A Miniature of a Hero and a Friend

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As we commemorate Commodore Thomas Macdonough’s 1814 victory on Lake Champlain this 2020 season, the Kent-Delord House Museum would like to share a personal story relating to one of our most prized artifacts of that time period. 

While assigned to prepare ships and seamen on the Vermont shores in 1812, Thomas Macdonough frequently came to Plattsburgh to confer with Peter Sailly, Collector of Customs, and officers of the land forces.  Here he became a close friend of Henry and Betsey Delord who enjoyed entertaining officers and friends in their lovely home.  Eventually Macdonough, and on some occasions when his wife Ann accompanied him, stayed at the Delord house.

About 1815, Macdonough had his miniature painted by George Freeman, a self-taught miniaturist.  A miniature portrait, six inches by five inches, would be easy to carry to Plattsburgh and an appropriate hostess gift for Betsey Delord.  The Commodore may have given Betsey the portrait during his last trip to Plattsburgh in 1822.  Henry Delord recorded the visit in his Day Book:

“We have had a visit of Commodore Macdonough in the beginning of October & he was received with much regards by the inhabitants of this place.  A committee was appointed so as to invite him to a public dinner which he declined as having received an order to attend a Court martial in New York.  I think he was partial of his time with my family.”

When Macdonough presented his little portrait to Betsey Delord, she must have been extremely happy and proud to have his picture.  It was painted in watercolor on paper.  Upside down over the left epaulet the artist signed his name, “B. Freeman-painter.”  

Perhaps the Delords noted that Macdonough looked tired and thin as was the young captain depicted in the miniature.  It was well known that Macdonough’s health was failing.  The artist tried to paint the portrait of an ailing hero as he appeared at that time.  This portrait became the Delords’ cherished memento of a nation’s hero and a grateful friend.  

Today this miniature of Captain Thomas Macdonough continues to occupy an honored place in the Kent-Delord House Museum. 

Thomas Macdonough won fame at an early age and died at an early age. After his victory on Lake Champlain, he commanded ships sailing to a number of ports including Portsmouth, the Mediterranean, Russia, England,and Denmark. In 1818, he was stricken with tuberculosis but continued to remain on duty. His visit to Plattsburgh in 1822 was part of a tour that went from Niagara Falls to battling the rapids on the St. Lawrence to Quebec. In the summer of 1824 he commanded the USS Constitution, nicknamed “Old Ironsides” sailing to the Mediterranean. While he was at sea the following August, he received word of the death of his wife. In October Macdonough’s health had deteriorated so rapidly he resigned his commission and boarded a ship for home. With him were his four-year old son, Rodney and the ship’s surgeon. On November 10, 1825, six hundred miles from the shores of his country, Captain Thomas Macdonough died. He was forty-one years old. He was buried beside his wife in Riverside Cemetery in Middletown, Connecticut.

The Artist

George Freeman was born in Mansfield, CT in 1789.  As a young man he left his family’s farm to paint miniatures in eastern NY.  In 1813 he opened a studio in New York City.  It is possible that Macdonough sat for his portrait in that studio.  In 1816 Freeman was in Cooperstown, NY working on a miniature portrait of the mother of James Fenimore Cooper.  Later that year, he was living in Montreal and advertising for patrons.  Within a year he sailed for England and for the next twenty-one years he studied to improve his work.  He became an expert miniaturist and painted the likenesses of nobility and royalty, including Queen Victoria, before returning to the United States.  George Freeman died in Hartford, CT at the age of 79.  

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Henry Delord’s Daybooks 1818-1824

Visitors touring the Kent-Delord House Museum not only get to see artifacts from the 19th century but also get to hear the stories of how the family and people of Plattsburgh lived during that time.  We know the daily details due to the tens of thousands of personal letters exchanged between family members and others, the documents that guided their personal and public affairs, and many other items saved by Betsey Delord and Fannie Delord Hall.

We have been very fortunate that a number of local historians have researched much of this accumulation of primary documents and written either books or essays that give us a look at the interactions of the Delord generations and the people of the North Country.  Mainly we rely on two books that tell us the Delord story:  Henry Delord and His Family by Allan Everest and Love & Duty, Letters and Diaries of the Delord-Webb Women by Virginia Mason Burdick.  Both Everest and Burdick did extensive research in that mountain of documents to create a narrative that incorporates the essence of the Delord legacy

However, there is a lot of information that they had to leave out!  For example, Henry Delord kept records of his Red Store business in ledgers, of which we have quite a few.  After the Battle of Plattsburgh we know this business went bankrupt and his partnership with William Bailey ended.  Yet what the Everest and Burdick books don’t tell you is that Henry continued to do the same type of mercantile business as he had but on a smaller, more personal scale.  He again kept records, now in journals, referred to as “daybooks.”  We are fortunate to have three of them covering the years 1818-1824.

Cover of Henry’s 1823-24 Daybook

These daybooks contain the lists of items that Henry procured for individuals and how much they owed him and when and how they paid their bills.  Henry already had connections to suppliers from the earlier business, so he could still get the items his customers needed.  Most of these items were boards, bricks, bread, sugar, vinegar, butter, pork and beef.  However one item stands out in his record keeping- – gin!  Over the month of July,1819 to the beginning of August John Blacketer bought 12 quarts of gin for a whopping total of $4.00!  Compare that to Samuel Hugh who bought 5 quarts of gin during a 10-day period in August of 1819!  By the way, a quart of gin cost 25¢!

Henry covered many pages with a detailed record of what, where, and when he planted his garden.  By 1818 according to county tax records, Henry owned about 9 acres in Plattsburgh, three of which surrounded his house.   So what Henry called “his garden” was a small farm.  Many entries refer to the various types of peas and beans as well as six different kinds of cabbage, along with the carrots, potatoes, beets, etc., etc., he planted.  I must point out that Henry was a “gentleman farmer” who did the planning and organizing, but he did have indentured servants who did most of the manual labor.  In the 1818 daybook, there is a map of the side yard drawn by Henry with labeled walkways.  He used these as boundaries for the various crops.

          Henry map of his side-yard garden with walkways

Henry also records the rents for the various houses he owned on the property around his house.  Those rents varied from $2 to $5 a month.  He also rented a room within those houses for $1 a week or $1 to $2 a month.  Not one to pass on any means of making money, Henry also rented his horse and waggon (note Henry’s spelling).

