MAIN STREET IN JOHNSTOWN SEVENTY-FIVE YEARS AGO
By R. L. Jeffers
Source: THE MORNING HERALD, FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 20, 1903
Transcription is how the article appeared in the newspaper.
"Ye olden time, ye olden time,
Queer spelling then in prose and rhyme;
Abbreviations they were cute,
And punctuating made to suit.
"The use of capitals was found,
Scattered promiscuously around;
To read such print is quite amusing,
And sometimes it is quite confusing.
A person when such print he reads,
Great care will find he surely needs;
And when he think he knows the tongue,
He'll find he has but just begun.
Ye olden time, how great the change,
We hardly recognize a name;
Their Spyes and Skouts they spelled them Soo,
Their Souldiers brave to Whar did Goe.
Contrarie spelled with a y,
Mischeffs was spelled with single I;
Floked was spelled without a c,
And Citty, too, with extra t .
Desyred spelled without and I,
And also joyn, I know not why;
And Yorke was also spelled with e,
Queer spelling most assuredly.
Endevor spelled with an a,
Ffrench with two ffs, though far away;
Shinnechtady, they spelled it thus;
Carnnecticut looks strange to us.
And Porke and Beefe both closed with e,
And fitt was spelled with double t;
The Croune of England so was spelled,
Imperiall with double l.
Devill And rebels each two lls,
And Cruell, oot, the way the spelled;
And 16 90-90 was the way,
They dated papers in that day.
And yow was spelled without a u,
You'll find when you the records view;
No t in Harford to be found,
Nor w in spelling toune.
In 16 91-91 you see,
Ffive nacons spelled with a t;
No w in knoulige found,
In that same year and there around.
Lanthornes spelled as this you see,
And custome ended with an e;
And u and v appear the same,
Haue and arriuall here I name.
Vndersrtand, upon began with v,
And viectuals spelled as here you see;
Perill and Civill with double lls,
And tymes spelled thus I will you tell.
Alteracon without an i.
Annety, too, I know not why;
Supreame was spelled with letter a,
And daniell thus I find they say.
Messinger spelled as here, u see,
Alare was finished with an e;
Sencible spelled as her you see,
Quebek was found with a c.
Strentch was spelled without a g,
And Ffebruary thus you see;
Publike spelled without a c,
And little "sett" with double t.
Spanyard spelled without an I,
And pouder thus I know not why;
The Souldeers, too, they ambled through,
While Drumms were Beating in their view.
Yes, great indeed have been the changes in Johnstown within the last three-fourths of a century. Accounts were then kept in pounds, shillings, and pence and specie was largely of foreign manufacture.
About seventy-five years ago Adam Acker kept a liquor store about where the elegant residence of William B. Northrup now stands on William street. Mr. Acker was a large real estate owner, money-lender, and purchaser of promissory notes and other papers purporting to be evidences of debt. He was a heavy, thick set man. His remains are resting in the westerly portion of the old Green street cemetery at Johnstown. He had two daughters, one of whom was united in marriage to Dr. Peter McNaughton, of Riga.
Judge John McCarthy, about that time kept a drug store where the residence of Dr. William L. Johnson now stands on William street. He was judge of old Montgomery county from 1809 until 1815. A school house was then located on or adjoining Judge McCarthy's lot.
About that time Dr. Daniel Douw dept a drug store on the northeast corner of William and Sacandaga streets, where the fine brick block and store of County Treasurer Charles O. Cross is now located. Dr. Douw was of German descent. His wife was Mariah H., daughter of Capt. Clement Sadler who was wounded in the battle of Little York. The remains of both Dr. Douw and Capt. Saddler are reposing in the westerly part of the old Green street cemetery at Johnstown, where slabs have been erected to their memory.
Next, easterly from Douw's drug store stood the dry goods store of Joseph Packard. The Packard family was an extensive one, which came from New York city and after residing in Johnstown a few years returned to the metropolis.
Next, easterly from Packard's dry goods store, was located the general store of Major General Richard Dodge, a leading Democrat. His wife was a sister to Washington Irving. Gen. Dodge had a son, William, who at one time was a lawyer and also a merchant in Johnstown. Gen. Dodge had a daughter, Jane Ann, who became the wife of John Frothingham, who for many years was a well known lawyer and justice of the peace at Johnstown. The remains of Gen. Dodge are reposing in the old Green street cemetery where a large marble slab marks their last resting place. The remains of Mr. And Mrs. John Frothingham are also resting in the Green street cemetery.
