The Birth of the Cities

Origional Printing From:
The North Country
A History Embraceing
Jefferson, St. Lawrence, Oswego. Lewis and
Franklin Counties, New York
By Harry F. Landon
Historical Publishing Company, Indianapolis, Indiana, 1932

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Of all the thriving villages of the North Country of pre-Civil War days, Oswego, with its hitching posts and stone warehouses, its busy flour mills and its great harbor filled with shipping, was the first to become a city. It was in 1848 that Oswego proudly announced to the world her city status and elected her first mayor. It was then a place of upwards of 10,000 people, whose whole life centered about the busy waterfront. In every sense of the word it was a lake town, a town of sailors and ship builders, and like all ports something of a cosmopolitan place with the Union Jack drooping from a score of masts in the harbor and sailors from Kingston and Brockville and Toronto sipping rum in the barrooms along West First and Water streets. There were already wealthy men in the Oswego of the forties and most of this wealth had been made in the lake trade which in turn supported Oswego's two little banks and most of the merchants in whose shops one could buy goods from Montreal as easily as merchandize from Albany and Syracuse.

Indeed the lake was the life blood of Oswego even though the wood-burning locomotives which puffed in from Syracuse twice a day over the newly-laid tracks were beginning to bring their share of business, too. But it would be long before the railroad, proud as Oswego was to be thus connected with the world to the southward and eastward, could ever measure up to the lake. Three hundred sails, the editor of the Oswego Palladium counted in the harbor one summer's day, and he said it was no unusual sight. No one in Oswego doubted that Oswego would some day be a far larger town than Buffalo. Had not its population tripled in less than ten years? Did it not have the largest flouring mill in the United States? Was not its total annual volume of lake trade well over $20,000,000?

Indeed Oswego had reason for its optimism. In five years, from 1844 to 1849, its canal tolls had jumped from $133,444 to $280,680. To give some idea of the business in Oswego at that time, it must be known that in 1849 there was shipped from Oswego by canal 888,307 barrels of flour, 1,063,462 bushels of wheat and 401,178 bushels of corn. The building of the Oswego canal had brought the first wave of prosperity to Oswego; the completion of the Welland canal brought the second. So Oswego named its newest hotel The Welland and Oswego business men in their high beaver hats and long-tailed coats decided that elevators must surely be built to accommodate the flow of wheat.

Already Oswego was widely known. Travelers were always coming and going, landing from the canal packets or from the "cars" or standing about the pier, carpet bag in hand, waiting for the arrival of one of the big side-wheeler steamers which would take them to Ogdensburg or Kingston or Charlotte. There was business aplenty for the hotels and the Welland, the big United States, the Oswego and the Frontier were always crowded. So much was this so that there was already a demand for a larger hotel. Enterprising builders were taking advantage of the boom. A correspondent in the Oswego Palladium complained that no one could make a living with an ordinary store renting for from $400 to $500 a year, so an epidemic of building started and soon the Oswego papers were boasting of a five-story, brick business block completed and others in the process of completion. Some of these buildings erected in Oswego in the boom period of the forties still stand along Bridge street.

There were now two banks, Luther Wright's Bank, which in the course of time was to be succeeded by the Lake Ontario Bank, and the City Bank. Before the Civil War Oswego was to have two more banks, the Marine Bank and the Oswego City Savings Bank. No town on the lakes did a more extensive flouring business. By 1850 Oswego had a total of eighteen such mills, including the celebrated Seneca Mills just south of Oswego on Seneca Hill, which had a daily capacity of 1,200 barrels of flour and were reputed to be the largest in the United States. Some of the best known of the others were the Lake Ontario Mills, the Pearl Mills, the Express Mills, the Exchange Mills, the Premium Mills, the Star Mills, the Atlas Mills, the Ontario Mills, the Eagle Mills, the Washington Mills and the Empire Mills. And the very year that Oswego was incorporated as a city, the new industry moved to town, the firm of T. Kingsford & Son which for two years past had been operating in a small way in Bergen, New Jersey, manufacturing starch from Indian corn. Probably the arrival of Mr. Kingsford and his son, Thomson, a practical machinist, and the erection of their little plant, caused little excitement in Oswego, where all attention was focused on the lake front, but in less than a year the annual output of the Kingsford plant had jumped to 1,327,000 pounds and long before the Civil War Oswego starch was known throughout the length and breadth of the land.

The early Oswegoians, possibly because they were a lake-faring people, had given little attention to the building of churches, there being always too many piers and warehouses to be constructed, but long before Oswego assumed the dignity of a city that lack had been remedied and now the town boasted of seven churches. At the corner of West Fourth and Bridge streets stood the brand new Presbyterian Church with its colonial front and in its tower the selfsame bell which had pealed forth its summons from the steeple of the old church destroyed by fire in 1841. And over the river stood St. Paul's Roman Catholic Church, the largest in Oswego and probably the largest in the entire North Country, a great stone structure where Oswego's constantly increasing Catholic population worshipped.

Then there was the architectural monstrosity known as the Tabernacle, erected by that good friend of Oswego, Gerrit Smith, where various sects worshipped at various times. The old Episcopal Church still stood as did the old wooden Baptist Church. The Methodists had just built their fine new church at the corner of West Fourth and Oneida streets. There was the Second Presbyterian Church, soon to become the Congregationalist Church and the little frame building which was then St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church, and which had just been erected under the inspiration of its first pastor, Rev. F. E. Foltier. Of course Oswego, prosperous and business-like as it was, must have its Board of Trade, and the very year that Oswego became a city the Board of Trade was organized with the venerable Alvin Bronson as its first president. The weekly newspapers which had satisfied Oswego since 1819 no longer sufficed, so already there was a daily, the Oswego Commercial Times, and within a year or two there were to be two more, the Daily Palladium and the Daily Journal.

This, then, was the Oswego of 1848, first city in all Northern New York, a rambling place of wide, tree-shaded streets, a sailorman's town that looked towards the lake. Fine, new brick buildings and weather-beaten wooden stores stood side by side. There were a few fine stone mansions set back in the midst of spacious and attractive grounds, but mostly the unlovely, little, frame houses which had sprung up after the canal had been opened predominated. There was wealth and progressivism and optimism, but everybody still got their water from the pump in the back yard and not until the Civil War was well along was the first water works company organized. Kerosene lamps still lighted the stores but within a few years the first sputtering gas lights were to appear. Oswego, with jealous eyes on Buffalo, awaited the future with confidence.