           Invoice for rent of room and horse&waggon

There were other entries that didn’t focus on his business or gardening.  Henry added observations on his personal life.  One entry records that he “Loaned to Cousin Calvin Averill – 30 December 1819 – Frances, chess & chess Board.”  No further entries indicate if these were returned.  Another entry records that “Anne Green wife or widow of Henry Green & Sister of William Bowron loaned her 1 August 1820-Books Biography Dictionary & four volumes of Arts & Science belonging to my Daughter Frances Henrietta & again lend her other books – & She Did not return any books.”  (writer’s note – did Henry possibly start the first lending library in Plattsburgh?)

                                     Loan of Chess* Set
*note that when there were 2 letter “s” together, the first was written looking something like an “f”

 

 

 

 

                                         Loan of Books

Several of the most interesting entries were recipes for medicines to cure ailments from toothaches to dysentery.  Note that during the 19th century recipes were called receipts.  Most of the recipes were copied from newspapers.  Two of the “cures” were from newspapers  in Albany and Baltimore.  It was common for people who traveled to bring newspapers back to share with friends and relatives.  For all the “cures” that Henry copied from those newspapers, there is no evidence that he actually used any of them.  The only receipt that Henry did acknowledge taking was from one of his personal physicians, Dr. Hichock. Given the directions to take it before eating, it must have been for a stomach or intestinal problem.

                        Henry’s prescription from Dr. Hichcock

                Whooping Cough and Rheumatism Recipes

This prescription for a Tooth Ache was for Frances Henrietta who was 11 yrs. old at the time!

                               Toothache Remedy

A couple things to note about these “cures” is that the main ingredient in most of these “medicines” is alcohol- so yes, use it enough it will numb the pain (and the brain!)  Also it is distressing to think that mothers would mix lye with milk and give it to a young child!  I present these as examples of what Henry Delord thought was interesting in the early 1800s as cures for the ailments of the times.

THESE ARE NOT CURES FOR ANY MEDICAL AILMENT –                                                      PLEASE DO NOT TRY TO FOLLOW THEM!!

I leave you with a final example of what Henry included in his daybooks – doodles, enjoy!

   

Unraveling the Webb web!

This is the third of several articles telling the amazing stories about the people and history of the Webb Family paintings that are hanging on the walls in the Kent-Delord House Museum.

August 13, 1832 was an important date for two prominent families in two historic areas in two different states.  On this day, Frances Henrietta Delord married Henry Livingston Webb in the Gold Parlor of the Delord house.  The child of this union, Frances Delord Webb, would become the last direct descendant of each of these families.  Thus she inherited the many treasures accumulated throughout the families’ histories.  This included many portraits of her father’s family, which now hang on the walls of the Kent-Delord House Museum.  These portraits were painted by a number of acclaimed artists of the early 19th century.

 

The eldest of these Webb brothers was Joseph Hayes Webb (1781-1814).   In 1807, Joseph and his brother Thomas (1793-1821) had started a store in Albany, NY, selling imported China, glass and crockery (earthenware).   By 1821, brothers, John, Henry, and Charles had taken over the business located at 51 State Street.  It was here in Albany that the Webbs and the artists Ames and Flagg would become acquainted.

Joseph H Webb.jpegThe portrait of Joseph Hayes Webb is oil on canvas painted by Ezra Ames c.1812.  Joseph died at the age of 33 in 1814.

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Thomas Chest Webb’s portrait is oil on canvas and also painted by Ezra Ames about the same time as his brother’s portrait – 1812.  Thomas died at the age of 28 in 1821.

Ezra Ames (1768 – 1836)

In his early years, Ezra Ames painted miniatures, carriages, fire buckets, fences, mirror frames, and furniture.  In 1795 he moved to Albany, where he opened a sign painting and portrait painting business.  As his work took off, Ames became know as one of the nation’s most talented portrait painters.  During his thirty year career he painted more than seven hundred works of art including portraits of Gov. George Clinton and Alexander Hamilton.

JohnWebb1834.jpegJohn Haynes Webb’s portrait is oil on canvas painted by Henry Inman.

In 1834 John was best man at his brother Henry’s marriage to Frances Henrietta Delord.  He gave his niece Fannie the Chickering pianoforte that stands in the Gold Parlor.  John’s friendship with the portrait painter Henry Inman undoubtedly was the reason for the number of portraits of the Webb family attributed to Inman.

Henry1832.jpg     HenryWebb1834.jpeg

Henry Webb 1832                                                 Henry Webb 1834

There are two portraits of Henry Livingston Webb in the Museum’s collection.  The first is an oil on canvas painted in 1832.  This was to complement the portrait of Frances Henrietta on the occasion of their marriage.   The second is also oil on canvas and was painted in 1834 while He and John were in New York City.  Henry stated in a letter to Betsey that they were going to exchange their portraits.  Henry will later have Inman paint a copy of the wedding portrait of Frances Henrietta.

Henry Inman (1801 -1846)

Henry Inman was born in Utica, NY in 1801.  The family moved to New York City in 1812.  In 1814 he began a seven-year apprenticeship to John Wesley Jarvis, the most fashionable portraitist at that time.  They traveled to New Orleans and then Boston where his tenure with Jarvis came to a conclusion.  Inman’s career soon began to outshine that of Jarvis  He gained the patronage of many of New York City’s most illustrious families and became the first vice-president of the newly formed National Academy of Design.  His fame won him commissions for portraits for New York City Hall.

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Elizabeth Bancker Webb (1783-1858) portrait is oil on canvas painted by Jared B. Flagg in 1846. 

Eliza Webb was one of the sisters to all those Webb brothers.  Known as Aunt Eliza, she was Frances Delord “Fannie” Webb’s principal guardian after Henry moved his daughter from Plattsburgh to Hartford, CT in 1836.

Jared B. Flagg (1820 -1899) 

Jared Bradley Flagg was born into a family of artists.  As a young man, he attained degrees from Trinity College and Columbia University in the study of theology.  He served as an Episcopal minister for a while but eventually resumed his art career specializing in portraits.   Some of his notable portraits include NY Court of Appeals judges, a Rhode Island Governor, and Cornelius Vanderbilt.

These six portraits along with the ones that were discussed in previous Blog posts are just a few of the works in the Kent-Delord House Museum collection that were produced by renown painters of the 18th and 19th centuries.  We hope you will stop by to see these treasures when we open for tours!