Next, easterly, from the store of Gen. Dodge, was located the establishment of Peter Gilchrist, a Scotchman. His wife was Maria Danforth who furnished millinery goods to the public. The writer's mother, and sisters often purchased bonnets of Mrs. Gilchrist. Peter Gilchrist's son, J. M. Gilchrist, is now proprietor of the Cayadutta hotel on Main street.
Next, easterly, from Gilchrist's was located the jewelry store of J. A. Souter. He was an Irishman, and had a son, James, and also a daughter Jane who was a milliner. James is now believed to be living near Syracuse. Souter advertised as follows, in the Montgomery county Republican, which was then published at Johnstown by Peter Mix.
"Isaac A. Souter hereby sends,
This information to his friends;
And enemies, if he has any,
Be they few, or be they many.
That he has lately moved his shop,
Into a more conspicuous spot:
His building eastward but a door,
From Edwin Slattery's brick store.
"And one door west from Lyah Wood's
Who sells his things both cheap and good:
Across the street for public use,
A tavern's kept by Walter Luce.
"And since you know my name and station,
I next will tell you my occupation:
Just listen while I have my say,
And see the crowds that come this way.
"Yes, only see the people come,
At leaps and bounds while on the run;
I quickly mend their copper kettles,
And other weapons made of metal.
"Fine feathers here, to make your beds,
Taken from geese before they're dead,
I'll take my pay in wax or honey,
If nothing else I'll take your money.
Next east from Souter's jewelry store was the dry-goods store of Edwin Slatterly.
Next east from Slatterly's dry-goods store was located Trust Dunham's blacksmith shop, where the old fashioned wooden plows were then kept for sale. The writer's informant stated that he saw business being conducted about the blacksmith shop, where horses were being fed in and out, about eighty years ago.
Next to Dunham's blacksmith shop was found the furniture shop and chair factory of Asabel Whitney, who came from New Hampshire to Johnstown in about 1809. He came on horseback, bringing a small kit of tools for making chairs. Later he became an undertaker and accumulated considerable property. He was a very conscientious citizen. He was a tall lean man, who always wore a silk hat in which he usually carried quite a sum of money. He officiated as undertaker at the funeral of the writer's mother in July 1853. He usually drove his own hearse, which consisted of a dark colored vehicle drawn by a single horse. Besides carrying money in his hat he kept the filthy lucre in boxes, chests and bureaus about his premises. In the year referred to he would often examine his cash receptacles and while gazing at his treasure would casually remark "I have got more money than I want, and what is the stuff good for anyway?" He was a believer in "perpetual motion" and for many years he attempted to solve the knotty problem. He manufactured various devices which he invariably discovered were minus the necessary wheel. His experiments were always made in secret and no one was allowed to see his inventions. He kept the devices securely locked in a box in the upper story of his manufactory on Market street. After his death, when the box was opened it was found to contain many strange-looking and complicated machines with wheels within wheels, too numerous to mention. He died October 5, 1869, in the 86th year of his age. His remains are buried in the Johnstown cemetery their last resting place.
On the north-east corner of Market and Sacandaga streets, the last named now Main street, was found the residence of Daniel Cady. He was born in Columbia county, N.Y. in April 1773. While making or mending harness he destroyed the sight of one of his eyes with an awl. He removed from Florida, Montgomery county, to Johnstown, where some fifty years ago he erected a fine residence and law office. He practiced under four different constitutions, beginning with the first adopted in 1777. In politics he was first a Federalist, later a Whig, and still later a Republican. In 1808 he was elected to the State Assembly and re-elected in 1809, 1811, 1812 and 1813. He was elected a member of the fourteenth congress in 1814. He was a presidential elector from Fulton county in 1856. He often measured talent with such distinguished lawyers as Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr, Edward Livingston, Brokholst Livingston, Samuel Jones, also the Harrisons, Hoffmans, Throops and Pendletons.
Daniel Cady was first elected judge of the Supreme court, June 7, 1847, and again on November 6, 1849 and on the later occasion he was 77 years of age. His service upon the bench covered a period of seven and a half years and he resigned January 1, 1855, on account of bodily infirmities, being then nearly 82, and yet his mental faculties appeared to be unimpaired. He died at his fine home in the village of Johnstown, October 29, 1859, in the 86th year of his age. Some time before his death he became totally blind. His remains are buried in the Johnstown cemetery.
Daniel Cady had a Negro slave named Peter Kebo whose wife was named Marie. After slavery was abolished the ex-slave staid with Judge Cady and also died at his home on Market or Clinton streets, Johnstown, about thirty years ago. His wife, Marie died three years prior. Peter was honest, tall and long armed and when standing erect his fingers would reach his knees.