This was the town which in 1848, using the river and Bridge street as lines of divisions, set up four wards and incorporated as a city. The first ward was all that portion of the city lying north of the center of Bridge street and east of the middle of the Oswego river. The second ward was that portion of the city lying north of the center of Bridge street but west of the Oswego river. The third ward comprised the remainder of the West Side, south of Bridge street, and the fourth ward, the remainder of the East Side, south of Bridge street. The first city election was held in April, 1848, and that sterling citizen of Oswego, James Platt, who was later to become state senator and president of the Board of Trade, was elected mayor. Orville J. Harmon was the first recorder, John M. Casey the first city clerk, Levi Beardsley the first city attorney, and Isaac L. Merriam the first city treasurer. Gilbert Mollison and Hunter Crane were elected aldermen from the first ward, George S. Alvord and John Boigeol alderman from the second ward, Stephen H. Lathrop and Robert Oliver, aldermen from the third ward, and Samuel H. Taylor and William S. Malcolm aldermen from the fourth ward.


The time has now come to consider some of the men who led the business and political interests of Oswego at this time when it was the metropolis of the North Country. For example there was William Duer, whose name one is constantly seeing in the old Oswego papers. Mr. Duer was a native of New York City and a graduate of Columbia College. He was a lawyer and did not come to Oswego until 1835 but almost immediately he became a person of prominence in the lake town. He was a member of the old village board and for four terms a member of the assembly. Then for two terms he was a Whig member of congress, devoting himself to securing federal aid for harbor improvements. Finally he became United States minister to Chili, which office ended his active political career.

For years Alvin Bronson occupied the foremost place in the busines and public life of the village and city of Oswego. He came to Oswego in 1810 as the representative of Townsend, Bronson & Co. and immediately started building a schooner and erected a warehouse, and then and there the firm embarked upon an extensive forwarding and mercantile business. He held the position of military and naval storekeeper during the War of 1812 and was captured by the British when Oswego was taken. He served in the state senate and was largely responsible for the building of the Oswego canal. He was the first president of the Village of Oswego and the first president of the Board of Trade of Oswego. He was one of the incorporators of the company which built the first bridge across the Oswego river at Oswego and one of the first presidents of the Oswego County Agricultural Society. From 1835 to 1858 he was a member of the firm of Bronson & Crocker, one of the most important commercial and forwarding firms on the lake, they having at one time a fleet of twelve vessels. He was a man of considerable wealth and without exception the most prominent citizen of Oswego during a large part of his life. He died in 1881 at the great age of ninetyeight. George H. McWhorter was another citizen of importance in the infant City of Oswego. Beman Brockway, the editor of the Oswego Palladium, described him as a refined-appearing man with the habit of gazing at one over the top of his gold-rimmed glasses. He had been collector of the port under President Tyler and was a prominent man in the Democratic party, often being mentioned in the correspondence of Silas Wright and Martin Van Buren. He died in 1862.

Luther Wright, one of Oswego's first bankers, was a native of New Hampshire and started life as a school teacher. He came to Oswego in 1832 and first engaged in milling and forwarding. From 1842 on he was almost continually engaged in banking. Luther Wright's Bank has been already referred to. Later he was president of the Lake Ontario Bank and the Oswego City Savings Bank. He was the first treasurer of the Syracuse & Oswego Railroad Company, was treasurer of the Lake Ontario Shore Railroad Company and president of the Oswego Gas Light Company. His death occurred in 1885, at the age of eighty-six.

Edwin W. Clarke was the first village clerk of Oswego, was a school teacher in early life but later studied law, giving up practice in middle life to become identified with the Northwestern Insurance Company. He was one of the first trustees of Gerrit Smith Library and long a prominent figure in the business and public life of Oswego.

Other well known Oswegoians of that period were J. C. Ives, who had settled in Oswego in 1827, and became the most prominent builder of his period. It was he who did the mason work on the Varick canal and who builf the Kingsford homestead, Alvin Bronson's warehouse and many other stone structures. He died in 1861. Sylvester Doolittle had settled in Oswego in 1836. He had a shipyard and built several vessels. He also built a flour mill and engaged in the forwarding business. Late in life he erected the Doolittle House at an expense, so it is said, of more than $200,000. He died in 1881. Thomas Kingsford, who came to Oswego in 1848, to establish T. Kingsford & Son, starch makers, was a native of England, who had come to America in 1831 and found employment in a starch factory. The growth of the industry which he later established in Oswego was almost unprecedented, and in the course of time as many as 700 men were employed in the various Kingsford enterprises. He held many positions of trust, was presidential elector in 1864, was one of the early owners of Ames Iron Works, was the first president of the Oswego City Savings Bank, was the first president of the First National Bank, was one of the original incorporators of the Oswego Water Works Company and one of the first presidents of the Oswego Gas Light Company, to name only a few of the many enterprises in which he was engaged.

The old newspapers give a colorful picture of Oswego during this boom period. The Palladium of May 12, 1851, describes in glowing words the Littlefield Block, which had just been completed. "This noble block," said the Palladium, "is 100 feet long by fifty feet front, and the new block adjoining, now in rapid course of erection, will form one solid edifice 100 feet square, and five stories high. The interior style of the building is of the pure Corinthian order. The beautiful fresco work and elegant hard finish of the walls reflect the highest credit upon the master workmen, Messrs. Hall and Morse. The carpenter work, executed by Mr. John Harsha, cannot be surpassed in durability and finish by any mechanic in the state . .

"The First street front is ornamented with a handsome, iron balcony, with large windows of the French Gothic style, opening out upon it . . . . The French plate show windows in front are six feet by four, and of the most superior and costly description. The building contains twenty-five rooms, admirably arranged both for convenience and beauty. This stately edifice has cost about $20,000 and is not only an honor to the enterprising proprietor, but an ornament to the city." And again- "Among the many new buildings now in progress, the dwelling house of Mr. S. Johnson, on the corner of Bridge and Fifth streets, is one of the most conspicuous. It is a beautiful and elegant model, and occupied one of the most desirable and sightly locations in the city. Adjoining it at the north is the stately residence of Mr. Lyon, one of our princely Millers, and a partner of Mr. Johnson, and across the street on the south side is the elegant mansion, and beautiful, spacious grounds of Mr. G. Mollison."