 

 

Unraveling the Webb web!

This is the second of several articles telling the amazing stories about the people and history of the Webb Family paintings that are hanging on the walls in the Kent-Delord House Museum.

WebbsPiano.jpeg

The two portraits prominently displayed over the pianoforte in the Gold Parlor are the parents of Henry Livingston Webb, Frances Henrietta Delord’s husband.  Henry’s father was Joseph Webb, Jr. and his mother was Abigail Chester Webb.  These and other Webb family portraits were inherited by Fannie (Delord) Webb Hall as she was the last of the Webb family lineage.

                                                       Joseph Webb, Jr. (1749-1815)

Joseph Webb, Jr. was the oldest of the six children of Mehitabel Nott Webb and Joseph Webb, Sr.   Webb Sr. had been a merchant in Wethersfield, Connecticut and had ships trading in the West Indies prior to his death at the age of 34.  Joseph Jr. was only 12 at the time of his father’s death, but being the first born, he inherited the house and the family business.  However, it wasn’t until his mother’s death six years later that Joseph assumed control of that store and the trading ventures.

 

 

A miniature locket with a portrait of Joseph painted on ivory (date and artist are unknown, but it is attributed to the American School of the 18th century)

 

 

 

In 1774, Joseph married Abigail Chester and they began their family in the Webb house in Wethersfield. Revolutionary sentiment in the colonies was building at this time.  The Webbs and the Chesters played critical roles during this period of our Nation’s history.

During the Battle of Bunker Hill (1775), Abigail’s father, Colonel John Chester commanded the Wethersfield militia. Both Joseph and his younger brother, Samuel Blachley Webb fought during this battle.   During the winter of 1775-6, Joseph Webb was a generous supplier for Henry Knox’s expedition that commandeered 59 pieces of artillery from Fort Ticonderoga, recently seized from the British.  In 1778, Army Quartermaster, Nathanial Greene, sent a letter to Joseph requesting him to supply the Army at Valley Forge with portmanteaus (large, hinged suitcases) valises, and canvas for tents, knapsacks and mattresses to “lessen the quantity of baggage in the army & enable it to move with greater ease.”   Greene promised that in short time sufficient money for expenses and “compensation” would be paid to him.  That same year, Joseph was appointed to a committee in Wethersfield to look after the families of soldiers who had died as a result of the war.

During the Revolution, Joseph and Abigail had hosted many prominent individuals at their house, including notables of the Patriot cause.  Thus their home became known as “Hospitality House.”  One especially prominent visitor stayed in May 1781. The Webbs hosted George Washington for six days.  In the Webb house, General Washington met with the Commander of the French forces, Comte de Rochambeau to plan what proved to be the final British surrender at Yorktown, VA.

It was Joseph’s ardent support of the patriot cause that ultimately led him to financial ruin.  In all his dealings with the American Army, Joseph accepted Continental money.  Unfortunately the value of this money depreciated badly so that by the end of the war it was virtually worthless.   “Not worth a Continental” was a common saying as the money retained only a thousandth of its initial value.  By the end of the War, Joseph found his financial troubles eventually led to him going to debtor’s prison for 12 years!

In 1790 Mrs. Webb’s family, the Chesters, bought the Webb House and Abigail and her children lived there until 1802 when it was sold.  When Joseph finally got out of debtor’s prison, he and his family had to live in the Chester home as Joseph could not find employment.  Joseph Webb, Jr. died in 1815 at the age of 66.

This embroidered vest is one of the items in the KDHM collection connected to Joseph Webb, Jr.

John Singleton Copley

The painting of Joseph Webb, Jr. is a pastel on paper mounted on fabric attributed to John Singleton Copley. It has been estimated that it was painted in the early 1770s.   It is believed that Copley was born in Boston around 1738 and spent most of his early life in that area.  Copley has been viewed as one of the greatest and most influential painters in Colonial America.  Throughout his life he produced about 350 works of art. Through his realistic likenesses of persons and things, he came to define the realist art tradition in America.  Among his works are portraits of illustrious Revolutionary War persons as John Adams, John Hancock, and Paul Revere.  He also painted a portrait of Elkanah Watson in 1782.  However, Copley was ardently apolitical, saying that “political contests being (were) neither pleasing to an artist or advantageous to the Art itself.”  With the political unrest beginning to increase in the early 1770s, Copley’s Loyalist connections were a threat to his family.  In 1774, he decided to go to Europe to study and paint, eventually settling in London where he died in 1815.  He never returned to the United States.  Boston’s Copley Square, Copley Square Hotel and Copley Plaza are named in his honor.

 Abigail Chester Webb (1754-1827)

The other portrait over the pianoforte is that of Abigail Chester Webb, wife of Joseph, Jr. and mother of Henry L. Webb.  The painting is oil on canvas by an unknown artist.  It is estimated that it was done in the early 1800s.  She married Joseph Webb, Jr. at age 20 and moved into the Webb home in Wethersfield where she was the hostess of what was known as “Hospitality House.”  Between 1775 and 1797, Abigail gave birth to 12 children, ten of which survived to adulthood.  The Kent-Delord House Museum has portraits of five of those children.  Abigail Chester Webb died in 1827 at the age of 72.

 

Our collection of artifacts include a carved ivory fan with the monogram
AC” in the center.  This fan was presented to the museum in 1922 from Dr. George C. Kellogg who noted:

“This is the Wedding fan of Abigail Chester [who married Joseph Webb, Jr. Nov. 22, 1774].  Made in and brought from Japan by an uncle of Abigail Chester.  Came from Frances D. W. Hall’s estate into ownership by George C. Kellogg who donated it when the KDH Museum was being created in 1924.”

Gallery

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words!

This gallery contains 19 photos.

The Kent-Delord House Museum houses an astonishing collection of late 18thand early 19thcentury portraiture along with many other works of …

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No Horsing Around

 

Our stories relating to the one hundred year history of the Kent-Delord House always focus on the family, friends, acquaintances, and visitors.  However, there were other inhabitants that contributed to that illustrious history—the animals!  The Delord property was a working farm for most of the 19thcentury with the various animals kept on the property essential for the livelihood of the residents.  Obviously pigs and chickens were prevalent on the property, but there also were ducks, a milk cow and usually a horse to pull the carriage.

