Railroads 1848 – 1915

An interesting bit of railroad history was related when 1915 Eli S. Terry “Ted”
received notice in the Albany Press for his Forty Year Medal as an engineer.

Mr. Terry began railroad work in 1848 at 12 years of age. His job was to ride
horseback from the station to Death Rock to see if the Champlain Steamboat was
approaching, using field glasses. He would ride to the biggest top of the mountain and
wigwag his information to the station. If the boat was not too belated the train would be
held. If it was, the passengers would have to wait in Whitehall until another southbound
train left the station.

Doris B. Morton, Town Historian – The Whitehall Times – July 2, 1987

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A Will of 1839

When high school students study the works of Shakespeare they tend to be
hilarious when they learn that a feather bed was a prized possession to be willed to a
wife. They do not know how many goose feathers are needed to make a bed or the
softness or the warmth it has in cold houses, or that people in northern Europe still sleep
between pads of these feathers. These feather beds were made into pillows, which have
also mainly disappeared. The young folks cannot understand the pleasure a housewife
had when her feather beds were high and perfectly smooth after being fluffed up and

This will shows that a feather bed’s worth lasted a long time, even into the 20th

I, William Orr, of the Town of Whitehall, County of Washington , being of sound
mind and body do make and publish this my last will and testament, in manner following:

Item. I will that my just debts be paid.

I will and bequeath to my son, William Henry, all my real estate subject to the
payment of the sum of one hundred dollars to Eliza Ann, daughter of my brother
Solomon, when by son shall be at the age of twenty one years, but without interest.

Item. I give and bequeath to my daughter, Eliza Jane, the sum of two hundred
dollars and one good feather bed to be paid to her when she arrives at the age of twenty
one years by my said son, William Henry, but if my said daughter should not live to be
twenty one then in that event, my said son is to be freed from paying the said sum of two
hundred dollars. The said feather bed and the devise of two hundred do Hard is hereby
made a charge upon my real estate devised to my said son.

Item. My will and desire is that my wife should continue to reside upon and occupy
such part of my real estate as may be necessary for her and my children schooled and
brought up in a good and decent way.

Lastly, I do hereby nominate and appoint – John Kirtland of Whitehall and my wife
Catherine executrix of this my last will and testament.

This will was subscribed and witnessed by Jesse R. Billings and Israel Howe
May 11, 1839.

This William and Solomon Orr were the sons of Robert Orr. Solomon was known
as the “hundred canal boat man” and worked between Whitehall and Troy. What does
this expression mean?

Doris B. Morton, Town Historian – Whitehall Independent - March 23, 1988

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Autograph Books

Autograph Books were an ideal gift for a female in one’s life during the 19th
century. Highly decorated or plain, expensive or not, the books were to be filled by
friends or acquaintances of the owner who avidly sought signatures as do the high school
seniors today with their yearbooks.

One album in the Historical Society’s collection was written in the 1830′s. Its
colored pages for messages and signatures are interspersed with rather somber
lithographs but its pages are lightened with original flower paintings by the writers. The
messages are usually a page long and in a religious or sentimental family vein. This book
belonged to the great parents of Dorothy M. Parker.

Another book was filled by one Cornelia L. Payne during the years 1879-1889. She
attended Troy Business School and the signatures are from students in that school from
the surrounding communities. It is in the collection because of Sarah Lovinia Dennis of
Whitehall, who wrote: Nell, Though lost to sight, to memory dear, your friend.”

Autographs became set often, as did the inscriptions on cemetery stones and one
reads over and over the same verses like the ones in Maggie Jones’ book. She was from
Granville but many of the entries are from Whitehall. Her daughter Blodwen Williams
wrote: Roses are red, Violets are blue, Candy is sweet, And so are you, while Ella
Williams wrote: When you are married and live upstairs, don’t get proud and put on airs.”
Her father wrote his greeting in Welsh as did many of her friends.

