Welcome to the History Corner!
Celebrating the rich history of Port Byron, New York, an old Erie Canal village in the Town of Mentz. This site is dedicated to the legacy and heritage of our community as well as a variety of regional historical tidbits. I hope you enjoy your visit and will stop by again.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Philo Hamilton - Builder of Steamers

It really is a small world!

For several years idle conversations with a co-worker in Syracuse would commonly turn into short chats about the Erie Canal. The conversations would usually end with mutual admiration that both of our families worked on the canal. Then one day Carol Kruger mentioned that she thought someone in her family was born at Port Byron. That prompted me to take a closer look. It turned out that her family did in deed have a connection. That connection would involve the Tanner Dry Dock.

Her ancestor Philo Hamilton was born in 1832 at Chemung County, NY, son of James Hamilton and Sophrona Durham. The family would live in Seneca County before moving to Cayuga County. Philo married Sarah Garling and became a well known builder of steamboats.

Philo designed Syracuse’s "The William B Kirk", a steamboat built for the picnic season and capable of transporting over 100 passengers. Cayuga County Historian Sheila Tucker wrote several articles in the 1970’s that included information on the Hamiltons. One such article was about the steamer "The Lady of the Lake", which was unveiled with great fanfare, having been christened by General William H. Seward Jr., which had a 23 year run on the Owasco Lake.

Philo’s son Joseph married Orpha Crofut and he also followed his father’s footsteps. Joseph owned the steamers “Ada” and “Agnes”. He also built a tugboat at nearby Ludlowville. Father and son appeared in another article that focused on their boat being docked at Tanner's Dry Dock at Port Byron. It was very surreal to find a photo of her ancestors in my hometown knowing all these years have passed and today we work together.

Joseph’s son Gilbert Everson Hamilton is buried at Mt. Pleasant Cemetery. Gilbert married Emma Louise Blaisdell, a daughter of Delazon Blaisdell and Mary Kern. Port Byron had become home for part of this family.

Many locals worked at Tanner’s dry dock, performing a variety of tasks such as caulking, painting, and repairing the many boats that traveled the canal. This photo of the Hamilton’s at Tanners Dry Dock is just a reminder that many families have ties to our town and village.

Photo of the Hamilton's at Tanner's Dry Dock