They used plenty of adjectives in the journalism of the fifties.

And then the British steamer, "Comet," blew up in the harbor and Oswego forgot all about her new buildings and future greatness in the tragedy which had occurred at her front door. The steamer was just leaving the harbor for Kingston on the afternoon of April 20, 1851, when the boiler exploded with a report that startled the whole countryside. Everyone in town rushed to the waterfront just in time to see what was left of the "Comet" disappear under the surface of the water. Six members of the crew were killed and a number of others badly scalded and burned. The City Hall was converted into a temporary morgue and flags on all the shipping in the harbor were at half mast. It was one of the worst marine disasters that Oswego ever experienced.

Sixty miles to the northward, partly by stage and partly by railroad, was Watertown of which an Oswegoian, who was visiting there in the early fifties, wrote The Oswego Palladium: "I unhesitatingly pronounce this the most flourishing place in the Empire State." And then he goes on to justify this rather sweeping appraisal: "The First Presbyterian and the Episcopal churches were both completed this spring, and are surpassed by magnificence of style and structure by few edifices of the state. The frame for a new Methodist church is up already, and the Universalist society, I am told, is contemplating the speedy re-erection of their church. These are but a few of the improvements going on in Watertown. It contains a vast amount of wealth, and those who possess it are determined to consult their true interest by employing it in building up their village. As a consequence all is life and animation. The sound of the hammer and anvil are heard from Monday morn to Saturday eve, and the saw and the jack plane mingle their mechanical notes together."

There was good reason for this epidemic of building in Watertown. In 1849 Watertown had experienced its most disastrous fire. Practically the whole business section of the city had been wiped out and hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of property destroyed. It was probably the most spectacular blaze in the annals of Northern New York and for a time threatened the entire village. Many buildings closely identified with the history of early Watertown, including the old American Hotel on the site of the present Woolworth building, old Trinity Church on Court street and the old Woodruff Block, were burned in this fire.

At two o'clock on Sunday morning, May 13th, 1849, the driver of the late stage from Utica who had just left two of his passengers on Clinton street and on his way to the stage barn on Arsenal street, discovered the fire in the rear of the old American House. He sounded the alarm but before the villagers could reach the scene of the blaze an explosion occurred which sent blazing embers, burning timbers and cinders high in the air, covering the shingle roofs of the American House and the old Paddock buildings with sparks and coals. Almost in an instant these buildings were on fire.

The fire crossed Court street within a few minutes. A brisk wind drove the flames down the street and in an instant Wooster Sherman's Bank was ablaze. Many years after Wooster Sherman described how he carried the bank's assets out of the bank in a wheel barrel, singeing his beard in the process. Soon after the Safford, Hayes and Peck blocks were aflame. The old, stone Fairbanks Block on the site of the present Flatiron Building, at the corner of Arsenal and Court streets, soon caught and the flames started to eat their way down the west side of the street.

Court street was arched with flame. On either side of the narrow street tongues of fire leaped to the sky, until the street was literally a gauntlet of flame. Old Norris M. Woodruff, who later built the Woodruff House, was then chief of the fire department and mounted on his horse he galloped up and down the lane of fire which was Court street, giving orders to his volunteer firemen, instructing merchants to bring out their goods and discouraging panic. Even when his own building, the new Woodruff Block, roofed with tin and as fireproof as a building could be constructed in those days, caught, the sturdy, old fire chief did not falter.

Every structure on Court street to the old county clerk's office, at the corner of Jackson street, was burned, the fire being stayed at this point by the foresight of the volunteers who literally lifted the wooden roof off the building and hurled it to one side. The flames licked the stone walls of the jail-like building and then stopped. As the flames enveloped the high steeple of old Trinity Church, standing on the site of the present City Hall, the clock in the tower struck four. A half hour later the great steeple crashed into the burning mass of the church.

The fire ate its way up Arsenal street burning the old Columbia House to the ground and every building on either side of the street. It burned everything between Arsenal and Court streets and completely burned over the territory now covered by the Arcade and Arcade street. All down the Square to the point where the Woodruff House now stands was burned. The extent of the fire may be seen from the fact that 100 buildings were destroyed, including about thirty stores, both newspaper offices, the post office, three banks, one church and the surrogate's office, as well as the two most important hotels. Four drygoods stores remained to open for business Monday morning.

The water supply of the village at the time of this fire consisted of a cistern sunk in Public Square and fed by a living spring. The engines soon drained this reservoir dry. Soon private wells and cisterns gave out until practically no water remained with which to fight the fire. The fire raged until nearly noon Sunday. No services were held in any of the churches. Everyone, including the clergy, worked fighting the flames. It is related that as day broke Sunday people in the Square looking-aloft saw what appeared to be sparks of fire speeding southward and against the wind. They proved to be great flock of wild pigeons attracted by the fire, their breasts reflecting the flames as they flew over the village.

Soon after daybreak it started to rain, the steam rising from the smoking ruins. Public Square was piled high with all manner of merchandize hastily taken from the stores as the flames threatened. These great piles were covered with oil cloth when the rain started and guards set to protect the goods from thieves.

But scarcely had the bricks cooled when Watertown started to rebuild. Temporary quarters were erected everywhere as the debris was cleared away. Masons and other workmen were procured from Oswego and Rochester. The Paddock building, the Iron Block and several other buildings on both sides of Court street were erected during the summer and fall of 1849, while the Arcade and several others were erected the year following. The buildings which had burned were in the main ugly, squatty structures which had survived from pioneer days. They were replaced by fine, handsome structures, many of which stand to this day and are still a credit to the city. Present grades in the business section were largely established at this time and the appearance of Public Square was immeasurably improved.

As a result of all this building the Watertown of the early fifties was an attractive and prosperous looking place. True it was not as large as Oswego. Watertown had about 7,000 people in 1850 as compared with Oswego's 12,000. But it had many people of means and they spent their money freely in the improvement of the village. The new Woodruff House was the wonder of the North Country. Indeed it was said at one time to be the largest hotel in the United States west of New York City. And even the far-famed Astor House in New York never had a dining room which in height and beauty rivaled the dining-salon of the Woodruff. The Woodruff was built by Norris M. Woodruff in the early fifties. This was the Mr. Woodruff who gave a plot of land for a railroad terminal in the rear of his hotel on condition that the chief passenger station of the railroad be forever maintained there. It always has been.

