Local history buffs everywhere realize that some of the best material is written by newspapermen, present and past. Here in western New York State we've been fortunate to engender writers like Arch Merrill, Henry Clune, and Lloyd Klos. Merrill and Clune are now history themselves; Mr. Klos still writes a column for the Messenger-Wolfe newspapers and lectures around town from time to time. I often look to "popular" sources, such as Florida writer Gene Burnett, for ideas. Buckley Southwark Griffin was such a newspaperman. His 1967 book, Offbeat History: A Compendium of Lively Americana, is a good source of information. In one selection he himself turned to a predecessor, Samuel N. Dickinson of Boston, who kept an almanac of daily occurrences in his hometown. Here are a few of the things going on in that city in the year 1837.

In February winter storms halted the train from Providence, literally in its tracks. A number of passengers were treated for frostbite. In March a lecture at Armory Hall had to be canceled because of rowdy protestors. The subject - physical education for women. Also that same month con man John Merrill was arrested and convicted. He would approach the owner of a store, claim the man's wife had purchased honey from him and told him to collect from her husband. June 11th saw the Great Riot, in Broad Street, when firemen returning from a blaze somehow incurred the wrath of an Irish funeral procession. Speaking of firemen - June and July would see 63 calls received by local engine companies. 16 of them false alarms. Ten days after the Great Riot a Mr. Lauriat made a balloon ascension, traveling from Chelsea to Lynn. A ferryboat following the airship's progress was so loaded with passengers it was in danger of sinking. A ferry heading in the other direction had to help relieve her of some of the overload.

A four-foot rattlesnake was killed while terrorizing residents along the Dedham turnpike that July. Also in July, three boys were jailed for laying stones on the rails of the Boston and Worcester Railway. On November 19th a delegation of Ottoway, Pawnee and Upper Mississippi Indians, returning from a visit to Washington, stopped over for the day and toured the Naval Yard, Fanueil Hall and number of armories and theatres.

Finally, those of you who frequent the Internet may be familiar with the Darwin Awards. You know, survival of the fittest - and especially the opposite. Well Boston had a winner in 1837. On June 19th, visiting Englishman Christopher Jones announced he would jump off the South Boston Bridge, wearing regular men's clothes, and emerge dressed in women's clothing. He should have practiced his quick-change skills a tad longer. He got tangled in his dress and drowned.

For Classical ninety-one five, this is David Minor

© 1999 David Minor / Eagles Byte