Railroad History, Fulton County, NY
From: History of Fulton County
Revised and Edited by: Washington Frothingham
Published by: D. Mason & Co. Syracuse, NY 1892

RAILROAD ENTERPRISE.

THIRTY FOUR years prior to the final completion of a railroad into Fulton county, the people of Johnstown were agitated with the prospect of rail connection with the outer world, and a puplic movement for its accomplishment took definite form in the old court house, where a series of meetings was held with a great display of local eloquence. After protracted discussion, the organization of the Johnstown and Utica and Syracuse Railroad Company, with a capital stock of $75,000, was effected on the 13th of May, 1836. So great was the rejoicing when this news became generally known that an artillery salute was fired at Johnstown, with other joyful demonstrations. They were of brief duration, however, for the cold fact that a railroad were hopelessly impracticable at that time soon confronted every man of thought. Long after this the project of a canal from Fonda to Johnstown was contemplated, but this was still more impracticable, and thus public sentiment concerning rail or water communication with the Mohawk valley gradually relapsed into the former state of indifference.

At the time referred to there was indeed but little need of a railroad farther north than Johnstown, as Gloversville contained only a few houses, and even Kingsboro was but a hamlet. Twenty years, however, rolled by, and now, reader, let us note the change. The little settlement formerly known as " Stump City," and later on as Gloversville had become a place of equal importance with Johnstown, and indeed very rapidly outstripping it in population. Voices were heard from the north pleading for a railroad, and the business interests of Fulton county had become so large that the people were indignant at their isolation from the rest of the world, and they demanded some means of transportation more rapid and convenient than even the plank road.

In 1865 several prominent men in the county interested themselves in a project to build a railroad from Fonda, through Johnstown and Gloversville to Garoga, terminating at a point near Canada Lake. An organization was effected, and Mr. Willard J. Heacock, who had been the leader in the movement, was elected president, and John Wells, treasurer. A survey way made of a portion of the distance, and some stock subscribed. In those days the New York Central burned great quanties of wood in their engines, and the projectors of the Canada Lake route cherished the expectation of reaching the timber district of the north and transporting to market a sufficient amount of lumber and fire wood to support the railroad. Before the matter had taken any definite form, however, it became apparent that coal would soon supersede wood as fuel for locomotives and in that case the sparsely settled country in the northern part of the county would not furnish sufficient traffic to warrant the construction of a railroad. The want of sufficient means was also an important factor in the failure of the project. A second organization was made in 1866 and a limited amount of stock was subscribed; but not enough to justify the company in proceeding with the construction, and thus the enterprise again dropped into inaction, and the hopes of the people were again disappointed. There were several men, however, who did not despair. Chief among this number was the plucky Willard J. Heacock, who continued to press the scheme upon popular confidence. He admitted no failure in an effort which was so necessary to the common weal, and therefore, with renewed resolution prosecuted the purpose, which now became a part of his very existence.

He was not, however, to struggle alone, for he had the confidence and earnest support of such men as John McNab, U. M. Place, Alanson Judson, John E. Wells, David A. Wells, Marcellus Gilbert, Lewis Veghte, George F. Mills and T. W. Miller, some of whom had been equally interested in the former projects. In order to comply with the law in obtaining the consent of a majority of the property holders in the town to issue the required bonds, Mr. Heacock traveled for days and weeks, visiting the homes of the people in different parts of the town, and in the presence of a justice of the peace, taking a sworn affidavit of their support, a labor which required that patience and perseverance which was such a well known characteristic.

Several public meetings where held in the court house at Johnstown in the autumn of 1866 to arouse public interest. Mr. Heacock made a careful estimate of the amount of business that the road would be likely to receive from all available points, and presented his figures at one of the meetings. An organization was finally perfected on the i6th day of June, 1867, and articles of incorportaion of the Fonda, Johnstown & Gloversville Railroad Company, with a capital stock of $300,000, were filed in the office of the Secretary of State on the following day. The officers of company as organized were: President, Willard J. Heacock; vice president, David A. Wells; treasurer, John McLaren, jr.; secretary, Timothy W. Miller; directors, W. J. Heacock, John McLaren, John E. Wells, Byron G. Shults, D. B. Judson, John McNab, D. A. Wells, Alanson Judson, Lewis Veghte, George F. Mills, U. M. Place, John Peck and Timothy W. Miller.

On September 30, 1867, a contract was made with Aaron Swartz for constructing the road and the work was soon begun, but after pursuing it for a time Swartz found the undertaking was a greater one than he had contemplated when he made the bargain, and he finally turned over the work to Shipman & Middaugh, who resumed operations and continued the grading and leveling until November 2i, 1868, when they too, found the undertaking too great for their capacity and abandoned it. The firm of Pratt & McLean also took contracts but accomplished little or nothing.