And the Watertown papers never tired of speaking of The Arcade. When in 1850, it was nearing completion the New York Reformer, Watertown's leading newspaper, said: "When finished it will be a small city in itself of stores, offices and saloons." And the paper continued: "The Arcade is ultimately to be lighted by gas in the evening and by the sun in the daytime. The cost is estimated at $15,000." Paddock's Arcade, as it is known today, has continued all these years to be one of Watertown's best business sites and proved to be a valuable investment for Loveland Paddock who built it.

The people of Watertown were just beginning to appreciate their Public Square and it was during this period that the Square was filled and leveled. A village trustee, Mr. Keelar, suggested that trees be planted in the parks in the center of the Square with a result that in a few years these parks were shaded by numerous trees. Court street was being built up but was still muddy in wet weather. The merchants remedied this to a degree by constructing plank roads opposite their places of business.

In 1852 the first gas station was built in Watertown on the site of the F. A. Empsall company's storehouse. That same year the Watertown Gas Light Company was incorporated, the incorporators being J. 0. Morse, Fred T. Story, Albert M. Hutley, George A. Bagley and Oliver A. Morse. The charge for gas then was $7 per 1,000 cubic feet and it was not until 1868 that the rate was reduced to $5. Gas lights were mainly confined to Public Square and its immediate vicinity and a few miles of mains were sufficient to furnish all the customers. The light was poor and flickering and sometimes disappeared altogether, much to the dismay of the merchants, and there was much complaining. However, the gas lights were a great improvement over the big kerosene lights which had previously illuminated the stores and soon gas came into general use in the village. On Dec. 15th, 1856, the gas works burned down and James Sullivan, night watchman, was burned to death. Now there was no gas and the streets were dark as pitch at night. Merchants brought out again their old kerosene lights and complained even more than they had over the faulty gas. For several weeks the village was without lights save for kerosene and candles.

The first message over a telegraph line came to Watertown November 27th, 1850. Strangely enough, it was the New York produce market and the dispatch came to the New York Reformer which proudly published it the next day. Representatives of the Morse and O'Reilly telegraph companies came to Watertown early in 1850 and took up the matter of a telegraph office with Watertown business men. A committee was appointed of which J. Mullen was chairman to investigate the claims of the rival companies. A decision was finally made in favor of the O'Reilly company which promised to have a line constructed to Watertown in forty days and to Ogdensburg before winter. The first telegraph office was located at No. 2 Paddock Arcade.

If Watertown was justly proud of its great Woodruff Hotel and the splendid, new Paddock Arcade, it was Washington Hall which was always pointed out first to the visitor. Washington Hall, constructed at this time, was located on the site of the present Y. M. C. A. Building where Perkins Hotel, which burned in 1852, had stood for so many years. It was to Washington Hall that the resident of Watertown of the decade before the Civil War flocked nightly for his entertainment. Sometimes it was Sliter and Wood's Ethiopian Minstrels and at other times Signor Jerome Blitz, the magician. The Bohemian Glass Blowers were periodical visitors. They blew beautiful ships to be presented to those in the audience who gave correct answers to conundrums propounded by the chief glass blower. The plays which had formerly been produced in Appolo Hall now came to Washington Hall. There was Ada Gray's Camile and Shakespeare productions galore. There was McKean Buchanan who used to spout Skakespeare nightly. The story is related of how Buchanan stopped in the middle of "The Merchant of Venice" to dart down into the audience, grab a small boy by the coat collar and chuck him out of the door, making the announcement when he got back on the stage that "the next boy who cracks a peanut will get the same medicine."

But Watertown had its more serious entertainments as well. This was the golden day of the lecturer and Watertown heard the best of them. Among them were Dr. E. P. Chapin, the naturalist, Thomas P. Meagher, the Irish patriot who had been one of the leaders in the Irish rebellion of 1847, Dr. L. P. Hitchcock, Rev. T. Starr King, Senator Thomas Hart Benton of Missouri, Wendell Phillips, Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglas, the noted negro orator. Douglas lectured in Watertown on November 6th, 1857, his subject being "The Equality of the Races." A Mr. Dorsey, who was then manager of the Woodruff House, apparently did not take this talk of equality seriously for he refused to give Mr. Douglas accomodations at his hotel. Several Watertown friends of Douglas appealed to the hotel manager to yield and finally Dorsey agreed to give Douglas quarters in the hotel on condition that he would not present himself at the public table, would receive his meals in his room and would not cause his name to be inscribed on the register of the house. The negro refused to do this and took up his residence, while in Watertown, at the home of a private citizen. Writing of this incident afterwards, Douglas said: "I asked him (Dorsey) how far he differed from me in color. He frankly admitted, 'not much,' adding that he was a very dark man, a fact which I am not disposed to dispute."

When Mr. A. F. Edwards, a railroad official, visited Watertown in 1852 he referred to it as "the most modern, city-like built, inland town in the Union." Truly Watertown had all the earmarks of a little city long before it assumed city status. There were nine churches. The old, stone First Presbyterian church on Washington street had just been replaced by a fine, new edifice which was dedicated in 1851. On Factory street was the Second Presbyterian Church which moved to Stone street in 1864 and became the Stone Street Presbyterian Church. The First Methodist Church was still located in the little, stone structure at the corner of Arsenal and Massey streets and not until 1859 was it replaced by a new and larger building. The Second Methodist Episcopal Church, now Asbury, was located on State street, near Mechanic. Old Trinity Church had been burnt in the fire of 1849 but a new and much finer structure had been erected on Court street to replace it. The present Trinity Church on Trinity Place was not built until 1887. The Baptist Church was located then as now on Public Square. The old church had been destroyed in the fire of 1849 and had been replaced by a fine, brick structure which continued in use until 1891. The Universalist Church was also located on Public Square on the present site of the Light and Power Building. This, too, was a new structure, the old building having been burnt in the fire and its two, great towers gave it an imposing appearance. The Wesleyan Methodists maintained a small chapel on the east side of Academy street near Clay, the Rev. Fayette Sheppard being the pastor in 1855 at the time one of the first directories of Watertown was published. The Roman Catholic Church was located on Factory street, occupying the old edifice of the Baptists. This was the church which was later to become St. Patrick's. The formation of the church dates back to 1830 when Father O'Reilly said mass in a private house. The Baptist church was purchased in 1838 and was occupied by the Catholics until 1855. At that time beautiful St. Patrick's Church was built. Father P. McNulty was pastor of the church at the time the new church was erected.