There was one horse that became a celebrity of sorts in Plattsburgh; his name was Zollicoffer.

In 1862 Fannie Delord Hall came to Plattsburgh to care for her ailing grandparents while husband Frank went to serve as Chaplain in the 16th New York Volunteer Infantry in Northern Virginia. As a Chaplain, Frank had to provide his own transportation and equipment to use in his duties at camp. He had been advised to bring “…a good pair of boots with tops to reach the knee, haversack to carry food on the march, three or four of underclothes, and his own saddle.” Frank used a type of saddle designed by Gen. George McClellan and adopted as the standard issue of the US Cavalry. In his journal letters to Fannie, he wrote:

Frank:Brady.tif_1.b.jpg

Rev. Francis “Frank” Bloodgood Hall

Dec. 3, 1862 Washington, DC

“…So left for Washington at seven.  Very pleasant baggage men.  Checked my box right away when I told him it was my saddle & charged me no freight; checked it through.”

 

SaddleBootsTrunkHaversack2.jpg

Frank’s saddle, boots, travel trunk and haversack.

That left him to purchase a horse when he settled in with the 16thNY Volunteer Regiment encamped at Belle Plain on the shores of the Potomac outside of Washington, D.C.

 

Belle Plain VA Dec. 6, 1862

“Early in the morning, I went to the Dr. Crandall’s tent & asked him to let me take his horse old Zollicoffer.  We had seen a horse in a stable on the way over & I thought I would go back before breakfast & see if it was worth anything & buy it if it was and it could be bought.  I had a splendid ride, my first ride on old Zollicoffer.  I went over several miles to Col Corceran’s head quarters & saw three horses or at least found them.  The last & only one that was worth anything was Col. Corceram’s head quarters.  The saddle horse of a Virginian lady but she looked at me very decidedly & said “no, you don’t have my horse if you pay $1200 for it.” So I contented myself with buying two turkies & a chicken, strapping them over my saddle horn & sailing into camp with them, much to the amusement of the officers.”

 

Dec. 7, 1862

“At breakfast I happened to ask Dr. Crandall, (not supposing that he would sell his horse), happened to ask him what he valued him at.  When he said he valued him at $150, I told him at once that I would give him that price for him when to my surprise, a few days afterwards he consented to sell him to me. He said he would not have sold him out of the regiment.

 It is a great black horse with strong legs & easy gate & very fully quite sound, & about 6 years old.  Just what I want & it seems as if God has very surely provided for me.  The horse can outrun any thing in the regiment, is accustomed to the battlefield, don’t wind among the cannon & shells, as he well showed shortly after & is finely trained, reins very well & my rig out, they tell me is complete.”

 For the next five months Frank and Zollicoffer were inseparable as Frank made the rounds of hospitals and provided spiritual services to the soldiers.  The last major event that the duo was involved in was the Battle of Salem Heights, VA, on May 3, 1863.  It was during this battle that Frank and Zollicoffer went onto the battlefield to rescue fallen comrades and bring them back to safety.  For this action Rev. Francis B. Hall was awarded the Medal of Honor. Within two weeks of the battle, Frank had mustered out with his unit and returned to civilian life.  He did not return alone.  He brought both Zollicoffer and his groom, Sam, back to Plattsburgh with him.

As I mentioned earlier, Zollicoffer was somewhat of a celebrity.  According to the local paper the horse led every Decoration Day (now called Memorial Day) parade up until his death.   He might be the only horse in the area (state?) that was eulogized in the paper after his death!  Zollicoffer died at age 30 and was buried in the middle of the garden in the rear of the Delord property.   The eulogy maintains that “a bed of white flowers grew upon his grave, a spontaneous floral memorial to the noble pet beneath”

Irony:

Frank Hall had very strong negative feelings toward Gen. McClellan and openly said, “McClellan is a traitor & that the Army of the Potomac was rotten at the corps core.” The incident worried Frank for a short time but soon subsided.

 General Felix Zollicoffer was the first Confederate general to die in the Western/Kentucky Campaign, Jan. 19, 1862.

 Think about it—here’s Frank Hall, a Union Chaplain riding a horse named after a Confederate general, and using a saddle named after a Union general he despised!

Article commemorating Flag Day in the

Plattsburgh Press RepublicanJune 13, 1944

Excerpt from  STORY OF FLAGSTAFF AT KENT DELORD HOUSE

…From the south, Mr. Hall has brought the fine large black horse he had ridden and likewise his Negro groom, Sam.   Sam, very black and thin and tall, did not long survive his transplanting to the northland.  His room was over the stable but when he became ill he was removed to the house and cared for…On that memorable day (in 1865) when in the length and breadth of our war-worn country, the bells were jubilantly proclaiming the end of the bitter conflict, ‘mid the pealing, Sam’s soul was wafted to his Maker.  In Riverside cemetery now rests all that was mortal of the master and Zollicoffer’s groom.

Sam.GroomX.jpeg

Cart d’visite of Sam

Article eulogizing the horse

Plattsburgh SentinelMay 26, 1899

“ZOLLICOFFER”

 “He was want to take part in the Decoration day ceremonies and drew the loads of flowers that were used in decorating the graves of dead heroes every year.  It was fitting and beautiful, but also had something of the pathetic in it.  He was an intelligent horse and did not forget the stirring times of his earlier life.  At a strain of martial music, he would prick up his ears, showing evidences of the old patriotic fire.  He was only a horse, but a good one who never shirked a duty.  He served faithfully in the War of the Rebellion, and carried his master, Rev. F.B. Hall, then chaplain of the brave 16thN. Y. Vols., on his errands of mercy and duty.

How proud and willing he was to do his part in helping decorate the graves of comrades, after the cruel war was over, in the years that followed!

When Zollicoffer died a few years ago, he received honorable burial in the middle of the garden in the rear of his master’s home.  It is a pretty and true story, that a bed of white flowers grew upon his grave, a spontaneous floral memorial to the noble pet beneath, who died, aged thirty years.”

ZollicofferObit.jpg

 

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Betsey Goes To Washington

 

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On January 24, 1823, Betsey Delord and her niece Maria Ketchum Averill Walworth set out from Plattsburgh to Washington, D.C. to join Maria’s husband, Congressman Reuben H. Walworth. Betsey hoped to renew her acquaintance with President James Monroe, VP and Mrs. Tompkins, and many of the officers and their wives whom the Delords had entertained in their home during 1812-1815. Henry and Betsey were hoping these friends could help persuade Congress to settle Henry’s claims against the US Government for his losses during the War of 1812.

