Main Street Bridge was site of Catastrophic Collapse in 1859

Volume 3, Issue 31

The long, illustrious history of the Erie Canal is filled with tragedy and catastrophe despite its successes as an economic driving force for New York State. It seems fitting to recall one of the most frequently told stories relating to the Canal in Albion to close out this month.

On September 28, 1859, the residents of Orleans County were celebrating the opening day of the fair in Albion with a series of festivities. Conforming to popular fads of the time, a young gentleman was scheduled to walk a tight-rope stretched across the Erie Canal several rods west of the Main Street bridge. In the afternoon of Wednesday the 28th, the rope was strung from the second floor of the Mansion House south towards the second floor of Pierpont Dyer’s building.

The Blondin-esque feat attracted a massive crowd from across Orleans County as men, women, and children packed onto the three-arched iron bridge spanning across the water.… More

Catastrophic Canal Break put Eagle Harbor Under Water

Volume 3, Issue 30

The success of the Erie Canal was not without trials and tribulations over its 200-year history. These photographs, taken in August of 1927, show the damage sustained during an extensive break in the canal wall near Eagle Harbor.

On August 3, 1927, local farmers observed a slight leak in the south wall of the canal near the Otter Creek gully. L. E. Bennett reported seeing a three-foot square hole open up, spilling thousands of gallons of water out of the waterway in a matter of minutes; the initial opening formed approximately 100 feet west of the Otter Creek culvert. Within a relatively short period of time, the flooring of the canal gave way and the south wall broke free, creating a hole that spanned 50 feet in length and 7 feet in height.

Newspapers reported that over 1,000,000,000 gallons of water had spilled into the neighboring fields surrounding Eagle Harbor, creating a large lake that reached 20-60 feet in depth in certain areas.… More

Grain Barge Rammed Bates Road Guard Gate in 1925

Volume 3, Issue 28

Taken on August 19, 1925 by the New York Department of State Engineers, Western Division, this image shows Guard Gate 15 located at Bates Road in Medina. This gate was referred to locally as “Hastings Guard Gate” and provided workers with the ability to isolate sections of the Erie Canal during wall breaks, accidents, and high water levels. Orleans County has three guard gates; Gate 15 at Medina, Gate 14 at Albion, and Gate 13 at Holley.

This photograph raises an interesting question; what happens when the guard gate is involved in an accident? In August of 1925, a fleet of six barges from the “Green Fleet” under the charge of Captain Hickey were travelling westward. The vessels were pulled behind a tugboat, two abreast, when the southern barge rammed the center pier of the guard gate. The force of the impact jarred the gate loose from its hinges, dropping it onto the deck of the northern barge.… More

The Great Fire of 1882

Vol. 3, Issue 17

On Friday, January 13, 1882 at 9 o’clock in the evening, occupants of properties located along West Bank Street in Albion noticed the odor of smoke coming from an unknown source. When neighbors discovered smoke billowing out of F. C. Parchert’s millinery and fancy goods business, they sounded the fire alarm. Quickly arriving on scene, fireman forced open the door to find a pile of paper boxes ablaze. The stifling smoke made it impossible to remain within the store for even a short period of time and despite efforts to carry in extinguishers, the fire had already spread up the partition walls.

Hart Hose No. 3’s engine arrived on scene with slight delay, as the horses were not stabled nearby. Upon the company’s arrival, the fire had worked its way up the walls and burst through the roof. No. 3’s engine worked tirelessly for seven hours, providing steady streams into the early hours of the morning; another engine on scene broke down shortly after its arrival.… More

Kendall Store Suffers Multiple Fires

Volume 3, Issue 6

This photograph shows the interior of James Trivit Lacey’s store located on east side of Kendall Road near the intersection of Kenmore Road. Born at Tunstead, Norfolk, England in 1859, Lacey arrived in the United States at the age of 25 in 1884 and lived in the Yates/Carlton area for several years before relocating to Kendall. It was at this location that he would operate a shoe shop, confectionary store, and billiards parlor.

On May 6, 1901, Lacey closed up shop for the day and departed the business for his home located up the street. All was quiet until a fire was discovered in his storefront by a passerby, who alerted nearby residents. The church bells tolled to call community members to the town square and the process of extinguishing the fire began. Despite their best efforts, Mother Nature had other plans and a swift northeasterly wind pushed the flames to nearby buildings.… More

Carlyon Railroad Accident Possible Result of Malicious Activity

Volume 2, Issue 3

This image, taken the morning after the accident occurred, shows the crowds gathered at the wreckage of the Steamboat Express. Nearby residents assisted in pulling corpses and wounded passengers from the wreckage into the early morning.

At 9:48p.m. July 27, 1883, Orleans County experienced one of the most devastating disasters in local history. The excursion train “Steamboat Express” was traveling eastbound on the Rome, Watertown, and Ogdensburg Railroad with a load of passengers bound for the Thousand Islands. On this particular evening a terrible storm had developed in the region bringing rain, lightening, and terrible gusts of wind.

The train departed the Lewiston station approximately 20 minutes behind schedule, departed Lyndonville’s station nearly 30 minutes behind schedule, and then proceeded on the four mile journey to Carlyon’s station. The train reached speeds of 25 miles per hour, normal pace for fair weather travels, and progress was on schedule despite the delay in departures from the previous two stops.… More