The Watertown of the fifties had eight flouring mills, as they were then called. They were the Union Mills, Farwell, Salisbury & Hanchette, proprietors, with a capacity of 600 bushels a day, the Cataract Mills, S. D. Mack & Brother, proprietors, with a capacity of seventy barrels of flour a day, the Globe Mills, P. S. Howk & Son, ~proprietors, with a capacity of 1,400 bushels a day, Lashar's Grist Mill, William A. Loomis, proprietor, grinding 900 bushels a day, the Phe.. nix Mill, Fisher & Pease, proprietors, grinding 300 bushels a day, the Eagle Mills, Lepper & Pattridge, proprietors, with a capacity of 100 barrels of flour a day, and the Pearl Barley Mill, V. P. Kimball, proprietor, a small mill.

Watertown's largest industry of the period was the Portable Steam Engine Manufactory, the proprietors in 1855 being Charles Brooks Hoard and his two sons. At that time the concern, which had started operations in 1849 with four employes, employed between eighty and 100 men and shipped engines to every state in the union and to Canada. The plant was located at the corner of Moulton and the present Mill, then North, streets. So great was the demand for the Hoard engines that it is said the company was never able to catch up with their orders until 1861. In 1854 Mr. Hoard purchased the interest of his partner, Gilbert Bradford, for $26,000 and thereafter operated the concern with his sons. This shop was a pioneer in the building of strictly portable engines. Mr. Hoard and his family made a fortune and Mr. Hoard was sent to congress as a Republican. During the Civil War the concern turned its attention to the manufacture of Springfield rifles under a government contract. The contract nearly ruined Hoard and he sold out his business at a great loss, but the company continued to be one of Watertown's major industries for many years to come.

Another important Watertown industry of this period was Goulding, Bagley & Sewall's, which was then engaged in the manufacture of lathes, planers and machinist tools, and employed about fifty men. This industry is still a major one in Watertown. William Smith's machine shop and foundry, which had been established in 1825, was still in operation in the fifties, at the foot of Beebee's Island. There was also Lord, Delong & Lewis' Plow Manufactory, doing the most extensive business of its kind in Northern New York, the Black River Woolen Mills on Huntington street, and the Watertown Manufacturing conipany, which produced ready-made clothing, especially for the western market. About 400 hands were employed in this mill in 1855.

Unfortunately Watertown lost many of its leading citizens in the fifties, men who had contributed much to the growth of the village and could be ill spared at this time. Such a man was Dr. Adelphus S. Greene, who had been for many years a Democratic leader and prominent physician. His death occurred in 1851. He had been prominently identified with Judge Perley Keyes in the old "Watertown Regency," had been a delegate to many state and national Democratic conventions, county judge for two terms, a member of the state legislature, a member of the constitutional convention of 1846 and postmaster of Watertown, his commission having been signed by Andrew Jackson.

Deacon Oliver Bartholomew died June 18th, 1850. He had come to Watertown with the first pioneers and had been a veteran of Washington's army. The same great broad-axe which he had used at Valley Forge he used to clear his farm and also to build the first Baptist meeting house at Watertown. He remained until the day of his death a devoted attendant and member of the Watertown Baptist church.

Orville Hungerford, one of the most prominent Democrats in the state, died in Watertown April 5th, 1851. Something has been said of his political career in the chapter, "The Reign of Silas Wright." He had been a member of congress, a leader in the "Hunker" wing of the Democratic party, president of the Jefferson County Bank and prominent in the organization of the Rome, Watertown & Ogdensburg railroad. Mr. Hungerford had succeeded to the leadership of the Democratic party in Jefferson county upon the death of Judge Perley Keyes.

One of the prominent figures of the Watertown of the fifties, was Levi H. Brown, who had been born in 1818 and was one of the most able lawyers in Northern New York. He was a law partner of Allen C. Beach, who was later elected lieutenant governor of the state. Mr. Brown was one of Watertown's early mayors. Another prominent lawyer was John Clark, who was a noted orator and had been surrogate of the county, and Judge George C. Sherman) who had been district attorney, judge of the court of common pleas, state senator and founder of the Watertown Bank and Loan Company. His law partner at one time was Judge Robert Lansing, who had also served as district attorney, state senator and judge of the county. Charles E. Clarke was another well known Watertown lawyer, who had served in both the state assembly and congress.

Edmund Q. Sewall was one of the best known of the manufacturers, although he was a lawyer by profession. He was a member of the firm of Goulding, Bagley & Sewall. James F. Starbuck was a well known lawyer and had been district attorney. Eli Farwell was a merchant, contractor and miller who had early represented the county~ in the assembly and for many years was prominent in the business and public life of Watertown. Talcott H. Camp was just coming into prominence as a merchant, and later was to be as prominent as a banker, financier and railroad director. Lysander H. Brown, prominent lawyer and Democrat, had held many political offices, among them assemblyman and surrogate. Joseph Mullin was on the supreme court bench and had been district attorney and member of congress prior to that. Willard Ives was one of Watertown's most prominent citizens at this time. He was a bank director, was elected to congress, a prominent Methodist and largely responsible for the erection of Ives Seminary at Antwerp. The veteran, Jason Fairbanks, was still active and prominent in all the affairs of the village. He had been a deputy United States marshal during the War of 1812 and later served as sheriff and county treasurer. Loveland Paddock it was who erected the Arcade. He was reputed to be one of Watertown's wealthiest men. Norris W. Woodruff was another wealthy citizen who contributed much to early Watertown. As we have seen he built the Woodruff House and prior to this for many years he conducted a hardware business.


Watertown did not become a city until 1869, twenty-one years after the time when Oswego became a city. At that time it had approximately 10,000 inhabitants. The first mayor was Col. George W. Flower, the recorder, Laban H. Ainsworth, city chamberlain, Edward M. Gates, treasurer, Louis C. Greenleaf, street commissioner, Jacob Hermes; overseer of the poor, Clark Wetherby; assessors, A. Palmer Smith, Hiram Converse and William Howland.

