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.
Showing posts with label Erie Canal. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Erie Canal. Show all posts

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Tanner Dry Dock

A request was received asking for the location of the Tanner dry dock.  Here is a snippet view from the Cayuga Genweb 1875 map that shows where it was located.

The following map is from 1904

Compare the above to Google and you will see changes and the re-appearance of James St, but don't be fooled by the map, the street signs are labled W Dock Street at both ends (not James).  You will also see slight changes to Rochester St as well.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Steam Boat Port Byron

Here's an interesting article that captured my attention!

To find any steam boat named Port Byron is worth exploration:

Click here for Mahan patent for propulsion of Canal Boats.

Click here for Primus Emerson patent for paddle wheel.  

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Things Don't Last Forever

Photo: EPA Public Profile
Tremendous effort has been made to try to save the old mill on Green Street.

The site suffered heavy metal contamination from the operations of the RN Hitchcock Electroplating business.  It has been the home of many different businesses in its long 100+ year history.

The EPA has been working with allot of determination to try to clean and remove the contaminants so that the site could be established as a historic property with the Park Service.

Unfortunately fate has not cooperated with that goal.  Recently there were several main support beams that have cracked, causing extensive damage.  I visited the site for a tour with Michael Hoppe with the Response and Prevention Branch of the EPA on the evening of October 9th.  It was a quick reminder that history alone can not save a structure.

While the damage is evident from the outside, it isn't until you go inside that your heart sinks.  The fractured support beams has caused a significant shift to the South West corner of the building.  The damages are beyond the resources to repair it.

If there is any glimmer in our situation, it is the documentation process that will be carried out to record as much as possible about the site before it is removed.  This is an opportunity that would be lost if the structure were allowed to simply collapse.  The project site will be recorded with various photos and reports about the old mill which will be made public record.  I will record these materials on this blog for my readers as the information becomes available.  I will also add a special section on the footer of this website with the various links.  However, I wanted to share the information here so that readers will be aware that resources about the Green Street Mill will appear in the footer in the near future.

The mill will be razed by the end of this month to reduce the risk of collapse from the winter snow load soon approaching.  It is sad to see so much progress made to the site yet not be able to reach the finish line.  It is an outcome that could not have been predicted.

It would appear that prior owners were aware
Photo: EPA Public Profile
of the support beam condition, as sections of the building have had new cross beams added.  The section that failed was an area that had not had any alterations.  This was in the area previously used as office space.  Additional photos will be posted to the EPA website soon.

The drop shifted floor support beams away from the walls so that portions of the floors are no longer in contact with the beams.  Oddly, the beams were notched and butted onto the beams but never permanently secured.  This poses a continuous problem with any restoration work as the repair work itself could cause a similar shift in other areas of the structure.  It was an odd experience to look at a door frame and see a good 2 inch drop from one corner to the next in such a short span of space.  This caused the wall in question to separate from the ceiling.  Our tour did not include the second floor and I was perfectly comfortable with staying at the lower level.

It will be sad to see the structure go.  Often structures are lost with no advance warning from natural disasters, fires etc.  We will have a final opportunity to document the Green Street Mill with its written, oral and photographic history in tact.  This will serve as a lasting record that this building was indeed here and was once a vital part of our business community.  In addition, some artifacts from its contents will be transported to local museums to preserve her legacy.

Without TLC, buildings do not last forever.  Additions were added onto this structure  without ensuring foundation support would sustain it.  It would be these final additions and the final industry of its last major occupant that has closed the final chapter on this structure; it is a building that we will surely miss.

You will gain a better appreciation of the vast amount of work already made in attempts to save our mill by visiting the public profile:  (Be sure to click on the photos to the right side)

EPA Profile of the Green Street Mill

Please visit the Phase 1 report that covers the mill's historic timeline:


Again, a special section will be added to the footer of this blog as a permanent archive to our mill.  Stay tuned to the EPA Profile link shown above for additional photos as they are added.

I would like to extend my appreciation to Michael Hoppe for proving a short tour of the project site so that I could see first hand the challenges they faced.  Mr. Wilt has extended his blessing to make mention of the mill on my blog to update those interested in our history, past and present.

