[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
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.
For Classical ninety-one five, this is David Minor
© 1999 David Minor / Eagles Byte
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