Next easterly from the Cady property was several vacant lots and then came Newton's harness shop, where once Marie Yost resided and taught school. At one time she also taught school in our ancient court house. She was found dead on Church street many years ago. Newton was a name that was represented on Sacandaga street, and it has survived the wrecks of time so that it is still found on the original lot which has been owned and occupied by successive generations, on what is now called West Main street. A fine brick block is now found on the premises.
Again returning to the south-east corner of Sacandaga and William streets was found the hat store of Thomas Cunning. He also kept furnishing goods. Next east of Cunning's was a vacant lot. Next to the vacant lot was found Prentice's grocery. Later Prentice removed to Albany.
Next east from Prentice's grocery was located the bakery and grocery of Joseph Leach. He died in Johnstown about 50 years ago.
Next east from Leach's bakery was found the liquor and dry-goods store of John Holland. He was sheriff of old Montgomery county from August 28, 1817 until February 12, 1821. His predecessor was John Eisenlord and his successor was Seth Wetmore. The Hollands were quite an aristocratic family. Their old residence and garden occupied the corner where now stands the dwellings of the late Charles M. Smith, Charles M. Knox and the late D. H. VanHusen. John Holland died many years ago and his remains are buried, in the old Green street cemetery at Johnstown where a very large marble slab points to their last resting place.
Next east from Holland's dry-goods store was Edward Snyder's harness shop. Mr. Snyder died about sixty years ago at Johnstown.
Next east was John Punch McArthur's dry-goods store. He was a Scotchman and his wife was a Holland. His successor was Ethan Akin whose wife was a St. John. Later Mr. Akin purchased the Fort Johnson mansion, between Fonda and Amsterdam, which was erected by Sir. William Johnson. After a prolonged litigation Mr. Akin compelled the New York Central railroad company to maintain a station at that place, which has since been called Akin. Ethan Akin died several years ago.
Next on the corner was located the general store of Joseph Farmer. He has been dead for many years. His store was burned and rebuilt. His remains are buried in the Johnstown cemetery where a large granite monument has been erected to his memory.
On the opposite corner, east side of Market street was found the old yellow tavern, a noted resort, to be more minutely described in other articles. Next east from the yellow tavern where the Kennedy block now stands was found the residence and office of Dr. Orren Johnson. He was the grandfather of Dr. William L. Johnson of William street, Johnstown. The remains of Dr. Orren Johnson are buried in the Johnstown cemetery.
Next east from the residence of Dr. Orren Johnson was located the Montgomery County Bank, which was built in 1831. Daniel Potter, often called "King Potter," was the first president, and Nathan P. Wells was the first cashier. Nathan P. Wells was the great-grandfather of Cashier Edward Wells of the People's Bank of Johnstown. The name of "Wells" has been prominent in and about Johnstown for about three-fourths of a century. Four generations of that name have been well-known bankers in Johnstown. About seventy years ago, just east of the Montgomery county bank, was located the hatter, Guy T. Wells. He was a medium-sized man and had a husky voice. Later he removed to Amsterdam where he also kept a hat store and where he died some fifty years ago.
Dr. Lobdell, who came from Northville, then resided in Johnstown. He had two sons, Sidney and James. The first named son was once the Johnstown post master.
Among the Johnstown lawyers of that day might be mentioned Daniel Cady, Aaron Harring, Abram Morrill, Benjamin Chamberlain and James McNice.
Rev. Dr. Hoosac was then the Presbyterian minister, Rev. Thomas Lape, the Lutheran and Rev. Albert Ammerman the Dutch Reformed. The last named denomination held their services in the court house until 1839, when they erected their white temple of worship on Market street, now known as the Veghte church. Fifty years ago the denomination here was known as the Amrites.
"Yes, great is the change that has been wrought in Johnstown,
While eighty long years have been rolling away;
The people and buildings that once here were found,
Have vanished from sight or gone to decay.
"The street 'Sacandaga,' by name is no more,
Those that there done business now sleep their last sleep;
They long since have passed to the evergreen shore,
Where no one will sorrow or no one will weep.
"Their names are forgotten, save one, two, three, four,
That on Sacandaga and William street too;
Were men of the day, as shown above doors,
They counted their shekels and passed from the view.
"Gilchrist, Johnson, Newton, are still to be seen,
Descendents of stock that once was well-known;
The cemetery white, tells the story I ween,
When their ancestors died, when their spirits had flown.
"The pioneer banker, very great in his day,
Has left a descendant quite easy to find;
Cashier Edward Wells, right here let me say,
May he long, long survive the shipwreck of time.
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