Autographs are found in other places and in the collection are some school books
whose leaves are used for friendly greetings and sentiments. In Cora Mylotte’s arithmetic
book is this When this you see, Remember me and all my faults forget erase them from
thy memory if they remain there yet. Yours respectfully, Chas. E. McFarren; while
Carrie McFarren said: Cora, What people write in albums seems to me all the same, and
all I have to give you is my friendship and my name”. Others had no signature but show
the verse used. My pen is poor, My ink is pale, My love for you shall never fail. Forget
me not, forget me never, strawberry face won’t last forever. When this you see,
remember me a bare mind a constant friend is hard to find but when you find one just as
true change not the old one for the new.

And Cora had this one for a friend: Always remember And never forget, Leibbie
and Cora are good friends yet. Plow deep when the sluggards sleep And you will have
corn to sell and to keep.

Do you have Grandma’s or Mother’s old album? Get it out and spend some happy
moments with it. You’ll be surprised to find what a great person she was through other’s
eyes and what kind of people she knew through their own choice of greetings.


In July 1872 Rev. D. Lull came to stay in Whitehall for a time with Mr. and Mrs.
Anson Parks, as he said “Away from the heated, dusty, noisy streets of the great
metropolis, among the glorious lakes and hills of the Champlain region.” With the present
heat wave we might agree with her when she told the guest she would sooner live in a
hovel on Skene Mountain and pick whortleberries for a living than be in the noise-smitten
brown stone and brick imprisoned city.

Doris B. Morton, Town Historian – The Whitehall Times – July 27, 1972

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Anniversary bells for Mr. and Mrs. George Hyatt

Anniversary bells today for Mr. and Mrs. George Hyatt.


Whitehall is now a National Bicentennial Community. With the official flag and certificate presentation to come, the community will be farther along with the plans that have been formulated to make Celebration ‘76 a success with the assistance of all Whitehallers.

In 1959 Whitehall celebrated its Bicentennial in association with New York State’s observance of the 350th anniversary of the Lake Champlain – Hudson River Valley. This time the celebration of its part in history will be in association with the national bicentennial.

Our cause for celebration is manifold. Although it has been repeated often in this column, reiteration can put emphasis on the part Whitehall played in history as Skenesborough. Celebrations over the United States will take in events of the whole Revolutionary period; Boston has already had the Tea Party reenactment. Whitehall’s main action in the war was during 1775 to 1777 and so the celebration can cover 1975 to 1977.

The first event took place 9 May 1775 when Skenesborough was captured by two forces sent to obtain the schooner and other boats known to be in the place by Captain Herrick from Castleton and Captain Barnes from Salem. At that time the schooner was 41 taken and became the first ship of the Colonial and the Federal Navy. This action was the first war activity in New York State.

The second series of events came in 1776 when Skenesborough became the shipyard of Benedict Arnold when he constructed the first fleet of the United States that succeeded later in obstructing British action. This resulted in saving George Washington’s army and so; gave us the United States.

The third event was the – battle in Skenesborough Harbor 6 July 1777 when the last of the fleet was captured or sunk by British forces. This event called Burgoyne to Skenesborough where he made his headquarters for three weeks. This delay, while he waited for a road south to be cleared, again allowed the Americans time to recoup their forces and led to the British defeat at Saratoga.

These events are a part of Whitehall’s heritage — heritage which all citizens— former, present or future — can well be proud of and should be able to relate.

Doris B. Morton, Town Historian – The Whitehall Times – January 10, 1974

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Whitehall’s Bicentennial

This year 1975 will see the start of the observance of Whitehall’s part in this Republic’s national observance of its Bicentennial. This is the opportunity for Whitehall’s heritage to be written loud and clear, to be let out of obscurity caused by emotionalism over one man’s later treason, lack of thorough research, dominance of nearby community events, and just plain lack of knowledge of our community’s history.

