Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: Pomp, Circumstance, Before Lunch In Geneva

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Previous: The Great Central Trail Becomes The State Road

Geneva a generation after Lafayette’s visit. Source: Barber, John W., and Howe, Henry, Historical collections of the state of New York, S. Tuttle, New York 1842, p. 52

General Lafayette rose the morning of Wednesday, June 8, 1825, shortly after sunrise. At 7 o’clock that morning, the French entourage bid John Greig adieu. They climbed aboard their waiting carriage and a military escort led them onto the old Genesee Road (and then the Seneca Turnpike). About ten miles down the road, at Ball’s tavern, they’d meet the committee from Geneva and transfer their precious cargo to them.1

For the good citizens of Geneva, the largest settlement in the Greater Western New York region, Lafayette was a long time coming. A couple of weeks before, the village appointed a committee of eleven upstanding men to invite the Nation’s Guest to visit their fair village. They drafted a letter dated May 28, 1825, for that purpose. Appealing to his sense of Continue Reading “Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: Pomp, Circumstance, Before Lunch In Geneva”

Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: The Great Central Trail Becomes The State Road

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Previous: Canandaigua Anxiously Waits Before Jubilation And An Elegant Supper

The Cayuga Bridge helped improve travel times on the Great Genesee Road, which eventually became Routes 5 & 20. Source: Barber, John W., and Howe, Henry, Historical collections of the state of New York, S. Tuttle, New York 1842, p. 79

As General Dwight D. Eisenhower led the Allied effort into the heart of the Nazi regime, he couldn’t help but notice the transportation infrastructure that strengthened the defense of his opponent. Hitler began construction of his Reichautobahn in the 1930s. Although designed primarily for civilian use, war reports during the Eisenhower’s push into Germany in 1944 and 1945 repeatedly referenced the autobahn, “Hitler’s Superhighway.”1

Impressed by these autobahns, Eisenhower proposed an interstate highway system once Continue Reading “Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: The Great Central Trail Becomes The State Road”

Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: Canandaigua Anxiously Waits Before Jubilation And An Elegant Supper

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Previous: John Greig Lives The American Dream

Canandaigua Hotel, not the original one that Lafayette visited, but the one that replaced it after the one once owned by William Blossom burned down in 1851. Source: History of Ontario County, New York With Illustrations, Everts, Ensign & Everts, Philadelphia, 1878, Plate X

The young boy was no different from anyone else in the town of Canandaigua. Anxious, fretting, full of anticipation, on the morning of Tuesday, June 7, 1825, they all waited for the word they knew was coming but feared it might not.

Located on the northern tip of the lake that bears its name, Canandaigua housed the first land office in Western New York. This former Seneca stronghold sat on the old Genesee Trail, or Central Trail, that cut through the heart of the Iroquois Confederacy. Today we know it as Routes 5 & 20. Back then it had various names, from the Great Genesee Road to the Seneca Turnpike to the Ontario and Genesee Turnpike. Whatever you called it, it was the road everyone heading east or west traveled on.

Lafayette would soon be one of those travelers.

Or would he?Continue Reading “Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: Canandaigua Anxiously Waits Before Jubilation And An Elegant Supper”

Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: Dispelling Mendon Myths

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Previous: Timothy Barnard, A Soldier’s Story

Lafayette’s probable path from Rochester to Canandaigua, 1840 Map of New York State by Henry S. Tanner. Source: oldmapsonline.org

By 1825, the road from Rochester to Canandaigua was a well-travelled road. Samuel Hildreth saw to that, although he didn’t live long enough to see it first-hand.

Hildreth might be considered a first generation Western New Yorker. He was born on March 20, 1778, in what would become the town of Phelps in Ontario County. His parents had moved there from New Hampshire.1 He moved to Pittsford in November 1814. There, he quickly established himself as a mover and shaker. He ran a store, rented to others, and operated a tavern. More important, he set up the Continue Reading “Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: Dispelling Mendon Myths”

Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: Timothy Barnard, A Soldier’s Story

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Previous: Competing Memories Turn Lafayette’s Rochester Visit From History To Mystery

Siege of Yorktown (1781), by Auguste Couder (1789–1873) Rochambeau (center L), Washington (center R), Marquis de La Fayette (behind Washington, L), Marquis de Saint Simon (behind Washington, R), Duke of Lauzun (L, mounted) and Comte de Ménonville (R of Washington). Source: Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

“Another Revolutionary Patriot Gone.” That was the lead, buried at the very bottom of the third of seven dense columns on page two in the Tuesday, April 13, 1847, edition of the Geneva Courier. Three perfunctory sentences followed.

“Hon. TIMOTHY BARNARD, father of Hon. DANIEL D. BARNARD, the distinguished ex-member of Congress of the Albany district, died at Mendon on the 29th inst. Judge Barnard took an active part in the revolutionary struggle, and for his services he drew a pension until his death. For many years judge Barnard was associate judge of the old county of Ontario, and after Monroe county was set off; he held the same office in the latter county.”1

That was it. That was the sum total of nearly 91 years of life.

