March 17, 2001
All the world's a stage I'm told. New York in the year 1819 was no exception. There were a number of actors coming on stage. On May 31st Long Island housebuilder Walter Whitman's wife Louisa gave birth to a son, also named Walt. On Independence Day in the Chautauqua County town of Carroll, George W. and Elsie Owen Fenton had a boy of their own. Reuben Eaton Fenton would become the state's 24th governor (not counting the preceding thirty-some colonial governors). A second writer, Herman Melville, was born August 1st on Pearl Street in Manhattan, to importer Allen Melvill and his wife Martia, a daughter of Revolutionary War general Peter Gansevoort.
The political action on the Republican Party's stage up toward the northern end of the Hudson was the source of much drama. One faction, recognizable by the plumes members sported on their hats - the Bucktails - was determined to unseat the incumbent, our old friend De Witt Clinton. His Albany neighbor, state attorney general Martin Van Buren, in spite of the loss of his wife to tuberculosis in February, and probably to help take his mind off her death, plunged into the effort. Late in the year he met with U. S. Vice-President Daniel D. Tompkins, New York's governor unseated by Clinton in 1817, to plan strategy for Tompkins's comeback, as governor for a second time. On another, larger political stage, York state politician James Tallmadge, Jr. proposed an amendment to a U. S. congressional bill preparing Missouri for statehood. Taking one of the first steps at the top of a very slippery slope that would propel his state and nation into war, he proposed limiting slavery in Missouri.
But the slope's bottom was decades away. Meanwhile, around the state, New Yorkers went about their business, and businesses. There were risks of course, In the newly resurgent Buffalo, citizens formed the first local businessmen's association - The Buffalo Harbor Company - to promote improvements to the Lake Erie waterfront. When asked by Albany to pledge their own property and income as collateral for the state's $12,000, six of the nine backers pulled out. It would turn out to be a case of 'no guts, no glory'. Across the state, Schenectady's booming boatbuilding shops would receive a set back of their own when most of State Street, along the Mohawk, was destroyed by a November fire. In between those two cities, in Rochesterville, the Genesee River went on one of its periodic Spring rampages, submerging the village's tiny business district. Down in New York City a new product was introduced, when Thomas Kensett, Sr. and his English partner Ezra Daggett began selling canned oysters. They hedged their bets somewhat by also carrying fruits, meats and vegetables.
Speaking of Buffalo, it was this year that the Holland Land Company gave St. Paul's Church there the first site in the village for religious purposes. A church would be built on the land. Religion made other gains. Rochesterville formed a Quaker congregation. In Auburn a theological seminary was established by the Presbyterian Synod of Genesee. There was also a loss, as one of the earliest of the state's charismatic and unorthodox religious leaders, Jemima Wilkinson, the reincarnated Public Universal Friend, made her last exit on the shores of Keuka Lake, last at least until some glorious final curtain call brings her back for a third encore.
More 1819 next week. Until then, for Classical 91.5 and 90-point-3, this is David Minor
URL OF THE WEEK
March is Women's History Month. Some of you will read this during other months. But why confine at least half the population to a mere 1/12th of the year anyway. Among many sites celebrating the month is that of the U. S. National Park System. New this year is a gateway to historic Parks sites in New York and Massachusetts (74 of them) connected with women's history. http://www.cr.nps.gov/nr/travel/pwwmh/ To mention just a few, you'll be able to link to the New York State home of Jemima Wilkinson (the Public Universal Friend); Waterloo's Mary Ann M'Clintock House, where the Declaration of Sentiments was written at the time of the first Seneca Falls Convention down the road; poet Edna St. Vincent Millay's Steepletop; New York City's Hotel Barbizon for Women (temporary home to young ladies of the theater from Grace Kelly to Liza Minnelli). Massachusetts sites include Pittsfield's Colonial Theatre - performing venue for Ethel Barrymore, Lillian Russel, Anna Pavlowa, and Edith Luckett (I had to look her up, too); and Cogswell's Grant, home of folklorist Nina Fletcher Little. From Ken Burns celebrities such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony to the undeservedly little known such as Kate Mullany, Florence Mills, and Elizabeth Boit, you can't help but learn much you didn't know about the gender who know enough to ask for directions.
The Game's Afoot ! !
© 2001 David Minor / Eagles Byte