April 30, 2000

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1811 saw feelings between Britain and the U. S. enter a period of relative calm. True, the War Hawks in Congress were rattling sabers, but James Madison wasn't about to be coerced into declaring war. The U. S. did renew the Non-Intercourse Act at the beginning of March. England kept up some almost perfunctory, small-scale jabs, impressing a seaman from the brig Spitfire on May 1st. The frigate President struck back, battling the British corvette Little Belt and killing 9 crew members. But apart from these scattered incidents things were fairly quiet.

On the domestic scene there was some commercial squabbling, as Fulton and Livingston urged the courts to protect their steamboat monopoly against Albany and New Jersey interests. Not having a lot of luck they pressed on, building Manhattan workshops in November, two months after John Stevens began steam ferry service to Hoboken, New Jersey. Collect Pond, site of some of John Fitch's early steamboat experiments, had been filled in and hosted the city's first outdoor circus.

A gridiron plan was introduced to guide the future development of Manhattan. One of the first to make use of the new plan was merchant Peter Schermerhorn who built a row of joined brick houses on the East River perpendicular to South Street. If you know the Seaport Museum you've perhaps visited some of the shops in the buildings. Other waterways saw action this year, including one as yet unborn. On April 8th the state legislature created a group to study the feasibility of a trans-New York canal, appointing Fulton as one of the commissioners. Over on Chautauqua Lake a ferry between Bemis Point and Stow was put into service, powered by oxen. To the north, on the Niagara River, Captain Sheldon Thompson launched the schooner Catherine, for the firm of Townsend, Bronson & Company.

Other people we've run into before and will again were pursuing their own interests this year. Angelica land agent Philip Church was off to Europe on business. Developments would keep him there through much of the upcoming war. At home, his family was startled when a small party of Indians dropped by. His wife Anna fed them while her visiting sister entertained them on the piano. Chief Shongo reciprocates the hospitality by adopting Anna into the tribe, naming her Ye-nun-ke-a-wa (first white woman). Maryland transplant Nathaniel Rochester was making frequent trips between Dansville and the Falls of the Genesee, selling his first lot to Enos Stone for $50. Stone Street is still there today. Mason Street, named for another early pioneer, is not. It became Front Street and was demolished during the architectural slaughter (urban renewal, officially) in the 1960s. Other real estate speculation was not as successful. Lawyer Amos Eaton, future state geologist, had made some legally unwise choices and was given a life sentence in Manhattan's Newgate State Prison. It was in Greenwich Village, which obviously today, escaped the planners' gridlock.

OUTRO For Classical ninety-one five, this is David Minor

 

© 2000 David Minor / Eagles Byte

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