On behalf of the Port Byron community, we extend our deepest sympathies to the Wilt family for the loss of this historic structure that has tied several generations in their family.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Abner Armstrong

My post about the lawsuit over Dr. Hoffman's cherry tree made me do some additional research on his neighbor Abner Armstrong.

Abner was no stranger to litigation. He was involved in a trespass suit with Dr. Hiram D Eldridge in 1859. This I found to be a bit strange as both cases involved local doctors. What are the odds?

Then I happened to notice that in 1859, Dr. Eldridge just happened to own the same parcel of land that Dr. Hoffman did in 1864, so both physicians owned property that was adjacent to the Armstrong Brother's place of business along the Erie Canal Route in the village.

The 1859 map shows the Armstrong's building as a Grocery but by 1875 the building is listed as being used for coal and grain.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Section 7 Canal Assignments

I thought readers may enjoy seeing more of the names of locals that were appointed by L.H. King of Port Byron for Section 7 on the Erie Canal.

Newspapers did not always separate workers by title, so did the best I could with the changing format from one year to another. Also, some newspaper dates were very difficult to read. However, it is fun to see the regulars that were appointed.

Section 7 Canal Assignments

Monday, April 13, 2009

Erie Canal Boatman

In my previous post I mentioned having some mutual interest in the Erie Canal. I thought it might be beneficial to readers who may not be familiar with Port Byron to share more of the details.

Aaron Wilson and his brother Caleb both had long careers as coopers or barrel makers. This was a specialty field related to transport of cargo on the canal. Many products could be stored and transported with the use of these barrels. However, this alone does not indicate that one traveled the canal system. However, Aaron’s son Aaron Eugene, who went by the name of Gene, was employed as a boatman early in his marriage to Frances Traver. She was the daughter of James Nicholas Traver and Elizabeth Spears.

James N. Traver would also work for a time as a boatman per the 1875 census. Living in his household was a man named Stewart Kendrick who was a silversmith. At this time James and his family lived at the intersection of First Street and Harnden Street, one of the side streets off of King Street. By 1880, his daughter Frances had married Gene Wilson and was residing with the Travers, both employed as boatman. Even his wife worked for a short time as a cook on the scow, so this may indicate that they worked on passenger boats on the canal. Gene and his family would later own and occupy the home where Henry Wells once lived (Henry Wells was a founder of the Wells Fargo Express, American Express and Wells College).

James would later leave the canal and become a respected painter in the area. He was awarded many large contracts for painting area schools and churches. His son in law Gene Wilson would eventually work for Richard Warren & Sons, the local coal dealer. However, the Traver’s service to the Erie does not stop there.

James had a brother John A Traver who would settle at Weedsport. His family had long careers on the canal. John was a Captain on the Erie, spending much of his time on the Hudson, the canal and inland lakes of New York State. He purchased what was known as "Poor Jake's Crocery " from Joshua Ketchum and would later purchase Ketchum’s farm.

John’s daughter Sarah Frances Traver married into another canal family, having married John Rosa. They traveled the canal for 10 years after their marriage at Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY. He operated a fleet of grain barges and was captain of the "Lizzy Petrie" and the "Alice A. Savage”. John’s son John Traver Jr., better known as Jack Traver, worked as an Engineer on the Erie. He would later take up farming at Weedsport. Many people will recall Jack Traver as one of the leading members of the Weedsport Cornet Band.

The Traver brothers did not become employed on the canal by chance. Their father John Joshua Traver was also employed on the canal. The family lived in various places including Hurley, Ulster Co., Lyons, Wayne County, as well as the Albany area.

It is not known what boats James N Traver and his son in law Gene Wilson traveled during their time on the canal. I'm not aware of any oral history passed down of them having their own boats. They were likely employed for other local canalers or perhaps even worked on his brother’s boat from Weedsport.

This is only one of the families that worked on the canal. Soon I will add the Kilmer’s involvement with the Erie Canal, so stay tuned….

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