MariaWalworth.jpg          ReubenWalworth.jpg

 

Betsey wrote many letters home, both to husband Henry and also to 12 year-old daughter Frances Henrietta. These letters provide details of her trip, from the hazards of travel during that time to the Washington social scene of the early 19th century. We also see Betsey’s little homesick moments when she chastises Henry to write her; “I wrote you from Newyork, Baltimore and twice since Ive arrived which was a week last night and have received but one from you & Frances. I have been so anxious I could not sleep well at night.”

While such a trip today would take 9 hours of straight driving (more with rest stops!!) or less than 2 hours by plane, it took Betsey over three weeks to get there. In those three weeks she endured several hazardous modes of transportation.

Via stagecoach:

“I dread very much the stage coach. They drive so furiously I shall be in a fever all the time. They carry passengers for almost nothing. Mr. Flagg says he will speak to the proprieters to have them more careful.”

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Drawing from an advertisement for the Phoenix Line, which ran stagecoaches between Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, Md. c.1835

And steamboat:

“On Wednesday morning at six o’clock we went on board the steam boat and were detained about two hours breaking the ice which obliged us to travel until late at night. “

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The steamship Phoenix operated on Lake Champlain from 1815-1819. Built in Vergennes, Vermont at a cost of $45,000 it could reach a speed of 8 miles per hour. It burned and sank off Colchester Reef in 1819.

When they couldn’t get lodging in Havre de Grace on the Susquehanna at in the early hours of the morning, Betsey and Maria had quite an adventure crossing the river to find some rest:

“We were tired and Maria most sick, but could not get a bed and was compel’d to cross the river a mile in width on the ice where boats had pass’d the evening before. Maria much alarmed, but as a great number were to pass with us and a boat put on a sleigh to be draw’d by men, I thought it best to venture. If the ice broke, we were in a boat. I remained on the boat and Maria walk’d. It seemed really venturesome. We arrived here very comfortable at 3 o’clock, taken a good nights rest, the first we have had since we left Newyork. “

Even when Betsey arrived in Washington, she found getting around an issue:

“There is no such thing as going out without a carriage. The families live so scattered and it costs three or four Dollars every time we go out. “

Betsey and Maria arrived in Washington just as the “season” was beginning.  The” season” was the time when Congress was in session(from January 1st to Lent.) During this time the “elite” of Washington held balls, dinner parties and charity events. During the first quarter of the 1800s, a strict code of etiquette was followed, including when these social events were held and who hosted as well as who attended.   Wives and daughters of cabinet officers usually held receptions every Wednesday. Some of the events were just “visits” where attendees went from house to house between 2 o’clock in the afternoon to 5:30pm. Visitors did not stay long at each home, just time enough to meet the hosts and maybe have a tea and a treat before going on to the next home. If the house parties were close together, ladies preferred to walk from home to home instead of riding in a carriage, weather permitting.

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During his visit to Plattsburgh in 1817, President Monroe had dinner at Henry and Betsey’s house.

Just after their arrival in the Capital, Betsey and Maria were visited by Mrs. Wool (spouse of Col. John E. Wool) who “told us all the etiquette of the place.” Starting the next day Betsey and Maria began several weeks of visiting homes or attending receptions and parties, some hosted by Pres. And Mrs. Monroe, Mrs. John Quincy Adams, and Mrs. John Calhoun. Betsey also met with many of the military personnel that she had entertained when they were in Plattsburgh (1812-1815) including Gen. Macomb and Gen. Brown. Betsey was most impressed with the party hosted by British Foreign Minister George Canning. She described it:

“How I wish, dear pa, you and my Child, indeed all my friends, could have been there to see the Elegance, order and style of everything. A number of Servants dress’s in white long Coats, Dark Dove Silk Small Clothes with vests of the same and White Silk Stockings. Upstairs we paid our respects to Mr. Canning. Coffee was soon handed around on elegant silver waiters. Immediately after, all walked into the dancing room splendidly lit up. Sofas cover’d with red merino were all around the room. The floor was chalk’d most beautifully, wreaths of flowers and different forms, with a large circle in the center with a harp and musical instruments. They danced Cotillions. Waltzing was introduc’d and a Spanish dance quite new here.”

That was the last event that Betsey attended. After several more days of visits with friends, Betsey summed up her trip in a letter to Henry by saying:

“All your friends here seem to feel much indebt’d to you for your hospitality. But as to congress they can do little. I have attended twice (sessions of the House of Representatives) and can Judge how difficult it is to get anything through that meets opposition.”

 On March 1, 1823, Betsey and Maria started their trip home. After her arrival in New York City on March 7, Betsey informed Henry that due to the weather (citing icy travel conditions) she was going to stay a while longer. While in NYC, Betsey made the most of her time visiting relatives and friends and attending parties. She and Maria finally left on April 12th and arrived in Plattsburgh the last week of the month.

During the three months she was gone, Betsey wrote to Henry almost every day.   Betsey’s letters were highly descriptive of what she saw and did. She tried to contain each letter to one page due to the postage.*  In one letter she stated, “I shall not have room to say half I wish as it would add to the postage.” Henry’s letters were few and far between, but he was also concerned about the cost of postage, ending one letter for “fear to increase the postage.”

*A single letter was defined as consisting of one sheet of paper. The cost to send letters from 1816-1845 was determined by mileage:

Up to 30 miles was 6¢

30-80 miles was 10 ¢

80-150 miles was 12.5¢

150-400 miles was 18.5¢

over 400 miles was 25¢

“Double letters” (more than one sheet) were charged double the mileage fee. If possible, people tried to save money by sending letters with travellers going to or near the destination of the correspondence.

 –The Historian of United States Postal Service, 2008

 

So the cost of three months of daily letters from Albany, New York, and Washington would have added up, especially for the Delord family that was now trying to live frugally.

You can read many of Betsey’s letters from her trip to Washington in Virginia Mason Burdick’s book, Love & Duty; Letters & Diaries of the Delord-Webb Women 1794-1913 (Chap. 3). The book is available in the Kent-Delord House Museum’s store.

 

 

In His Own Words!