The Watertown of the fifties was a quiet, peaceful village centering about Public Square with its tree-shaded parks. It had its new Woodruff House, a never ending source of pride to its inhabitants, with a stove in every room along with the inevitable wash stand and big, white pitcher of water. The Great Wardrobe was there with its two lions standing sentinel in front of its doors, even as today they guard the gate of a well known summer residence at the Thousand Islands, and to its counters flocked the people of the entire county to do their trading. On a Saturday Watertown was quite a busy mart, with the farmers' horses tied to the hitching posts along Public Square and Court street, and the farmers, themselves, stalking through Paddock's new Arcade to see the telegraph office and the daguerreotype studio. Cows were grazing over what is now the most thickly populated section of the north side and upper State street was a woodland, but still Watertown was taking on much of the physical aspect of the present.

There were many beautiful houses, mostly of limestone, erected slowly by master craftsmen in the Georgian style, and standing stately and majestically in the midst of park-like grounds, even as most of them stand to this day. Micah Sterling, that grand, old lawyer and statesman of earlier days, was long since dead, but his son, John Calhoun Sterling, named after the great southern statesman, Micah Sterling's classmate in Yale, still lived in Sterling Hall, set in the center of a large estate and with a long, curving drive leading to its doors. This mansion, which today is owned by Holy Family Church and used as a school, was once pronounced the most perfect example of colonial architecture in America. To the doors of the Sterling Mansion in the old days often drove James D. LeRay de Chaumont in his coach and four with livened outriders. Here President Martin Van Buren was entertained and many other prominent figures of the preCivil war period.

On Court street was the Crawe house, even as it is today, and there lived Dr. John Mortimer Crawe, prominent in the social life of early Watertown and one of its best known physicians. The Hungerford home on Washington street was one of the best known residences of Watertown in the fifties and today it remains one of the beautiful homes of the city although now well over a hundred years old. Here today one may see the most glorious old English garden to be found in all the North Country, laid out in front of the house as Orville Hungerford planned it back in 1825. Here too is the identical, black, Italian marble mantle hauled to Watertown from Albany by ox team.

Even then Watertown had developed a social set, made up of a few, old families, kindred spirits who largely intermarried and had common pleasures. There were Fred Sherman and John Knowlton, George W. Knowlton and Levi Johnson, George Massey and CJj~rence Sherman, Fred Lansing and George R. Hanford, the Storeys, the Angells, the Merrills, the Paddocks, the Woodruffs, the Woods, the Mullens, the Hubbards, the Huntingtons and the Bagleys, the Clarks, the Fairbanks and the Adkins. These families lived along Washington street, Stone and Clinton, Sterling, Benedict and Arsenal. A few homes in the village stood out as social centers. There was the Lucius Sherman house at the corner of Clay and Sterling streets, where St. Paul's Church now stands. Then there was the Ambrose Clark residence at Stone and Massey, the Huntington home at Benedict and Stone, the Edward Massey place where the home of Mrs. Emma Flower Taylor now stands, the Hart Massey residence, now the Bureau of Charities, the Adkins home in Sterling street, and the residence of picturesque Jason Fairbanks in Arsenal street. There was also the Wooster Sherman house in Clinton street where the young folks gathered on many a wintry night. Iron deer and maidens adorned many a front yard in Washington street during the fifties and sixties, but bathtubs were few and far between and often used during the week to hold potted plants.

Such was the Watertown of pre-Civil War days, a smug, little town which boasted of its progressiveness, inordinately proud perhaps of its great hotel and its new business blocks, not quite so bustling and cosmopolitan as Oswego, but beginning to appreciate the wealth in the turbulent river where already manufacturing plants some day destined to make the name of Watertown known far and wide were coming into being.


Ogdensburg was a waterfront town. As the first life of the village had centered about George Parish's big stone warehouse at the river's edge so now in the fifties Ogdensburg still looked to the river, where now thousands of feet of wharfage had been built and elaborate warehouses and other terminal structures had been built by the proprietors of the Northern Railroad. Daily the great boats of the St. Lawrence Steamboat Company, with their thirty-foot paddle wheels, steamed slowly up to the new wharves. Before the Northern Railroad had been built, the Oswego boat always awaited the arrival of the Syracuse train at Oswego before leaving that port and there were always passengers to alight when the Northerner or the Ontario or the Bay State or the British Empire, or some other boat, docked at Ogdensburg.

Jean Jacques Ampere, accomplished man of letters who visited Ogdensburg in 1851, wrote a graphic description of the town of that day as it appeared to him. "We have here," he writes, "the transition from a village to a great city-the skin of the chrysalis still covering the butterfly which just begins to open its wings . . . . In this expanding city everything is new and unfinished. In German they would say it is going to be. It is like a house, where they begin to furnish a room before the roof is finished. Imagine broad, straight, and well laid-out streets; in their midst a black mud-on the borders, plank walks; here and there ravines with groups of trees that belonged to primeval forests; fields scarcely enclosed, with an abandoned look, as if not yet taken up, or yet to be cultivated, and on every hand beautiful gardens and elegant cottages, with every appliance of the most refined civilization-on a place cleared but yesterday, and close beside an unimproved waste. Some cows were straying along the street, near a store of novelties, where the fashion plates of the Journal du Modes were displayed in the windows, by the side of portraits of members of the local government; and bales of merchandize lay in the streets among the trunks of overturned trees. It was a strange mingling of departing savagery and of industries yet to come. In these carefully alligned and half-filled streets, we see at once the rudeness of primeval life, and the rising splendors of the orient; for they have got the idea that this city which they are building, will be a great one."

Ogdensburg at this time had about 4,000 inhabitants. It was no insignificant place, with nearly 500 dwelling houses and some eighty stores and shops displaying goods from Montreal and often linens and woolens from abroad. A steam ferry was running between Ogdensburg and the quaint, little Canadian village of Prescott, and many Canadians came across the river to shop in Ogdensburg even as they do today. Most of the travelers stopped at the St. Lawrence Hotel at the corner of State and Ford streets to which a four-story addition had just been built. Here there were eighty-six sleeping rooms and on the roof an "observatory" from which there was a splendid view of the Canadian shore for many a mile.

There were five churches, all substantial structures, the latest being the large, stone Roman Catholic church, which had been dedicated in 1855. This was the present St. Mary's Cathedral and when completed it was considered the handsomest Catholic Church in all Northern New York. Then there was St. John's Episcopal Church with its high, square tower and its organ, the Gothic edifice of the Presbyterians with the clock in its steeple, the new brick church of the Methodists on Franklin street and the stone church of the Baptists in State street.