But there was more to Timothy Barnard. He represented all that made America great; that first generation of rebels turned heroes turned pioneers turned nation-builders. In a way, Continue Reading “Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: Timothy Barnard, A Soldier’s Story”

Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: Competing Memories Turn Lafayette’s Rochester Visit From History To Mystery

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Previous: Remembering Silvius Hoard

1832 Map of Rochester from a correct survey, Gill, Valentine; Child, Jonathan;
Morin, John F., KEY: FB (green) Fitzhugh St. Basin; AQDT (yellow) Aquaduct; GB (purple) Gilbert’s Basin; HT (Blue) Hoard’s Tavern (marker location); CMH (red) Christopher’s Mansion House. Source, Library of Congress, LOC Control No. 2003623826

You’ve heard the expression “the sands of time,” right? Well, sometimes the expression reads better as “the sandblaster of time.” The march of time has a way of eroding all in its past, leaving no trace behind. Spoiler Alert: Nearly every single landmark you are about to read of here no longer exists.

Worse, those same sands often erode memories as well. We often remember what we think is true, even if it’s not. That’s why if you ask two people who witnessed the same event, you’ll often get two different descriptions of what happened. At least two. Because if you ask the same person a week later to describe what happened, there’s no guarantee the story will remain the same.

These are the challenges when recounting history. That’s why it’s better to rely on primary witnesses (the people who were actually there). It’s even better to rely on multiple primary witnesses, because you can “average” their stories to get a more reliable understanding of what really happened. Finally, it’s best you hear from these primary witnesses immediately after the event occurs. That way the memory is freshest and less prone to error.

Such are the issues with retelling the tale of Lafayette’s visit to Rochester on Tuesday, June 7, 1825. Everything is gone and even firsthand witnesses, years later, tell conflicting Continue Reading “Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: Competing Memories Turn Lafayette’s Rochester Visit From History To Mystery”

Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: Remembering Silvius Hoard

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Previous: Fort Niagara And The Man-Made Wonder Of Lockport

Lafayette memorial on 1 Exchange Blvd. in downtown Rochester identifying the site of Hoard’s Tavern. Source: Albert R. Stone Negative Collection, Rochester Museum & Science Center

Think of history as a mosaic containing thousands of tiny stones. When you get up close, they appear unremarkable. Except for a few, often minor, variations in color or a slightly different shape, they look nearly identical. Sure, for any number of reasons, a few stand out and pique your curiosity. But all in all, they’re all the same.

Until you back away. Farther away, you see the small rocks begin to transform into a series of patterns. It’s as though each stone represents a dot connected to its neighbors. From a more distant perspective, you no longer see individual stones. You see a compelling picture. As if it was always there.

That’s history. It’s a picture you see, far removed from the original source, the original data points, the human stones that actually created the picture. It’s too easy to forget those Continue Reading “Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: Remembering Silvius Hoard”

Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: Fort Niagara And The Man-Made Wonder Of Lockport

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Previous: Riding The Ridge (Road)

The Erie Canal overtakes the Niagara Escarpment at the Five Flights in Lockport. Source: History of Niagara County, Sanford & Co, New York, p.164

Monday, June 6, 1825, began bright and early all across Niagara County. Excitement, anticipation, and the coming relief following a job well done swirled in the mnds of many. For the young, it presented a chance to build memories that would last a lifetime (whether or not they are true). For the old, the day meant the culmination of a grand adventure in coordination, dedication, and ultimately respect for an older generation. For that older generation, their thoughts delighted in remembering the glories of their past.

So, yes, Monday, June 6, 1825, began bright and early.

At Fort Niagara, Major Alexander Ramsay Thompson, with his officers and their wives, rose Continue Reading “Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: Fort Niagara And The Man-Made Wonder Of Lockport”

Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: Riding The Ridge (Road)

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Previous: The Natural Wonder Of Niagara Falls, Goat Island, And Lewiston

Western Portion of 1825 Erie Canal map showing Niagara Escarpment (upper shaded line) and Onondaga Escarpment (lower shaded line). If you look closely you’ll see Ridge Road just north of the Niagara Escarpment. Source: Laws of the State of New York, in relation to the Erie and Champlain canals / Published by authority, under the direction of the Secretary of State (E. and E. Hosford, printers, Albany, 1825)

Over the eons, what would become the North American continent heaved and hoed. Rock strata, once flat with the earth when created, now undulated in waves. Each layer born in a different geological epoch bore their own unique properties. Some too loose and soft to sustain the onslaught of wind, water, and ice; others stubbornly sturdy, able to withstand those same powerful forces.

As the most recent period of glaciation receded into Canada and further north, the melting ice revealed the natural formations known as cuestas. These landforms represent a gentle upward slope on one side and dramatic fall – often evidenced by a face of rock on the frontslope.

This precipitous cliff is called an escarpment. Western New York contains three such Continue Reading “Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: Riding The Ridge (Road)”

Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: The Natural Wonder Of Niagara Falls, Goat Island, And Lewiston

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Previous: Augustus Porter Could Have Danced All Night

Judge Porter’s Second Bridge To Goat Island source: Robinson, Charles M., “Life of Judge Augustus Porter,” Publications of the Buffalo Historical Society Vol VII, Buffalo, 1904, p.276

Another day, another carriage. Another carriage, another bumpy ride. And the road from Tonnewanta to Manchester took a slow, lazy curve following the east fork of the Niagara River as it arcs around Grand Island. Today, driving from Tonawanda to Niagara Falls—the names that have since replaced those 1825 names—would take about twenty-five minutes. But during the time of Lafayette’s tour, it took much longer. And the ride was definitely not as smooth.

The fleet of canal boats arrived in Tonnewanta (today, Tonawanda) at noon on Friday, June 5, 1825. As he had now become accustomed to, the French guest was greeted by far more Continue Reading “Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: The Natural Wonder Of Niagara Falls, Goat Island, And Lewiston”

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