Whitehallers are really proud of their community, although their words sometimes seem to belie the fact. Now is the time to spread the word of Revolutionary action, men, and national significance of the events that happened in Whitehall, the Champlain Valley, New York State and the nation. Let us show our pride in our heritage.

Doris B. Morton, Town Historian – The Whitehall Times – January 2, 1975

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The D&H in Capture Days

Vice President James Colpoys and Supervisor of Special Services Ellyn Freeman have arranged to have the D&H Spirit of Freedom, Engine 1776, and a baggage car on display in the railway yard during Capture Days May 9 and 10.

Personnel of the D&H active and retired are assisting in collecting railroad articles and pictures for the display and will act as hosts during the two days.

Many items will be needed for displays in the baggage car. Although Mrs. Freeman~ will furnish some displays and items from Skenesborough Museum will be used; it will be appreciated if anyone having railway items will loan them for the occasion.

The Bicentennial window in Aiken’s restaurant has a D&H display calling attention to the need for loans. A call to 499-0936 will insure the pick-up of any articles.

Doris B. Morton, Town Historian – The Whitehall Times – May 1, 1975

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Railroad [1975]

Whitehall has been a railroad town since 1848 when the Saratoga and Whitehall line reached here from the south, and “railroaders” as the people in that occupation have been known are an important, community-minded group of citizens.

Delaware and Hudson Railway’s contribution to the Capture Days: The D&H Railway Spirit of Freedom engine and a 1916 baggage car proved an extremely popular display during Whitehall’s Capture Days, May 9 and 10.

The 1776 engine (Spirit of Freedom); painted red, white and blue, was detoured from its occasional duty tours and was open for inspection at the old freight depot. Not only youngsters thrilled at being allowed in the cab of the train engine but adults had a long standing desire to see the inside of an engine satisfied.

The baggage car, newly painted, had railway displays prepared by Special Services Chairperson Ellen Freeman of the D&H and her assistant, Lewis Wasserman. The exhibits contained a history of the company and many artifacts of railroad life — lanterns, keys, plaques, pictures.

Railroad retirees of Whitehall acted as hosts throughout the two days, being on hand to converse with the visitors, to explain the apparatus in the engine, and to set up and dismantle the exhibits from Skenesborough Museum. These men were Timothy Carroll, Adelbert Herron, Joseph Manell, Peter Sparano, Ralph Sparano and Charles Tinsley. Lurvey Rooker loaned two oil cans and a lantern for the display.

Through the interest generated by the D&H exhibit, additional gifts were made to the Skenesborough Museum. Mrs. Charles Tinsley gave a nickel plated oil can individually owned by her father Alexander Pratt. His name is engraved on the can. Among some other items given anonymously were railroad hats, service pins, buttons and keys.

This railway display was initiated by D&H Vice President James Colpoys, a former Whitehaller.

Doris B. Morton, Town Historian – The Whitehall Times – May 15, 1975

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Washington County Agricultural Fair [1975]

Many are now wending their way this week to Greenwich to attend the oldest chartered agricultural county fair in the Northeast. It also has the distinction of having the largest agricultural machinery display in New York State, second only to that of the New York State Fair.

One booth will be identified by its sign: Washington County Bicentennial 1975-1980. In it will be stressed arts and crafts of the County’s communities. Whitehall’s contribution this year is the Senior Citizens’ historical quilt with 48 blocks containing appliquéd and embroidered pictures and signs of Whitehall. Whitehall has long had displays at the county fair, especially those of the two Granges and the 4-H in the Grange Hall.

What about the very early years of this oldest chartered fair? Like many Organiza-tions it had its forerunner. In December, 1818, a group of interested citizens met at the Sandy Hill (Hudson Fa11s) Court House with the Hon. Asa Fitch, father of the historian, in the chair. They decided to form a constitu tion for an agricultural society and made a plan for its constitution. The first item of business was a plan to protect its members from horse thieves, Two months later, February, 1819, at the home of Joseph Rouse in Argyle, 40 members signed the constitution. Melanction Wheeler was the signer for Whitehall.