The Oswegatchie Bank had just been organized, not only the oldest bank in Ogdensburg but also the oldest in St. Lawrence county, with Augustus Chapman the first president and James G. Averell the first vice president. On the board of directors was Henry Van Rensselaer, the land owner and son of the Patroon, who was then one of Ogdensburg's most influential residents.

Ogdensburg had its prominent men. There was Preston King, prominent in the affairs of the nation, now hard at it organizing the new Republican party, he who had been a life-long Democrat. Then there was Judge John Fine, as well known a jurist as there was in the New York State of his day, eighteen years on the bench, a former member of the state senate, long treasurer of St. Lawrence county and the man who stood up in the Baltimore convention of 1844 and declined the nomination of president of the United States for Silas Wright. David Judson was another prominent citizen of his day, for eleven years one of the judges of the county court and for many years more collector of the district of Ogdensburg.

Of course there was no house in all Ogdensburg to be compared with the Parish mansion, the Red Villa, as the townsfolk called it. Three stories high, it was, and painted a dull red. Around it ran a stone wall eight feet high and inside that wall, which enclosed a whole city block, were all those things which go with an English gentleman's estate, cobbled courts and brick stables, coach-houses and a tan-bark track, trellised gardens, and gardener's lodge and gravelled walks.

On the whole Ogdensburg was a cozy, hospitable place in the fifties and attractive, too, laid out as it was along the banks of the broad St. Lawrence. There was Ford street with its roofed sidewalks where the farmers' horses lazily munched their oats. Old stone warehouses which still bore the scars of British shot stood near the river front. The population was largely of old New England stock but with a sprinkling of Irish and French attracted there by the commerce. It was a frontier village of course and perhaps a little raw, viewed from modern standards, but although it had lost the county buildings to Canton still it was by far the largest place in the North Country north of Watertown. And how it progressed in the fifties, with the coming of the railroad and the telegraph and the gas lights. So Ogdensburg became a city, not as early as Oswego and Watertown, it is true, but, in 1868 after the boys in blue had marched home and the Fenian raids were a thing of the past the City of Ogdensburg was incorporated and William C. Brown was elected the first mayor. Delos McCurdy was the first recorder and the following aldermen were elected: First ward, Charles I. Baldwin, Walter B. Allen, Henry Redee; second ward, Benjamin R. Jones, Galem W. Pearsons, Patrick Hackett; third ward, Carlisle B. Herriman, Urias Pearson, Chester Waterman. Nathaniel H. Lytle was elected city clerk.


Nor were Oswego, Watertown and Ogdensburg the only places of importance in the north. The railroad brought prosperity to Malone and in 1853 when it was incorporated as a village its population was a little over 2,000. By 1860, it was 3,000. True in the early fifties there were sidewalks only on Elm and Main streets but the villagers grew tired of wading through the mud on wet days and in 1855 the village board ordered other sidewalks constructed. By 1851 Malone had a bank, the Bank of Malone, located in a one-story stone structure, standing where the Wead Library now stands. Samuel C. Wead was president and William A. Wheeler, later to become vicepresident of the United States, was the first cashier. Furthermore the telegraph came in 1851, and although kerosene was selling at $1.50 a gallon, there were big smoky, kerosene lamps in the stores instead of the candles of a few decades before.

There was hardly a house in all the territory south of Water street between the two streams and the section known as Brooklyn Heights was a pasture. High fences enclosed the yards and Main street was lined from end to end of the business section with hitching posts and rails. The villagers were rigid Sabbath observers. An early pastor wrote that "after the churches closed the streets were empty and a peaceful silence prevailed." The large, new Presbyterian church, built of brick and with an organ, was the pride of the village. It replaced the old, stone church with the square pews and wooden clock in its steeple which had been Malone's first church edifice. The Baptists had a stone church on Webster street which had just been remodeled and redecorated. The Methodists still worshipped in little Hedding Chapel, named from the great bishop, and not until 1867 was the present brick church constructed. St. Mark's Episcopal had been erected probably in 1846, largely through the influence of the Duanes and the Harisons. It was not until 1884 that the old building was razed and the present structure erected. The Catholics worshipped in the old frame church with the roofless veranda in front which sufficed until 1882. Father Bernard E. McCabe, the first settled pastor, met a tragic fate in 1857 being burned to death when fire destroyed a portion of the rectory.


Fulton, on the old portage path on the Oswego river, was already assuming an important place as a manufacturing center. It was really the fire of 1851 which made Fulton although at the time it seemed an almost unsurmountable blow. At that time almost the entire business section of the village burned, leaving only two or three stores in the entire town. The loss was well over $100,000. The fire started in a stable in the rear of the Fulton House and soon spread all along the west side of First street. 'A special locomotive brought the Oswego fire department, but the visitors arrived too late to be of much assistance.

A period of building followed the great fire. Not only were the destroyed buildings rebuilt but several fine brick blocks as well. By 1853 Fulton had nearly fifty stores, three large flour mills, two foundries and machine shops, a sash factory, two cabinet and chair factories, a large woolen factory and several lumber mills and barrel and carriage factories. A paper mill, on the site of the Victoria mills, was erected in 1852. Fulton's first bank was also established in 1852, the Citizen's Bank with George Grosvenor as cashier and manager. The first board of directors were: Charles G. Case, Samuel Hart, Willard Johnson, R. C. Kenyon, S. N. Kenyon, H. H. Coats, George Grosvenor, George Salmon, T. W. Chesbro, J. J. Wolcott, J. W. Pratt, J. H. Reynolds and Edwin Rockwell. The Oswego River Bank was organized in 1855 with John J. Wolcott, president, George Salmon, vice-president and Dewitt Gardner, cashier. It was reorganized in 1865 and became the First National Bank.

In the fifties Fulton already had two Methodist churches. There was the parent society worshipping in the old brick church built in 1830 and believed to be the first Methodist church constructed in Oswego county, and a second body of Methodists which had just built a little chapel on Fourth street. Other churches in Fulton at this time were the Baptist, built in 1841, the Presbyterian, erected in 1845 and replacing a frame structure built in 1833, and the Universalists who had a little church on Second street and Zion Episcopal Church, which had just been renovated and improved. Also during the fifties, the first Roman Catholic church came into being in Fulton, the old Fulton Female Seminary building serving as a church until the nineties. This is the church which eventually became the Church of the Immaculate Conception.


