Issue 7-6-14 Website - page 11

The Fourth of July
As everyone celebrates the
Fourth of July this week, it’s
interesting to note that it wasn’t
until1870, thatCongressdeclared
the Fourth of July a holiday
– albeit an unpaid holiday for
government workers, but none-
the-less, a holiday.
other events. For example, the
cornerstone of the Washington
monument was laid on July 4,
1848. And slaves in New York
Stateweregranted their freedom
on July 4, 1827. But on July 4,
1817, an event happened in
Rome,NewYork thatwouldhave
an impacton theTownofLeRoy.
ItwasonJuly4,1817, inRome,
NewYork, that thefirst shovel of
dirt was dug for the Erie Canal.
It most certainlywas a symbolic
gesture, for the route had not
been verified. Funding was not
guaranteed. There were massive
engineering challenges. And the
Canalwasapolitical football. But
Herman LeRoy and his business
waiting for this day.
With thebuildingof theCanal,
the economic future of Western
NewYorkwouldmost certainly
be insured and their investments
would be profitable. The idea of
canals thatwould link theportsof
theEastCoastwith the interiorof
theUnitedStateshadbeen in the
Washington. Other men would
claim to be the visionary that
created the Erie Canal. Elkanah
Watson in1788exploredavariety
of routes. He claimed to be the
fatherof theErieCanal,butaswe
know, itwouldbeDeWittClinton
whowouldbe tied forever to the
great “Ditch.”
After much haggling and
political posturing, the New
York State Legislature decided
in 1808, that a canal would be
built. Now the political and
financial shenanigans began in
earnest. Who would control the
canal? Who would be awarded
contracts? Who would finance
the canal?
When Thomas Jefferson
was President, he proposed
using federal funds to upgrade
and enhance the country’s
infrastructure but when a group
of men from New York put the
plans for the Erie Canal on his
desk, Jefferson declared that
the project was a century before
its time. He believed that it was
beyond the resources of the
new republic. When the Canal
project was submitted to the
NewYork State Legislature, the
Conservative representatives
fromNewYork City refused to
support it, although it would be
their constituents who would
benefit themost.
In 1815, a public meeting
was held in New York City to
present the project to potential
investors and to convince them
that the canal had togooverland
to Buffalo. (Many men had
proposed that the canal connect
to Lake Ontario- near Oswego,
and then boats would enter the
Niagara River, and travel by
Canal toLakeErie).
William Bayard who was the
senior member of theNewYork
firmof (Herman)LeRoy,Bayard
and McEvers presided over the
andLeRoyhad abig stake in the
canal andBayardwasamanwho
was always looking for business
opportunities – especially if they
would be profitable.
LeRoy, Bayard and McEvers
hadentered into land speculation
with foreign investors, known as
the Holland Land Company. It
was illegal for foreign investors
to buy land in the United States
for speculation, but Bayard and
LeRoy became the “front men”
in numerous land deals.
Joseph Ellicott had a hand
in the deal too. He also wanted
the canal to cross through the
HollandPurchase.Tosweeten the
pot, Bayard and LeRoy offered
several thousand acres of land
as a right-of-way for the canal.
The truth was, that the western
route of the canal had not been
determined. From the Genesee
River, the canal could dip south
and head toward Batavia – a
route much preferred by Joseph
Ellicott. This was the shortest
route but unfortunately there
wasn’t enough water to fill the
canal so the northern route was
eventually chosen, and the land
offered by LeRoy and Bayard
was never utilized.
TheErieCanalopened in1825.
Herman LeRoy had sent his son
Jacob to theTriangleTract to sell
off the land in1822. Jacob lostno
timeandbought theoldStoddard
flour mill and added new mill
stones. He built a distillery to
makewhiskey from thecorn that
he acquired a warehouse on the
ErieCanal inBrockport.
Every day, wagons loaded
withbarrelsofflour andwhiskey
made their way seventeenmiles
north toBrockport tobe shipped
on the Canal toAlbany, then by
steamship toNewYorkCity.The
wagons would return filled with
goods from the East and New
YorkCity tobe sold in the stores
Sowith the first shovel of dirt
in1817,whatwas tobeknownas
the“EighthWonderof theWorld”
was begun. It made the Empire
State the richest state in the
Union, and it opened theWest to
Thefirst shovelwas turned at thewest end of theVillage ofRome on July 17, 1817.
one church st. le roy, ny
585-768-2201 M-F8-5
1...,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10 12,13,14,15,16,17,18,19,20
Powered by FlippingBook