The View from Utica, 1872

“A Beautiful Village.” Skaneateles, Aug. 26, 1872. To the Editor of the Utica Observer:

“Two hour’s ride on the Central road and half an hour on the Skaneateles up-hill road in an elegant coach, from Skaneateles Junction, landed your correspondent in one of THE MOST BEAUTIFUL little villages in the State. Skaneateles, Onondaga county, has in its own right a population of 1,400 souls. The village is most delightfully nestled around the foot of that bewitching little sheet of water known as SKANEATELES LAKE, which is about eighteen miles long and wide enough to be extremely pretty. A brief ramble about the village disclosed the fact that much wealth is at the command of the residents of the village. There are very many beautiful residences and elegantly laid out grounds scattered about on prominent points, each commanding unsurpassed views of the lake and surrounding scenery.

“A little steamer on the lake conveys excursionists to its head, where about the village of Glen Haven numerous camping parties resort. A party of excursionists, including one of Utica’s prettiest and most charming daughters, spent last week in that vicinity, and enjoyed a merry time. The aforesaid lady advises all delicate young ladies from Utica with failing appetites to make the same trip. One week will tinge their cheeks with a permanent and healthful bronze, and give them a most ravenous appetite.

“The village of Skaneateles and the country surrounding is quite A RESORT FOR SYRACUSANS on account of its convenient location. At the Packwood House [today’s Sherwood Inn], a remarkably comfortable, fresh and home-like hotel, kept by a most deserving man, John Packwood, I had the pleasure of seeing Mr. and Mrs. Riley Miller and family of Syracuse, formerly of Utica. Mrs. Miller and family have been enjoying the healthful atmosphere of this little gem of a place for several weeks. Mr. M., who is a successful wholesale clothing dealer in Syracuse*, runs up every other evening to enjoy the pleasures of the season.

“Speaking of this pleasant family, strange to say, reminds me of TWO AMUSING INCIDENTS of the campaign.** Politics run high in small towns like this, and the contest thus far has been quite exciting. The village was formerly Republican, but your correspondent was assured that enough Liberal Republicans had espoused the People’s cause to secure a handsome majority for Horace Greeley. Last Friday evening the Democrats and Liberal Republicans united in raising a handsome pole, which was to bear the stars and stripes with the names of the People’s candidates attached. The pole was nearly in position when one of the guy-ropes broke and the pole fell and was sadly demoralized. Whereat the collar-wearers of the Grant faction rejoiced and were glad, and they CHUCKLED with remarkable vigor.

“The Greeley men immediately went to work preparing another pole… On Saturday evening the followers at the Office-Holders’ party had a mongrel stick in readiness. It was hickory at the base with a splice on the top jointed by a framework about the center. This frame looked substantial enough on the outside, which was painted, but, like the party it intended to serve, it was rotten at the core. Messrs. [David J.] Mitchell, (he of the McCarty murder trial in Utica***) and [William J.] Wallace****, of Syracuse, were inflated with eloquence for the occasion. When this rotten Grant pole was nearly in position the treacherous splice gave way and down came the stick, breaking into splinters.

“A NARROW ESCAPE. Mrs. Miller and a party of friends were riding towards the Packwood House at the time of the smash, and the inmates of the carriage only barely escaped being directly under the falling timber. When they arrived at the hotel the discharge of a cannon startled their spirited horses, but fortunately they were controlled in time to prevent injury to the ladies.

“Messrs. Mitchell and Wallace did not succeed in extracting any good moral from the rotten Grant and [Henry] Wilson stick or its untimely downfall. The Greeley men ‘smole’ [obsolete past tense of ‘smile’] several audible smiles, but the Grant faction was sick at heart and disgusted. They won’t attempt to raise another pole in that vicinity.

“A FLYING TRIP to this charming spot like that made by your correspondent was only a temptation for a longer stay. Those who by any chance happen to pass this way should not fail to run up from the Junction, and they will be well repaid for their time and trouble. Your correspondent was most hospitably entertained during his stay by Elias Thorne, Esq., and his excellent family, of the Society of Friends. Mr. Thorne is well and favorably known in Utica, where he has been engaged in extensive wool operations with prominent manufacturers. His house is most beautifully located in a commanding position by the lake-side*****, where all the rare scenery of the country can be thoroughly enjoyed. In November, Mr. Thorne and family leave for San Jose, California, where they will spend six or eight months. With pleasant remembrances of a kindly welcome from stranger friends, I am, Yours, EFLAN.”

***

* Riley V. Miller was a principal in the firm of Kent & Miller; he was also an attorney and the president of the Commercial Travelers’ Association in Syracuse.

** In the presidential election of 1872, Ulysses S. Grant won a second term, despite a split within the Republican Party that saw Liberal Republicans supporting Horace Greeley of the Democratic Party. Grant’s victory was fortunate, as Greeley died three weeks after the election.

*** Josephine McCarty was tried for murder in Utica in 1872 and successfully defended by David J. Mitchell of Syracuse, said to be one of the best lawyers in the state. In this case, he persuaded the jury that because the man who died was not the man McCarty intended to shoot (but rather a friend seated next to him on the street car), it could not have been premeditated murder. (After the verdict, Mrs. McCarty was arrested in the courtroom and charged with the attempted murder of her intended victim.) While it may not seem relevant to the present piece, I cannot deny you the newspaper’s appraisal of Mrs. McCarty’s career. “Let it suffice to say that it began with being false to a worthy husband twenty-two years ago, after a married life of less than six years; that it went on with larcenies, wantoness, swindles and various impositions upon the public and individuals; hunting up wealthy men in different States and blackmailing them as the alleged father of her illegitimate children, meantime seeking new adventures and abandoning herself to various pleasures, prosecuting sundry schemes and gratifying her own lusts in men’s apparel; following for years the horrid calling of abortionist, and closing finally the revolting record of twenty-two years duration, at the age of forty-eight, with murder.”

**** William Wallace served as Mayor of Syracuse in 1873, and was appointed as a judge of the U.S. District Court by President Grant in 1874.

***** Elias Thorne (1811-1896) lived at what is today 50 West Lake Street; he was a successful farmer (his farm was known as Thorne Hill) and a nationally known dealer in wool; he was also one of the first directors of the Bank of Skaneateles.

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