Over in the eastern end of Oswego county, Pulaski was easily the metropolis, its court house giving it an importance, second only to Oswego. Here, too, was located St. James Episcopal Church, consecrated in 1850, and said to be at the time of its erection one of the handsomest churches in the Diocese. William C. Pierrepont of Pierrepont Manor, whose name has often been mentioned in these pages, was a large contributor when the church was being built. The Presbyterians, the Methodists and the Baptists all had small churches. Pulaski in 1850 had a population of 1,232. That year the telegraph came through. It had a paper mill operated by William E. Wright, a wool mill operated by Dr. L. S. Landon, a carriage factory operated by Ingersoll & Osgood, one machine shop operated by Benjamin Dow and another, the Empire machine shop, conducted by David Bennett, Jr., and Albert Mattby, to name only a few of the industries of this thriving, little town. There was the old Salmon River House, with its high-columned porch, Robert Ingersoll's little bank, wedged in between stores on Jefferson street, the imposing colonial court house, which might have been taken bodily from some Virginian village, and the three-story, brick academy building, standing in the midst of a beautiful grove of trees on the banks of the Salmon river. Jefferson street was a sea of mud in wet weather, but it was lined with busy shops and on Saturdays there were always dozens of farmers' horses hitched to the wooden standards in front of the post office and D. B. Meacham's store.

Over in Lewis county was Lowville, a typical rural village in a rich, agricultural setting. In 1855 Lowville, the only incorporated village in the county, had a population of 908. Set down in the midst of a beautiful valley, shut in on every side but one by hills, Lowville was an attractive place in the fifties, even as it is today. Two miles away flowed the Black river, a wide and placid stream, in no way resembling the tumbling, foaming river at Watertown and Brownville, and with the building of the Black River canal had come commerce. Steam boats puffed their way up and down the river, sometimes towing long lines of canal boats, loaded with Lewis county butter and potatoes for the Albany and New York markets.

Lowville had a town hall that was almost classic with its high, Corinthian columns. It had snug, little Trinity Episcopal Church, also with high-columned porch, and Lowville Academy, famous throughout the entire North Country. There was the stone church of the Congregationalists and the brick church of the Methodists and the little frame church of the Baptists. Furthermore it had a bank, the Bank of Lowville, established in 1838 and the second bank in Lewis county, the first having been the Lewis County Bank established at Martinsburg.

Although by no means a large place in the fifties, Lowville was a village of no small importance and had furnished many of the leaders of the North Country in its half-century of existence. Russell Parish, a distinguished lawyer, died in 1855. Charles Dayan was a prominent resident of the period, having been a candidate in the legislative caucus for comptroller of the state against Silas Wright. He had served in the state senate, had been acting lieutenant governor and finally district attorney. Andrew W. Doig, who died in 1854, had been for two terms a member of congress, had been county clerk, member of the assembly and surrogate. Joseph A. Willard was a prominent manufacturer and was later to be a member of the state senate. William L. Easton was president of the Bank of Lowville up until 1855 when he was succeeded by James L. Leonard. William Root Adams was principal of Lowville Academy. Stephen Leonard, son-in-law of Gen. Walter Martin, was a well known merchant. Isaac Welton Bost-. wick, first president of the Bank of Lowville, president of the board of trustees of Lowville Academy and long agent for the Low estate, died in Lowville in 1857.


In 1857 the New York Reformer, published at Watertown, printed a series of four articles on the wealthy men of the Northern New York of that day. George Parish of Ogdensburg, according to the Reformer, was easily the richest man in the north and one of the wealthiest men in the country. His fortune was estimated at six million dollars, truly a remarkable fortune for that day. Henry Van Renssalaer of Ogdensburg, son of the patroon, and a large land owner, was estimated to be worth $800,000. The fortune of Loveland Paddock of Watertown was also placed at $800,000, although the writer acknowledged in a later article that the estimate was probably too high. The Paddock fortune, according to the Reformer writer, was "one of the largest out of our large cities, unaided by land or other speculations, that has ever been made in the state."

William G. Pierrepont of Pierrepont Manor, is credited with a fortune of half a million. V. V. Rosa of Watertown was represented as being worth about $400,000, the same amount as that credited to James Sterling of Sterlingville, the iron master, who operated mines in northern Jefferson and Southern St. Lawrence counties. The fortune of Norris M. Woodruff, builder of the Woodruff House at Watertown, was estimated to amount to $300,000. James Averill of Ogdensburg was credited with being worth $400,000, made largely in land speculation, and Judge George C. Sherman of Watertown with a fortune of approximately a quarter of a million. E. G. Merrick, who at one time operated forty-nine boats in the lake trade, was said to be worth approximately a half a million. The fortune of Alexander Copely, the lumber man, was fixed at between $200,000 and $300,000, and that of Gen. William H. Angel of Watertown at from $100,000 to $150,000, acquired largely in dealing in cattle. David C. Judson of Ogdensburg was said to be worth $200,000 and George N. Seymour, Ogdensburg merchant, about the same amount. John Clark of Watertown was said to have amassed a fortune of $100,000 through the practice of the law. Augustus Chapman of Morristown was credited with having made $300,000 in land dealings. Solomon Pratt was said to have accumulated $100,000 as a merchant in Somerville, St. Lawrence county. Charles G. Harger, Wooster Sherman and 0. V. Brainard, all of Watertown, were estimated each to be worth $100,000. Henry Barnard of Morristown was said to be worth about a half a million.

It is not contended that all of these figures are accurate, even though they seemed to have excited no denials at the time they were published, but they are probably approximately correct and give a good idea of the financial condition of the North Country just before the Civil War. It was a prosperous country. Great fortunes were not many, it is true, but the great estates of a quarter of a century before, had been subdivided, hundreds of farmers held their land free of all debt and there was an increasing number of prosperous tradesmen, small manufacturers and professional men in the villages. The country was rapidly filling up. Plank roads run through the most thickly settled areas. The railroad took passengers from Watertown to Rome and from Ogdensburg to Malone in a few hours where formerly it had been an all day trip in a stage coach. Telegraph lines connected the principal towns. Gas lighted the streets and stores of a few of the largest villages. Water systems brought better fire protection and all the larger villages purchased fire engines. With better fire protection came larger and more costly buildings and with better transportation facilities came large-scale manufacturing.

This was the North Country of 1861, when Abraham Lincoln was elected president of the United States.

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