Wake up” meetings were held in various towns for the ‘Farmers’ Holiday” as they were called; really friendly gatherings for one day. In September, Whitehall Wiswell’s Tavern hosted this town’s fair.

During the following years special events were held. In 1822 there was a plowing match with the plowers in white frocks and spears of wheat in their hats. In 1825 in Union Village (Greenwich) five dollars was awarded to the female who shall appear in full dress, as far as practicable, of her own domestic manufacture.”

In 1826 in Argyle first place was given to one who could plow 1/8 of an acre in the best manner, turning a furrow four to five inches wide and nine to eleven inches deep in less than 45 minutes with horses or 60 minutes with oxen. One year a prize was given to a lady equestrienne but it was discontinued because more attention was paid to that than to the animals and produce.

On 4 August 1842 the Washington County Agricultural society was organized. This year it was held in Greenwich and for the first time the interest the ladies participated in the events of the day was noted in 1843. In I844 at Greenwich a subsoil plow was exhibited.

The fairs were now rotated from town to town, the choice being the town that would donate the most money. In 1848 the 8th annual Fair and Cattle Show was held in Argyle. The report of the New York State Agricultural society for 1849 stated that the annual meeting of the society was held at Phoenix Hotel in Whitehall with John H. Boyd president. Unfortunately the report of the county fair was not given, though awards were made to Isaac Wood for 373/4 bushels per acre of wheat, to Nathan Jackson for corn, 92 bushels, and to Andrew Wilson for corn, 91 bushels, all of Whitehall.

In 1860 there was a three day fair because of the Civil War. The fair was omitted in the next two years. In 1863 Salem promised to furnish ground and buildings if the fair would be held there regularly for eight years. In 1865 the fair continued for four days and Horace Greeley was the speaker. A main feature at all the early fairs was an oration.

This year prizes were offered for the fastest trotting horses. In 1971 an agreement was made for the next ten years for the fair to be held on ground between Sandy Hill and Fort Edward with the society receiving the benefit of 25 acres of ground, the buildings, and $2500 bonus. Thus were the seeds of the present Washington County Agricultural Fair sown.

Doris B. Morton, Town Historian – The Whitehall Times – August 21, 1975

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Whitehall in 1815 – 1816

This map of Whitehall came from the National Archives in Washington. It was drawn by John Anderson and Isaac Roberdeau, U.S.A. in late 1815, early 1816. It was a year before the Champlain Canal was started here in 1817, long before the land between Skene Mountain and the Island was cut by a canal that took traffic from the natural lake and around Fiddler’s Elbow and before the Whitehall lithograph of 1819.

During the War of 1812 the Port of Whitehall was an entry port through which military materials and troops passed. A fort, called of other maps Fort Comfort or Fort Diamond, was constructed. Barracks were placed near the rise and entrenchments, which were never used, were dug. The powder magazine remnants were still in evidence in the first part of the twentieth century, remembered by older Whitehallers.

From this map may be seen the reason some early mapmakers called the narrow stretch of water an extension of Wood Creek rather than the head of Lake Champlain. After the battle of Lake Champlain in September 1814 Commodore MacDonough brought to this port some of the American fleet and some of the British prize fleet. The ships were moored on the west side of the Lake in December 1814. In apprehension that the British might strike from the north the guns were taken from the ships and mounted on land.

After the hostilities had ceased Whitehall was a naval depot for many years. The old storehouse on the east side of the harbor was constructed in 1816. When Stillman, the noted traveler, went through Whitehall (visiting Henry Francisco) he saw the sailors looking out the portholes of the ships. In the decade of the 20′s the ships were sold, stripped of valuables and moored in East Bay-Poultney River area. The location of some is known where they are preserved under water for scientific examination of historic artifacts. Two have had such study, TICONDEROGA and EAGLE. One other is waiting it, the British LINNET. The story of this study has been published in the book entitled ”History and Construction of the United States Schooner, Ticonderoga” by Kevin Crissman who made the study at Skenesborough Museum of the Ticonderoga, researched its history from primary sources, dived in the river, and wrote his thesis at the University of Texas. He is presently working on the EAGLE.