During the Battle of Plattsburgh Commemoration Open House at KDH, I fielded a number of questions of who Henry Delord was and how did he come to be in Plattsburgh. Due to time and people’s attention spans, I give the short version of his history, that is: Henry immigrated to the U.S. from France by way of the Caribbean; settled first near the Quaker Union in Peru; bought this house (now museum) and moved to Plattsburgh where his business interests were flourishing. Then the story usually focuses on his part in the Battle of Plattsburgh—how he and his partner William Bailey allowed the troops to buy supplies on credit in their business, the Red Store. Then we sort of skip over to the part where he went bankrupt due to the U.S. Government not making good on those I.O.U.s and consequently Henry’s house and household items being sold in a sheriff’s auction.

 

The longer story is fascinating especially since we can read it in his own words!

 

Since he left Nimes , France in 1784 at age twenty to seek his fortune in the Caribbean, Henry had no contact with his family. The following is an excerpt from a letter Henry wrote on May 14, 1820, to his sister after finally finding that she was the last of his family surviving in his homeland.   This part of the letter, written in French (Henry’s native language), documents those early events of his life as Henry saw them.   The original letters are in SUNY Plattsburgh Special Collections. The translation of the letters was done sometime in the 1990s by a dedicated Museum Volunteer, Denise Debevec. Even though Henry’s penmanship was precise, age and deterioration of paper and ink made some words unreadable/illegible.

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My dear sister,

To inform you of all what happened to me at Ste. Lucie and of the causes of these events, I start with the year 1789; the troubles and misfortunes/calamities of the revolution [French Revolution] started to be felt in the island because of the (illegible) of the National Assembly—a Colonial Assembly was elected by the inhabitants—to which Assembly I was elected every year until 1794. The island had been spared the (illegible) which were threatening it. To tell you all the (illegible), horrors and (illegible) that were perpetrated would make you blood freeze from fright and would renew for me that (illegible). It is better to pass over it in silence/to ignore them.

 

The island was conquered by the English in April of the same year [1794]—a few days after several inhabitants who were considered dangerous or (illegible) were arrested and sent to London. At that time I was chosen against my will Commissar for the district of the Old Fort, where I lived—after 6 months of peaceful possession by the British, a general rebellion occurred in the island, caused by the (illegible) of a certain Victor Hughes who had already taken over the island of Guadeloupe. At that time everything was in an appalling condition and I cannot describe you the terror and dismay which were (illegible). Arson (illegible) in the streets everywhere, the farms burning. Under these terrible calamities I was caught by those cannibals who invented (illegible) unknown to (illegible)—my properties were confiscated; I lost everything which was dear to me and was reduced to the most miserable condition—and every moment expecting to be murdered. They took the island from the English and organized it according to their ferocious system. A certain (illegible) was dispatched, from Guadeloupe to administer the island—their treasurer being sick, I was then taken away from the (illegible) of slavery I was in and put in charge of the Treasure [Treasury?].

 

In May 1796 the English under the Generals Albercromby and John Moor took the island back from these murderers. I was again detained and forced to act under General Moor.   My health being at that time very poor because of the miseries, cruelties and sufferings I had sustained—exhausted by fatigue and pain I decided to leave the island forever—which was difficult—nevertheless I was lucky enough to be granted permission upon my word of honour—that I would remain in the United States during the war which was prevailing between England and France and having accepted these conditions I left this fateful island in September 1796 and landed/docked in New York the following October.

 

Bored by the confusion which prevails in big towns, after recovering, I came to the location where I now reside there after learning about the people and the language I rented a store and in less that 16 years I was able to earn enough to look forward to returning home with at least 500,000 pounds in gold.

 

In June 1812 unfortunately a war was declared between England and this country–Plattsburgh was invaded by the English in July 1813 [Murray’s Raid]—everything was (illegible). The loss of that day was only 30,000 pounds. The English retreated. Our American government had the place fortified and garrisoned. The members in the Congress did not agree concerning the war expenses, the government had financial difficulties and was short of money. The large army we had here did not receive their pay and became (illegible). The Generals told me their difficulties and fears and I felt it my duty under so (illegible) circumstances to help them providing for the troop what was necessary. On September 11, 1814 Plattsburgh was again attacked by the English (with their hordes of savages) by land and by the waters of that Lake Champlain on which shore the city is located. The English took a part of Plattsburgh, they commandeered the house in which I am now. My loses that second time were heavier that the first time. The English were [illegible] to retreat with the loss of their fleet and the land army was [illegible]. You cannot [illegible] my dear Julie the awful events I eye-witnessed and so often, that I believe it is astonishing that I am still alive.

 

On February 10, 1815 I had [illegible] an attack of rheumatism that they feared for my life, I suffered a great deal, I was 18 months weak and convalescent to the point that I could not take care of my businesses. Thanks to God it is the only malady I suffered since in this country—since then my health has always been good. Unluckily for me during my sickness, of the troops to which I had lent so much money, half was discharged without pay—the other half was kept in service but in New Orleans. My losses during the war amount of 4000,000 pounds—what I own here is in real estate land and houses (in this town) the interest is enough, so that without being rich, we live comfortably if we are thrifty. The house we live in is ours, it is large and eminent, the garden covers about 5 acres. How happy we would be to have you and my Aunt Catherine here with us.

 

In July 1817 the President of the United States came to visit Plattsburgh. He stayed 2 days here and spent most of his time in my home. He is well learned and has an excellent heart. He is esteemed and respected like a good King. My letter is already so long. My dear Julie, that I am afraid to annoy you but let me ask you to send me a memorandum with the age of our father, mother, brothers, sisters as well as our Aunt Susan Delord—that will give me great satisfaction—would make my wife and my dear Francoise [Frances Henrietta] very happy too.

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              President James Monroe’s invitation to dine with “Judge de Lord” 

Henry’s correspondence to France began in 1819 with a letter to a judge in Nimes requesting information on his family. Early the next year, Henry was thrilled to get a letter from his sister, Julie. Over the next four years the siblings exchanged letters detailing their lives. Even Betsey wrote to her newly discovered sister-in-law, which Henry translated into French. After Henry died in 1825, Betsey continued the correspondence, when she could find someone to translate for her, with the last letter we have dated 1830. Julie died in 1832, which necessitated Frances Henrietta to hasten her wedding date in order to go to Nimes, France and collect her inheritance, as she was the last of the Delord family.

