[I've been told that I should have pointed out, for those knowing it only as a substitute for "transportation", that the tranist is an instrument used in surveying, ]

If you amble out to Buffalo sometime, lake effect off Erie permitting, and drive along Transit Road to hit some of the plazas, you'll be traveling a path laid down in the year 1798. It was in March of that year that Joseph Ellicott and the 130 men of his surveying crew, employed by the Holland Land Company, set off to mark the company's territory. (Feminists might claim it's a perfect job for males). The crew's task was to run a north-south line extending from Lake Ontario all the way to the Pennsylvania border. There was no national standard for a foot yet, in the young United States, so Ellicott collected a number of different rulers, took their average length and made up new, standardized rulers, which he attached to the cover of each of the survey's field books. This transit line was going to be accurate! Such attention to detail would help prolong the project; it wasn't completed until the year 1800. Meanwhile, the company made its first sale around this time, to William Johnston, who bought two square miles of land at the mouth of Buffalo Creek. He would erect a sawmill and four other buildings at the site.

The frontier was a good place to be right now, in some ways. At the other end of the state, in New York City, Yellow Fever would strike down nearly 2900 people in 1798. In spite of the epidemic, or probably after its passing, the Park Theatre opened in lower Manhattan. And John Stephens continued his experiments on the Collect Pond. Rival steamboater Robert J. Livingston stuck his neck way out. He secured an exclusive contract from the state legislature to operate a steamboat on all waters of the state for twenty years. Just one catch. He had to build such a vessel, within a year. The legislature also authorized the storage of colonial records in Albany's new State Hall. Some records, damaged while sequestered on board a ship moored in the Hudson River during the Revolution, would have to be transcribed.

Small pockets of activity continued to spring up across the state. Cayuga County got its first printing press. Fort Schuyler became a village and changed its name to Utica. The Onondaga salt works continued to grow. As did the Pultney properties under Charles Williamson - the first Baptist Church of Bath was organized, and over on the Genesee, Tobias Newcomb built a windmill at Williamsburgh. Total cost of construction - $20.

A little further south, in the hills above Dansville, a loud booming noise one day grabbed the attention of the pioneers in the valley below. When they traced the source of the sound, they discovered an underground spring had suddenly surfaced. They named it Breakout Creek and went back to work. It would be another 53 years before entrepreneur Nathaniel Bingham would divert the creek's waters for a health spa. Trend-chasing hypochondriacs would then put the village on the map.

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


© 1999 David Minor / Eagles Byte

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