Doris B. Morton, Town Historian – Whitehall Independent - April 23, 1986

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When Did They Die? 85 Years Plus

Obituaries are interesting reading when read as a source of information on industries and events of earlier days. It would seem that women are the hardier of the sexes as their numbers reaching the 85-plus outnumber males.

These entries, taken at random from .Scrapbook 21 of the late Arthur Gordon, point out the information, or lack of it, that can be entered in an obituary.

Mrs. Elmira Latour Bebo, 94, was the widow of Dennis Bebo, a Civil War veteran. Born in Sorel, Canada, she came to Whitehall in 1862. She and her husband conducted a business on Canal Street between the old Gaylord Building which stood on the south corner of Clinton Avenue and Canal Street in the present roadway north of Stiles Meeting Place and owned a secondhand store on North Main streets.

Mrs. J. Sanford Potter, 88, was Miss Ann Webster who came to Whitehall from Pittsburgh. She attended Fort Edward Collegiate Institute at a time after the demise of the second Whitehall Academy on Williams Street. She lived at the Terrace on Skene Mountain where were located the Potter brother mansions.

Mrs. Ann O’Brien Walsh, 89, came from Ireland via Granville. Her first husband was John Barrett. They were the parents of Mrs. Henry Neddo. Her second husband was Peter Walsh.

Mrs. Mary Mulholland Duncan, 89, was a Whitehall girl. She was the mother of nine children. She and husband James lived near the southern end of Cliff Street.

Mrs. Celestia Mitchell DeKalb, 86, was a Whitehall girl. She attended Whitehall Academy. She became a charter member of the Whitehall Grange, the Civic Improvement League and the Rural Charity Club. She was a correspondent of The Whitehall Times under editors Franklin Fishier, Milo C. Reynolds and Edward F. Roche. Her daughter, Mary DeKalb, taught in Whitehall High School.

Joseph Brown, 94, came to Whitehall from Ireland via, Granville. He followed his father in farming, living on his own farm on the Whitehall-Poultney road for 67 years. His wife was Anna Powers.

Mrs. Rebecca Ferguson Bates, 87, was a resident of Whitehall for 70 years. She was the widow of Charles Bates, a prominent Episcopalian worker and an operator of hotels in and around Whitehall.

Mrs. Rose Raino Hurtubis, 87, came to Whitehall from Essex, N.Y., at seven years of age. She attended the old Bell School at corner of Blount and Lamb streets.

Mrs. Mary Aiken Ryon, 86, was the widow of Franklin C. Ryon. They lived on Canal Street near his coal yard, which was north of the firehouse before that building was moved to its present site in 1933.

Mrs. Margaret Mooney McCarthy, 87, was the widow of John McCarthy. She came from St. Antonie, Canada. She was a charter member of the Whitehall Democratic club. Her son, Edward McCarthy, was one of Whitehall’s postmasters.

Francis M. Bartholomew was called the Youngest Vet as he entered service, in the Civil War at the age of 13. Born in Howard, Steuben County, he came to Dresden at six years of age. He drove on the canal in summer and did chores in the winter. He was a member of the American Legion post in Whitehall.

Mrs. Adline LaVia Doty, 88, came from Sorel, Canada, as a young woman.

Walter D. Travis, 98, was one of the oldest Masons when he died in 1934. He was a member of Phoenix Lodge, 96, F. and A.M. He was in the hardware and ice business.

Mrs. Marion Pratt, 91, died on New Year’s Day in North Whitehall.

Doris B. Morton, Town Historian – Whitehall Independent - April 24, 1980

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