James Duane Galloway Letter, 1912

Palmyra, NY

Wayne County, NY

This letter describing events of James Duane Galloway's childhood in early 19th century Palmyra was graciously contributed by Chuck Galloway!

James Duane Galloway

Palmyra, New York, December 5, 1912

My Dear Young Friend:

With 92 years already gone out of the 100 which you assure me I have on earth, and I judge you do not expect me to stay longer, I feel that I have not much time left to waste if I am to get my work all done and be fully ready to retire from business at the end of my century.

However, I must take a few minutes off now and try to make some response to your pressing request that I recall and write down for you some one, at least, of my earlier recollections.

You said that any little happening, no matter how trifling, would be interesting to you and others, and so I will, without making much effort at thought, tell you a little about my first journey away from home. It occurred in April, 1825, when I was between 4 and 5 years old, I was born October 15, 1820.

The journey was with my parents to visit some relatives in Michigan. We took passage at Palmyra on a canal boat, the kind that then was called a "line boat," and continued thereon to Lockport. From that place we went in a wagon along the line of the projected canal, which was not yet completed, for about five miles as nearly as I can remember. I was much interested to see the work going on of building, or excavating the new canal. It looked very large to me then; but was really very small compared with the present canal, being not more than half the width of the latter and only four feet deep. It would look like a mere ditch, alongside of the barge canal now building.

Our wagon ride came to an end when we reached the eastern end of the then completed portion of the canal, and from there we proceeded to Buffalo on a regular passenger boat, called a "packet boat," in those days. The canal boats only ran in the daytime and it took us about three days after leaving Palmyra to reach Buffalo.

At the latter place we secured accommodations at a tavern, where we awaited the return to that port of one of the then only two steamers on Lake Erie. After a delay of nearly two days, the steamer Superior, with Captain Sherman as master, arrived and tied up at its dock. The population of Buffalo at that time was only about 2500; about the size of Palmyra now.

Without delay, we secured passage on the steamer for Detroit. On the way, many calls, or stops, were made at various lake ports, including Sandusky. After leaving that port, a severe storm arose and to escape its severity the steamer took shelter in Put in Bay, a well-named place of refuge, where we remained for most of one day.

After leaving Put in Bay, our next stop was Fort Malden, at the mouth of the Detroit River, in Canada, where I saw for the first time a windmill, for grinding grain, and French Canadians with their two-wheeled carts and ponies. A few hours more took us to Detroit where ended our journey by water-craft. In part, probably, because the weather was bad and rainy, that place had a very lonesome look to me.

The rest of the way to the hamlet Pontiac, the definite end of our intended journey, was made in a conveyance which is now called a "prairie schooner." It was a long hard day's ride through swamps. Just outside of Detroit our teamster ran his wagon astride of a small tree, which caused a sudden stoppage of our progress. He was prepared; however, for such accidents, and with his woodsman's axe, which was fished out from the bottom of the wagon, the obstruction was removed. It was late in the evening when we finally arrived at the home of our relatives.

After a tarry of several weeks in Pontiac, we returned home, traveling again by lake steamer and canal boats.

While my pencil is sharp, as is not always the case, perhaps you would like to have me tell you a little about my early school days, which began in June of the same year of the journey to Michigan. It was in a school taught by Miss Barnhart, a daughter of Christian Barnhart, the original proprietor of the "Barnhart's Mill," on Railroad avenue.

The log house in which the school was taught was located on the east side of the highway near the foot of "hog-back hill," latterly known as "Betty hill." At the time there were seven log houses located within a radius of one half mile from the school house, and were occupied by families. Among them were two double homes, built to accommodate two families and with a chimney and fireplace in each end of each house.

Afterward I attended a school taught by Miss Elizabeth Swift, a daughter of General John Swift, the founder of Palmyra. The school was held in the basement, or cellar of the dwelling house of Ellery Hicks, which has since been owned by Jesse Eddy and others. It stands on the opposite corner from the present No. 9 school house.

In April, 1832, when in my 12th year, I commenced attendance at the old academy in Palmyra village, which then had James Cogswell for principle and Mr. Pierce for his assistant; succeeded by a Mr. Squires. The academy building was located on the east side of Church street, a little north and east of the present Roman Catholic church. It stood on the summit of a hill, which has since been very largely cut down, and opposite to the old Presbyterian church which then occupied a plot which adjoined on the south the present old burying ground wherein General Swift is buried.

If I try to recall those who attended the old academy at that time I will undoubtedly miss the names of many.

There was a Miss Jane Bush, a ward of the principal; two daughters and a son of ex Congressman Truman Hart; two daughters of Colonel George Beckwith, a successful merchant of that day; Gertrude, Joseph, and Henry, daughter and son of Joseph Fenton, cashier of the old Wayne County Bank of Palmyra; three daughters of Ambrose Hall; Leonard and Lawrence Jerome, nephews of Judge Hiram K. Jerome; Isaiah and Hezekiah McCollum of Lockport, sons of Joel McCollum, a former resident of Palmyra; Fletcher and Stephen K. Williams, sons of Dr. Williams of Newark, this county; Saxon B. Gavitt, formerly county clerk and afterward for many years a banker at Lyons; Carlton H. Rogers, son of General Thomas Rogers; Jacob DeLamater, son of Dr. DeLamater, a noted and skillful surgeon; Frederick Smith jr., a son of Frederick Smith, a justice of the peace for thirty years in succession and for a time county judge; John and Phineas Bowman, sons Benjamin Bowman, then proprietor or manager of the Palmyra hotel, now the Powers hotel; Heater, Sarah and Henry Perrine, daughters and son of Dr. Perrine; John L. Clark; George Harrison; Marvin Baker; Moses Powers; Richard Hendee and John Fitz Simons.

Of all my schoolmates who attended the old academy in 1832 and 1833, so far as I know, the only one besides myself now living is Honorable Stephen K. Williams, an eminent lawyer of Newark, in this county, and State Senator for several terms from this district forty or more years ago.

On may way to the academy in May, 1832, I witnessed the beginning of the work of building the foundations of the present Presbyterian church, on the north-east corner of Main and Church streets. General Thomas Rogers was there with two men and two teams, with plows and scrapers, and they were engaged in excavating and removing the earth from the basement and foundations of the proposed church. As the teams came around in course General Rogers would hold the scrapers till they were well filled, and the drivers of the teams drew the scrapers away and dumped their contents in a depression east of the church lot.

Well, my young friend, I am getting tired, if you are not, and I will stop here.

Hoping that you may live long and prosper, I am your sincere friend.

James Galloway

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Created: 7/20/03
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