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Portrait of Henry Delord

by Abraham G.D. Tuthill

c.1818

 

Odds & Ends

What’s In A Name – The Final Episode!

I counted over 500 roadways on a current map of the greater Plattsburgh Area (available at the Chamber of Commerce and other locations!) Comparing this to the 1877 and 1899 maps, you can see the tremendous expansion of our city. I’ve given you some of the history of the street names, but here’s some other little bits of street trivia that I call Odds & Ends.

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1907 postcard of Margaret Street, Plattsburgh, NY

Some streets are named for what or where they are

Bridge Street was called that because the main feature is the bridge. The street was first constructed on March 24, 1800. The bridge has been replaced several times.

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When the new Bridge Street Bridge opened on Nov. 11, 1930, a crowd of around 5,000 spectators turned out for a military and civic parade led by the 26th Infantry Band and 26th Infantry color Guard. A dedication ceremony featured an address by the New York State Historical Society President. A plaque was placed on the bridge to commemorate the event and the fact that the bridge was built by local artisans using local stone.

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The stone construction replaced the old steel truss bridge.  The Wonderland Theatre, the first movie house in Plattsburgh, was demolished to make way for a stone staircase leading down to a park alongside the Saranac River toward the Macdonough Monument..

Division Street got it’s name from a division of the New York Stock Exchange that set up a ticker in the late 1920s in the rear of the Witherill Hotel.

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Protection Avenue was first called Church Alley (because it connected Margaret St. to the Churches on Oak St.) It was renamed because the village police station and a number of the early volunteer Fire Companies were located there.

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Broad St was, well, broad (wide). Nathaniel Platt owned a number of lots in the vicinity of Broad Street and was responsible for the extra width of that street. His exact reason for that has been lost to history.

Oak Street was originally named Boynton Lane in 1805, but shortly after it was called Lover’s Lane. At this time the street only extended from Broad St. to Cornelia. By the 1820s the street had been extended to Boynton Ave. and was named Oak Street for the “magnificent” old oak tree that stood in front of the Oak Tree Inn (now where Stafford Middle School is located). There were no other oak trees on the street and now there isn’t even that one!

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I’ll let you guess the origin of Court Street! (Hint: look at the building on the corner at Margaret St.)

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The old Court House and the Cumberland Hotel across the street.  Notice the plank  sidewalk!!

Then there was the street that wasn’t

On some very early city maps you might find Gold Street. It was never completed. The plan was to connect Brinkerhoff St. to Court St., but that would have removed some valuable business real estate. So plans were abandoned. Today you can see where it was started with the alley on Brinkerhoff St. next to the State Bank of Albany.

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See the entire 1852 map of the city in the Plattsburgh Public Library

And then there was the misspelled street name

The early settlers in the vicinity of Main Mill Street were from the state of Maine. Some how the “e” was lost!

The Rattlesnake Den and The Dog Kennel Corner

At the corner of Margaret and Bridge streets stood the 2-story stone Clinton County Bank owned and occupied in 1846 by Amos Prescott as a jewelry, stationery, and book store. After the fire of 1849, Prescott rebuilt and continued his business. He was a “soft shell” Democrat but after the Fremont campaign became a Republican, and his store was a headquarters for the Republicans. In derision it was called the “rattlesnake den,” and the corner was “Rattlesnake corner,” a favorite loafing spot. The Democratic headquarters was the store of William Reed across the street, and this was known as the “dog kennel.” It is said that from morning till evening when the church bell rang at nine o’clock, Samuel Couch, Tarleton, and others talked politics in the Prescott store.*

*Old Plattsburgh by Marjorie Lansing Porter, 1944.

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The Rattlesnake Den and Dog Kennel Corner became more commonly known in the early 1900s as Cady’s Corner.  The Cady Drug Store was a local landmark.

Early streets were just dirt roads. Streets were either dusty or muddy. One 19th century resident told about the “good old days” when crossing Bridge Street meant slogging through deep mud and driving with mud to the hubs of the carriage wheels. In 1849, the Plattsburgh-Saranac plank road was built. Hemlock planks were used through the Plattsburgh section.  Street paving didn’t happen until the 20th century.

Street Firsts!

Richard Yates erected the first lamppost at the corner of Broad and Margaret Streets in 1836. His intent was to promote street lighting. He must have been successful as a few years later Jonas Maurice was elected by the Village Board to light the street lamps in the city.

The first street number was posted on a Bridge St. business in December 1850. William K. Dana erected a 7 ft. long oval white porcelain sign on which a large number 1 was painted in black.

Plattsburgh’s first sidewalk was laid on Durkee St. in July 1851. Made of hemlock planks 1½ inch thick, it was a fashionable promenade at the time. Early each evening villagers gravitated in that direction to stroll and exchange pleasantries of the day.

Now one last tidbit of street lore:

The street now called Cumberland Avenue was formerly know as Bellevue Avenue, and before that it was called Chemin du Roi – a nod to the early French influence in our region.  Nuns from Montreal rented a frame building (near where the Elk’s building is today) from Henry Delord. The nuns provided it as a hospital during the Battle of Plattsburgh in the War of 1812.

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A c.1915 view of the Delord House on Cumberland Avenue

You are invited to visit the Kent-Delord House Museum at 17 Cumberland Avenue. Our tours will give you more information about the history of Plattsburgh and the fascinating role that three generations of the Delord family played in its growth!

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Thanks for stopping by.  More nuggets of Plattsburgh history will be coming your way soon!!

Founding Fathers, Local Heroes, and National Leaders

What’s In A Name  part III

In 1785 the founding fathers of the small hamlet of Plattsburgh gathered to create a government and lay out the main roads of the village. By 1798 Plattsburgh’s population was around 250 people. There were four main thoroughfares that led from the surrounding countryside to the mills along the river in the hamlet. They consisted of Cumberland Head Road, another connected to Beekman’s Patent (Beekmantown), South Street that led past the blacksmith shop to the west and southwest area of the township, and the last was the Peru Road.

As the village of Plattsburgh grew so did the number of roads. Not having GPS or Google maps to aid in giving directions, the founding fathers used the houses of prominent citizens or local landmarks to identify and name those roads. Thus we find a significant number of our city streets today are named for early settlers, local and national heroes and what was on or near the road.