In the mean time the town of Johnstown had been bonded to the amount of $275,600, pursuant to an act of the Legislatnre passed February 1, 1867. Recognizing the fact that little progress was being made in the construction of the road, the railroad company offered to turn over to the town the right of way and grading as far as it had been accomplished, providing the town would complete, equip and operate the road when finished. This offer was not acted upon by the town and upon petition, the legislature passed an act in 1870 authorizing the town of Johnstown to sell its mortgage bonds to the company for $100,000. This transaction was finally consummated and the remainder of the work was done under the direction of the company.

At this time a man came upon the scene whose name is prominently identified with the completion and success of the railroad. This was Lawton Caten, the present superintendent, who became connected with it in May, 1869; a time when his supervision was of the highest value. Thus far, endless toil and deep anxiety had been devoted to the enterprise by the few determined men whose minds were set upon its ultimate success; but they were richly rewarded by seeing the road finally completed to Gloversville and trains actually running on the 29th of November, 1870. The first equipment consisted of one locomotive, two passenger cars, one baggage car, two box cars, four platform cars; and the company was in debt some $60,000 for accrued interest. The first depot at Johnstown was a wooden structure, in which both passenger and freight business were transacted. The first station in Gloversville was also a wooden building and stood on West Fulton street on the site now occupied by the Gloversville Foundry & Machine Company's works. It was afterward removed and is now occupied as a creamery.

The Gloversville and Northville Railroad Company was organized June 26, 1872, and its articles of incorporation were filed with the secretary of state the same day. The officers of the company were: President, W. J. Heacock; treasurer, John Mc Nab; secretary, David A. Wells; engineer, Lawton Caten; directors, W. J. Heacock, John McNab, U. M. Place, Alanson Judson, of Gloversville; David A. Wells, Mortimer Wade, Lewis Veghte, of Johnstown; W. F. Barker, H. J. Resseguie, P. Van Vleck, Michael W. Newton, S. B. Benton, of Northville; R. C. Ostrander, of Hope Falls; and William Jackson, of Mayfield. The road was bonded for $200,000 and the town of Northampton issued bonds to the amount of $20,000. The town of Hope, Hamilton county, also gave bonds for $8,000, but by an unforeseen technicality they were repudiated and never paid.

The contract for clearing, grading and building fences was let to Resseguie & Newton, September 19, 1872, and work was begun at once. The laying of the ties and iron and the equipment of the road was clone by the company. The road was completed and began operations November 29, 1875.

By reason of failure to pay interest, the mortgage bonds of the road amounting to $200,000 were foreclosed, and pursuant to an act of the legislature passed April 15, 1880, were purchased by the Fonda, Johnstown and Gloversville Railroad Company, since which time the road has been owned and operated by that company. This purchase took place January 31, 1881. The new road joined the old one at a point near the present engine house in Gloversville, the distance to Northville being a fraction more than 16 miles.

The first mortgage bonds of the Fonda, Johnstown and Gloversville Railroad Company, for $300,000, were issued July 1, 1870, and expire in 1900. The only other bonds are for $200,000, and were issued April 1, 1881. The second privilege was made for $500,000, but only $200,000 of this amount was issued.

The old depots at Johnstown and Gloversville were moved away and replaced by the present handsome structures in 1888. The two new depots are beautiful specimens of modern railway architecture and cost about $25,000 each.

One of the notable enterprises of the company is the improvement of thirty five acres of land situated a short distance south of Northville, seventeen scres of which was purchased in 1875. This ground is covered with a beautiful grove of pine and hemlock trees and has been appropriately named Sacandaga Park. The company erected a summer hotel on the grounds in 1891 and this is surrounded by at least a hundred and twenty five cottages The hotel is large and commodious, and together with furnishings cost $20,000. The Park bids fair to become famous as a summer resort.

A fully equipped machine works, equal to any of its size in the country was erected by the company in 1887 on the site of the old depot in Gloversville. This is now leased to the Gloversville Foundry and Machine Company, who are at present operating it. A car repairing shop adjoining this plant, was also built by the company in 1889.

The directors of the road when operations began in 1870 were W. J. Heacock, John McNab, Alanson Judson, U. M. Place, Lawton Caten, A. D. L. Baker, and Andrew Simmons, of Gloversville; Lewis Veghte, David A. Wells, Mortimer Wade and John E. Wells, of Johnstown; George F. Mills, of Fonda; and W. R. Fosdick, of New York.

Mr. Heacock has remained president of the road since its organization, and David A. Wells has always been vice president. John McLaren was succeeded as treasurer by John McNab in 1870. Timothy W. Miller was succeeded in the office of secretary by Mortimer Wade, May 5, 1870. Mr. Wade retained the position until September 20, 1874, when Lawton Caten assumed its duties in which he continued until the present year, when he was succeeded by Charles W. Judson.

The present officers and directors are: President, W. J. Heacock; vice president, David A. Wells; treasurer, John McNab; superintendent, Lawten Caten; secretary, Charles W. Judson; general counsel, A. D. L. Baker. The board of directors is composed of the above named officers, together with Lewis Veghte, Mortimer Wade, Henry Veghte, D. B. Judson, George F. Mills, W. A. Heacock, and William Littauer. The general offices are located in the second story of the passenger station at Gloversville.


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