March 24, 2001
The gaps in the New York map were filling in nicely by 1819. Genesee Valley promoter James Wadsworth noted that most of the region's land had been settled. A large portion of it was farmland by now, agriculture still dominated upstate, it's importance underscored when the State Legislature established the Board of Agriculture and voted it $10,000 for each of the next two years. And at the urging of Albany merchant Elkanah Watson, the Steuben County Agricultural Society was founded. Getting produce to eastern markets was still problematical, expensive, but help was on the way. Ending a four-hour trip, the boat The Chief Engineer arrived in Rome out of Utica on October 22nd, inaugurating the first completed section of De Witt Clinton's Erie Canal.
Rome wasn't the only classically named settlement to be considering improved convenience of transport. Just to the north of Rochesterville (which by the way, had just hired its first law officer, a night watchman) the settlement of Carthage sought to steal some of the neighboring mill town's thunder. Last year they had begun construction of a bridge across the river gorge. Meant to eliminate the need for farmers up toward Lake Ontario to travel all the way upstream (south) to the upper Falls to cross over, the structure would be cobbled together of pine timber connected with iron bolts, weigh 200 tons, and soar across, 200 feet above the water, just below the Lower Falls. The structure was competed in February. No visit to the Falls area was now considered complete until the visitor had seen Carthage Bridge. The village was going to have it made. They thought. But that's another story.
The state would gain another pioneer this year. Educator Emma Hart, had become the proprietor of Vermont's Middlebury girls' academy in 1807. Although married two years later to John Willard, she wasn't about to give up her vocation. Dedicated to the academic education of women, as well as their domestic training, she had expanded and reshaped her facility, and in 1814 renamed it the Middlebury Female Seminary, the country's first school to provide intellectual challenge for female minds. She moved the school to Waterford, in New York's Saratoga County, this year. In two years she will make another move westward, founding the Troy Female Seminary (today called the Emma Willard School).
Down in southern Westchester County someone else, or what was left of him, was also on the move. William Cobbett, an Englishman living in Manhattan, had decided to indulge in a bit of body snatching. Revolutionary patriot Thomas Paine had died ten years previously on land given him in New Rochelle by the state for services during the rebellion. Cobbett decided Paine's remains should be returned to England, his birthplace. "To inspire the working classes," he explained. He dug up the remains, loaded them on a cart and set off for the city. A neighbor named Charity Badeau spotted the disinterment and got word to another resident, James Seacord. He set off in pursuit, figuring they'd skedaddle by the Boston Post Road. Just one catch. The road had recently diverged. There was the Old Post Road and the New. Cobbett had taken the old road, Seacord the new. When the pursuer reached the Morrisiana bridge to Manhattan the keeper informed him that no cart had crossed over recently. Seacord rushed off to the King's Bridge span, only to learn such a cart had gone over earlier. The trail had grown cold.
Now, such is the tale told by one of the Seacord descendants. Other versions have Cobbett acquiring the corpse through regular channels. After his death in London in 1836 Cobbett's heirs put his personal effects up for auction. According to the _Times_ the auctioneer turned down a box "found to contain human bones, wrapped up in separate papers." And that's the last we hear of Tom Paine.
For Classical 91.5 and 90-point-3, this is David Minor
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Part of William Shakespeare's epitaph reads, "...cursed be he who moves my bones...". If everyone placed the same malediction on their tombstone there would be a lot of cursed people throughout history besides William Cobbett. Tom Paine's bones were moved to England by Cobbett and lost to history, but Paine was far from the only famous person to not rest in peace. Those of you who believe a little morbid curiosity can have its benefits might want to check out the City of the Silent web site at http://www.alsirat.com/silence/cemtime . The author warns that the site may not be suitable to young, impressionable minds. Parents should probably check out this site before the kids wander around in it. You'll find timeline links here for all periods, from 50,000 BC to the present. Examples just from the period of Paine's remains range from the founding of Paris' Pere Lachais Cemetery in 1804 to the discovery of the tomb of Egypt's Amenophis II in 1898. A sampling of those who, like Paine, had a post mortem career, includes Charles I, Richard the Lionhearted, Mormon leader Joseph Smith, and, of course, Edgar Allan Poe. Funeral and burial customs through the ages are also detailed.
The Game's Afoot ! !
© 2001 David Minor / Eagles Byte