So, examining the names of many of Plattsburgh’s streets has become quite a history lesson! Let’s continue…

Plattsburgh’s Illustrious Leaders

South Platt Street

While it was Zephaniah Platt who secured title to 33,000 acres along Lake Champlain, it was his brother Charles who was the first to actually build a home on that land in 1785. Even though there were 32 other individuals who invested in the land venture, it was the Platt family who organized and led the venture. Thus, the new community was called Plattsburgh. The members of the family were respected leaders and businessmen, so they were also honored with a street named after the family. Earlier I told you that Platt Street in the French Quarter was renamed in 1909 to Montcalm Avenue, but there was another road in the southern area designated as S. Platt Street. So the family didn’t lose out on having their name on a street too.

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This Platt family tree shows the descendants of Zephaniah Platt. Hand-drawn by Charles Platt in 1761. Located in the Plattsburgh Public Library.

Bailey Avenue

William Bailey was a prominent businessman, landowner, judge, and civic leader in the early 1800s. He was a partner with Henry Delord in the Red Store. Bailey owned a large tract of land in the north end of the village. His son John named a street after him as neighborhoods began to develop in that area. The Bailey home still sits on a portion of that land off Cornelia Street today.

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The original 1795 Bailey house burned down in 1822, but was rebuilt in 1825 into the current stone house.

Boynton Avenue

Captain Joseph Boynton built and sailed vessels on Lake Champlain as early as 1805. During the War of 1812 hostilities, two of his boats were seized (and then purchased) by the American government and added to Macdonough’s fleet.

Beekman Street

William Beekman of New York City held the patent (ownership) on what is now Beekmantown. The street now named for him was originally a road that ran more or less directly into the settlement of Beekmantown.

Palmer Street

This street was named for Judge John Palmer, one of the first trustees when the Village was incorporated in 1815. He was also on the first Board of Trustees of Plattsburgh Academy and served as the village District Attorney in 1818. He married Peter Sailly’s daughter, Charlotte and was the father of Peter Sailly Palmer, an historian and author of comprehensive histories of Plattsburgh and Lake Champlain (from which I got some of this information!)

Miller Street

DrMiller.jpgDr. John Miller came to Plattsburgh in 1795. He was considered a “pioneer physician,” making his calls on horseback with his saddlebags as his medical bag. He was one of the founding members of Plattsburgh’s first medical society in 1807. By then the number of doctors in Plattsburgh had risen to four!

Durkee Street

Once called Mill Alley, the road from Broad to Bridge Streets was renamed to honor Sheldon Durkee. This road was the first street formally laid out in the settlement. The Durkee family house was located at the south end of the street. Durkee was considered one of the heroes of the Battle of Plattsburgh as he, with two other Americans, were shooting at the advancing enemy when they suddenly surprised three British soldiers. As one of the Americans was wounded and the other went for help, Durkee marched the prisoners by himself into camp. Asked how he managed to bring them in, Durkee is said to have replied, “I surrounded them.”

Brinkerhoff Street

Abraham Brinkerhoff owned a large tract of land in the center of the settlement. In 1811, a committee established to build a school purchased land from Brinkerhoff for $100. It was on the corner of Oak Street and, at that time, a “contemplated” street that became Brinkerhoff Street. Abraham gave much of the land around the street to his daughter, who then donated some of it for the building of the First Presbyterian Church. Hiram Walworth, a reporter for the Plattsburgh Republican, wrote that the street was named in honor of Abraham’s wife, Mary Platt Brinkerhoff, daughter of Zephaniah Platt.

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The original First Presbyterian Church was under construction when the Battle of Plattsburgh was fought. British used the church as a cavalry barracks. American forces fired on the Church during the battle. Construction was completed in 1816. However, during the fire of 1867, the church along with 70 other buildings in the city were destroyed.

 

 

Green Street

Green street connects Bridge Street to the Saranac River. The inn on the corner, built on the foundation of the first building in a prior settlement, was owned by Isaac Green and his wife. For a long time this place was the community center of Plattsburgh. A victory celebration for Thomas Macdonough was held there and in 1817 President James Monroe was entertained there by the village’s citizenry.  Formal dance parties were held there regularly and civic group held meetings in the upstairs rooms of the tavern.

GreenSt.jpg1852 Map of Plattsburgh. Located in the Plattsburgh Public Library

First building.jpgCount Charles de Fredenburg, a Captain in the British Army received a English land grant to settle the area along Lake Champlain in 1767. A small community had started when the Revolution forced the families back to safety in Canada. De Fredenburg returned to find everything in the settlement burned to the ground. He stayed for a while, but eventually it is said that he became mentally unbalanced and was never seen again. When his heirs tried to claim the land, their title proved worthless.

 Weed Street

Smith Mead Weed, a graduate of Harvard Law School, was an influential businessman and politician. During the second half of the 19th century, Weed served multiple terms representing Clinton County in the NY Assembly and was a delegate to the 1876 and 1884 Democratic Nation Conventions. Through his political influence, the Delaware and Hudson Railroad extended their tracks all the way from New York City through Plattsburgh to Montreal.

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Weed also developed a park with a fountain and gazebo on the banks of the Saranac River across from his home on Cumberland Avenue.

 Couch Street

Named for Samuel Couch, a fervent Republican who was usually found on “Rattlesnake Corner”. (I’ll tell you about this in the next episode!)  He was the city coroner during the first part of the 1800s.   Anne Gilliland, early City Historian, related an amusing story: “A letter was once addressed to some person on Sofa Street, which of course, puzzled the post office personnel, until a quick-witted young lady solved the problem and the letter reached its destination.”

The City Fathers had seen fit through the years to also honor military heroes, Macdonough and Macomb, Civil War Generals Sheridan and Sherman with street names, as well as numerous U.S. Presidents, Grant, Lincoln, Monroe, Roosevelt, Truman, and McKinley. In fact, Hotel Champlain on Bluff Point served as the summer White House in both 1897 and 1899 for President McKinley and staff. The McKinleys believed that the hotel’s water had beneficial effects on their health. Subsequent historians question the wisdom of this decision. A document provided to the Assembly of New York later attributed a typhoid outbreak amongst hotel staff to the unsanitary properties of the water.

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President McKinley and staff at Champlain Hotel.

 I know I haven’t described all the streets named after important and not-so-important citizens and others, but I have given you the highlights…

However, there is one more episode in this series to come! Stay tuned!!

Another source:

Plattsburgh, New York – A City’s First Century, Richard Frost, 2002.