More ‘quick bits’ from our distant past

This photo illustrates a typical late 19th century rig similar to that stolen by successful horse thief George Hynes in 1900. (Photo courtesy of Peter Betz)

Herewith is another collection of “short bits” discovered while researching larger topics.

The Dec.10, 1894 Fulton County Republican reported, “On Sunday morning in Johnstown, a fire alarm was sent from Box 34 at the corner of East Clinton and Glebe streets. It was supposed a large fire raged in the east end, but when firemen reached the higher portion of the village, the house of John Standing, one mile east of the village, was discovered in flames. As the firemen could render no aid, they returned home. The building burned to the ground.”

Why couldn’t they render aid? Volunteer fire companies only fought fires within their legal district.

On another occasion, when a Gloversville home located some 50 yards outside the village limits burned, volunteer firemen responded, but upon ascertaining the home lay beyond the village, they declined to fight the blaze. They did, however, help the homeowner remove furniture from the burning house and stayed to prevent the fire from spreading to homes inside the village.

Apparently, water piped to homes from the original Gloversville Waterworks wasn’t filtered, or this Feb. 20, 1882 incident wouldn’t have happened.

“This morning a man drew a pail of water from his pipe (faucet) connected to the new water works. He threw the water on the sidewalk when he found to his horror it contained a small snake 8-inches long.”

Stone houses naturally afford relief from hot weather, as this Aug. 14, 1884 item suggests.

“About as cool a place to visit during a hot summer day is the corridor of the Johnstown jail. A recent visit revealed a dozen prisoners including one woman. Some lucky visitors were present, and the sheriff’s family were courteous and attentive.”

Horse theft was common and thieves profited if they kept one jump ahead of their victims. Our Leader Republican shared a Nov. 30, 1900 Otsego Farmer news item relating a humorous tale.

“A man named George Hynes hired a rig and horse at Canajoharie and drove to Middlefield, where he traded the horse and rig for another horse with farmer Miles Sard. When authorities came to retrieve the rig and horse, Sard began looking for Hynes and his stolen horse. Sard located his horse at Harpersfield where Hynes traded it to another trusting farmer for a lesser horse, taking the difference in cash.” Hynes disappeared with the cash and third horse, rather than tarry to look his gift horse in the mouth.

The Republican’s editor on June 1, 1898, belittled the women’s rights movement, remarking, “There has been a change from the church to the Court House for the debate. “Resolved, women should have equal political rights with men.” The change will afford a larger liberty for speakers and hearers. People may expect opportunities for a good laugh.”

Amsterdam’s July 27, 1894 Daily Democrat related a tale of tramps behaving badly.

“This morning about one a.m. a trainman noticed a car broken into and discovered four tramps on the river bank. With leveled revolver he announced that any attempt to move would be fatal. Another trainman went to the passenger station where officers McGrady and Bergen were located. They placed the quartet under arrest for car-breaking. The officers found a box of lady’s shoes nearby, booty from the car. One of the quartet was fighting drunk. A blow from the trainman’s lantern settled his hash for a time, but he finally required use of Officer Bergen’s club. The four were eventually cooped, and this morning arraigned. They pleaded to intoxication. As for breaking into the car, they were the most innocent creatures ever brought to court. They will be guests of the county’s free hotel until September’s court.”

The Oct. 27, 1895, Utica Tribune’s “Women of Today” column encouraged female cyclists never to ride alone, but if they must, to arm themselves with one of the popular, small “velo-dog” or ‘velocipede anti-dog’ revolvers for protection against both dogs and tramps. Should a lone female cyclist be menaced by a tramp and have to shoot him, the Utica Chief of Police stated, “she was encouraged to notify authorities at the conclusion of her ride.”

The May 22, 1900, Daily Leader headlined, “Strike At Coal House” proving labor strikes were sometimes ended swiftly, by an iron hand.

“Yesterday, Engineer Shanahan was compelled to settle a combined strike of masons and others employed on the new coal house. Hod carriers, mortar mixers and laborers decided they wouldn’t work until given $1.50 for a day’s labor. Compensation offered was $1.35. The disturbers were discharged and their places immediately filled. The men then resumed work.”

Much earlier, the April 6, 1827, Albany Argus reported, “On Thursday last, Mr. Abraham Newkirk, Mr. John Greenman and a Mr. Fish unfortunately drowned while attempting to cross the Schoharie Creek in a skiff at the Fort Hunter ferry. Greenman and Fish immediately sunk in the flood, in the presence of Greenman’s wife and children and a great number of spectators, and were not seen to rise. Newkirk rose, swam about forty rods, and went over the dam. He was followed by his wife on the bank until reaching a shoal. On this he raised himself half out of the water, beckoned to his wife, was swept off and sunk.” Neither Mrs. Newkirk or Mrs. Greenman got the satisfaction of telling their husbands, “I told you so.”

By Patricia Older

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