due TOMPKINS for loans he had affected during the war, for the benefit of the public, and on which MCINTYRE refused to allow him the usual rates of premium. We do not know, but we are of the opinion that it was in relation to this arrearage that only within a year or two laws have been passed, "for the relief of the heirs of D.D. TOMPKINS." That able man raised money when the government credit was insufficient to accomplish it, and it is but an illustration of the ingratitude of Republics, if the debt has only been recently cancelled.

Notice is given of the intention of the Commissioners appointed by law to open the "Niagara, Cattaraugus and Chautauqua Turnpike" from Buffalo to Fredonia. This road opened up a most valuable and fertile county, 'till then pretty nearly a wilderness. Another coincidence; the Sea Serpent had been seen and an expedition fitted out to take him, in the expectation of obtaining a bounty offered for his capture. In a New Jersey paper we noticed, on Saturday, a paragraph mentioning the appearance of this mysterious stranger and the offer of a reward to his captors; only now, the amount is $1,000 while thirty-six years ago it was $10,000.

The announcement of the establishment at Cleveland of a new paper called The Herald appears. We were not aware that our excellent contemporary had reached so respectable a maturity. The Rev. ELEAZAR WILLIAMS, since more noted as the "St. Regis Dauphin" was preaching to the Oneida Indians, and the first mission to the Sandwich Islands was announced as about to sail. Commodore Perry's death, at the island of Trinidad is reported, and as might be expected, is the cause of much grief. Seal Proposals were requested for the supply of six hundred cords of bass wood, for the steamboat. Long within our remembrance the steamers on the Lakes used nothing but soft wood in their furnaces. There was difficulty about the mails in those days; The Albany mail which left that city on Monday morning arrived here, in "good going" on Thursday, but, if it was detained until the next day, it had to lie a week before it could go out West, as the mail for the West only left on Friday mornings. Mr. GUITEAU the postmaster was exerting his utmost skill to arrange matters, in which we trust he succeeded. At all events, our mails now go West on the day of their arrival from the East.

In the Journal of Nov. 2, is contained the account of the first experiment in running a boat upon the Canal. A boat called "The Chief Engineer" with about thirty passengers on board, went from Rome to Utica. She was everywhere greeted with enthusiasm, cheers and the firing of guns. She performed the trip in ten hours and thirty-five minutes, the distance being sixteen miles.

On Friday, the 3rd of December, Godfrey, the soldier, was executed. A sermon was delivered by the REV. Mr. FILLMORE, and other religious services were had. The prisoner testified, as is usual in such cases, to the part liquor had had in his crime. Governor CLINTON had caused to be published for a time, in the Journal, a notice to squatters on Grand Island to leave, and empowering the Sheriff to remove these intruders upon the State lands. Accordingly, on the 9th of December, Sheriff CRONK proceeded to obey the mandate of the Governor. Summoning a body of about fifty militia, he proceeded to the island, where he found about twenty families of squatters, whom he removed to Canada, at their request. The settlement originally consisted of about seventy families, who had formed a rude social compact, recognizing laws of their own, enforced by justices chosen from among their own number. They had wasted and destroyed much valuable timber. The graves of some of these early settlers, marked by rough and unsculptured head-stones, may still be seen at the upper extremity of the island. We believe that they gradually struggled back, after the forced exodus of 1819, but never accummulated in so large a body subsequently.

The President's Message appears in full, and we may mention, as one evidence of the retrogression of our customs, that instead of occupying a whole broadside, it is of the commendable brevity of four sheet columns. This is one practical working of the "Monroe doctrine" which President PIERCE might study to improvement.

The remarkable case which some of our readers may remember, of the brothers Brown convicted on their confession of the murder of Colvin, is given in the Journal. A skeleton was found in a potato hole on the premises of the Browns, which, on their being arrested, they confessed to be that of Colvin, a brother-in-law, whom they had supported, but who had been long missing. A barlow knife, and some trouser buttons were near the skeleton, which Colvin's wife swore had been her husband's. - The brothers were sentenced to be hung, but the punishment of one of them was commuted to imprisonment for life. About the time set for the execution, Colvin turned up alive, but insane! We have repeatedly heard this case urged as an argument against the death penalty, but nener before saw it detailed in print.

The Journal of Feb. 1, 1820 contains the memorial of M.M. NOAH to the Legislature asking the passage of a Law authorizing the survey of Grand Island for the purpose of fixing the price at which it should be transferred to him. His desire was to erect there a place of refuge for the Jews, and to gather together in that spot the remnants of the scattered descendents of Abraham. Perhaps some of our readers may have seen, near the sawmills upon the island, a dilapidated monument, which constitutes all that ever was completed of that intention.

And here we take leave of our "old file" hoping that the extracts we have given have been as entertaining to our readers as they have been to us.